Without IP protection, he said, society wouldn’t be where it is with medicines, or vehicles, or technology because not many people would spend the time and money necessary to develop new solutions when it wouldn’t be possible to make a return on that investment. IP is the backbone of an economy, particularly the modern economy where the value of intangible assets so far outstrips the value of physical assets.
Alsegard, who has worked in the IP insurance space for over 15 years now, highlighted the variety of different companies from a myriad of sectors that are seeking out IP insurance these days.
“Working in the space means we get to understand so many different areas, and it’s never the same thing twice so it doesn’t get boring,” he said. “What I like about the IP space as well is that the companies seeking this type of insurance are typically talking about what they’re doing next, what they’re patenting now and what’s around the corner for their brands. That means they’re really passionate about it too, which always makes for a fantastic conversation.”
There are many types of intellectual property risk, he said, but the most common reason that companies are seeking IP insurance today is due to IP infringement risk – when a business or individual is alleged to have used someone else’s IP without authorisation. For most companies, infringement risk is a relatively low-frequency event but, when it does happen, it can have a significant impact on a business.
Alsegard also noted the dual nature of his responsibilities in leading Gallagher’s new practice. Firstly he will look to support his colleagues in providing customers with the best service and insurance solutions available in the IP space. However, he will also be looking to harness the expertise and the scale of Gallagher to provide education to the wider public about IP risk and the services available.
“I think the market is perhaps a little bit underserved in terms of intellectual property risk at the moment,” he said. “There are still only a handful of brokers and underwriters in the space. So being one of the few means it is very important that we get the message out there.”
It’s the right time to be going out to the market with this message, he said, as over the course of his time in the IP space, he has seen external market conditions change dramatically. That starts with the sheer quantity, quality and accessibility of data now, as well as the new tools and techniques available to analyse that data. That has changed the market fundamentally, but Alsegard is also seeing that the companies now coming to the market are more educated about IP risk and aware of its potential impact.
“It’s now much more common across the board of many companies to hear people talking about intellectual property,” he said. “These [companies] come from all sectors, which helps to grow the market, of course, but it also helps to potentially reduce the volatility, because we get more of a spread of risk, which is really helpful.
“Also, if we talk about changing risk, the pandemic has changed the perception [of IP risk] a little bit as well, in the short term. US patent litigation increased from early 2020 and the reason for that is likely the economic downturn and the uncertainty that the pandemic created. If I was to guess, I would suggest that this will carry on for some time and that patent litigation will continue to be at a heightened level. So that may increase the number of companies coming to market to seek insurance as well.”
Read more: ‘Misconceptions’ clouding growing IP risk
The publicly available figures around IP litigation are just the tip of the iceberg, he said, as very often IP infringements are handled behind closed doors. This is part of the reason why the time is right not just for the launch of this dedicated IP practice from Gallagher, but also for advanced conversations across the marketplace on the need for adequate protection.
“I want to make sure that people are aware of what is available, and aware of [IP risks],” he said. “It’s really important that companies make decisions proactively rather than reactively. That includes finding out about the insurance services available and what the cost of these are, rather than not buying coverage because you didn’t know it existed. And the same goes, to a large extent, when it comes to risk management and IP because I think some companies underestimate the risks that they face until they have an issue. So, it’s really worth exploring this area with the experts and seeking out that proactive professional advice.”