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Interview with Robertha Höglund

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 strategic importance of China as a market and region, the improvement and development of the Chinese IP system to be fairer to foreign companies; the sophistication in IP strategy in big tech companies such as Philips; Digitalisation, and big data. Even in very traditional production companies like Elkem these topics are very relevant and we deal with big data. We just created a Digital Office with a Head of Digital to coordinate all efforts in the organization via agile methodology. I also see many and more sophisticated products (software) to manage IP. Interesting Softwares to create patent Budgets, patent landscapes, patent metrics, Dashboards, interesting IP management systems, innovation systems, AI loaded Trademark search databases.
While trade secrets have always being used, the knowledge and awareness on how to manage them have increased at least in the last 5 years due to legislation in the USA and Europe. I have also seen an increase in litigations specifically related to Trade Secrets. I also have noticed a re-invention of classical IP firms to become more of a business adviser. For example Awapatent now rebranded as AWA. Gone are the golden days when IP law firms were charging so much for doing only translations and extending PCT Applications. Taking attorney fees for many tasks that were purely administrative. Lastly, this one is not a major change, but the proportion that intangible assets have in the valuation of a company has increased with an additional 4%.

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

Artificial Intelligence. It is a challenge in the way that we will see more inventions generated by AI entities and right now current IP laws are not written to protect such inventions as they are meant to protect the efforts of the human mind. I believe that in the very long term, these laws may change, but then we also need the creation of new laws to define an artificial entity and its rights. Another challenge that I see is still the lack of understanding about IP outside of the IP bubble. It is still normal to have ignorance about IP in the c-suite. Maybe a challenge for us practitioners is to speak a language that business people understand.
I hope that a positive IP change in the next 20 years is the inclusion of IP courses as part of the normal curriculum in business, medical and engineering schools. It should not be a niche education! In my opinion, IP courses are as important as basic finance courses. Very costly mistakes are done because young students that become professionals don’t have a clue about IP. I cringe when I hear colleagues say they will patent a word. But that really does not have any economic impact, but when a researcher comes up with something new and he/she publishes it before patent protection, good luck with the damage control.

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

Don’t panic and don’t lose your long term focus. All crises past at some point and you must be prepared for the good times. Of course don’t indulge with registrations you don’t need but keep protecting your assets. In the world of patents, a missed deadline to enter the national phase is a missed deadline. So if the product is strategic, take the cost, and suck it up. Better times will await.
Also, talk your way with your agents to negotiate better rates and explore the use of specialized translations firms that can give you savings when dealing with multiple translations for entering the national phase of a PCT application. Negotiate with your suppliers when the time to renew the contract for whatever software you use arrives. You need the product, your manager is pushing you to cut costs, and sellers want to sell as they earn on commission so often times they are willing to give discounts in times of crisis.

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

If you are talking about the pandemic with Covid-19, nothing has really changed for us in terms of serving our internal customers. We keep super busy. However, a positive consequence of this pandemic has been the forced digitalization pace in the IP department. We have made considerable improvements in our internal routines to deal with less paper and having a true mobile IP department. We also have had more efficient and cheaper meetings because they are executed via TeamsMeetings.
So we should definitely keep these good habits after Covid-19. We also used the opportunity to take many interesting Webinars on different IP topics that we found via LinkedIn. They were for free and very useful. One thing that is not the same is the face-to-face IP training for particular groups of employees. The internal courses are appreciated and we like to organize them as we also have some sort of social moment. For this we very much hope we are able to resume our training after the autumn, but it is not certain it will happen.

About Robertha Höglund’s role

Manage the Intellectual assets of Elkem ASA, educate employees on the topic of Intellectual Property, and draft IP policies in the Company. And what I dream that I do is to generate a super IP savvy C-suite in my organization. I hope one day I do that.
Robertha Höglund

Robertha Höglund

Robertha Natalia Höglund is head of intellectual property at Elkem AS.

Elkem is an international company owned by China National Bluestar Group Co Ltd, with headquarters in Norway. Elkem delivers environmentally sustainable solutions by providing silicon to the chemical, electronic and photovoltaic industries; silicones to the chemical, life sciences, and food industry; carbon products to the metallurgical industry; special alloys to the foundry industry; and microsilica powder products to the oil, polymer and building industries.

Ms Höglund’s areas of responsibility include creating and managing Elkem’s geographically wide portfolio of intangible assets, including patents, trademarks and domain names; creating IP policy in the company; educating employees in the topic of intellectual property; revising and drafting agreements that include IP clauses, such as technology cooperation agreements, consortium agreements and non-disclosure agreements; and performing technology surveillance and freedom-to-operate analysis.

Before Elkem, Ms Höglund worked at the Centre for Intellectual Property Studies in Gothenburg and was project manager for the ScanBalt Intellectual Property Knowledge Network. This was an EU-funded project aimed at increasing IP knowledge among entrepreneurs, academics and employees of the bioscience sector in Scandinavia and the Baltic states.

Ms Höglund has a BSc in industrial engineering from Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Mexico, and is a graduate of the prestigious intellectual capital management master’s programme offered by Chalmers University of Technology and Gothenburg University, Sweden.

Ms Höglund is fluent in Spanish, English, Swedish and Norwegian