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Intellectual Property Protection: International Experience, Russian Realities

6 Dec '13
The Lobachevsky State University of Nizhny Novgorod (UNN) hosted on December 4, 2013 a conference and a series of master classes titled “Intellectual Property Protection: International Experience, Russian Realities.”

The event brought together an audience of more than 200 people, including students from Nizhny Novgorod universities, top managers of innovation companies and organizations, entrepreneurs, and young scientists learning to become entrepreneurs.

Following a high-profile start that saw UNN Rector Evgeny Chuprunov and his key vice rectors greet the audience and emphasize the importance of the event, Kendrick D. White, the UNN vice rector for innovation policy and founder of Marchmont Capital Partners, presented a new element to the university’s innovation ecosystem. The Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) will take charge of UNN innovation activity, leading the effort and helping screen the commercial viability of university technologies. It will also assist in looking for investors and ensure IP protection for technology projects originating from UNN.

Mr. White then gave the floor to one of the guests of honor, Jason Rutt, the head of Patents at London-based Rouse. Mr. Rutt talked about patenting as a tool that helps protect IP and support innovation activity. In his in-depth presentation, he pointed out the fundamental rules that must not be ignored at various stages of commercialization.

After lunch, Sergei Mitrofanov, the founder of Mitrofanov & Partners and deputy CEO at Pulsar Venture, offered a workshop aimed at sensitizing the audience to the importance of modern branding in innovation. In addition to illuminating the key do’s and don’ts in picking names for innovation products, he described both success and failure stories in global branding. Organized as an interactive master class, the event was focused on helping the audience understand the technologies that are designed to position yourself in the market.

“The name must reflect thoughts, ideas, philosophy and mood rather than goods or services that you’re marketing today; because tomorrow, these may be entirely different,” Mr. Mitrofanov underscored.

A panel discussion that followed was moderated by Vice Rector Kendrick White and featured a number of prominent experts, including Jason Rutt; Eduard Fiyaksel, a leading Russian business angel investor and a marketing and VC management professor at the local branch of the Higher School of Economics; Vladimir Platov, the co-founder and CEO of Penxy, an IT developer; Roman Potemkin, the CEO of Instabank, a developer of mobile solutions for personal finance; Anna Annenko from Burrill Russia Management, and some others. Using a roundtable format, the participants discussed IP protection strategies, issues that may arise during international patenting, and ways of facilitating a university’s interaction with a local business community.

Eduard Fiyaksel spoke about a role that the government should play to become a fast track to more successful commercialization. “At the moment, the theory of a “triple spiral” reflecting the responsibilities of science, the state and business is getting increasingly popular. Each of the ‘angles’ of this triangle must stick to its functionality. Today, the government believes that its main function is allocating funds for start-ups; although in fact, what the government should do is build the right legislative base first and foremost. We have an anemic business angel investing activity because there are no incentives expected from the state. The lack of professionalism is a plague in Russia. The decision makers are not experts in venture investing; they are mostly bureaucrats. The bureaucrats create a concept having little or no understanding of what’s behind it. We need a commercialization system at the national level,” he said.

The audience was then introduced to a brand new event format in Nizhny, which was called “Pitch Nite—Three Minutes to Present Your Project.” Led by Mikhail Fedotov, the deputy vice rector for innovation at UNN, Pitch Nite was aimed at teaching young scientists speak the language of an investor.

Plans are to hold such project Pitches on a monthly basis, starting next year. One of the specific features of a Pitch is giving the right of vote to both the jury and the audience.

Two examples of successful project pitches were then provided. Penxy’s Vladimir Platov and Instabank’s Roman Potemkin, the winners of one of the Silicon Valley Meets Russia competitions, gave the young university researchers a general feel of what investors want to hear.

There were eleven university projects showcased at the Pitch. Following a dynamic set of presentations, the panel of experts pronounced the winners. The first prize went to Vyacheslav Savchenkov, a student of the UNN Department of Radio Physics who has developed his “Digital Fingerprints” project. The runner-up was Kristina Apryatina, a postgraduate of the Department of Chemistry with her “Next Gen Hemostatic” solution. Maria Yashanova, a postgraduate of the Department of Biology, walked away with the third prize awarded for her “Automatic Analyzer for Diabetes Complications Diagnostics.”

In an assessment of the overall event, Anna Annenko, the manager for operations and business development at Burrill Russia Management Co Sarl and one of the experts evaluating the university projects, said in an exchange with Marchmont that she believed Kendrick White’s effort (referring to the Center for Technology Commercialization project – editor’s note) “is very timely and unique” for Russia.

“I think the processes of having the innovation community grasp the very idea of how important IP protection is, and of setting up entities like the Center for Technology Commercialization, must go hand in hand and interlinked. Our people are coming to understand the vitality of the problem, but they still lack support in how to approach it in the right way. I have seen many projects that are interesting per se and could potentially solve some global problems, but they don’t get timely patents. They are driven by enthusiasm which lacks a foundation to help it materialize.

I’m sure that Kendrick’s project is unique for Russia. Yes, we do have platforms, but those platforms don’t bring its potential to bear. They are hardly operational because they don’t have all the structural elements they are supposed to have to be successful. Therefore, if this new initiative is put firmly in place, and well structured, this will give businesses a great chance, I’m sure. I would say, this will be a breakthrough, and its location on the premises of a leading university is an additional reinforcement,” Ms. Annenko said.
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