Constant pursuit in ever-changing life

2012/2/21By Joyce Zhang and Jessie Chen, China IP Magazine,[Comprehensive Reports]

Qu Xiaoyang is the current Director of Corporate Intellectual Property of Siemens Ltd., China. After entering the intellectual property industry in 1984, he served as a patent examiner, staff member of the International Cooperation Department under the Patent Office and then on the Patent Reexamination Board. He joined Siemens in 2000, where he has accumulated more than 12 years of experience in corporate IP management work. Qu Xiaoyang leads the Intellectual Property Department of Siemens Northeast Asia to the second place among the Siemens IP departments worldwide, just after the department of the United States. This ranking covers the business volume, sector size, strategic position, etc. After overcoming various difficulties and challenges, he has eventually realized his dreams and goals by joining the company. What can we learn from his rich and changing career? We will see that one thing remains constant––his unchanging love, dream and pursuit for intellectual property protection.

Patent examinationan occupation with natural love

Right before the birth of China’s first Patent Law in 1984, Qu Xiaoyang joined the China Patent Office and started his intellectual property career. Shortly after that, he received intensive personnel training from foreign IP experts from the United States, Japan, Germany, and the European Patent Office. At the end of a three-month training by German experts, he earned the second best score in the whole department.

Qu Xiaoyang said he was very fond of this work – he could review the new technology, compare it with previous technologies and discern the differences. He could then explore those differences in legal terms through logical abstraction and analyze them according to the Patent Law. This method made his job more entertaining and challenging. At that time, the patent examination department was located in a large complex and the working conditions were quite primitive. However, the young generation of patent examiners was very enthusiastic about the emerging patent cause. In 1991, Qu Xiaoyang was transferred to a Sino-German cooperation project of the International Cooperation Department under the China Patent Office. It was a big change for him since he had to learn to communicate with people instead of dealing with paper work. In the first year, he received visits from 37 foreign delegations, including members of the German parliament, State Secretary, Director of the German Patent Office, judges of the German Federal Supreme Court, the Federal Patent Court and the State Higher Court as well as patent examiners from the German Patent Office. His responsibilities included his obligations under the visitor schedule, work coordination, logistical support and import clearance. Qu Xiaoyang said that his abilities in international communication were established during this period. With word-to-word help from German friends, he became increasingly fluent in German. Due to the governmental cooperation project, judges from the German Supreme Court and the Federal Patent Court frequently visited China. Qu Xiaoyang obtained insight into their ability to complicated work, which was to rapidly clarify the core nature of an issue and express it with clear and concise words. From that point on he consciously began to imitate this approach in his own work.

Qu Xiaoyang mentioned that he still remembered that he made the first declaration for importing CD-ROM workstations in China. At that time, large quantities of patent documentation documents needed to be exchanged between patent offices of different countries using microfiche, which was unsafe and difficult to preserve. In the early 1990s, the European Patent Office took the lead in storing the patent information on disks in order to preserve and exchange of patent documentation, and they named the disk reader the “CD-ROM workstation.” One difficulty they faces was describing the machine to the staff of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Customs since the Ministry had never seen it before. Qu Xiaoyang was ordered to handle the customs clearance procedures but it took him one month and seven visits to complete. It made him appreciate how essential it was to develop communication skills and ability to deal with specific matters in complex social relations.

After leaving the International Cooperation Department, Qu Xiaoyang was transferred to the Patent Reexamination Board (Board). Before entering the Board, Qu had always felt that his professional capacity was fairly adequate. However, soon he found that there was much to learn in the Board. He was deeply impressed by the open and equal academic atmosphere and frequent discussions on reexamination work, which affected his work style as well. The collegial group of the Board was usually composed of a team leader, an examiner and an assessor. The examiner gave suggestions and then the leader and assessor gave comments. They had to vote if they couldn’t reach an agreement. If the examiner failed to obtain majority support, he had to write a logically precise decision in accordance with the majority view, even though, in his heart, he did not agree with it. He said it was not a pleasant job but it taught him an important point; dealing with differing views was a normal part of his duties and to be effective he had to develop the insight to see the questions from the standpoint of others. This skill was equally important as having knowledge about the subject matter and a person’s career development depends highly on the extent to which he could reconcile conflicts and adhere to the correct direction.

Siemenstransformation into enterprise IP manager

In 1999, Qu Xiaoyang went to Germany’s Max-Planck-Institut für Geistiges Eigentum, Wettbewerbs-und Steuerrecht (Max Planck Institute for Copyright, Patents and Competition Law) as a visiting scholar. At that time China was stepping up its preparation for negotiations to join the WTO. He was consistently concerned with one question what changes will happen to China’s patent system after joining the WTO IP management in Chinese enterprises was almost a blank page then. In face of the international environment, how should enterprises manage their intellectual properties No one could give them a clear answer. Therefore, he decided to join the industry. After five domestic and foreign interviews, he began working in Siemens, opening a new course in enterprise IP management.

