IEEE ComSoc CTN Special Issue on Innovation, Patents & Startups in Communication Technologies

CTN Issue: July 2014

Communication Technology is among the most fast-pace innovative high-tech areas. It is given us among others, the Internet, a vibrant mobile/wireless industry ecosystem, and the capability to send and receive information beyond the Solar System. This July 2014 IEEECTN issue addresses the topic of how this technology innovation happens, i.e. how technical inventions move from academia and research labs to industry and ultimately to real-world enterprise and consumer products and services so that humanity will ultimately benefit from the breakthroughs that arise from communications research.

The use cases and cited publications in this issue are of special value to IEEE Communications Society (ComSoc) members with an entrepreneurial and/or innovative mindset who are involved or want to know more about innovation processes, and about the commercialization of communication technology inventions either as part of a startup company, or as part of research & development (R&D) undertaken at a larger firm. Also in this issue emphasis is put on one essential aspect of the commercialization of inventions in our industry: the protection of the invention via patents and Intellectual Property (IP) rights. As IP increasingly acquires a central role in today’s knowledge economy, tools for valuation of IP assets for facilitating new markets for their trade, and for effective generation and management of IP assets is becoming central to a startup or to any firm’s strategies. Moreover those that rely on their innovative technology’s uniqueness in the marketplace must protect that innovation to facilitate commercial success and sustainable long-term growth.

The first article we cover is about innovation, a case where the new product/outcome is based on existing technologies and innovation consist of bringing “modularization” and “openness,” i.e. adoption of open APIs as technology commercialization strategy. Then in the second article is dedicated to the value of patents, intellectual property portfolios, and what considerations should be given to protect inventions, and key environmental factors affecting the value of patents in our industry. The third and last article is a case study of collaboration between university and industry.

Elena M. Neira
CTN Editor in Chief & Online Content Director, IEEE ComSoc Board of Governors.
Keywords: #startup #industry #innovation #intellectual #property #trademark #IPR #network #communications #technology #telecommunications #IEEE #mobile #wireless #trends #policy #law #regulation #IEEEComSoc #elenaneira #IEEECTN #ComSocBoG #ComSoc @ComSoc


1. Cloud Computing Networking: Challenges and Opportunities for Innovations

This issue of #IEEECTN starts looking at an article that addresses innovation in the area of cloud computing networking. What is driving innovation is not a new invention per-se but an implementation of open interfaces, APIs and breaking up a fully integrated communication system into pieces. It is worth noticing that this approach of modularity and openness has been in recent years a key source of growth and has speed up industry adoption.

Technology-wise, the article covers networking issues in Cloud Computing IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service). The authors describe how these issues are addressed with existing technologies; they do it in a clear tutorial-style way including naming of products and companies commercializing the technologies. Then the authors take a step further to describe what they called “innovative” proposals which could be used as more efficient future solutions.

Their proposal that they called a “SDN-based federation” is based on openness and modularity that will bring interoperability and more competition. In their own words “…that will facilitate multivendor networks between enterprise and service provider data centers, helping enterprise customers to choose best-in-class vendors…”

Title and author(s) of the original paper in IEEE Xplore:

Title: Cloud Computing Networking: Challenges and Opportunities for Innovations
Author(s): S. Azodolmolky, P. Wieder, and R. Yahyapour
This paper appears in: IEEE Communications Magazine
Issue Date: July 2013


2. Who determines the Value of Patents? / Google Highlights Value of Patents in Motorola Sale to Lenovo

Once an invention is made, the next important step is to ascertain what sort of intellectual property protection (patent, copyright, trademark, etc.) is warranted so that the inventor can pursue commercialization of the technology with a business model that is sustainable in the long-term. In Today’s knowledge-based economy this protection of inventions is a must, and not an easy step. Most likely there is a need to bring legal expertise and ‘teach’ them about the ‘novel’ invention, its claims, and business plans if applicable. All this requires time and money which are always scare resources, and more so in a startup situation. How/When should be decided to spend time and money protecting inventions has no single answer. How/When to claim the value of the inventions has no single answer either. Every case, every technology, every country is different. However, the high profile examples of the selected articles in this section exhibit some common themes applicable across our entire industry.

Most industries work by protecting single inventions with single patents to recuperate development costs while protecting market share; and example would be the pharmaceutical industry that works to protect drug inventions with single patents. By contrast, in the communications technology industry the most common case involves a very large number of patents cross-licensed to quickly address changing market needs of complex systems and products. This is the case of today’s most popular communications device, the smartphone, where global multi-player cross-licensing agreements are the norm.

The referenced articles detail well-known industry players – Google, Kodak, Motorola and Nortel among others – and discuss their prominent patent and intellectual property portfolios, their valuation, and the protection that these portfolios provide them. Analyzing the articles one sees that the patenting behavior of startup firms and of large corporations depends on the strategic and monetary value that can be asserted from these patents. The articles point to how the value of the patents is related to the number of existing IP rights holders and is heavily influenced by the amount of dispersion (number of patent holders) of those rights, particularly in rapidly evolving semiconductors, digital communications, and mobile telecommunications sectors. Firms file and trade more and higher quality patents in technology areas with higher number of existing IP rights holders, and in our industry this means that patents have a high profile.


3. Interplay and Implications of Intellectual Property and Academic-Industry Collaboration to Foster Digital Inclusion

Innovation and commercialization of new products and services in high-tech industries requires the interaction and cooperation of many players. This article describes the frequent case of an academia-industry interaction to do accomplish that. The issues and challenges at hand are phrased by the author of the article in this next paragraph:

“The late W. Edwards Deming, known for his advances in quality management, once said that “competition should not be for a share of the market — but to expand the market.” Deming was quoted, of course, long before our world became flat or anyone ever heard the term open systems. Nonetheless, Deming was prescient. He understood that progress is not a proprietary concept. Every advance is an advance for everyone. The idea of knowledge sharing is widely embraced today, but we can also be constrained, at times, by directives and traditions — many of which date back decades or more. Thus, universities, commercial enterprises, and government face a unique dilemma. In some ways, we each exist to foster knowledge, but by fearing the loss of competitive advantage we sometimes persist in squelching it. For example, many have described instances where administrative negotiations over Intellectual Property ownership have lasted 18 months or more, delaying research, collaboration, and possible innovation”.

The article goes on discussing how to reduce the barriers that academia and industry face when working together on research project; it includes a best practices study with conclusions that should not be viewed as isolated experiments, but as practices that can create the synergy required to drive collaborative research, and innovation. The article is a must-read for those engaged in startups and /or innovation with universities to understand how both working as partners in relationship-based negotiations and not transactional ones, can fuel the success of one another, in a natural and synergistic way.

Title and author(s) of the original paper in IEEE Xplore:

Title: Interplay and Implications of Intellectual Property and Academic-Industry Collaboration to Foster Digital Inclusion
Author(s): L. Masi and D. Tew
This paper appears in: IEEE Communications Magazine
Issue Date: February 2010

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