From 2G to Selfies: The Man Inside Your Smartphone
If you’re holding a cell phone, chances are one of Fatih Ozluturk’s patented inventions is in it. Now the Managing Principal at Soryn IP Group, Mr. Ozluturk previously worked at InterDigital, where he became the lead inventor on some of the most fundamental wireless technology patents in the field. He is sole inventor of hundreds more, from digital image stabilization technology to noise cancellation solutions.
I can say truthfully that if you’re holding a cell phone anywhere in the world, there’s something in that phone that I invented. That gives me engineering pride.
With a mother who taught high school science and an engineer father, Mr. Ozluturk became interested in inventing at an early age. After obtaining a degree in electrical engineering in Turkey, he moved to the United States and got his Ph.D. in electrical engineering. He began working for InterDigital in 1994, where he was put “in a fortunate position” to be exposed to many different aspects of cellular wireless systems. He became the lead inventor on most of the key patents in the company’s portfolio, and even became a patent agent along the way.
Mr. Ozluturk left InterDigital about five years ago, and started Soryn IP Group soon after that. Soryn is a patent advisory and financing firm with clients ranging from individual inventors to international behemoths in the technology world and at the top of the Forbes list. “We’re trying to differentiate ourselves by only taking clients who are the original innovators and who are responsible players in the IP ecosystem as IP holders and licensors,” he says. Soryn also launched a financing arm, Soryn Capital, last year. “On the financing side we’ve grown faster than we even anticipated, which is an indication of where the IP world is today, unfortunately,” he adds.
Innovator Insights spoke with Mr. Ozluturk about his road to invention and IP and his advice for those just starting out.
How do you think recent developments in the patent system have affected public perception of IP?
The most interesting inventions come about when knowledge or solutions you’ve acquired in one field intersect with a completely different field.
John Oliver did a bit on patent trolls not long ago—by the time an issue hits comedy hour you know it’s already trickled down to the public. Anecdotally, from my experience working with tech startups, there’s a general perception that patents stifle innovation; they don’t want to patent things. I hold workshops on the best ways to protect inventions and I do get the question, “Are patents even worthwhile since they are stifling innovation?” The fact that I hear that from startups who could benefit from patent protection the most tells me that at least one side of the issue has been communicated fairly effectively—not only in the world that small inventors occupy but in the public perception also.
How do you think that perception can be changed?
We have clients that are both small inventors and large companies and we can see both sides of the issues; we don’t think it’s black and white. Moderate solutions that are more nuanced and more intelligent are the way to go. But the more the issue is reduced to sound bites and name calling, the less likely we’re going to have the conversation that would be required to solve these problems.
What is encouraging, however, is that I’ve corresponded with all of the offices of the New York senators and the representatives on patent issues and I have to say that they are generally very well educated and understand the nuances. At least at the legislative side, it’s not the lack of understanding, but the inertia of politics that is the problem. It’s just a matter of who they hear the most from.
Do you think there has been any improvement in the level of knowledge about IP among startups?
The more the issue is reduced to sound bites and name calling, the less likely we’re going to have the conversation that would be required to solve these problems.
I teach regular workshops about patents at NYC startup accelerators. In the very first class I taught at the ERA (Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator) there were ten companies, and I had advised a number of them to file patent applications—only one filed one provisional application. A couple of years later, I noticed that the number had gone up to three or four out of ten. Today, I believe it’s not unusual for at least half of the companies in an accelerator class to file at least a provisional patent application. That points to the fact that the regular workshops we teach and the efforts of organizations like the IPO Education Foundation are having an impact on entrepreneurs’ understanding of patents as a business asset. People are more receptive and more educated.
What advice do you have for fledgling inventors?
I think that an invention really comes out of a question. If you pose a question correctly, you get to the right answer. If you’re well educated in one area, it helps you to understand the topic, but at the same time it fills your mind with what isn’t possible. For that reason, people frequently come up with inventions that are really outstanding when they combine their knowledge in one area with a problem completely unrelated to that area, simply because they’re unaware of the limitations. I would say it rarely works if you set out to solve a problem and invent something in order to make money off of it. It usually works the other way around. You spend your time learning about how things work and then, when you run into a problem, if you’re asking the right questions, you come up with an innovative solution. Suddenly the answer comes from a combination of things you knew that fill in the gaps, and you find a solution that no one else had thought about. No one should be afraid to explore problems in areas they’re not experts in. If you’re unaware of what is not possible, you’ll find things others have overlooked.