INDUSTRY INSIGHTThought Leadership

Q&A: Protecting your innovation through technological growth

The importance of technology development and innovation is becoming ever more pronounced as chemical companies in the GCC region seek to improve their competitiveness on a global scale. The Arabian Gulf chemical industry’s patent applications have increased significantly over the years in line with the sector’s continuous production growth and focus on innovation. In the last decade alone, the number of chemical patents obtained in the region grew by 6% per annum, exceeding global growth of 5.6%.

As chemical producers in the region increase their focus on innovation, GPCA is organizing the 5th edition of its Intellectual Property (IP) Awareness workshop in Muscat this month. GPCA Insight Express caught up with one of the workshop speakers Martijn Vogelzang, Senior Manager, Licensing Out, SABIC, to discuss the importance of chemical firms’ protecting their intellectual property and the level of awareness in the region.

How important is IP protection, and, in your opinion, are chemical companies in this part of the world doing enough to ensure their IPs are indeed well protected?

IP, be it in the form of patents or trade secrets, is at the heart of our industry. Hence, protecting one’s own know how, and complying with confidentiality terms agreed with third parties is an integral part of our license to operate. This responsibility extends beyond the legal and licensing experts who agree to the terms, but reaches out to technology, manufacturing and other users.

The topic of your presentation at the IP Awareness Workshop is the driving force for this year’s agenda. Can you talk us through some of the key IP requirements, objectives and challenges at each stage of a petrochemical company’s journey as it moves from a licensee to a licensor?

By and large petrochemical companies in the GCC are used to licensing in technologies to materialize their objectives in terms of growth. It is not uncommon that each licensing agreement, even from the same licensor has different confidentiality terms. This requires a system to ensure these agreements are adhered to.

Moreover, increasingly companies in the GCC area are conducting R&D to develop their own technologies, at times in competition with licensed in technologies. This requires additional precaution to avoid contamination of third party know how with one’s own.

In essence, what are some of the key elements that companies need to consider in order to develop a robust IP protection strategy?

Companies need to ensure that the staff dealing with IP are aware of the limitations and possibilities. A close collaboration between technology, legal and licensing staff is key to making this happen. At SABIC, this works well.

Are there any key lessons that chemical producers in this region can learn from international players in Europe and elsewhere?

As indicated, the GCC is moving from being a buyer of know how to a developer and in some cases licensor. This is a significant mindset change. Leading petrochemical companies are typically more a user/developer of technologies than a buyer. This creates the opportunity of differentiation and being master of one’s own destiny.

Can you share some lessons learnt and advice on IP protection from your experience at SABIC and your time spent working in the industry?

We at SABIC have developed a system that ensures that those exposed to owned and third-party IP know how to deal with this. This is an essential part of our license to operate.

The 5th edition of GPCA’s Intellectual Property (IP) Awareness workshop will be hosted by Oman Oil and Orpic Group from 18-19 September 2019 in Muscat, Oman. Held under the theme, ‘Protecting your Innovation through Technological Growth’, the workshop will provide delegates with a comprehensive understanding of intellectual property (IP) rights and strategies in an environment of increased focus on creating growth through successful innovation. It will further shed light on the technological evolution of a chemical company from a licensee to a licensor and how that impacts companies’ IP strategies at every stage.

To learn more about the program and speakers, read the event’s brochure