Reshaping the Wheel

Glenn Edwards shares how he’s transforming the IP department at Ingersoll Rand into a twenty-first century version of its best self

(Dan Berei)

The sustainability of a company more than 145 years old is a journey, not a destination. So says Glenn Edwards, an engineer/manager/executive/lawyer who, in 2015, was invited by global industrial giant Ingersoll Rand to manage its intellectual property (IP) components. In his role as vice president and chief IP counsel, Edwards is tasked with developing an IP strategy designed to support and protect the company’s innovative product developments. Ultimately, the goal is to streamline the entire process, including its family of brands—Club Car, Ingersoll Rand, Thermo King, and Trane—into a lean IP machine.

By the time he joined Ingersoll Rand, Edwards had already spent eight years abroad as IP overseer for another global technology company. In that position, he managed multijurisdictional IP litigations and provided strategic IP guidance for both healthcare and medical device developments, as well as safety innovations in the oil and gas, defense, and law enforcement sectors. When family matters compelled a move back to the United States, Edwards found himself entertaining the possibility of joining Ingersoll Rand’s North America headquarters team. While he was impressed with Ingersoll Rand’s innovative technologies and decades of success, he was most intrigued by its leadership. The company was looking to master increasingly crucial IP opportunities and incorporate these as “levers and tools to help each of its businesses reach its objectives.” In the end, the intent is to translate the IP operation into a twenty-first century version of its best self.

For Edwards, Ingersoll Rand’s history was a major aspect of the draw. While the name may not be readily familiar, many of its products and projects have become fundamental elements of American history. For example, the company was founded when Simon Ingersoll patented the steam-powered rock drill in 1871. Additionally, its compressor-powered drills were instrumental in the construction of both the Panama Canal in 1904 and Mount Rushmore in 1927.

Having been in this role now for two years, Edwards believes he’s off to a good start. The premise is to utilize IP functioning as a business tool that integrates and protects the activities of all the brands that thrive under the Ingersoll Rand name. To do so, Edwards began with a thorough assessment of the company’s existing assets, which consist of ten strategic business units (SBUs)—five in the climate sector and five in the industrial sector. There are also more than four thousand IP assets in relative life cycle stages, with patents being the most numerous. There are also roughly 45,000 employees at more than 850 facilities around the globe. And that’s in addition to addressing the concerns of thousands of stakeholders, customers, and business partners in virtually every corner around the world.

It took months for Edwards to assess the entire organization, SBU by SBU, and all of the product lines associated with each of them in order to comprehend its then-existing IP situation. Each SBU has a slightly different culture than all of the others, and all SBUs are uniquely affected by their respective geographical location. Each one is also subject to differing bodies of governmental regulations and standards.

“I get excited helping people achieve their potential and supporting the people who do the detailed work. Our greatest asset is our people.”

And, not surprisingly, every one of them is looking for added resources. “I try to look at each business and the challenges it faces, especially its IP situation,” Edwards explains. “I work with stakeholders, evaluate internal and external resources, identify where we are and what we need, and keep in mind that at least some of what I’m seeing is no longer providing an ROI. Then, I look for resources to respond to those needs. Once I have sufficient data, we can make a plan.”

Ingersoll Rand’s outside counsel can speak to Edwards’s sense of organization and efficiency. When asked to describe him, Wayne A. Jones of Jones IP Group responds with a Germanic-styled mash-up term, “son of a colonel in logistics.” Jones says, “Glenn, indeed, is the son of a highly respected colonel in logistics. He keeps all the moving parts of his and other relevant organizations in clear view and anticipates the necessary preparations to facilitate the forward and interlinked progress of each of those moving parts.”

Along the way, Edwards has helped to put out fires and clarified which elements of the IP operation are doing better than others. For someone with such a broad and deep base of responsibility, Edwards prides himself on his bottoms-up style of leadership. “I get excited helping people achieve their potential and supporting the people who do the detailed work,” he says. “Our greatest asset is our people. They are smart with highly valuable information in their heads. My job is to protect Ingersoll Rand’s investments as well as protect the valuable results the employees create.”

At the moment, Edwards’s direct team is lean (less than ten), and he’s constantly looking to improve efficiency and keep organizational focus on the business priorities. “Education is important, but I also look for personality and excellent soft skills,” he says. “Ingersoll Rand has and seeks team players with good communications skills, who can reduce complex subjects into simple concepts. Each person on my team needs to be able to converse coherently with the engineers and technicians, then translate and share that information with other elements of the company—sales, marketing, HR, etc.”

What he most enjoys most, though, is how Ingersoll Rand works toward its goals: “The core Ingersoll Rand philosophy is not just to win, but to win the right way,” a philosophy that reinforces Edwards’s personal values.

These days, Edwards continues to refine and revise his plans with the full realization that every day presents challenges that may change those plans. He is proud of the sense of empowerment Ingersoll Rand’s IP sector has gained during his tenure. According to Edwards, “They are receiving increasing numbers of requests for input on product developments and deployments,” which is contributing to “a cadence of innovation and delivery of new technologies into the company and its marketplace.”

As global resources become more threatened, Edwards sees Ingersoll Rand and its IP talent as part of the solution to the challenges those threats create. And with the support and input from his growing team of IP experts, he is confident that Ingersoll Rand’s journey into the future will be as fruitful and significant as is its 145-year history.

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Barnes & Thornburg LLP:

“It’s been my privilege to serve Ingersoll Rand for 11 years, especially now that I get to work with Glenn. He is a wise and settled leader, staunchly committed to excellence and full of integrity in his pursuit of same.”

—Dawn R. Rosemond, Partner

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Robins Kaplan:

“For almost 20 years I have watched Glenn’s career up close as a coworker, outside attorney, and friend. Glenn has a quiet confidence and desire for excellence that has made him a fabulous leader at every stop on his journey.”

—Cyrus Morton, Partner