Friday, 2 September 2016

An Example of how Patenting can work

Electron Micrograph of the Zika Virus
Author Cynthia Goldsmith, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention
Licensed by US government
Source Wikipedia 

Jane Lambert

In Patent or No Patent 28 Aug 2016 NIPC Inventors Club I warned of the risks and costs of patenting, discussed alternatives to patents and suggested a simple methodology by which companies could identify the type of legal protection for their intellectual assets (intellectual property) would be right for their businesses. There are, however, circumstances when only a patent will do and although those are much more likely to arise in the case of big companies there are still instances when a patent can assist a small one or even an individual inventor with a bright idea.

I was slowly coming to at 06:15 this morning when I heard an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme with an entrepreneur called Peter Laing who claimed to have developed a new response not just to the zika virus but also to dengue fever as well. Laing was asked how the technology was developed and he replied largely in his head. He added that he had a patent for the basic idea. He also talked about his company's business strategy which was to license the technology to multinationals like GSK and Xanofi with the manufacturing capacity and distribution channels to market a vaccine for zika and dengue.

That interview got me out of bed with a start and I started googling. I discovered an article by Andrew McConaghie in Phamaphorum entitled Single vaccine against Zika and Dengue to be developed 18 Aug 2016 which seemed broadly consistent with the item on Today.  That led me in turn to the website of a company at the St John's Innovation Centre in Cambridge called Excivion Ltd. and to one Peter Laing its CEO. I also made an Espacenet search against Peter Laing and found several entries where he was named as an inventor.

Now this is not an endorsement of Dr Laing or Excivion Ltd. I have no more inkling than anyone else whether this business strategy or technology will succeed. This article is not to be read as an investment tip or even a work of journalism. I am a patent lawyer and not an investment analyst or a journalist. My point is simply that patenting can work for very new and fairly small companies including start-ups even in advanced technologies and this could be an example.

It is important to note that Dr Laing has an exceptionally strong academic record having read biochemistry and carried out research at the University of Bath and after holding postdoctoral appointments in New Zealand, Bristol and the USA and teaching at the University of Nottingham. He has also had a very impressive business career holding senior appointments in research and development and setting up a successful consultancy. Not every private inventor has those sort of credentials.

It also appears from the home, about, intellectual property, news and media and consultancy pages of its website that Excivion has integrated its IP strategy into its business plan as I suggested in Why every business plan should take account of intellectual property 3 April 2016 NIPC News.  That is another important ingredient of success.

I urge any readers who are thinking of going into business to exploit a new technology to follow this company (as it will) to see what can be learned from its success or failures. Naturally I hope it will be very successful and I wish Dr Laing and his colleagues well with their venture But if for any reason it does not work there will be lessons to be learned that could be even more important than a success story.