Innovation at Risk – A White Paper By The Semiconductor Equipment Industry

Michael D. Moberly         Friday, May 9, 2008

I recently read ‘Innovation at Risk – Intellectual Property Challenges and Opportunities’, a white paper commissioned by SEMI (Semiconductor Equipment Industry) and produced by the Nobleman Group.  I give the paper very high marks.  First of all, the overall tone of the paper was not alarmist, nor did it over-dramatize or exaggerate the significance or the adverse impact IP violations (losses) have on the industry.

The paper provided much needed and, what I would characterize as, objective insight into (semiconductor) industry segments and regional differentiations relative to IP violations.  In my view, there are two tests for a papers’ objectivity (relative to IP matters).  One is whether ‘China bashing’ language is used indiscriminately, and second, if the paper acknowledges that the U.S. has its share of IP violation challenges.  This paper wins on both counts which is something studies’ commissioned by industry trade groups don’t routinely achieve, especially in matters related to IP.

The paper did accurately address several, often understated ‘900 pound elephants in the room’, (1.) companies are reluctant to aggressively pursue IP violations when customers are the suspected culprit – violator, (2.) companies are also reluctant to aggressively pursue IP violations because of the slow pace, high costs, and outcome uncertainty of IP litigation, and (3.) companies frequently experience trade secret (insider) theft.

This paper would be a particularly useful tool insofar as bringing clarity for IP counsel, risk managers, and security executives to ‘assess the magnitude of the economic impact of IP violations’ (to their client or company).  The manner in which this paper treated – addressed these important issues is both credible and realistic.

I am curious however, why neither the Nobleman Group or SEMI mentioned – addressed the relevance of intangible assets, especially in light of the reality that for semiconductor equipment companies, its fair to say that 80% to 90+% of their value, sources of revenue and future wealth creation lie in – are dependant on intangible assets of which IP is part.


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