To Have Professional Achievements with Persistence

By Hou Weiwei, China IP,[Comprehensive Reports]

      To Have Professional Achievements with Persistence-Interview with Song Ruifeng, Director of the Intellectual Property Department of Goertek Inc.
  Goertek Inc., established in June, 2001 listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in May, 2008, has grown into a leading enterprise in China's electroacoustic industry and a global leader in the global micro- electroacoustic field after years of development. At present, the company's intellectual property team applies for more than one thousand patents each year and handles a total of nearly 100 cases with respect to patent litigation and patent invalidation claims, of which there are cross-border intellectual property disputes. An impressive example was that very complicated and long- lasting global patent litigation after Goertek was first put under the 337 investigation by Knowles in 2013. It involved a total of nine patents of both companies and resulted in a number of cases from 2013 to 2015 in China's Suzhou Intermediate People's Court and Weifang Intermediate People's Court, the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the United States International Trade Commission, etc. After nearly two years' confrontation and mediation, the two companies finally reached a satisfactory compromise and cooperation agreement. The case has become a typical case for China's export enterprises to deal with the US patent disputes. It is Song Ruifeng, the current director of the Intellectual Property Department, that has led GoerTek's Intellectual Property Department to organize Chinese and American lawyer teams to actively respond in the whole process.
  Since joining GoerTek in 2004, Song Ruifeng has been working at the forefront of the company's intellectual property like when he started his job more than 10 years ago and is committed to seeking an intellectual property work mode that will bring real value to enterprises. It is also Song Ruifeng that set up the company's Intellectual Property Department in 2008 and opened the era for the management of GoerTek's intellectual property system. But who would have thought that his initial entry into GoerTek came from his interest in the solid foundation the company had accumulated in the electroacoustic industry and the correspondence of his major in applied physics.
  China IP:
  What prompted you to set up GoerTek's Intellectual Property Department in 2008?
  Song Ruifeng:
  After I joined GoerTek, my position was originally arranged in the R&D Department. However, the R&D director and the management of the company then believed that since GoerTek was committed to becoming a leading global electroacoustic enterprise, the importance of intellectual property must not be ignored. The R&D Department began to find internal employees with good comprehensive quality that were willing to engage in the work in this respect. I used to search and view for reference patents of the leading Japanese and South Korean counterparts, had a certain understanding of patents, and was therefore selected in charge of the patent work.
  In 2008, GoerTek had three persons to work on intellectual property, which formed a small patent group under the R&D Department. At that time, the company had been considerably developed to set up R&D and marketing branches in many locations at home and abroad. The patent group needed to undertake the registration and query of a series of intellectual property items such as patents and trademarks of the various departments or subsidiaries of the company and settlement of disputes. Considering the asymmetry in the responsibility, authority and reporting relationships from the original management mode made it difficult for GoerTek's intellectual property work to develop; I put forward to the top management of company an idea to set up an independent intellectual property department to directly report to the top management. I received strong support from the management, which had brought the successful establishment of the Intellectual Property Department.
  China IP:
  Did you have any problems or obstacles when setting up the Intellectual Property Department? And how did you overcome them?
  Song Ruifeng:
  The Intellectual Property Department, as a functional department independent of the R&D Department, had the biggest problem that it must compare with other mature and well-based functional departments such as HR, Finance, Marketing and Administration on parallel work output and win recognition. Even with support from the management, due to the strong professionalism of work done and relatively single departments to work with, it was very difficult to obtain equivalent awareness, understanding and attention within the company. In this case, the Intellectual Property Department had to do the following: 1) to practice internal strength and strengthen patent search & analysis and patent application distribution services concerning departments including R&D and Marketing with considerable demands for services and dependence, in order to avoid extra burden brought to them from patent work, making it easy for them to accept and support our work; 2) to strengthen communications on professional work with departments of a low work association including Finance, HR and Administration so that they could understand the professionalism and specialty of intellectual property and then support our work.
  China IP:
  In your opinion, as a leading enterprise in China's electroacoustic industry, does GoerTek have any special ways in the management of intellectual property?
  Song Ruifeng:
  Pragmaticality and initiative is the basic gene of GoerTek's intellectual property work. Its pragmaticality is reflected in that, whether it is able to get enough recognition in the short term, the intellectual property team has always been grounded in the working philosophy of being based on R&D and serving the market. Its initiative is reflected in that the intellectual property team believes that the core value of intellectual property work is to help enterprises find opportunities and risks, rather than settle disputes in terms of disputes. To this end, GoerTek's intellectual property work is always to most accurately understand its own intellectual property environment and construct its effective intellectual property portfolio.
  China IP:
  During these years you have been engaged in intellectual property, what changes have taken place in the whole intellectual property industry and to the professional status of intellectual property managers of enterprises? Among them, what impresses you the most?
  Song Ruifeng:
  Very great changes. To take Shandong Weifang as an example, in a city that ranks 30 in China in terms of GDP, I was the first full-time patent officer of all Weifang's enterprises in 2004 while now there are a number of enterprises in Weifang that have set up basically well-organized intellectual property departments and the intellectual property managers have their importance and work rewards greatly increased. Again, among the general public in medium and small cities ten years ago, very few people recognized the professional status of intellectual property workers, while now this situation has been greatly improved. The main reasons lie in the changes brought by the macro environment, demands for industrial upgrading in China and the government orientation and meanwhile the upgrade in the self- management of China enterprises also enables the management to more and more recognize the role of intellectual property managers.
  China IP:
  Please talk about your understanding of enterprises' intellectual property managers based on your own experience.
  Song Ruifeng:
  As an intellectual property manager, I should correctly understand what kind of intellectual property work value my own company requires and see whether what I am good at can bring this value to my company. Each enterprise needs to have a personalized intellectual property development mode and only if one finds this mode, will him or her be able to effectively liaison with various departments and effectively win the support of management. But in any case, to most enterprises, the intellectual property work is still undervalued. We must have the courage to be responsible, bring duties and responsibilities to the departments we are associated with and never retreat and be dedicated before having professional achievements.
  Before the people around have a correct understanding of our value, we should take advantage of our own professional ability, reach a little further and be more active to help the relevant departments to see the meaning of the intellectual property work.
  China IP:
  In your opinion, what is the career prospect of China's intellectual property managers? As far as the entire industry is concerned, are there still problems that need to be resolved and broken through?
  Song Ruifeng:
  China's intellectual property managers have very good career prospects. But compared with other managers including intellectual property services managers, performance indicators of the intellectual property department are often difficult to accurately and pragmatically develop, and at the same time, the intellectual property managers' job performance is also very difficult to evaluate, which also limits the further improvement of intellectual property managers.
  It is very important to positively recognize the work requirements that the company and various departments have on the Intellectual Property Department. In addition, to technical enterprises, the Intellectual Property Department should bravely "win over" the Legal Department and continue to highlight the importance of intellectual property in the great legal system. When a lot of intellectual property managers are able to continue to improve the core management of the enterprise, the development of the entire intellectual property industry will reach a new height.
  Forums and Sharon activities in connection with enterprises' intellectual property managers carried out by the government and various organizations that greatly promote the learning and upgrading of all should be continuously strengthened.

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