Sunday, 26 October 2014

Multi-sided platforms: making money, spending money and watching out for the competition folk: an event

"Multi-Sided Platforms: Business, Economics & Competition Policy" is an event organised by the UCL Faculty of Laws this coming Wednesday, 29 October 2014 from 13:00 to 19:30 GMT. According to the event's publicity material:

Old-style multi-sided platforms:
but the IP-driven variety are
more flexible -- and profitable
Multi-sided platforms are businesses that act as intermediaries between several interdependent groups of customers. They are central to many industries including payment systems, financial exchanges, advertising-supported media, much of online, and various kinds of marketplaces including shopping malls. Some of the largest IPOs in recent years have involved multisided platforms such as Facebook and, soon, Alibaba. They are also often at the centre of debates concerning competition policy and sectoral regulation. Google and Uber are two that are making headlines in the European Union.

This course will cover the unique business models followed by multi-sided businesses; the economics of multi-sided platforms and the industries they anchor; the applications of competition policy to multi-sided platforms; a survey of key competition policy and regulator matters involving these platforms; and tools and techniques for competition policy analysis.

The course will include presentations from several executives of platform startups including Will Page (Chief Economist at Spotify [and the person who tipped us off about this event]) and Alain Falys (Founder and CEO, Yoyo).

The course will consist of three segments:
  • The Business and Economics of Multi-sided Platforms.
  • Market Definition, Market Power, and Merger Analysis for Multi-sided Platforms
  • Abuse of Dominance and Coordinated Practices for Multi-sided Platforms
The course will draw extensively on examples of multi-sided platform cases involving online businesses and payments.
More details and registration here.

If any readers of this blog are in attendance, can they let us know of any interesting bits that they can share with us?

Friday, 24 October 2014

T4J: a new business model for journalists?

This blogger has just unearthed an item that arrived a few weeks ago, only to be buried beneath an avalanche of incoming correspondence.  It relates to T4J, or Translators for Journalists if you want to be formal about it.  T4J's rubric runs like this:
Faced with digitization and a daunting task only they can do, professional journalists in every country must overcome the same problem: reporting the facts despite increasingly limited resources. T4J is a high-quality, low-cost means for journalists to obtain content, credit [corresponding to the author's moral rights -- not easy in jurisdictions like the UK in which works written for the purpose of reporting current events or to works published in a newspaper, magazine or similar periodical: see the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, s.79] and income [corresponding to the author's economic right]. Translators for Journalists (T4J) is a multilingual marketplace allowing professional journalists to buy and sell content, translated by expert linguists at local prices.

It is backed by a network of professional translators in 181 countries with long-standing experience in translating press articles in 67 languages.
T4J translators monitor on-line media in their working language for articles of potential interest to foreign journalists. Exclusively with the copyright owners’ permission, T4J linguists translate and publish relevant excerpts, free of charge, allowing foreign journalists to decide whether to purchase and publish the full translation. The translator and copyright owner are paid a commission on each sale, maximizing the credit and income they gain from their work.

What it costs

The price of each article depends on the volume of text and the location of the translator: T4J linguists specify translation prices according to their domestic market, thus optimizing costs for buyers.

On average, it costs 50% less to translate an article than to write it (Sources: Journalist rates, JuriTravail Aug. 2014; Translation rates, Inttranews Aug. 2014).

What you get
- T4J articles written by fellow journalists, for trustworthy content.
- T4J articles written by foreign journalists, for different content.
- T4J articles unindexed by search engines, for new content.
- T4J articles for sale worldwide, for a new source of revenue.
The role of a proactive licensing agent-cum-translator looks like an interesting emerging business model that is ideally suited to the internet era.  Do any readers have experience of this kind of work?

New Frontiers in Open Innovation

IP Finance's friends at Oxfirst are running a free webinar on Monday 3 November 2014 at 16.00 pm GMT, under the title "New Frontiers in Open Innovation" [which coincidentally happens to be the name of a new book ...].  The star performers are (i) Henry Chesbrough (organizational theorist, academic and the man who coined the term "open innovation"), (ii) Wim Vanhaverbeke (fellow academic co-founder with Henry Chesbrough of the European Innovation Forum) and (iii) Joel West, who co-edited Open Innovation: Researching a New Paradigm as well as this new book with the first and second named participants.

So what's this event about?  Oxfirst explain:
"Companies have to innovate to stay competitive, and they have to collaborate with other organizations to innovate effectively. Although the benefits of "open innovation" have been described in detail before, mechanisms underlying how companies can be successful "open innovators" have not be understood well. A growing community of innovation management researchers started to develop different frameworks to understand open innovation in a more systematic way.  In the spirit of an open approach to innovation, the editors have engaged other scholars and practitioners (Oxfirst included) to contribute some of their interesting insights in this book".

