Thales UK Intellectual Property Exploitation

As part of Thales UK's investment in innovation, the business is continually looking to leverage value from our ideas. This means not only protecting our Intellectual Property (IP), but also valuing, reinforcing and exploiting the Intellectual Property asset, both directly and indirectly. Digby Thomas-Bennett, Head of Intellectual Property Exploitation, describes how Thales UK is looking to develop this process to underpin the innovation investment and sustain our continued success.

Thales invests heavily in Innovation in order to achieve its business objectives. Protection of the IP, derived during this process, is therefore essential to leverage the value from the ideas. IP safeguards the course, progress and economic underpinning of the Innovation Lifecycle by providing a means to derive value from ideas (i.e. route to market).

Innovation is about successfully executing new ideas to create value.

The time-limited exclusivity granted by Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) allows an innovator to financially benefit from their investment in exchange for universal disclosure of the innovation; essentially IP is an intangible asset. It is generally understood today that a large proportion (greater than 80%) of a company’s Global Corporate Value is vested in Intangible Assets. The realisation of the value within these assets requires skilled management combined with an effective strategy geared towards the way in which IP is created, protected and exploited. It is therefore essential that this is planned, understood and implemented at all stages in the Innovation Lifecycle to safeguard the growth, competitiveness and profitability of an organisation. Unlike tangible assets, IP can generate multiple value streams which can be both direct (core business) and indirect (non-core business).

The five principal types of IP are Patent, Trademark, Design Right, Copyright and Know-How/Trade-Secret. Combinations of these constitute an IP Portfolio. Additionally there is interdependency between Technology Roadmaps, Business Strategy and IP Strategy. To align these strategies it is essential to estimate the value of our ideas such that our Research & Dervelopment (R&D) investment is objectively:
  • Protected i.e. to manage the risk of infringement.
  • Reinforced i.e. to leverage and grow the market share.
  • Advanced i.e. to promote improvements and further market opportunities.
A proportion of our IP portfolio is visible to our competitors and our strength in these areas will help to deter competition and to secure our place in the market.
Consequently there is interdependency between Technology Roadmaps, Business Strategy and IP Strategy. To bring focus to these strategies it is essential to be able to measure the value of an idea; specifically, forecast the value of an idea before it is realised. To forecast the value of an idea, three questions must be asked:
  • So what? i.e. novelty.
  • Who cares? i.e. market need.
  • What’s in it for me? i.e. return on investment (ROI), for example: economic, strategic, social, environmental.
These three simple questions focus attention on determining the value of the idea rather than being distracted by the emotional thrill of a new idea. Accordingly, Thales assesses the value of its IPR using a tried and tested methodology that scores the idea against six criteria:
  • Novelty of Innovation i.e. comparison with the State-Of-The-Art.
  • Strength of IPR e.g. status, scope and potential coverage of patents/IPR.
  • 3rd Party Involvement e.g. degree of  involvement/claims on IPR.
  • Presentability i.e. TRL, development status, Time-to-Market, Viability.
  • Size of Market i.e. estimate of size and growth of Addressable Markets.
  • Project Team e.g. availability of technical Support.
The calculated score generated by the assessment is then benchmarked against thresholds that inform the exploitation route and value potential of the idea. By focusing on the value of ideas, not only is Innovation successful but, a robust IP Portfolio will be generated that will underpin continued Innovation and protect the businesses objectives.

In recognition of Thales’s investment and success in innovation, in December 2015 the Thales UK Research and Technology (RTI) team was awarded the Investor in Innovations accreditation by the Innovation and Knowledge Exchange.

"This is a great achievement for the UK RTI community and demonstrates our class leading innovation capability,” says Dr. Alvin Wilby, VP Research, Technical and Innovation at Thales UK. “As we continue to drive innovation at the heart of our strategy, we will continue to see benefit to the business; developing partnerships, increasing the rate of new ideas, the adoption of new thinking, approaches and technologies - these will deliver future growth, increase profitability and boost our market share."

Digby Thomas-Bennett further explains the importance of IP to Thales in this video