Siemens headquarters in Germany houses the world’s largest intellectual property department, while the IP work for Siemens China was brand new back to 2000. In the emerging age of Internet and mobile communication industries, Qu Xiaoyang’s Intellectual Property department was often mistaken for the Internet Protocol sector. Immediately after he began working on enterprise IP, he found that he needed to redefine the meaning of patent. He was never afraid to try any new things and enjoyed his work. He said that to be successful at IP management work in enterprises, one needed to absorb new information from all aspects of the industry and therefore an open mind was very important.

Everything was waiting to be taken up at the initial stage for the IP Department. First of all, the IP infrastructure had to be built. The existing database and global management processes were designed in accordance with the laws of the United States, Germany, European Patent Office and the PCT Treaty. He and two German colleagues spent nearly a year to localize the database and process management software according to Chinese laws and to ensure seamless link with the company’s global management processes. Secondly, he drafted hundreds of pages of IP management rules and regulations to ensure the smooth implementation of IP work in China following the principles and strategies of the headquarters. In addition, he was actively promoting the company’s patent strategy adjustment to promote the continual growth of patent applications in China. In the fiscal year 2011, patent applications by Siemens in China increased by 20%, remaining at the top of the list of German companies.

Challengehow to generate visible value from IP

As an IP manager, the biggest challenge is how to generate visible value from intellectual property. It might take three to five year from submitting a patent application to getting it granted, and the management may change during that period of time. How can IP managers cope with this situation? How could they convince the management group to continue to pay for the improvement in IP management Qu Xiaoyang believes that the only way is to let the management see the value of intellectual property, though achieving this goal is a big challenge.

“Some of my friends who work as IP managers in domestic and foreign enterprises said that when all business sectors are trying to cut budget and control costs, it is really difficult to increase input into intellectual property department.” Qu Xiaoyang thinks that the real problem is that it is difficult to coordinate the natural cycle of IP work with the appraisal cycle of enterprise performance, which may also be a common challenge for all corporate IP managers. Theoretically, all companies support intellectual property work. However, they are commercial organizations and they need to consider investment and income. It is very fair to ask for gains from the investment. So the key issue is whether the IP managers can find a way to clearly explain the returns from corporate intellectual property. He said IP managers should have a deep insight and understanding of the company’s business. The more he knows the more he can add value to the company’s business operation targets. Corporate IP strategy must serve the business goals of the company and an IP strategy which is separated from the business operation is of no value.

Forecastfuture IP priorities and trends of Siemens

Siemens is one of the world’s largest electrical and electronics companies and its business scope is quite broad. When asked about the future development trends and IP work priorities, Qu Xiaoyang said Siemens focused on four business areas; globalization, urbanization, demographic changes and climate change. In all four areas, leading technology and supporting IP are an integral part of the core competitiveness. The energy business covers the green energy technologies, high thermal-efficiency steam turbine and gas turbine technologies and HVDC technologies. The industrial field has the unique factory-control PLC, motor saving 20% of energy as well as high-precision CNC machine tool technologies. The medical business includes the high-tech CT and MRI technologies, which are among the best in the world’s and China’s market share. In the field of infrastructure and urban construction, Siemens provides the world’s largest baggage handling system for Terminal 3 of the Beijing Capital International Airport and the advanced Trainguard MT signal system for the development of Chinese urban rail construction. Innovative activities are an important guarantee for the sustainable development of the business. Siemens implements the SMART innovation strategy in China, which is “innovating in China, serving the Chinese and promoting worldwide.” An important task of the IP Department is to use IP tools to protect smart innovations and create a fair competitive market environment for the company.

Reviewproudest moments in his career

When asked about the proudest moments in his career, Qu Xiaoyang mentioned three events:

Event one: While working at the Patent Office, Qu Xiaoyang participated in the amendment of the Patent Law and its Implementation Regulations. Some of his advices were supported by the leaders and adopted. He said that when he thought about his participation in the amendments to the legal provisions he realized that he had made a valuable contribution to the IP cause in China, which has given him a feeling of satisfaction a long time.

Event two: During the work at the enterprise he provided many opportunities for young corporate patent workers and helped them obtain the professional skills to work in an international environment. Qu Xiaoyang felt very proud when the young fellows were praised by the headquarters or foreign lawyers, and when he could see their greater achievements in IP work. He said that good managers not only pursue their own excellence but also encourage the whole team. Corporate IP is not a one’s personal career; it is about the careers of the whole team. Without nurturing new talents, China can never improve the overall level of enterprise IP management.

