Semiconductor IP News and Trends Blog
Avoid IP Patent Battles with Open Innovation?
Imec promotes a version of the open innovation approach that goes beyond consortium arrangements and may circumvent today’s innovation-limiting IP patent battles.
Lately, major embedded electronic markets have been roiled in intellectual proprietary (IP) wars. Large companies have found market and even financial advantage in the courtroom by charging their competitors with patent infringement. I’ve covered some of these claims in past blogs, paying particular attention to those that are connected to the semiconductor IP market.
It often seems as if there are no clear winners in these IP wars. Conversely, there does seem to be a common loser, namely, innovation. One must wonder if there isn’t a better way to innovate new technologies and related IP – from design and manufacturing to final end product development.
One solution might be found in the “open innovation” approach, which advocates that companies can not afford to rely solely on their own research. Instead, companies should buy or license innovation, e.g., processes and inventions.
Seeking to answer this question, I talked with the Luc Van den hove, the President and CEO of Imec at the recent 2011 Imec Technology Forum (ITR). What follows are the important portions of that conversation.
JB: You’ve just talked about Imec’s “open innovation” approach to technological advancement and partnership collaboration. Currently, we seem to be in an era of IP and patent infringements battles. Do you see the open innovation approach as a way to circumvent these problems?
Luc Van den hove: The model which we are implementing for open innovation is not a straight forward consortium approach. We believe that is too simple. Many other organizations have tried a consortium model with limited success. I think the real success of our approach in a much more flexible implementation of open innovation, based on a model of IP sharing for both the generic platform and during the per-competitive part of the work.”
“But on top of that, we also give our partners the opportunity to develop with us some proprietary IP. It is much more sophisticated than just a consortium approach. We have been fine tuning that approach over the last 25 years … to optimize the offering to our partners, which is slightly different for the various programs, for example, the application domain is different from the core CMOS level domain.”
Later on, I asked Luc Van den hove how Imec determines market readiness for research projects. In the US, many government laboratories rely on Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) to determine when and which R&D projects are ready for commercialization. He agreed that Imec wrestles with similar issues and the TRL approach was being scrutinized.