Picsel - Director interview: use of intellectual property to grow a business
January 2007 (UK Intellectual Property Office)
Picsel® Technologies is an innovative provider of embedded software to the mobile device market, which incorporates PDAs, games consoles and Smartphones. The company was founded in 1998 by Imran Khand, an entrepreneur, who turns innovative ideas into profitable businesses. It started off as a small company and has grown into an enterprising global business.
Picsel’s® new innovation, ePAGE®, the technology behind the Picsel® Browser enables users of mobile phones to browse the Internet, see animations and videos, look at documents they have prepared on their computers and send and receive email. This leadingedge technology means users can enjoy the same rich content on their mobile phones as they see on the Web.
The Director of Technologies was recently interviewed about the steps that Picsel® had to take to protect their idea and make sure they didn’t lose out to competitors. This interview gives a real insight into how the successful use of intellectual property (IP) can support the growth and enterprise of a business.
Interviewer: “When you were first developing the Picsel ePAGE® technology, why were you so worried about protecting your invention?”
Director: “We needed to make sure that our competitors didn’t pinch our ideas while we were working on them. We were also worried that, once we had launched our product into the market, other manufacturers would just copy it and we would lose out. We needed to know that we would get the benefit of all the money and time we had invested in developing this idea.”
Interviewer: “You had embarked on an enterprise and invested a lot of money and time into it. How did you protect yourselves against losing all of that?”
Director: “The very first thing we had to do was to develop our idea. Once I was clear about how it would be used and developed I contacted the UK Intellectual Property Office to apply for our patent. That gave us the freedom to work on the technology without worrying about secrecy. Our invention was protected. That was early in 2000.”
Interviewer: “What happened next?”
Director: “We were then able to go and visit all the major device and wireless companies in the world, to discuss our idea and test it. The innovations that came out of that led to further patent applications which we took out in 2001.”
Interviewer: “But what stopped the big companies just going ahead and copying your ideas anyway?”
Director: “As we had applied to patent our innovation, we had already taken steps to protect it. Having patent applications pending discourages competitors from copying your technology. A patent is one type of intellectual property– it is your property, the same as a house or a car, so if someone uses your idea you can take legal action against them.”
Interviewer: “Software innovations move very fast and any new ideas have to be developed quickly as you are competing with other software companies to get new ideas/innovations out before them. At what point did you decide to patent ePAGE® rather than become the first software company to market your new innovation ahead of other software companies?”
Director: “We actually wanted (and succeeded) in doing both things – patenting ePAGE® and marketing our software ahead of others. We knew we had to patent ePAGE® before we released our product commercially otherwise competitors could copy it, so we started the patent process very early. If you want to patent an invention, you have to apply for the patent before the invention is made public in any way, otherwise the patent application will be invalid. The trick is to get the patents done while you are developing the technology, and before you release it, and that way you get the best of both worlds.”
Interviewer: “If you say that a patent is like property, can you sell it just as I could sell my car?”
Director: “Yes. All intellectual property, whether it is a patent for an idea/innovation, copyright on books or CDs, a trade mark like the Coca Cola® logo or our own ePAGE®, can be bought or sold just like anything else.”
Interviewer: “Do you think you would ever sell your patents?”
Director: “We actually had that decision to make in the early stages. We could either:
1. Sell or license our inventions to another established company that had the resources to develop them into real products. This would have saved us all the worry of trying to find finance and expertise, and reduced the financial risk for us.
2. Keep the technology and develop and market it ourselves.
We chose the latter route because the opportunities were greater and we could keep control over how our ideas could be developed. We see ourselves as entrepreneurs and want to see our ideas through to the end. We are able to do this because ownership of our IP gives us protection while we do so.”
Interviewer: “Did you just patent your innovation in this country?”
Director: “No. We are a global company and identified our key markets as Europe, USA, Japan, China, Korea and India so we made sure we obtained coverage for those countries. We filed an International Patent Application through the Patent Co-operation Treaty. We sought protection in all the major manufacturing countries in the world.”
Non Disclosure Agreement
Interviewer: “Once you made that decision, where did you go from there?”
Director: “We had to raise finance. We needed to hire software developers, rent office space and start marketing and testing our prototypes. We began dealing with lots of people and carried out market research.”
Interviewer: “But what stopped all of those people giving your secrets away?”
Director: “We drew up a legal document called a Nondisclosure Agreement(NDA). An NDA is a legally binding agreement that we had with our suppliers so everything they learned about our development had to be kept secret. This gave us the confidence to talk to them about materials and prototypes without worrying they were going to sell our idea to someone else.”
Interviewer: “So you had double protection as the people you were dealing with couldn’t reveal your secrets and, because you had patent applications pending on the inventions, even if someone did work out exactly what you were doing, they wouldn’t be able to start developing it themselves and beat you to the market.”
Director: “Exactly! This protection has meant we have grown from a small company to one that sells its ePAGE® driven products to some of the world’s largest companies.”
The Director of Picsel® has told us about their road to success. They are entrepreneurs who have built up a successful business with a huge impact on the world of technology. Think of all the people around the country developing new ideas in, for example, technology, art and music. We are the richer for it through an improved standard of living, and new and interesting things in our life. If these people didn’t own intellectual property they wouldn’t have the incentive to develop their ideas. What would be the point of working hard and being creative if someone else can copy their work and profit from it?