Wu Jinwei: Where Did the Time Go?

By Jody Lu, China IP,[Comprehensive Reports]

2000 -- 2001, Patent Engineer at Foxconn
2004 -- 2007, Manager of Legal Department at Shanghai Silicon Intellectual Property Exchange Inc.
2007 -- 2011, IP Manager at Spreadtrum Communications Inc.
2011 -- 2014, IP Manager at UBM TechInsights
2014 -- Now, IP Consultant at AkerSolutions

The interview of Wu Jinwei took place in a lounge of the Four Seasons hotel where a high-end IP forum was being held. Unlike a group of fashionable employees in foreign-funded enterprises with dark suits and shiny shoes, Wu wore a loose leisure suit with no tie and looked more like an unsophisticated and honest engineer, showing not even a slight tinge of anedge.

The 37-year-old Wu currently works as an in-house IP employee for a multinational enterprise engaged in oil and gas equipment manufacturing. As required by the work, he flies regularly across the world, showing some travel-stained weariness.

In China IP ’s memory, Wu talked less and seemed to be introverted. Leading up to the moments prior to the interview, China IP was still considering steps to start a conversation. Surprisingly Wu turned out to be a different man. He talked fast and clearly without almost any pause, making it difficult for China. IP to participate in discussion. He almost led the entire interview on his own initiative. Commenting on the surprise, he laughed saying it was attributable to his previous marketing experience.

Fourteen years after graduation, he has changed jobs four times.

After graduation, he began to work in Foxconn in 2000, unintentionally entering the semiconductor industry. From then on, he has progressed further in the integrated circuit (IC) field. Later, he left Foxconn, obtained his Juris Master degree from Fudan University, passed the national bar exam and patent agent registration exam, in a bid to spare himself any embarrassment of unfamiliarity with laws due to his engineering background. He provided technical advice as in-house counsel at Shanghai Silicon Intellectual Property Exchange Inc. (SSIPEX). He took charge of the IP management for IC designs at Spreadtrum Communications Inc. (Spreadtrum) and even worked as pre-sale IP counsel in a Canadian company specializing in IC reverse engineering. Today, he has again come back to the IP work for an enterprise.

“It is a process in pursuit of perfection, trying to know the entire upstream and downstream IC industry, including IP management,” said Wu when asked about his frequent job changes. During the interview, Wu seldom smiled. When he did occasionally, the smile was fleeting. He smiled straightforwardly with a hint of pride only when he mentioned his two children and all-round wife who obtained an electrician’s certificate and can change light bulbs.

China IP: That’s to say, Foxconn led you down the path to a career in IC and IP?
Mr. Wu: Sure. I majored in electronics in Northwestern Polytechnical University, a regional school for aerospace engineering, and it was easy to get a job at that time. But jobs for schools of aerospace engineering were mostly in third-tier areas. In 2000 Foxconn went to the school to recruit, and I sent my resume without any hesitation because the workplace was close to my hometown in Jiangsu Province. At that time Foxconn was planning to enter the semiconductor industry, and the new recruitment was part of its planned investment in SMIC semiconductors. The plan was scrapped afterwards, but for the Chinese mainland in 2000, the semiconductor industry was still very new. I was assigned to an electronics position, learning to draft documents and file applications from Taiwanese colleagues. At that time, books on semiconductor patents were all shipped from abroad and Taiwan, we had to do some translation, but some words did not even have Chinese equivalents.

In the absence of the domestic semiconductor industry, there was enough time to do some patent investigations, including patent invalidity simulation and analysis. At that time I usually spent a half day drafting documents and another half studying semiconductors. Later, due to the abortion of Foxconn’s investment in SMIC, I felt a shortfall in IP laws at work. I took advantage of my youth, left Foxconn a year later and became a Juris Master candidate of Fudan University in 2002. It can be said that over a year of work experience in Foxconn had set my career path. Otherwise, I would not have known my shortfalls and begun to study law. As you know, the first job after graduation is very important in one’s life. Although I left Foxconn later, I left to further studies and do a better job in the future.

China IP: After graduation from Fudan University, you did not choose to work for the industry but for a consulting service firm instead, why?
Mr. Wu: After graduation, I chose to work in SSIPEX, an enterprise under Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Informatization. I made the choice out of my own misunderstanding. I thought that patents with buyers must have values and this enterprise engaged in IP exchange, therefore, I could learn how to use and transform patents based on my previous experience in patents documentation and creation of patent maps. But after working for some time, I found some inconsistencies with my previous thoughts, my job focused on the governmentlevel IP industry planning and general advisory services, which was somewhat isolated from actual business operations.

Even so, I still did some analysis on trading rules, put forward some new concepts, such as patent precaution, and conducted industry surveys, which were at that time very advanced, but the shortcoming was that they failed to go deep into the industry.

China IP: What about the comeback to the IC industry?
Mr. Wu: In 2007, I joined Spreadtrum and took charge of IP management. The enterprise, established in 2001, made outstanding progress in a short time in the domestic IC industry. For the first time, I had the opportunity to comprehensively manage an enterprise’s IPR, including patent applications and IP management in standard-setting processes. Later I shifted to manage IP risks in the legal affairs department and worked on IP strategies in accordance with characteristics of IC design enterprises. Four years of work experience with Spreadtrum gave me the chances to learn a variety of IP issues for an IC enterprise from scratch to Nasdaq listing.

