Developing an IP Strategy in the ITC Sector - Eidon Ricerca Sviluppo Documentazione S.P.A.
Firm: EIDON RICERCA SVILUPPO DOCUMENTAZIONE S.P.A..
Business sector: Contract research and engineering
Activities: Design, development, installation and servicing of software and systems for industrial processes automation and IT integration in organizational processes
Number of employees: 27
Annual turnover: 3.700.000 (2002)
Eidon Ricerca Sviluppo Documentazione S.p.A. is a private and independent Engineering and Contract Research Centre located in Udine and Trieste, in the north-eastern part of Italy. Acknowledged by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research as a highly qualified laboratory in the fields of information and electronic technologies, Eidon supports other companies providing innovation by R&D outsourcing.
Eidon is dedicated to innovation, accomplished through design, development, installation and servicing of software and systems for industrial processes as well as automation and IT integration in organizational processes (ISO9001 certified).
The company gives support to enterprises in activities such as project conception (including realization of prototypes), overall project management, and presentation of applications for funding. The main technological areas where Eidon has consolidated skills and know-how are: artificial vision systems, control and monitoring of industrial processes, internet/intranet software and technology and systems engineering.
The competitive environment of the applied research in ICT sectors is highly dynamic and subject to a rapid technological evolution. The number of problems proposed by customer SMEs is always higher than the number of technological solutions available. The company considers it crucial to monitor technological changes and advancements that could be critical for the company's competitiveness. In the last 4 years the company has established an informal technology monitoring activity with professional staff devoted to it.
The monitoring includes studies and informal surveys to identify competitors and is carried out using Internet with "human" filtering, consultation of specialized press, participation in conferences and workshops at national and international level, co-operation with Universities and other research centers, visits and market analysis, use of patent databases (seldom used) and the acquisition of reports from information providers (seldom used).
The company's R&D activities are always project-specific and are usually carried out either internally or in co-operation with Universities and other research centers and partners.
Since its foundation, in 1979, the company has used trademark protection to create a solid corporate identity and a strong external image. Trademark protection has been associated with the company's logo, a double arrow representing the idea of researching deeply into a subject and re-emerging out with a solution.
To date, the company has not used trademarks to protect personalized products or platforms when providing complex systems and original solutions developed ad hoc for its customers. However, the firm does not exclude the use of this intellectual property tool for future activities in particular in relation to software programs.
Eidon has been granted 15 patents, protecting original systems resulting from different R&D contracts carried out in co-operation with industrial partners in the following industrial sectors: brick industry, ceramics, chemical/petrochemical, food, pharmaceutics, marble processing, screen printing sector, tanning, textile, wine treatment, wood, metal industry, mechanics.
The company regards patent protection as being very important for innovative, high-technology solutions. However, in the case of incremental innovations, when time-to-market becomes more critical than technology issues, the company considers that obtaining a patent is not advantageous. Eidon believes that this can result in the early disclosure of strategic information which is easily accessible to third parties, who can opportunely improve the innovation, thus making the protection worthless. Therefore, when software intensive solutions are involved, Eidon relies on copyright protection.
Eidon's original software is protected by copyright. Access rights to software, based normally on an exclusive license model, do not usually include access to the source code, which may be granted only in exceptional cases and can be made subject to separate agreements.
Eidon's standard R&D contract is an interesting mix of different IP tools, which reflects the complexity of its contract research activities. Frequently the interests of customers and R&D centers do not converge when it comes to patentable knowledge created within a project. The customer wants the exclusive right of exploitation, while the R&D organization wants to use their knowledge for further development. Acknowledging this dilemma, Eidon has adopted a compromise solution to safeguard the core interests of both sides which is based on the following three elements:
- recognizing Eidon's IP rights in the basic technology
- recognizing that the customer may wish to secure IP rights in a specific application
Eidon's IP rights are protected mainly at national level, even though the company has applied for a few European patents. The application process is carried out with the advice of external legal experts, who are responsible for the correct implementation of the different IP protection tools chosen.
Compiled by the Italian Patent and Trademark Office.