Cambridge Mechatronics Limited
The Commercial Issue
In August 2000 J A Kemp was approached by a young company, Cambridge Mechatronics Ltd, that had invented an exciting new concept in audio sound delivery. The core idea was based on using a phased array of loudspeakers to send sound in various directions in a controlled way. The company had already filed two patent applications with the British Patent Office. The main issue facing the business was to protect their invention comprehensively, so that they could extract the maximum value from it in the future.
How We Helped
In a little under two weeks from the initial approach, we met with the inventors and prepared and filed an International patent application that covered all aspects of the technology, including many aspects that had not been identified before the meeting. The resulting published patent application was to become the definitive summary of the “state of the art” in this area of technology for years to come.
We worked closely with the client for 13 years, gaining a deep understanding of both the client’s technology and their business strategy. We drafted a further 11 patent applications covering improvements and modifications of the original idea. A particularly notable development was the invention of a new way to deliver cinema surround sound (including the rear beams) using a single device located at a single point in a room. We managed the international development of the patent portfolio and helped the client to secure valuable patents in the geographical markets most important to their business, including the USA, Europe, Japan, China and Korea.
We helped our client to reach a position where their invention was protected by patents from many angles. The client was able to licence their patent portfolio to several international companies including three giant Japanese electronics manufacturers. Over the course of a decade many millions of pounds of royalties were received from the licensing of these patents. Ultimately, in 2013, they were able to sell a block of patents for an equally substantial sum. In this case, therefore, the client was able to realise significant value from their invention without needing to undertake the commercial risk of producing and selling products themselves.
The importance of the protection that patents provide to inventions in the commercial environment cannot be understated. Whilst manufacturing and selling products will generally always produce the higher return, the associated large capital risk may often make this option unavailable to a small company. IP protection then allows an alternative, licensing, approach with much lower risk, and while patents are useful for a manufacturer to protect his products, they are vital for an IP licensor – they are then the product.
Tony Hooley, Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Cambridge Mechatronics Limited