Event three: With the cooperation of his colleagues, Qu Xiaoyang lead the IP Department of Siemens Northeast Asia to a second place standing in the worldwide IP department ranking, second only to the department of the United States. The ranking fully takes into account the business volume, department scale, strategic position, and many other factors. Qu went through all the difficulties and challenges and finally realized his dreams and the goals that he set for himself when he entered the company.

Planningprofessional future for IP managers

The industry’s recognition of the importance of IP managers is on the upswing in China, and career planning is becoming increasingly important for this group. Qu said that people who want to engage in corporate IP work should first have a clear career goal. They should decide what they really desire, rather than go with the flow to choose a job to maintain a standard of living. Secondly, they should choose the right enterprise platform. A good business platform will give full play to people’s ability while an inappropriate platform, which might offer a high salary, will eventually restrict or even thwart people’s career. Thirdly, it is necessary to understand whether there is room for growth and advancement in their current work. If one has to repeat his work without any innovation, it is a warning signal. China is never in short of “people,” so a person needs to keep improving himself to strengthen his personal value. Therefore, one should select the job with room for improvement. If the current job lacks the capacity for growth, one should consider making some innovations so as to create more growth opportunities for himself, or consider changing to another enterprise platform. The fourth point is that one should make full psychological and physical preparation in the career development process. A strong body and a healthy mind is the prerequisite for responding to future challenges. If you think your psychological state is not strong enough or your body is not healthy enough, it is best not to set high career goals.

We should not consider work a burden, but instead think of it as an exploration for the boundary of our individual abilities. We will enjoy the pleasure of success every time we overcome a difficulty and make valuable improvements. We should not solidify our boundaries or pre-determine our advantages and weaknesses. We can never know the result if we do not try. Perhaps we can create our own surprises when we do it on our own.

Suggestiondialogue with peers

When our China IP journalist asked Qu Xiaoyang, the highly experienced corporate IP manager, to give some advices or suggestions to colleagues that are just getting into this industry, he said that an IP manager should first have a clear set of values. A lot of young people think values are imaginary things. In fact, they are wrong. People with a sense of value have distinctive features and will mark his personal characters on his work. Sometimes you may have such experience when you see something, you will know the exact person who does this; or when you read something, you will find out who writes it. These distinctive personal characteristics will let people remember you and clearly determine your unique value. People with a sense of value have their own unique behavioral patterns. Their behaviors are predictable and therefore they can be trusted. Trust means that the person will be given more responsibilities. On the contrary, a person without a sense of value does not have a clear pattern of behavior. When he is given responsibilities it is difficult to predict the results. Naturally he cannot be trusted. People without values will be used while people with values will be reused. Secondly, corporate IP managers should have an independent professional stance. In most cases, management can not completely understand the significance of intellectual property. If IP managers curry favor to please management, the professional value of this team will no longer exist. IP managers should have independent professional judgment and express their views objectively.

In addition, IP managers must have cross-cultural communication skills. If one can only work with likeminded people, he may achieve nothing. Communication is not a simple conversation. One should garner support on the basis of mutual understanding and they can gather more resources via communication. The true purpose of communication is to reach a workable solution and thus effectively implement a specific plan and complete the task.

The last point is to be performer your tasks effectively and be a result-oriented worker. A perfect plan means nothing to a company if it can’t be executed successfully. Therefore, the ability to execute is the ultimate test of the overall capacity of an IP manager. Many people do not understand the value chain that leads from knowledge, to planning, implementation to finally to results. It is not necessarily a great thing if you have many very good ideas in mind, because what you need is the real ability to turn those good ideas into results. As long as you effectively implement and produce results, seemingly ordinary ideas are likely to produce great value. There are plenty of examples for this.

At the end of the interview our China IP journalist asked Qu Xiaoyang about the most influential event during his work as Director of the Intellectual Property Division of Siemens Northeast Asia. He said it was the understanding on Lao-tzu’s notion of “The highest good is like that of water,” which was shared by the CEO of Siemens Northeast Asia Cheng Meiwei with colleagues of Siemens Intellectual Property Department in Shanghai. Water has the flexibly to adapt to the different temperatures and containers with different states and shapes. However, water cannot be blocked. In the face of dams, it can preserve its energy, raise its level and finally overflow the embankment. Water contains the power to wear a stone down drop by drop. Water holds eternal principles and maintains its essence. Lao-tzu teaches people the virtues of water. It is not only the way he lives, but also how he pursues his profession and life.

 

(Translated by Li Guanqun)

 

 

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