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Interview with Brian Hinman

CIP is 20 years old this year. What are the major changes that you have seen in the IP world over the past 20 years? 

The IP world has seen many significant changes overall, with the most significant being a worldwide appreciation for the value of IP in an organization. The shift from tangible to intangible assets is pronounced and has garnered the attention of C suite executives in every organization since it reflects the strength of innovation and how impactful the intangible (IP) fruits of this innovation can be on the revenue stream of any company. Another major change has been in the growth of IP litigation from both competitors and Non-Practicing-Entities (NPEs).
This growth creates major disruption for every technology industry and has resulted in the emergence of patent defensive entities like AST (which I founded), RPX, Unified Patents (which I co-founded), LOT, OIN, etc. Another significant change has been the emergence of SEP’s (Standard Essential Patents) which are patents that claim inventions that must be used to comply with a technical standard. Determining which patents are essential to a particular standard can be complex and there are certain rules that require licensing of SEPs to be on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. The inability of worldwide courts to consistently rule on what is considered FRAND has been a heavily debated topic that is still unsettled.

What do you see as the major IP changes or challenges for the next 20 years?

I think there will be further sharing of best practices among the world’s leading patent offices to ensure better alignment and to address shortcomings on issues such as patent quality and cost. In addition, the role of technologies like artificial intelligence will become fully embraced by these patent offices in securing quality claims in a timely manner.
An area of IP that has exploded with growth is in the area of trade secrets, and this will continue to be an area that companies will embrace, but these companies will also need to address potential shortcomings in their ability to identify, protect and manage these ‘crown jewel’ assets. Legislations like the DTSA, the EU Trade Secrets Directive, and the Anti-Unfair Competition Law in China will continue to have an effect on streamlining how trade secrets will be interpreted by the court systems worldwide.

What advice do you have on how to manage IP in times of crisis? 

Companies will need to focus on reducing expenses to preserve cash, seeking capital for liquidity, and move to protect their balance sheets in the hope of re-imagining a stronger future. IP assets are critical to addressing these crisis-driven objectives. Companies need to address the balance between spending money to secure an optimal IP portfolio (inclusive of all types of IP) and at the same time focusing on quality. These companies need to re-examine key innovation initiatives while focusing on enterprise value creation through IP build strategies.

Will this current crisis create changes in how IP is used or managed and, will it last beyond the crisis? 

I think the current crisis has already affected companies in how they contain costs associated with patent portfolio management and are taking a closer look at individual assets to try and determine relevance and strategic importance. This will continue beyond the current crisis since it is a prudent exercise to embark upon and companies are recognizing this.

About Brian Hinman’d role

Brian Hinman is the Chief Commercial Officer of Aon IP Solutions part of the senior leadership team, which delivers IP solutions that enhance our client’s enterprise value by executing IP‐based value creation strategies and mitigating IP risk exposure. Brian helps lead the efforts for Aon in seizing the generational opportunity to establish market‐accepted standards for assessing and valuing the IP asset class for businesses and investors.