Maximizing the impact of a global innovation ecosystem.
The continued convergence of technology and healthcare is altering the competitive landscape in new and challenging ways, says Paik Saber, Vice President and Chief IP Counsel at Medtronic. But, Saber says, these challenges also create unique business opportunities. Saber recently joined Medtronic from IBM, where he was Senior Corporate Counsel in charge of corporate wide projects including intellectual property (IP) policies, worldwide patent quality, Asia Pacific IP operations , and developing new IP monetization programs.
Today he is responsible for all IP matters across Medtronic, and oversees protection and deployment of IP assets, IP litigation and licensing. He recently shared his thoughts on the global IP landscape and his role at Medtronic.
What are your primary goals for your work at Medtronic?
Medtronic is a global company with a presence in 160 countries – investing more than $2 billion annually in research and development. For a company of this size that spends significant time and resources on the global market to support its growth strategies, it is imperative that we have an enterprise-wide integrated IP organization.
So part of my objective is to create a world-class IP organization that supports the business. One that works with all business units across the globe to develop, protect, and maximize the innovative contributions our employees are making to the industry.
Developing the latest advancements in healthcare requires attracting, and retaining, the best talent. How does Medtronic do that?
A timely example of how we reward our people is the Patents of Distinction Program: an internal award program that recognizes inventors and the inventions that most significantly impact patients. For example, last year we recognized six inventors and two patents in particular: one was an innovative vessel sealing instrument design (U.S.Patent No. 7,156,846), which is implemented in a Medtronic laparoscopic instrument used across a wide range of laparoscopic procedures, and the other was a method and apparatus for inflating and deflating balloon catheters (U.S. Patent No. 7,727,228), which is implemented in the Arctic Front™ cryoablation system. The technologies created through just these two patents have already positively impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients.
How does IP contribute to the advancement of global healthcare?
Our intellectual property assets pave the way for us to deliver new therapies and technologies to patients around the world. They enable us to create new solutions, collaborate with third parties, protect commerce and vendors, or generate licensing incomes.
What does the Medtronic Mission mean to you?
I remember the first time I read the Medtronic Mission statement, which calls us to action to alleviate pain, restore health and extend life. It made me pause and think, 'wow, how wonderful it is to work for a company where a person wakes up in the morning and knows what he or she does is going to make a difference in the lives of humans, making a big difference in the welfare of humanity.’ I remember hearing from senior leadership that the Mission wasn't just a statement on the wall, but a deeply held conviction and that conviction is something I’ve seen every day since I joined Medtronic. The Mission is at the core of what we do, and to me that is what makes Medtronic a unique company.
You recently traveled to China. What opportunities do see you for Medtronic there?
Medtronic has a significant presence in China – with current revenue of about $1.8 billion – and we see a lot of opportunity for growth. In terms of IP, the region sees significant levels of infringement, counterfeiting and piracy. At the same time, the patent office in China receives more patent applications than any other patent office in the world, and there are more IP litigations in China than any other country in the world. So, we are focused on developing China IP strategy to refine protection and deployment of our IP assets, support the company’s growth, and better position Medtronic to compete with other, domestic and multinational, companies there.
In our current technology climate, are the challenges greater than in the past?
Yes. The market complexity and global presence of many companies contribute to a heightened level of complexity for dealing with IP issues. The convergence of technology in different parts of the market has also created unique challenges for companies like ours. Today, we not only compete with our traditional competitors in the med tech market – which is a major challenge in its own right – but we now have to be thinking about many powerful IT companies that are going to compete with us too.
How do you navigate this new landscape?
It requires spending a lot of time with business leaders and industry thought leaders – developing collaborative efforts – to come up with win-win solutions for everyone. Litigation is the least desirable way to resolve business disputes, and should usually be the last resort when two companies cannot reach mutually workable solutions. It’s incumbent upon us to find ways to turn business challenges into business opportunities.