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David Block: “Intellectual property theft is not just Sarine's problem...whole industry should combat this phenomenon.”

21 august 2017

david_block_xx.jpgFor more than 15 years, David Block served in various senior positions at Sarine Technologies in Israel and India. From 2012 until his appointment as CEO in 2017, Block was Sarine's Deputy CEO and Chief Operating Officer, with responsibility for global operations and sales. He previously served as Deputy CEO and VP of Sales. Until 2009, Block held the position of CEO of Sarine India, managing over 70% of the Group's revenues.

Prior to joining Sarine, Block worked at several major Israeli hi-tech companies in the management of large scale development projects.

Block holds an MBA from the Kellogg-Recanati School of Business, a joint degree from Northwestern University and Tel Aviv University, and a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Academic College in Israel.

Here, in an interview with Rough&Polished, David Block speaks about new developments at the company, future plans, new products as well as the recent attempt by infringers from India to steal the company's technology.

Some excerpts:

The global diamond industry has witnessed Sarine Technologies producing sophisticated products for years now, but looks forward to newer products to protect as well as improve its performance moving forward. After ‘Sarine Connect’ in 2016, is there any new product to be launched this year or even in 2018?

The coming year will be a very exciting one for Sarine in terms of product launches. Our Sarine Clarity™ and Sarine Color™ automated, objective grading technologies, first announced in 2016, are approaching the release date, which is expected to be towards the end of 2017. We believe that these new technologies will revolutionize color and clarity grading processes, just as DiaMension™ did for cut grading. We are also gearing towards the release of the next generation edition of the DiaMension™ Axiom scanner for measuring and modeling of polished diamonds. The new release Axiom, which already enables fully automated cut and symmetry grading, will offer some outstanding new features, including capabilities for scanning fancy shapes.

In current times, there is a need for technology to keep pace with not only consumer trends but also the fast-changing scenario in technology upgrades. How does Sarine keep abreast with this fast-changing industry?

Sarine adopts a dynamic, fast paced approach to all its business activities, and I think it is expressed in two important ways. Firstly, the company invests extensive resources, both financial and manpower, in research and development of new technologies. Secondly, Sarine is constantly keeping its finger on the pulse of the diamond industry worldwide. Sarine is deeply entrenched in the entire diamond pipeline, and this gives us a unique and comprehensive picture of what is happening in the industry, in the midstream manufacturing segment, and now also in the retail diamond and jewelry sector. It's not just a matter of doing the research and development; for Sarine, the key is our intimate understanding of the industry, which enables us to create and develop technologies that offer real added value for our customers and the industry as a whole.

Has Sarine developed any special technology-based solutions in recent time for jewellery retailers who have to cater to jewellery consumer (in store or online) who wants to be sure when buying a diamond, rather than depend only on the certificate?

In addition to the Sarine Profile™ diamond imaging and display platform, our Sarine Connect™ mobile app for inventory search and presentation is making strong inroads in the jewelry retail sector, both in the US and Asia Pacific. It is important to note that Sarine Connect™ goes way beyond diamonds, and in fact supports all types of gemstones and jewelry products. Also, Sarine Profile™ now incorporates a Jewelry View feature, which presents not only the details and images of the diamond but the complete story, images and information about the entire jewelry piece, including the main stone, secondary stone and metal. We are very excited about the successful application of our technologies in the retail jewelry sector, and we are always on the lookout for more new segments that we hope can benefit from the added value we provide.

While Sarine Profile seems to be a success, which of the new product/s have made a significant mark in the diamond industry in the past 12 months resulting in high demand?

This past year has been a very challenging and successful one for Sarine Profile™. The product is being adopted by more and more diamond wholesalers and retailers, in the United States and the entire Asia Pacific region, and we expect this demand to continue to grow. Furthermore, we've seen an enthusiastic response to the launch of the latest edition of our Advisor rough planning software, Advisor™ 7.0. The new release includes dozens of advanced features, including the revolutionary "CAP" (Centralized Auto Planning), customized pricing, new Stone Manager database, tension mapping add-on and much more.

