Hewlett-Packard is to open an intellectual property licensing office in Singapore that will aim to develop new technology agreements with companies in fast-growing economies such as India, Taiwan and China.
It is part of a trend among technology groups to exploit their bulging patent portfolios.
HP – which owns more than 30,000 patents for inventions from its inkjet printer technology to software and hardware components – said the office would work with a US-based intellectual property licensing team set up three years ago to help squeeze value from HP’s patents.
Shane Robison, HP’s chief strategist, said the company was not worried by what had been seen as lax government enforcement of intellectual property protections in some Asian countries. China and others have been criticised for turning a blind eye to misappropriation of foreign intellectual property or copyright abuses. “There is a lot of rhetoric around this, but the situation is improving all the time as more and more gross national product in these countries is based on high tech industry,” Mr Robison said. “[These countries] have really started to understand the importance of putting laws in place to protect IP.”
He said the office’s efforts would be directed towards striking deals to license intellectual property, rather than enforcing patents already used by other companies. HP maintains a separate team in charge of patent enforcement. Technologies ripe for licensing include digital media, internet storage and inkjet patents, many of which have applications outside HP’s core business. Inkjet technologies, for example, can be used in assembly lines and fuel injection.
Joe Beyers, the HP executive in charge of managing its patents and intellectual property, said the new office would “broaden our ability to monetise our IP assets and realize a greater return on our R&D investment”. It expected its IP licensing operation to generate “hundreds of millions of dollars” in additional value in the next few years.
Other companies have also been seeking better ways to use their intellectual property, and HP’s model is based on the system pioneered by IBM.
Meanwhile, some companies, known as “patent trolls”, have caused controversy by buying disused patents and then suing companies that use them just to win legal settlements.