One of my favorite recent IP conferences was just held in Shanghai. It was the China Intellectual Property Focus 2012 held at the Doubletree Hotel in PuDong. We got to hear extensively from a recently retired Supreme Court Justice, Judge Jiang Zhipei, who shared much about the development of IP law in China and the bold path China is pursuing. We also heard from Ben Wang, R&D leader for Unilever in China, and from many other authorities from Europe, the US, and especially China.
On the second day, I shared my perspectives about the role of IP strategy in dealing with disruptive innovation, and including some of my thoughts about Chinese companies and the lack of respect they get from the West when it comes to innovation and IP. My main point, though, was that large companies need to have aggressive IP-generators who help mitigate future risks by building low-cost but aggressive IP estates in emerging areas and in potentially disruptive areas. Risk aversion is the battle cry, but the "hidden agenda" is actually to help the company prepare for future opportunities in those areas. With proactive IP filed early, when the business units of the company later recognize the importance of market trends and see or feel the need to pursue areas that once looked a little too non-standard/disruptive for comfort, well, when that happens, it won't be too late as is usually the case with disruptive innovation, but the company will find that they are actually prepared with a foundation of IP that can help them survive and move forward more easily.
The application of "disruptive IP strategy" involves some risk and cost, but the costs can be contained and the potential benefits can be huge. A handful of visionary people can help create future-looking IP much more easily than they can convince the company to change directions and make massive investments in new areas. But that IP can later help save the day when the significance of a disruptive threat or opportunity is recognized, often several years down the road.
There were some excellent questions on this topic, including one about the difference in resources and skills between Western companies and Chinese companies. There was a perception, though, that Western companies must be really good at dealing with disruptive innovation and being proactive with their IP. Not so! They are as clumsy and short-sighted as ever, and the opportunity for Chinese companies to seize the future with disruptive innovation and disruptive IP is great. In fact, it's already happening in some quarters. The need for all of us to be more aware and more proactive with out IP is serious.