The following interview represents the first instalment in the Adamson & Partners LeadershIP series. Over the coming months, we will be conducting interviews with senior figures within the intellectual property sector, to gather their perspective on the past and future of the industry. Brian Hinman is Chief Intellectual Property Officer at Philips. Brian recently sat down with Julian Adamson to reflect on the challenges and changes he has witnessed throughout his career.
JA: Brian, thank you for your time. You relocated to the Netherlands to take up this position, the first time that a position has necessitated you living outside of the US. What have been the most challenging factors to overcome and what advice would you have for someone considering such a move?
BH: Living in Europe, specifically in the Netherlands, has been an amazing experience for me. Culturally, the experience has been very pleasant, since the Dutch are very welcoming and open to expats like myself. One of the most challenging factors is obviously the adjustment of living in a different country which is far from my home in NY. Keeping busy is definitely the best way to overcome such an obstacle, as well as embracing the local culture and getting involved in the community. For instance, I run the local marathon every year, attend local sporting events like football games and field hockey matches, and I am actively involved in social events and other local activities. I find that trying to be a part of the local community in Eindhoven has been a very pleasant and rewarding experience for me.
JA: You lead one of the world’s largest IP departments, spread across various continents. What processes and strategies have you put in place to manage this team effectively and what are the greatest hurdles to overcome when leading such a team from a distance?
BH: Philips has a long, proud history of being one of the very best and most diverse IP organizations worldwide. I have 18 offices in 11 different countries reporting to me and there are many reasons for the great success we have enjoyed, include the sophisticated infrastructure, efficient processes, procedures and tools that are employed throughout my organization, as well as the highly skilled and experienced executive management team that help me lead the organization worldwide. Overall, I have secured a company-wide IP strategy that permeates through each Philips Business Group and Business Unit and this IP strategy is an integral component of the overall corporate strategy for Philips.
JA: You have witnessed the IP landscape change seismically during your career. What has been your proudest achievement?
BH: I have been involved in the field of IP for over 26 years now and it has been a very challenging and rewarding experience for me overall. My proudest achievement has to be in being able to having managed all aspects of IP for a variety of different companies. From establishing and executing effective IP strategies to managing extensive IP portfolio growth and development opportunities to achieving significant EBITDA through managing unique IP monetization programs, and also through securing and affecting strong IP litigation programs, I have been able to manage all of these various aspects of IP. This has allowed me to be most effective in handling all of the extremely difficult IP challenges that companies have to deal with as the IP landscape changes over time.
JA: What do you see as being the most important future trends in IP?
BH: There are many unique challenges that companies face now and will continue to face in the future as the IP landscape rapidly changes. The IP litigation landscape is in a state of uncertainty, particularly for owners of SEP’s, as the dust settles over recent court decisions. This will continue until there is more consistency in these court rulings. The challenges in patentability will also continue as such mechanisms as IPR’s in the US and validity challenges worldwide increase. This makes it a very uncertain patent climate, since quality is the main concern here and patent owners have to be able to determine ways to navigate these troubled waters. Another current IP trend that is developing is in technology areas that are emerging quickly like IoT and digital, where companies offering products and services in these spaces will have to secure an IP strategy that will allow for freedom of action to continue to offer these products and services unencumbered.
JA: IP is frequently undervalued or has limited visibility within an organisation. What is your advice to IP professionals to best counter this perception?
BH: There has to be a cultural change within organizations where IP has limited visibility in the C suite. The CEO and the entire C suite has to understand why IP is important, how it enables innovation, and the value that it brings to the shareholders. IP leaders need to share this vision with these executives, and absent of this cultural shift taking place, IP organizations will struggle to get traction in executing an effective IP strategy for their companies.
JA: Finally, you have worked within IP for 20 years. If you could go back 20 years and offer yourself some career advice, what would it be?
BH: IP is a fascinating career path because it blends technical, legal and business knowledge together and you can pursue any number of different career paths within it. My best advice is to do exactly as I did: get as much experience as possible in all of the various aspects of IP management and choose the one that suits you the best. An IP career is unique in that you can take courses in IP, even obtain a specialized degree from a University in the field of IP, but it is through gaining practical experience in IP that you are able to be most effective. The IP field is very unique, dynamic and challenging, and with that comes plenty of career opportunities for qualified, experience IP professionals.