In 2011, I worked as an IP manager with UBM TechInsights, playing a role of a pre-sale IP technical advisor. It is a unique company that specializes in IC reverse engineering for the purpose of pre-litigation evidence analysis. In my mind, it is necessary for an IP manager to not only know IP application and maintenance, of which most IP managers are capable, but also know litigation and rights protection. However, it is not the most important, since companies generally tend to entrust outside counsel to settle disputes; the most important of all is to discover infringement, because outside counsel can in no way help you neither spot infringement, nor conduct pre-litigation preparations. As a pre-sale technical advisor, I was a salesperson externally and a project manager internally. I relayed customer complaints to engineers, and then replied to customers, which involved multilateral coordination. I think this job helped a lot in selftraining which means you have to be familiar with a variety of businesses and their different ways of IP management. For example, if they were sued, you need to know their needs and attitudes, understand their choice of competitors in their evidence discovery, and come up with a variety of strategic suggestions and technical solutions based on your judgment. At that time there were quite a number of cases, and certainly the work was really tiring. Sadly, the company later dismissed the laboratory and corresponding team in China due to re-adjustment of its global market. Currently, I work in a petroleum equipment company--Aker Solutions--as in-house IP counsel. I am a newcomer and the learning is just beginning.

China IP: Has the pre-sale work influenced your personality in some way?
Mr. Wu: The great vision of the work can make great contribution to one’s confidence and personality. You know what the most correct approach is, and you may talk with your clients frankly about strategies, solutions and projections.

I was once introverted, worried that such a characteristic might pose an obstacle to my legal and managerial work. Before you have a meeting with your client, you may be very jittery and lack the guts to go into the client’s office. But as soon as you are in there, you will find it less frightening than you originally expected. Sometimes marketing is a happy thing: both sides often find mutual cooperation in talks, much better than I have ever imagined in most cases.

China IP: Unlike many, you have changed jobs several times. Is it a wealth of experience or a professional pitfall?
Mr. Wu: It has something to do with my personality. I think it is a process in pursuit of perfection. Foxconn, SSIPEX, IC designer Spreadtrum and IC reverse engineering expert TechInsights are each in the different stages of the IC industry chain, and likewise are also in different IP stages. In Foxconn I mainly drafted patents and made patent searches, and pursued transactions after applications. I joined Spreadtrum because I felt it would be impossible to have high-level IP strategies in the absence of practical experience in corporate management. In TechInsights, the job responsibilities involved the most important part for IP staff, that is, you can utilize your IP flexibly and you need to know the reasons behind the applications, and their true values.

China IP: What is your next step according to your line of thought?
Mr. Wu: For the time being I am still working for a foreign-funded company. Even if there is success, it is limited only to China, the Asia-Pacific region. If I can help a domestic business start from scratch based on my schooling and experience, it would be a real success for me. My current goal is to help the foreign-funded company develop its IP strategies from scratch in the Asia- Pacific region, but the future goal is to help a domestic company achieve global success by developing its own IP strategies. Surely, first of all, you need to improve your knowledge and seize the opportunity if you wish to achieve such a success.

China IP: What do you think of your life today after leaving Foxconn more than ten years ago?
Mr. Wu: Well, basically very satisfying. If there is something missing, it will be a positive attitude and good health. I am so busy that I have to spend half of my time outside of Shanghai. It seems that everything in life goes smoothly, but I am not so happy inwardly. I hope the new job can change me for the better.

When it comes to the profession, my objective comment is: there may be no difference over wages between IP practitioners and engineers. However, if there were a chance to choose again, still I would choose IP, because IP practitioners have different visions in that it is impossible for engineers to be all-rounders, but each IP practitioner may be a strategist whose decisions may be part of the overall strategies of the enterprise.

China IP: What do you think of the current industry right now?
Mr. Wu: The overall industry seems somewhat impetuous. From a conservative point of view, many start with the things they are not familiar with and without much consideration. For example, each time I talk with my clients about infringement analysis, they will ask me whether their money will be wasted if the analysis results prove there is no infringement. Yet few will ask whether their patents will be used on someone else’s products in the future and what the criteria are, which is precisely the key issue.

In addition, I think many strategies within the industry seem to be too high-end and classy, but only a few may help enterprises solve practical problems. Recently I made courseware for the State Intellectual Property Office, and also lectured in some areas about application of reverse engineering in IP management. In my opinion, these tactics are not strategies; they are only separate moves in Chinese boxing, not a set of moves. And I hope IP practitioners may understand and use those tactics. If someone is interested, I also want to share some practical IP tips in the IC industry I have accumulated over the years, if there is an opportunity.

(Translated by Wang Hongjun)

Member Message

  • Only our members can leave a message,so please register or login.

International IP Firms
Inquiry and Assessment

Latest comments

Article Search


People watch

Online Survey

In your opinion, which is the most important factor that influences IP pledge loan evaluation?

Control over several core technologies for one product by different right owners
Stability of ownership of the pledge
Ownership and effectiveness of the pledge