Disinclination to protect one's own know-how, lack of faith in the legal system and confusion on the issues of intellectual property. Although there is one Italy still far from Germany and France in the filing of European patents, there is another Italy that deeply believes in the culture of protection and that has made intellectual property rights one of the cornerstones of its growth. The picture that emerged during EPO Connection Day – organized by GLP in its Udine office – describes a two-speed country: on the one hand those who believed and still believe in the importance of defending inventions and trademarks and are willing to invest, on the other hand a certain closure towards a protection system perceived as distant, if not even mysterious.
GLP confirms the role it has acquired internationally by hosting a delegation of the European Patent Office (EPO) becoming a “gateway” between Europe and the business world. Indeed, representatives of numerous companies and bodies have intervened before the EPO examiners. “An important moment not only for GLP, but also for the entire industrial structure of our country, which has given so much and can give even more”, say Davide and Daniele Petraz, co-managing partners of GLP. “By learning to appreciate intellectual property rights (IPR) in the same way as the most traditional corporate assets are appreciated, we learn to manage the business in modern terms, using internationally recognized means that are substantially protected in the same way. This is not only a means to shorten any distances with other realities, but a key to acquire a competitive advantage over competitors”.
The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has pointed out how companies with a high level of intellectual property rights also have an edge in their ability to create development and wealth. According to one study, over the period 2011-2013, industries in Europe with a high incidence of IPR created - directly and indirectly - over 80 million jobs and generated 42% of total economic activity (5,700 billion euros). Compared with a € 42 billion trade deficit, European high-incidence IPR products had a surplus of € 96 billion.
Between 2015 and 2017, European patents from Italy grew by 9%: although ranking tenth, with its 12,510 filings, Italy is still far behind France (fourth with over 30 thousand), Germany (second with 75 thousand) and United States (first with 124 thousand). This situation is also reflected in the mechanical sector alone. “About half of European patents come from non-EU countries. Germany has 20%, France 15% and Italy 3%”, says Stefano Cecchini, EPO examiner who took part in the meeting at GLP together with the EPO team manager examiners Petra Theresia Schindler-Bauer and Cyril Valfort. “Italian companies are mostly small to medium sized and have a family structure. There is a tendency to privacy, to keep know-how inside the Company, but without fully understanding the importance of protecting it properly”.
But those who work internationally know the importance of protecting their inventions and trademarks very well. “We started in 1933 with a patent on pressurization”, remembers Alessia Lacosta, IP Manager at Illycaffè. “We are a company devoted to pure innovation with a strong focus on protection of IPR”. With 500 patents and 1,200 trademarks registered throughout the world and a relationship started with GLP by the founder, Illy has invested in quality “to make our product unique and ensure that our coffee can be tasted with the same quality in every part of the world”.
There are also companies that do nothing if it is not patentable. This is the case of Alifax, a leading company in the development of medical technologies for laboratories. “We have 22 active patents all over the world and we are present in 120 countries. We only move with products that can be patented”, underlines the Chairman and CEO Paolo Galiano. Protection is also a key point for those working in sectors that are considered “slower”, like Danieli. “With 400 patent families for a total of over 3,000 patents worldwide, we are one of the groups that patent the most; in a field like metallurgy, there are not many competitors”, says Luca Fabbro, IP Engineer in R&D at Danieli e C. Officine Meccaniche. “In a field where developments take time, patent protection is an investment not only in the classical sense: analysis also allows us to see what competitors are doing”.
The same action is also taken by De' Longhi, a giant in the production of home appliances and the world's number one for espresso coffee machines. “Analysis is carried out before starting a research project”, says Matteo Bortoluzzi, Senior Legal Counsel - IP Specialist at De' Longhi. Talking about intellectual property rights is also this: “Knowing what exists and what has already been patented, in order to go further”. And going further is also the leitmotiv that has driven Friulsider in its exponential growth in recent years. “We make anchor elements and we have invested in a cultural factor: quality, intended both as the product and as the element that must be protected to ensure maximum safety”, says Andrea Tondon, Marketing Manager of the company based in San Giovanni al Natisone (UD).