Panel from left to right: Axel Threlfall, Marie-Pierre Comets, Ian Hiscock, Ingrid Baele and Basil Moftah. (Photo: Courtesy of Thomson Reuters)
3 July 2015Americas

Novartis and Philips talk patents and innovation at Thomson Reuters event

At a Thomson Reuters event in Paris on Thursday to celebrate the European companies featured on its list of top 100 global innovators, panellists including Novartis and Philips discussed the nature of innovation and how to encourage it.

Moderated by Axel Threlfall, editor-at-large at Reuters, the panellists were Ian Hiscock, head of IP policy and litigation at Novartis; Ingrid Baele, head of IP and standards at Philips, Marie-Pierre Comets, director of innovation at research institute CNRS, and Basil Moftah, president of Thomson Reuters’s IP & Science business.

The impact of globalisation was high on the agenda, with the list of innovators—completed in November 2014—containing more entrants from Asia than anywhere else.

Hiscock highlighted that while globalisation and harmonisation of the patent system through the TRIPS Agreement has been broadly very positive, it can also have a negative effect, as problematic provisions or enforcement in one country can be picked up in another country when laws are being drafted.

He said that companies should start looking at patents not just in terms of what they do for the company, but also “what the patent is doing for the country that awards it”. He was making the point that awarding a patent for a drug often brings with it support in terms of training, building product delivery chains, and other medical support to the country.

For Novartis, he said, innovation is no longer about “trying to make and sell as many pills as you can”, but instead focussing on “better patient outcomes”.

This focus on the individual consumer is mirrored in Philips’s approach, Baele said. The company aims to “improve people’s lives through meaningful innovation”, for example by using information from local consumers in a given market to allow local innovators to “tune” products from elsewhere in the world to those particular markets.

For both these companies, and indeed for CNRS, the importance of patents cannot be overstated. When Threlfall raised the example of Elon Musk giving away Tesla’s patents, Baele said something similar could happen at Philips only if “there was a business strategy that required you to give your patents away, but that’s not the case now”.

For Tesla of course, there are good reasons why giving away patents may make sense. If it has the effect of building the market for electric cars faster, that is a positive thing for the company. Moftah said that Musk “hasn’t really given anything away”, and that the move was about “re-levelling the platform” for electric car technology.

To close, all the panellists were asked what they thought the biggest challenge to innovation was. Comets said that challenge comes in identifying the new frontiers for research and innovation.

For Hiscock, and in the life sciences in particular, it is about “how you draft claims for the processes” that underpin the new wave of innovation in the life sciences. As the science sector gets more complex, so the patenting process is more difficult, he said.

Moftah explained that the biggest challenge to innovation is regulation. “Regulators have become more and more involved in different areas of business,” he said, and if there are too many regulations, it reduces the incentive to innovate.

The full list of Thomson Reuters’s top 100 global innovators can be found  here.

This story was first published on  WIPR.

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