Last September, the French Institute for Intellectual Property (INPI) published its top 2022 list of patent filings, with Exotec at the top of the list for the Hauts-de-France region. With R&D at the heart of our growth strategy, the number of patents we file is accelerating, reflecting not only our capacity for innovation but also our efforts to protect it.
Olivier Billard, our Head of Intellectual Property, explains what’s at stake.
Could you start by explaining your role and your position?
Olivier Billard: I’m currently Director of Intellectual Property (IP) at Exotec. My mission is to implement an IP strategy in line with Exotec’s ambition and vision, to protect our innovations, secure our competitive advantages and generate added value for our development strategy, both for ourselves and for our customers.
What does this mean on a day-to-day basis?
O.B.: It’s a really exciting role, involving being at the heart of Exotec’s processes and interacting with all our functions! I’m halfway between R&D (our capacity for innovation is the key to our success: it’s here that we identify and protect our new and inventive solutions) and business (it’s on our markets that we build our value proposition: it’s here that it’s essential to guarantee a competitive advantage linked to our IP).
What are the main current IP issues for a company like Exotec?
O.B.: Intellectual Property makes it possible to generate ‘exclusive’ rights. For example, obtaining a patent gives its holder an exclusive right of exploitation, which is a privilege, limited in time and space, and confined to the patented invention. The holder of the right thus becomes the only person authorised to commercially exploit his invention: no-one is authorised to produce, sell or distribute it without his consent.
IP therefore provides legal protection for our services and solutions: through our patents, of course, or through copyright to protect our software.
It also makes it possible to secure and perpetuate our R&D investments by guaranteeing that our ideas are not stolen or copied by competitors, in our competitive markets!
For a young company like ours, isn’t there also a brand image-building issue?
O.B.: Yes, because IP also helps to strengthen Exotec’s identity through our brand names, logos and slogans, which are also protected: this helps us to stand out, to be visible, identifiable and recognised by our customers.
Are there any other benefits to be gained from this work on IP?
O.B.: Yes, IP is also an interesting monitoring tool, particularly for patents, to understand and analyse market trends, or to understand a competitor’s innovation strategy. And then, overall, this work helps to increase the value of the company, since our various IP portfolios (patents, trademarks, etc.) are part of Exotec’s intangible assets.
How do you see these issues developing in the warehouse robotics market?
O.B.: Warehouse robotics is a constantly evolving market, boosted by the arrival of almost daily innovations in both hardware and software. In this market, we have on the one hand long-established players who already have substantial IP portfolios, and on the other new, innovative players who are just as careful about protecting their IP, and who emerge regularly. In this dynamic, which is leading to a proliferation of patents and other strategies for protecting innovations, work on IP will continue to play a key role in our business sector. Training our teams in IP issues and mechanisms, developing large and robust patent and trademark portfolios, monitoring and analysing third-party IP to maintain our freedom to deploy our own solutions: this is why IP issues are so essential for a company like Exotec.
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