We understand that you supply customized products tailored to meet your clients’ needs? Can you give us an example, if you can, of a project which was challenging for Sarine to execute?

Sarine Profile™ is a fully customized product, tailored almost completely from the ground up to the needs and brand of the client. So, each customization of Sarine Profile™ is a unique and interesting challenge, with its own specifications that depend upon the client's size, customer base, inventory, brand identity and more.

Can you run us through the new Sarine Color and Sarine Clarity grading products that were announced to be launched mid-2017? How will this reflect on your company’s financials for the year?

Sarine Color™ and Sarine Clarity™ are two new and exciting technologies that provide automated, objective and independent color and clarity grading of diamonds. This is truly a world first in terms of taking diamond grading to another level of accuracy and repeatability. Based on the industry-changing effects of our DiaMension™ cut grading technology, we believe that in the future, color and clarity grading will also be conducted using technology as the fundamental base, in conjunction with the skill, experience and human touch of gemologists.

How is Sarine's 'Galaxy Inclusion Mapping Systems' faring in the industry? Is the product still in demand, especially in India?

We are extremely proud of the fact that Galaxy™ inclusion mapping has become an integral part of the diamond pipeline for manufacturers all over the world. The popularity and success of Galaxy continues to grow with each passing year. This year, we reached an all-time high in the number of stones scanned by Galaxy systems. This is due to the continued rise of the Galaxy, and also a result of the expansion of the system's capabilities with the Meteor™ device, which provides inclusion scanning for the vast segment of smaller sized stones.

How is Sarine faring in India currently, given that other tech players are also aggressively entering the market? What steps is Sarine taking to maintain its position as a major tech supplier to the Indian sector?

Sarine invests tens of millions of dollars each year in the development of technologies that benefit the diamond industry worldwide. Unfortunately, there are those who overstep legal and ethical boundaries in order to obtain our trade secrets and to infringe our patented and copyrighted technology. This is entirely unacceptable, and Sarine’s policy is to take aggressive steps against anyone who attempts to illegally copy, infringe or threaten our intellectual property in any way. We rely on two approaches to tackle this serious problem. Firstly, we use global legal resources at our disposal to aggressively combat, wherever necessary, those who infringe our IP. Secondly, we continually upgrade our software protection, employing robust, state-of-the-art IT safety solutions. For example, the new Advisor 7.0 software is stored securely in the cloud, which prevents hacking and theft of our copyrighted rough planning software code.

Wrapping up, the most unfortunate incidents of some Indian technology infringers that prompted Sarine Tech to file legal actions against them. What is the current status of the case in the court? What steps is Sarine currently taking to prevent such misappropriation of its technology?

Sarine was compelled to bring a lawsuit against a number of companies and individuals in India, including Diyora & Bhanderi Corporation. The court appointed commissioners to investigate the business premises of Diyora & Bhanderi in order to verify our allegations of patent and copyright infringement. Based on the commissioners’ reports regarding these raids, Sarine has requested a preliminary injunction against the defendants to order the cessation of all of their infringing activities.

Another recent enforcement action to thwart the attempted theft of trade secrets relating to Sarine’s Galaxy™ products took place in Israel. Sarine worked with private investigators and the Israeli police in an action that resulted in the arrests of three suspects of Indian nationality in Tel Aviv. The suspects were apprehended after they handed over US$100,000 in cash as an advance payment for US$1 million in exchange for those trade secrets. These are the kinds of serious challenges we face in protecting our intellectual property, and we intend to continue the fight.

The problem of intellectual property theft is not just Sarine's problem. Unfortunately, incidences of IP theft scare off investors and ruin the incentive to develop new technologies. And this affects the entire industry as a whole. It is the responsibility of all involved in the diamond industry, including governmental agencies and industry associations, to work together to combat this phenomenon.

Aruna Gaitonde, Editor-in- Chief of Asian Bureau, Rough & Polished

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