Peggy Bengtsson has been selected as one of the World’s Leading IP Strategists by IAM Strategy 300
Zacco is proud to announce that our colleague, Peggy Bengtsson, has been selected as one of the World’s Leading IP Strategists 2021 by IAM Strategy 300.
Published every year, the selection demonstrates a number of IP experts who have shown exceptional skills and profound insight into the development, creation and management of Intellectual Property value. The experts are nominated through a comprehensive selection process from both independent research and interviews with senior members of the IP community and, importantly, the nominations must come from outside of Zacco as nominations from colleagues won’t be included at the start of the process.
Peggy’s insight into IP Strategy is well known amongst our clients so to be considered one of the top 300 strategists in the world is certainly something to be pleased about. We caught up with Peggy to congratulate her and ask her a few questions surrounding both the reasons behind the nomination as well as her thoughts on the future of IP.
Peggy, firstly huge congratulations, you must be very proud of the selection and we think it is certainly deserved. The accolade is an acknowledgement of all of your hard work but also independent recognition of your extensive insight into current and future IP Strategy development. So tell us, in your opinion, how is IP Strategy changing?
I have been working with Intellectual Property since 1983 and the biggest change I have seen comes as the result of globalisation. It has become increasingly important to have international patents, covering additional territories and we have seen a significant increase in Patent Litigation. In the US alone, the length of time between reaching another million patent applications milestone has reduced from around 20 years during most of the 20th century to around 3-5 years since the year 2000, so roughly the same number of patents have been filed in the last 20 years as the 150 years preceding them.
At the same time, we have seen a general reduction in patent budgets, with companies limiting the number of permanent IP staff they employ, which has sometimes caused a strain on the existing IP teams, looking after bigger portfolios with reduced resources. Companies have wanted to cut costs but avoid reducing quality so one outcome is an increase in the number of larger and medium sized companies who have begun to partly outsource their International IP portfolios. Outsourcing the administration and prosecution work has often led to improvements in cost efficiency, stretching their IP budget further, but it also frees up their IP staff to focus on areas where they want more direct control, such as for licensing negotiations, litigations and patent mining sessions.
Technology has developed our ability to operate globally, with conversations taking place in real time between colleagues across multiple time zones. This has changed everything and has the added benefit of developing access to a significantly wider talent pool. Scientific and Technology companies have been outsourcing their work to areas of the Middle East and Asia for many years now and this has resulted in an incredibly well educated pool of talent, many of whom have direct experience working with multinational corporations. Universities in these countries know there will be continued demand for such talent and have adjusted their courses to reflect the global outlook.
The larger corporations we work with already have offices in India, for example, so for Zacco it is often quite productive to have access to a local presence. Capable and knowledgeable colleagues who have expertise and experience working within or alongside multinationals, who know the business landscape and who are able to act as a trusted local partner and advisor, while still able to access Zacco’s wider international capability.
So, as IP rights become more prolific and move further into the digital realm, what will they look like in the future?
As the global pandemic begins to recede and we revert to a ‘new normal’, I think we will begin to see a significant increase in the demand for global patents. SMEs have begun to acknowledge that they need to defend their ideas and innovations and they need protection, even if they do not always have the budgets of the bigger players in their industries. The potential returns on a good idea are huge so companies will continue to need to protect innovations but, at present, that protection gets more expensive and more time consuming as you expand into more countries. Perhaps we will begin to see a more structured approach with further alignment of the rules governing multiple territories.
As the world continues to move online, I believe IP consultancies and firms will see increased competition as suppliers realise that they can offer cross border services rather than solely targeting domestic or local markets. There are hundreds of countries where one can secure their IP rights, each with their own regulations, so I believe it will be difficult for many of those companies to ‘spread their net’ too wide though. To succeed, one needs to understand the obligations of each country in their original context, either through trusted partners or through developing a local presence, as Zacco does in the countries within which we operate.
I suspect we will see more demand for ‘insourcing’ and advisory services rather than hiring direct, which can help companies to manage their IP budget more effectively. Having someone onsite is certainly a wise investment and can help smaller companies to recognise when an idea might have value. I remember working in an SME early in my career and being invited to join the Swedish Attaché of Technology in Los Angeles for a year. During the time I was away on secondment, the number of patent applications and disclosures reduced significantly, not because fewer ideas were being produced but simply because there was no one around to catch them and identify if they might be suitable for patenting. Zacco provides a number of insourcing services, offering onsite paralegals or attorneys on a temporary basis, and our clients often find that leveraging market knowledge is integral to helping them secure their IP rights and significantly more cost effective than having a permanent member of staff.
I think there will also be interesting discussions into what an IP right means for the greater good. Already we are witnessing public conversations between governments about the morals of patenting vaccines, so how do we continue to balance protectionism with fostering innovation and developing returns on investments? Similarly, we are seeing more companies move into developing licensing agreements, sharing their IP for a fee rather than going straight to litigation. I think with globalisation comes the realisation that both ideas and support can come from anywhere in the world and companies are beginning to adapt to that.
Zacco is already at the forefront of the digital realm with our Patent Prosecution and IP Portfolio Outsourcing services, can you tell you us how Zacco has adapted to the online or outsourced future of Intellectual Property?
We have made significant strides in recent years with extending our global capability, building up a base of trusted international partners and developing our cyber security capability to address and counteract emerging threats. Zacco Digital Trust really is something specials as we are now able to protect our client’s intellectual property digitally, as well as via the more traditional legal routes.
