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Lippold, Marcus. (1/30/15). "[LSE] Interview: An Exclusive Interview with Mark Bloomfield, CEO of Polyplus-transfection S.A., on the Policies of Larger Companies with Regard to IP of Smaller Firms (Part 3)".

Organisations Organisation [iito] Business Intelligence
  Organisation 2 Polyplus-transfection S.A.
Products Product transfection reagents
  Product 2 IP services
Persons Person Bloomfield, Mark (Polyplus-transfection 201004– CEO before ABI + Thermo Electron + Agilent + HP)
  Person 2 Lippold, Marcus ([iito] Business Intelligence 2002–)
     


[LSE] Interview
Special issue of the [LSE] Newsletter


[LSE] Interview with Mark Bloomfield (Part 3)
CEO of Polyplus-transfection S.A.

»It's your IP, but we don't care«
A discussion of the policies of large companies in the life science space with regard to the IP of smaller firms





by Marcus Lippold

[iito] Business Intelligence

Editor-in-Chief
Life-Sciences-Europe.com



with Neil Hunter from Image Box PR in the background







This interview is divided into three parts:



Part 1 describes the general problem of large companies ignoring the IP of smaller ones.



Part 2 presents the particular case of Mark Bloomfield and Polyplus-transfection S.A., a company with an IP portfolio in chemical transfection technology to bring DNA into cells. The IP originates from the University of Strasbourg, French research organisation CNRS and the company itself.



Part 3 finally discusses general factors relevant to the problem and points to possible actions to improve the situation.





This special issue of the [LSE] Newsletter includes the final Part 3 of the interview with Mark Bloomfield.


The first part of the interview can be found online at
http://www.life-sciences-europe.com/newsletter/lse-newsletter-510001s1.html



The second part of the interview can be found online at
http://www.life-sciences-europe.com/newsletter/lse-newsletter-510010s1.html





PART 3 (final part)
“It’s all in the game“ or: Is this poker?







Marcus Lippold [ML]

»Mark, thanks for sharing your views on the general policy of large companies with regard to the IP of smaller companies in the first part of our interview and for describing the concrete experience and strategy of Polyplus-transfection in the second part. Very much appreciated.«



Mark Bloomfield [MB]

»The pleasure has been all mine.«



ML

»Let us now take a more general look at what should and could be done to create a fair playing field with regard to the IP dealings of smaller with large companies.



Let me start this way: We are not children anymore and the world is not “the good guys” in the small companies against “the bad guys” in the big companies. Instead we should talk about the structure of the game. In the end, everybody is doing the job she or he is paid for.



As an Economist and social scientist I hold firm belief that most of people’s behaviour is not defined by their genes, but by their social context and the pursuit of their personal interests; which for most jobs melts down to earning money for doing what the job requires.«



MB

»So far I am with you and you may call me “a gun for hire”.«



ML

»Let me put it this way: when you go to a poker game with $100 in your pockets and the other players come with $1m, you shouldn’t complain about losing, whatever your cards may be, right?! Or put another way: when you are a middle weight boxer stepping into the ring with a heavy weight, you should not be surprised encountering a lot of trouble down the road?! Are many small companies simply naive?«



MB

»Naive. Yes, that word describes it quite well. Most founders of start-up companies come from science and often have a (big) name and accordingly a high recognition in their field. But in the business world they are very, very small fish. They are scientific whales that quite often and very fast turn into business plankton.«



ML

»But is it not possible for the small fish to grow and learn to swim among and prosper with the bigger fish?«



MB

»Sure, it is. But not many scientists have the talent and the time, as well as the nerve and charm, to learn and even prosper in business; most don’t. And nearly all the financing activities they know about is just getting funding for their scientific projects. But in the business world you can adapt or hire people who can do the job for you! There is simply no alternative, if you don’t want to end up as plankton.«



ML

»Okay, that was quite general and quite clear with regard to the fact that business talent is needed. What about the IP strategy? Do you have to go for patents anyway, or is publishing your ideas to get freedom-to-operate and trade secrets also an option?«


MB

»Yes, publishing and trade secrets are alternatives to patents, but I am very sceptical whether they are viable routes to success for smaller life science companies. Personally, I think they are not; however, there may be exceptions.«



ML

»Why not, in most cases?«



MB

»If you publish your results you have to be a strong first mover in the market, to position yourself as a market leader. But I doubt that many small companies can do that trick.«



