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(photo credit: Courtesy Photo)
The Israeli government needs to relax its policy regarding intellectual property ownership in order to further encourage business collaboration with overseas investors, Eric Benhamou, chairman and CEO of Benhamou Global Ventures, told The Jerusalem Post this week.
"For a long time, the government has been fixated with keeping intellectual property in the country, which is not compatible with the current global trends," Benhamou said. "A company has to be able to move its intellectual property anywhere it makes sense for it around the world. If, in order to partner with an Israeli company, the price is to keep all the intellectual property in Israel, then that business partner is going to think twice."
The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor explained that technology developed with government funding is subject to these limitations, while privately funded intellectual property is not.
Issues revolving around the definition of intellectual property and what aspects were required to be kept inside Israel blocked recent attempts to change the legislation governing the property.
Benhamou, who also serves as chairman of 3Com Corporation and Palm Inc., was in Israel to address a symposium on the "State of US-Israel Scientific and Technological Cooperation," marking the 50th anniversary of the Fullbright Program in Israel.
Benhamou singled out intellectual property as a policy that should be reconsidered in an environment where there generally was a "healthy level of cooperation" between Israel and the US in the business, academic, non-profit and policy making spheres of activity.
"In some parts of industry, such as in hi-tech, collaboration is absolutely vibrant and bodes very well for the next few years," he added. "There has been a maturation process where for a long time there was a welfare mentality in Israel and the collaboration was mostly on projects subsidized by US money. Today, there is more of a peer mentality with both sides benefiting from cooperation, which is much healthier."
Benhamou explained that for this level of cooperation to continue, Israelis need to understand and emphasize what they are good at, in particular the life sciences and information technology. In so doing, he continued, Israel can be well-positioned to compete with India and China.
"I think that the relationship [with India and China] does not need to be one of competition," he said, however. "There are many more opportunities for Israel if it thinks of these countries as R&D partners and as potential markets. Israel has to focus on its strengths in innovation and should be willing to outsource some of the other aspects of product development to Chinese and Indian partners."
Furthermore, he said there is a lot of interest coming out of China to take advantage of Israel's technological developments.
Benhamou's venture capital firm has investments in three Israeli companies and two US companies with a $25 million, internally financed fund.