Innovative products are essential to the success of a technology company. That’s why the Endress+Hauser Group has been paying special attention to the protection of intellectual property for two decades now. The most recent figures confirm the success of this initiative: 318 initial applications in 2019 and a portfolio of more than 8,000 patents and patent applications worldwide mark new highs.
For 20 years now, a separate department at Endress+Hauser has been dealing exclusively with the protection of intellectual property. In 1999, the company merged and realigned all activities in this field. Today, 30 employees – 26 in Weil am Rhein, Germany, four in Greenwood, Indiana, USA – take care of patent issues, trademark protection and related contracts. The Patent Rights Incentive Program was launched at the same time. It encourages the Group’s employees to submit invention disclosures.
“If we want to protect ourselves from unauthorized imitators, we need to be aware of all relevant developments,” says Angelika Andres. The physicist and patent attorney has headed the Group’s IPR department since 1999. Her team determines whether the submitted inventions are worthy and eligible for protection. This applies in four out of five cases. The specialists then draft a patent application that grants comprehensive protection for the invention.
In 1999, Endress+Hauser submitted 55 initial patent applications – in 2019 there were an impressive 318. “We took a leap forward in the first year after the introduction of the Patent Rights Incentive Program and registered almost twice as many patents,” says COO Dr Andreas Mayr. “Since then the numbers have been steadily growing.” The share of patents related to digitalization is increasing, and the field of analytical technology – a strategic focal point – is also gaining importance.
Endress+Hauser was granted 677 patents worldwide last year, protecting the company’s products in all major European markets as well as in China and the USA. Today, the Group’s entire IPR portfolio comprises more than 8,000 patents and applications. This is mainly due to the work of the more than 1,100 employees in research and development. “But any employee can file an invention disclosure,” emphasizes Andreas Mayr. “Innovation is not limited to certain areas.”
The Endress+Hauser Innovators’ Meeting should have taken place for the 20th time in 2020, but it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The meetings focus on the exchange between inventors. At the same time, prizes are awarded: Endress+Hauser honors economically important patents, particularly active innovators, the improvement of processes and procedures – and the reuse of patents already granted. Angelika Andres: “You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel!”