ML

»What about trade secrets?«



MB

»This is also very difficult to handle for a small company. It starts with employment contracts, it is a challenge with regard to IT, too, and it can end up with problems with locking the paper documents securely away in the office. And especially with regard to employees leaving – even if you have confidentiality agreements in place – there is the problem of how to enforce your rights in courts, if they apply their knowledge at another firm.«



ML

»So, what kind of deals are good options with very uneven levels of players in the game?«



MB

»I think for the small company it is essential to be realistic about the value it can achieve or help create, i.e., the value for your potential licensee. As a general rule: never ask for royalties in the final marketed products, unless you have a very rare and strong IP position and value proposition. If you do ask, without such a special position, you will immediately be a dead fish in the business pond. And I would also recommend to go first for a research license and only afterwards for a commercial license. In addition, it makes life much easier if you go for a one-time payment. An alternative would be to go for an upfront payment plus yearly royalties to be paid at the beginning of each year. Always remember that cash is king!



The most important thing is that, once the agreement is signed, it will stay in the drawer, and will never be revisited again by a decision maker in the large company. Usually, the amount of money will be very relevant to the small company, but quite irrelevant to the large one, so this is likely. This way you ensure that you can get your money now and in the future without any problems. Above all, be pragmatic, flexible and keep the process going all the time!«



ML

»What about private equity/venture capital? Although tensions have eased in the past few years, with both parties getting to know each other better, small companies still often complain about PE/VC. Should these people with resources and good contacts to powerful decision makers not be considered a definite advantage in this case?!? If the basic problem with small players is that they often only have one product or technology and will never meet their large opponent again, the PE/VC may have long experience and ongoing relations with the large company? So the large company may treat them differently.



MB

»Yeah, if you avoid trouble, and play according to their rules, it could be helpful to have PE/VC on board. They know a lot of people and those kind of people go to all the dinners, where the “players” meet and discuss which things should proceed or not. For example, I heard from a colleague, who has been asked to put on hold, or slow down, a project (but not to kill it!) until some PE/VC people completed something they would liked to do. After agreeing to this, the small company could proceed with its activities. So, this is what is meant by playing to the rules, to “accommodate”. If you enter those circles, you have to associate and to adjust. But if you do, yes, it may be really helpful.«


ML

»What can external management, consultants, lawyers, in short, a network offer?«



MB

»An effective network is absolutely essential! And also being very aware of who to talk to. Who has the right to talk to whom about which topic. As a small company you have to build up your network that fits your size and your strategic targets. The large companies have all these things in place already.«



ML

»Mark, how can a small firm realise the full market potential of a great product or technology? Should it directly deal with industry or should it use partners like VC/PE, other SMEs or consultants as supporters and middlemen?«



MB

»From my past experience I would strongly recommend that, if you are a small fish with good technology, you should look out for bigger fish (maybe in the range of 150 to 250 employees). Then you license your technology to this larger company with the right to sublicense it. This way you can reach a much larger market, without the risk of having to build – and pay for – in-house business development as well as sales, marketing and support resources. Give a license to bigger fish and that gets you more license business without any increase in your own fixed costs!«



ML

»I suppose that, in fact by definition, you have to be a niche player with a niche strategy, when you are a small company.«


MB

»Yes, and if your focus is science and technology, always consider finding others to commercialise it. You have to be niche and to focus on what your are best at; consider everything else for outsourcing.«



ML

»Okay, to sum it all up now on a very general level. You have to have a strategy in place that should include:


1. locating yourself and your offering

2. defining where you want to position yourself in the market

3. creating a team (including internal and external people)

4. playing according to the rules

5. making a realistic and flexible offer to potential customers, in line with your value proposition.«



MB

»Yes, this sums it up quite well, and from my past experience, I would add: put in place such a strategy as early as possible! Especially, I would recommend thinking about commercialisation as early as possible – including hiring the respective persons – and this can mean long before your product is even ready for marketing.«



ML
»Mark, thanks again, that’s it!«






------------




This final Part 3 of the interview with Mark Bloomfield took place on Friday, 30 January 2015 via phone.



The first part of the interview can be found online at
http://www.life-sciences-europe.com/newsletter/lse-newsletter-510001s1.html



The second part of the interview can be found online at
http://www.life-sciences-europe.com/newsletter/lse-newsletter-510010s1.html






_________________

©2015 by [iito] Business Intelligence

   
Record changed: 2016-01-10

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