Author: Marsha S. Cadogan, PhD (Intellectual Property) | Canaan Bridges Consulting
A solid intellectual property policy will use the most appropriate action plans to create strong interconnections between domestic resources, capital infrastructure, human talent, global markets, intellectual property laws and other business and legal frameworks. In this approach, we often have to re(fine), re-evaluate or re-conceptualize how we develop and implement strategies. This dynamic also pushes IP managers, and business owners to continually build new connectors that relevant even in pandemic times. While the IP-construction industry link is not new at the outset, the connection may not be the most obvious. Here is why we should take more than a second look:
Construction Equipment (value and IP):
Globally, the construction equipment market is worth approximately $90 US billion. Construction equipment include cranes, excavators, bulldozers, trencher and graders. Most of the world’s construction equipment are manufactured by 9 global players located across 6 countries (Japan, China, the United States, Switzerland, Sweden and South Korea).
You may ask how IP fits into all of this. Consider Caterpillar, the largest manufacturer of construction machinery in the world. Its first patent was granted almost 150 years ago, for a grain separator machinery. Today, its patent portfolio is over 10,000. John Deere recently acquired Wirtgen Group, a manufacturer of five well-known brands in road construction equipment. Situated at the heart of this mix is brand value and brand reputation, all of which means very little without trademark rights. Up to very recently, a large part of Volvo’s patent portfolio was focused on heavy equipment, including construction machinery.
Intellectual property then, plays a significant role in the construction industry (in revenue, brand and IP assets value) – if properly positioned.
Increasingly, the trend is to modernize many of the functionalities of construction equipment through new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities. This trend will likely open up the construction equipment industry to new industry entrants. Since the field is capital intensive, new market entrants are more likely to succeed if supported by solid national IP and innovation strategies. This may include promoting collaborations between research universities and construction start-ups, incentive schemes (whether via grants or fiscal oriented) to promote innovative projects in tech-based start ups; and using IP awareness initiatives to build IP knowledge among early entrepreneurs.
Another Focus Point
In addition to the use of IP to safeguard inventions and the name of products/services in the construction industry, industrial designs can be added to an IP portfolio to further diversify its holdings. Industrial designs protect the visual appeal of a product, such as its shape, features of the shape, or the configuration of the shape which is incorporated in a finished article. Designs that are novel and which have not been disclosed outside of a jurisdiction’s grace period are usually registrable as industrial designs. Protection may be for 10, 15 or 25 years, depending on the country of registration. The functional aspects of a product will not qualify for design right protection. Design rights have been applied to bulldozers, drilling machines, the cabs and hoods of drilling machines and excavators, to name a few product uses of the IP.
Key Point: The value of intangible property globally, now outweighs the value of manufactured goods. In the construction industry, what this means is that the IP value of equipment and technologies used in the field have the potential of generating more revenue (if strategically commercialized) than the physical value of the commodities.
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