Innovation is the key to long-term success for any industrial business, and for the countries where they operate. In this article, Mike Norman, CCO at VMI Holland, explains why protecting IP is a key priority. VMI Group, based in the Netherlands, with operations around the world, is an international leader for tyre building machines.
Long live innovation!
VMI is 75 years old, and no manufacturer stays successful for so many years without a serious commitment to innovation. In the past 20 years, VMI has rewritten the book on automated tyre building. We have done that by creating manufacturing platforms capable of constant evolution, and then adding new innovations and improvements, year by year.
VMI has built a lot of trust in the market as a result of this strategy. Our customers know we invest more than any other comparable business in original R&D, and we make sure that every new idea leads to practical benefit for them.
Our business is built upon our Intellectual Property: our IP. It is what enables us to help customers face their own challenges. We are proud of the innovations we create - and we will protect our IP and our customers’ interests, anywhere, anytime.
Innovation and collaboration
In our experience, innovators like working together. It is exciting and it is a creative experience. You help each other. You get to move, develop and grow faster. You listen to each other, learn from each other and make progress faster as a result.
In the world of tyre development, we know exactly what we bring to the market, and we also know the areas that belong exclusively to our customers. Our products and solutions help make manufacturing processes more efficient, precise, controlled, more easily managed and fully auditable. That is our area, and that is where our IP is focused.
Our customers define the materials, the compounds, their operational characteristics, the different tire constructions and do so by knowing how all of this connects to the expectations and requirements of the automotive industry. That is their territory and we recognise that.
Put their IP and ours together, however, and something exciting happens. The individual tyre manufacturers remain as different and distinctive as ever, but the tyre build process becomes faster, more flexible and efficient, the number of variants available grows and quality standards rise.
In other words, our ability to innovate helps tyre manufacturers become the best they can be, and also helps them unlock maximum benefit from their own innovations. That is why tyre companies with strong IP of their own are drawn to VMI, because they know we add value to their business, while always maintaining confidentiality.
Why protecting IP matters
Innovation is the fuel that drives business success, and the fastest way to undermine a successful business is to steal and copy its IP. That discourages further investment, while taking away the profits needed for the future.
It also slows down progress for us all. If you cannot defend your own creativity and original thinking, then fewer innovations take place and fewer good ideas are available for customers to use. In the tyre industry, this means that good companies, which want to use the best equipment to achieve the highest quality results for themselves, will lose out.
What is the point in buying the most advanced technology if your less honest, less scrupulous competitor can buy a cheap copy and undercut you on price? And what if you are tempted to buy a cheap copy of the market-leading machine, yourself, just to cut costs? And then find it is not as good as its makers told you? After all, copyists sometimes do not understand what they are copying, which adds serious risk when you buy that kind of machine. It also means that its makers simply cannot give you the service support you need- because they do not know how!
Worse, what happens when the machines bought from a copyist turn out to have stolen IP in their design? And the courts order them to be seized without compensation?
But maybe the most important argument of all for defending other people’s IP is simple self-interest. What would any of us do if our own ideas and innovations are stolen, copied and used against us? We are all part of the same marketplace. We cannot defend our own IP and yet be careless about other people’s. We need to protect innovation and IP completely, end-to-end across the entire industry and in all countries. That is the only way to protect ourselves, as well.
Innovation within the Indian marketplace
So why does a discussion of IP matter to India, in particular? We think Indian manufacturing is at an important stage of development. Despite the problems caused by Covid-19, we see every sign that India will be going through a period of rapid manufacturing growth in the next decade. We expect to see Indian companies, in automotive and related industries, taking a higher proportion of the domestic market and building share overseas, as well.
We have seen this happen in other sectors, after all: in IT, service markets, telecom and pharmaceuticals. Now Indian companies are stepping-up to the challenge in automotive and other sectors, too. Foreign companies operating in the Indian market need to be clear about the contribution they can make. At VMI, we understand what is needed. We will bring the best IP in the world for tyre building, and will work with ambitious, innovative Indian companies to help them develop a global presence. To make that happen, we need to know that the law protects ours- and everyone else’s- IP.
We spoke to Chetan Chadha, a leading IP attorney in Gurgaon, and his view was clear. “The Indian Courts,” he tells us, “have a strong track record of enforcing Intellectual Property Rights, acting to protect patent holders against infringements both by foreign and local Indian offenders.” He cites the example of a series of patent infringement litigations in the telecommunications sector in 2013 and 2014.
“These were a series of high-profile Standard Essential Patent (SEP) litigations,” he recalls, “in which several companies, including companies of Indian and Chinese origin, were sued for infringement of 8 patents, and interim injunction was granted in favour of the Patentee, irrespective of the origin of the allegedly infringing companies. Eventually, damages and injunctions were granted against infringing companies alike, without any bias.”
This legal example set a clear precedent that India has utmost respect for Intellectual Property Rights and will strictly enforce patents in order to protect the integrity of the market and maintain confidence.
VMI has been filing patents in India since 2005 and we expect our presence to deepen and grow in the near future. India’s proud record of defending IP is one of the main reasons why we, along with so many other European companies, are eager to work and trade here.
In this, our 75th anniversary year, let’s celebrate the potential for a prosperous and profitable future together, working together as innovators in a spirit of mutual respect.
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