We have also invested extensively in our new case management systems and client portal. These have primarily been developed in house using our Secure Software Developers and have been designed with the management of IP rights in mind. They also adopt a comprehensive set of cyber security standards and protections so we feel that both systems are going to be an integral part of the Zacco offering for many years to come.
What will these mean for our clients?
Clients will have immediate access to the portals, meaning they will not need to develop their own systems, and we will continue to adapt and build new services in as they are developed. We will be able to operate more efficiently, saving time and decreasing both costs and fees, and we will improve the system capability through a combination of client and colleague feedback.
With both our outsourcing services and our new systems, clients have access to us 24/7/365. While they often have a single point of contact, there will always someone available to respond to them, and many of our clients see this ability to reply quickly as a key part of our service provision.
Many of our colleagues have spent time working within private companies so they often understand what is important to clients and what will be necessary for an in-house IP team to function effectively. We also know that instructions can sometimes take longer to reach a decision maker within the internal hierarchy of an organisation so our clients appreciate that we often can fix things at short or relatively late notice. We have seen many organisations with a headcount freeze who have suddenly had an influx of additional workload but lacked the ability to increase their capacity. In these situations, having Zacco as a partner has been essential because we can often ‘pick up the slack’ by quickly understanding their needs and acting as an additional resource until the headcount freeze is lifted again, or until they are able to find someone internally.
We now have an operational Cyber Defence Centre and Security Operations Centre, who monitor all incoming and outgoing traffic. I know that many senior members of the IP community are very aware that their systems are at risk of being accessed illegally and of IP being stolen. If this were to happen when new inventions or ideas have yet to be protected then the potential financial loss can be ruinous. Being able to offer a level of protection to our clients that we adopt ourselves has made a huge difference to both our capability and our service offering.
What are Zacco’s future plans to continue this adaptation?
As I said, we will continue to develop our systems based on client feedback. They are designed to make the lives of our clients easier, because they will offer the opportunity to automate some of the administrative elements, often reducing fees in the process.
Through our partners and colleagues, we have an incredibly well educated and experienced talent pool available to us and we are lucky in that we are continuing to attract some very good people across all of our offices. Our Indian colleagues in Coimbatore, Bangalore and Delhi present a perfect example of some of the advantages of globalisation because they have access to competitive educational standards and some impressive infrastructure. During the pandemic, Zacco supported the decision of many who chose to leave the big cities, yet most were still able to connect and work from home, even in relatively rural areas. This is a testament not only to our colleagues’ commitment to Zacco, but also to the benefits of an increasingly connected world.
As for Zacco itself, we will continue our slow and steady expansion, constantly improving our capability and efficiency, because that is how we will stay competitive. We are building recognition in the cyber security space and I predict such services will become an organisational necessity within a few years, if they are not already. We will continue to expand our global network of affiliated agents and to offer cost efficient patent prosecution to our current and future clients.
Ultimately, the best way to continue to develop Zacco as a whole is to make sure that we remain a company that people want to work for. We will achieve this by embracing change, through offering exciting assignments as well as opportunities for development and by working alongside talented, creative and collaborative colleagues.
Zacco has always fostered our collaborative working environment, how do you feel this has contributed to your IAM Strategy 300 Success?
I feel that it is important that the services that we offer are developed from the best of what we can do. We take our academic and practical expertise, our experience and our history of understanding of what works and we combine them all together to improve Zacco as a whole. We are lucky in that our colleagues, and many of our affiliates, are open to sharing their knowledge and fostering younger talent and this helps us to grow and improve on an organisational level.
The best way to get ideas working is to be able to bounce them off each other. This increases their chances of success but also presents an opportunity to learn what will be the most productive approach for our clients. Once a process works, it can then be introduced to other clients or other countries. We also develop some of our services alongside our clients, tailoring them as we go and making them more effective and more suited to an organisation’s needs. Both of these approaches have the added benefit of helping us to understand how services evolve over time and how, as an organisation grows, its approach securing the value of its intellectual property can change.
It is this collaborative nature and openness that has allowed our colleagues to explore and accept new ideas, seeing opportunities rather than threats, and embracing change as the world changes. The future will bring improvements to processes, I believe that AI will become even more involved in the drafting and prosecution of applications, but there will still need to be a trained professional in the back end to establish the most important parts, such as scopes of protection. It is good that we have already adapted to the digital age, investing significantly into our digital capabilities, and we have always had an international outlook, with global partnerships putting us in an excellent position to expand our service offering.
Finally, on a more personal note, how do you plan to celebrate the selection?
When we are able to travel again, I am very much looking forward to visiting some of our international colleagues and celebrating this success together over a good dinner or something like that. As I said earlier, this recognition is a result of a good cooperation between our colleagues, both across Europe and in India, and it is their success as much as it is mine. Although I am the one being given the accolade, it is their input and support that forms a major part of why we succeed. We can come up with as many ideas as we want to but we still need capable and talented colleagues who can deliver them. I mean it when I say I could not have done this without our colleagues.
As I say though, that will be when the world begins to open up a bit. For now, I am looking forward to a relaxing summer vacation and to returning with some fresh new ideas.
Definitely a well-deserved rest. Peggy, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today and, once again, congratulations to you and the rest of your team on this significant accolade. We are looking forward to seeing what will come next.