SEMI Hosts Global Intellectual Property Summit at SEMICON West 2013

SEMI Hosts Global Intellectual Property Summit at SEMICON West 2013

It’s often said that Intellectual Property is the “life blood” of innovation, and many industries have long held very strong interests in IP protection.

IP is particularly crucial to the high-tech manufacturing industries that are fundamentally based on intellectual value and assets.  Perhaps in more compelling and complex ways than most industries, IP protection in the semiconductor manufacturing supply chain is essential to maintain the incredible pace of advancement that has seen the widespread deployment of digital technologies and the propagation of the electronics revolution.

Furthermore, year-after-year and survey-after-survey, IP protection is consistently a top priority and a leading concern among SEMI members. Consequently, the SEMI Board of Directors and representative of the SEMI North America Advisory Board and its Critical Issues Committee have placed significant emphasis on this topic as a focus for SEMI activity.  SEMI has acted on this focus through informational programs, web casts, educational sessions, public policy advocacy, and facilitating industry dialog. 

IP SummitRecently at SEMICON West 2013 in San Francisco, Calif., another milestone toward a broader and more expansive industry dialog occurred with the successful summit of international IP authorities.  The “SEMI Global Intellectual Property Summit: The Road Ahead?” session on July 9 was heavily supported by industry and sponsored by SEMI members including Axcelis Technologies, Cymer, Lam Research Corporation, MKS Instruments and Tokyo Electron Limited.  Intellectual property and patent experts Schwegman, Lundberg & Woessner also contributed to make the critical discussion accessible to industry participants at no cost.

The summit brought together globally recognized experts from around the world to discuss the challenges and opportunities in protecting intellectual property rights throughout the international community.  Such programming is part of SEMI’s efforts to bring more intellectual property content to its members, which have consistently rated IP as one of the top concerns for the industry.

IP SummitJonathan Davis, global VP, Industry Advocacy, kicked off the session with an introduction of the moderator, David Kappos, former director of the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  Mr. Kappos is widely regarded for his expertise in the field of intellectual property.  As Director of the USPTO, he led the Agency in dramatically reengineering its entire management and operational systems as well as its engagement with the global innovation community. He was instrumental in achieving the greatest legislative reform of the U.S. patent system in generations through passage and implementation of the America Invents Act. He was also named as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by The National Law Journal, intellectual property professional of the year by the Intellectual Property Owners Association.

Along with Mr. Kappos, the panel featured distinguished professionals from the U.S., Japan, and Korea.  Representing the U.S. was Michelle Lee, Director of the newly established Silicon Valley office of the USPTO.  Mr. Toshi Futamata, an IP professional who formerly worked for Panasonic, and a visiting researcher from the University of Tokyo gave a talk from the Japanese perspective.  Finally, the group was also addressed by the distinguished Mr. Hyuk J Kwon, Director General of the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO).

In his introductions of the panel, Mr. Kappos gave an overview of the importance of IP and innovation to the global economy.  He also stressed the importance of patent quality.  With so much innovation happening all over the world, it is now more important than ever that countries are operating on a similar playing field, and granting patents with an equally high level of standards when reviewed.  This cooperation model can be seen in much of the work that Mr. Kappos did as Director or PTO, and in bringing the U.S. to parity with most of the rest of the world through the America Invents Act.

IP SummitDirector Michelle Lee used her opportunity to address the crowd to explain the function of the newly opened USPTO office in Silicon Valley.  Having opened new offices in Detroit, Denver, Dallas, and Silicon Valley, the USPTO is working hard to bring the patent system out of Washington and into close contact with the regions where real innovation is happing throughout the country.  Being in such regions will allow for greater cooperation between those seeking patents, and those granting them.  While there has been some concern that the “sequestration” that has cut budgets of federal agencies would affect the opening of the Silicon Valley office, Director Lee addressed the issue to let those in attendance know that it would delay the opening of the permanent office, but that staffing and efforts at their temporary office space would continue.

Futamata-san’s presentation focused on the improvements that have been made in the Japanese IP system in recent years.  While patent applications are down in Japan since 2005, the percentage of patents granted has increased greatly, with a stronger emphasis on quality.  In addition, JPO has made efforts reduce turnaround time which is down almost 40 percent in the last eight years.  Futamata-san also emphasized that while filings in Japan are down, Japanese companies still file for a large number of patents in the U.S, with 17 Japanese headquartered companies in the top 50 US patent assignees.

Director General Kwon gave an update on the improvements made by KIPO in the last decade.  KIPO has almost doubled the number of examiners they have on staff, while the number of applications have remained the same.  With the fourth most number of patent applications in the world, Korea has a goal of reducing the turnaround time for applications by 25 percent in the next three years.  In addition, they are increasing enforcement, especially with regards to counterfeit products, with 45 cases in Q4 of 2010 ballooning to over 300 cases in 2012. Korea has also overhauled their judicial system.  David Kappos paid special attention to the work that KIPO has done, calling them an example for the rest of the world to follow.

It is clear that protection of IP is becoming a more important proposition around the world. With the average SEMI member investing 10-15 percent of their revenue into R&D every year, finding ways to better protect those investments is a top priority for SEMI.  That’s why SEMI has been working to increase the visibility of IP issues for its members while also working to form stronger relationships with government entities that work to help American companies protect their IP. 

In addition to events like the Global IP Summit, SEMI holds events around the world to engage with stakeholders on the importance of IP.  These events include high-level meeting with government officials, educational programs, and webinars.  For more information on SEMI’s efforts, please visit www.semi.org/IP

August 6, 2013