Register here (nb space is limited)
System details here

Friday, 17 October 2014

Smartphone app developers:maybe it is not only the birds who should be angry

I recently considered elsewhere the challenges of succeeding as an app developer for the smartphone space. The immediate occasion was the announcement of staff redundancies at Rovio, the Finnish developer of the popular Angry Birds game. In that connection, I raised three points with potentially wider application:
1. How far can viral success of one’s mobile app take a developer commercially?
2. Will positive network effects regarding one’s app improve the likelihood of success?
3. Is it possible to build a mobile game “franchise” that can transcend a one-off success?
Thinking about these questions further, I realized that I had perhaps not fully appreciated the scope of the challenge posed for developers of entertainment and games apps on the smartphone platform. The more that I pondered the matter, the more it seems possible that the smartphone environment simply offer limited opportunities for the creators of original entertainment and game content to enjoy sustained and durable success. This is not to say that users do not make use of their smartphone in a variety of ways by which the user is engaged in content that is accessed on the device. But this content is for the most part matters of news, search, transactions, social media interactions, and other forms of content that cannot be described as original entertainment or games. In reading and listening to commercial discussions of the smartphone ecosystem, nearly all the talk is about who will dominate the market for the device itself, with some consideration about which platforms and content delivery services will successfully layer themselves onto the device. The creators of original entertainment and game content are seldom, if ever mentioned.

For instance, I recall the discussions a while ago about whether Facebook could successfully manage the move from the computer to the smartphone. The answer seems to be “yes”, and the extent that this migration of Facebook to the smartphone enables the user to access original content, the smartphone does provide a platform for entertainment and games. But such possibilities are the exception rather than the rule. Moreover, the big commercial winner in this situation is the intermediator—Facebook---rather than the content creator, who is in some sense at the mercy of Facebook. Indeed, studies seem to indicate that the typical user may have tens of applications stored in his smartphone, but that he or she uses only single-digit number of these apps on a regular basis. This as well puts a premium on the ability of a platform with the potential to distribute original content to users, rather than the accessing of off-off game (even a game that has successfully created multiple entertainment apps under a single brand).

Moreover, there is the question of just how attractive the smartphone screen can ever be for displaying entertainment contents for consumption by users. My anecdotal impression is, at the moment, that tablets are much more popular than smartphones for this purpose (although that impression is tempered by my observations of the manner of smartphone use by teens and young adults on the subways of such cities as Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai and Beijing). With smartphone screens getting larger, tablet screens getting smaller, and hybrid categories such as the phablet appearing, the stark distinction between smartphones and tablets may become less relevant. Still, as a general matter, the smaller the screen, the less likely, it would seem, that the user will view entertain content on it. If this be true, then the lot of the apps developer of entertainment or game content for the smartphone may well be facing limited opportunities, at least if the goal is to develop a franchise brand on the smartphone platform. This may not be just Rovio’s problem, but that of the entire industry.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

"Patents and Telecoms": a forthcoming symposium

"Patents in Telecoms" is a fascinating area for contentious and non-contentious IP experts and practitioners alike. As  the title of a conference, however, it doesn't give away very much information.  A symposium with that very title is however soon to be held in the lovely facilities of the George Washington University's Jack Morton Auditorium, under the joint auspices of leading academic institutions IBIL (the Institute of Brand and Innovation Law, University College London) and George Washington University -- with active support from the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and  the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA).

So what is this event all about? On 6 and 7 November, an embarrassingly impressive roster of participants is coming together to review key issues in this tantalisingly difficult sector. There will be a Judge’s Panel with Chief Judge Sharon Prost, Justice Bennett from Australia (who spent nearly a year trying the Australian bit of Apple v Samsung before the parties settled), Judge Deichfuss (German Supreme Court), Judge Kalden (Dutch Court of Appeal) and Lord Justice Floyd (Court of Appeal, England and Wales).  There's also a Regulators' Panel which features major personalities from the Federal Trade Commission, the US Department of Justice, and the European Commission.

In addition to the judges and regulators, there are contributions from some of the most important companies in rhe sector, with speakers from standard setting bodies, operators, manufacturers, licensors, licensees, patent assertion entities, lawyers and industry experts.

Regular readers of this weblog will need little reminding of the importance of FRAND licence schemes [a selection of our FRAND-related posts can be read here]. The symposium offers a panel session on FRAND defences to patent infringement and how to calculate FRAND royalties, moderated by Roger G. Brook (Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP) and with Professor Sir Robin Jacob, Brian Napper (FTI), Professor David Teece (UC Berkeley) and Gregory Sidak (Criterion Economics).

Regarding patents as an asset class, and the issues involved in pricing and trading in them [a topic covered by IP Finance's recent dialogue between Joff Wild and Neil Wilkof, here], Sharaz Gill (Skepsis) is moderating a further panel on buying and selling patents, featuring Will Plut (Patent Profit International), Linda Biel (Allied Security Trust), Duane Valz (Google), Aleksander Mehrle (Sisvel) and Chris Israel (American Continental Group).

There's plenty more to stimulate the interest of the patent-and-telecom connoisseur. To see the full programme and access registration details, just click here.