20 May 2013Biotechnology

Ideas Matter: Philips and Microsoft in life sciences

At the Ideas Matter roundtable last week LSIPR spoke to Maaike van Velzen, general manager of Philips Group Innovation’s IP and Standards division, about the importance of using IP solutions to promote the company’s vision, and sharing IP with other companies in the creation of new products.

Guided drug delivery uses liposomes to deliver drugs directly to cancerous tumours, and monitors drug release and uptake with magnetic resonance imaging. It is being touted as an alternative to chemotherapy.

Royal Philips Electronics and Eindhoven University of Technology developed the technology, which Van Velzen calls the product of a “good IP arrangement.”

“You can never cover all technologies and all domains so working with a third party brings in a lot of technology that will help you to actually access to another set of capabilities,” she said.

“[Collaboration] allows the company to look at things from a different perspective, brings more creativity, and helps speed up the project because there are more resources.”

Philips has partnered with large pharmaceutical companies as well as small and medium enterprises to develop new products. She said Philips also works with universities and clinics to see its products’ “real clinical benefits” to patients.

When deciding where to invest, Philips collects and merges data from other companies’ patent portfolios to create a “map” showing where a company is most active in its research.

“We usually do an early scan when the project is just starting – so we know the levels of technology that are already out there. We try to spot opportunities for acquiring IP at an early stage ... Later on we look in more depth to assess risk and opportunities,” van Velzen said.

What will the introduction of the Unified Patent Court mean for Philips’ work? “Companies will have easier access to the IP systems and court, but we will see how things will develop in practice. It will probably lower the cost,” she said.

Van Velzen added that the public attitude to IP needs to change: “The general public is not always positive about IP and patent protection – there have been some news items related to the bigger court case litigations that were putting a negative light on IP and patents,” she said.

“We need to show that new ideas are important, and to take the ideas to market, to make sure that society can benefit from them, and that you need the IP otherwise there will be no investment –  people will not know how to recoup the investment they made generating the ideas.”

She said people tend to perceive IP as a legal issue, rather than a business issue, or an opportunity that allows business to grow: “We’ve seen today there are many small companies that benefit from a good IP position and need it much more in the market than the larger ones,” she added.

Later LSIPR caught up with Microsoft’s Gerardo Gonzalez, a researcher at Microsoft Research Cambridge, which is making the Xbox Kinect games console’s touchless technology work for doctors performing vascular and keyhole surgery.

Gonzalez said the research and development stage of creating brand new technologies does throw up some challenges: “We work on our own ideas but unfortunately as you research, you’ll find that some people have done the same or they are doing the same – sometimes they do it from a different perspective,” he said.

“You have to either continue with your idea or publish your research paper as soon as possible to make it public.”

He said that at Microsoft, the research team is trying to understand how people will use the Kinect rather than trying to sell them a solution that is “not quite there yet.”

“At Microsoft we are more into understanding how things work,” he said, adding that companies in the US and Spain have been using the technology and reporting back with suggestions about the kinds of images they need, or how they want to use the device.

While this approach gives Microsoft a good idea of its goal, there is a disadvantage: “Sometimes you spend so much time researching what the user wants, that you don't realise that there are other companies already doing the same thing,” he said.

Already registered?

Login to your account

To request a FREE 2-week trial subscription, please signup.
NOTE - this can take up to 48hrs to be approved.

Two Weeks Free Trial

For multi-user price options, or to check if your company has an existing subscription that we can add you to for FREE, please email Adrian Tapping at atapping@newtonmedia.co.uk