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New book: tech elites’ disregard for privacy & IP must be managed

Can Internet monopolies – adept at providing at providing information – be prevented from violating the rights of individuals, businesses and IP holders, and impeding innovation?

They can if they are regulated like utilities, says Jonathan Taplin in his new book, Move Fast and Break Things.

In 2009, Mark Zuckerberg told Business Insider publisher and former Wall Street analyst Henry Bloget, “Move fast and break things is Facebook’s prime directive to developers. Unless you are breaking stuff,” Zuckerberg said, “you are not moving fast enough.”

Eight years later, this Facebook mantra has taken on a darker meaning. A new book by Hollywood producer and former USC Annenberg Innovation Lab director, Taplin (Mean Streets, The Last Waltz), offers a portrait of technology giants without restraints, routinely violating the rights of creatives, consumers and innovators, and propping up their own shares at the expense of investing in the future.

Subtitled How Facebook, Google and Amazon Cornered Culture and Under-mined Democracy, Move Fast and Break Things dissects the inordinate power of a handful of the popular companies and their founders, and what it means for culture, innovation, and personal freedom.

What Taplin does best is connect the dots by distinguishing between true break-through ideas and the ability to provide and mine data, especially personal information, for profit and dominate markets. The confluence of vision, ego, and wealth is for Taplin a dangerous mix that needs to be carefully watched if not closely monitored. Copyright and patent holders need to be especially wary.

Don’t Ask Permission

“The co-founder of YouTube, Chad Hurley, was a PayPal alumnus, schooled in Peter Thiel’s philosophy,” writes Taplin. “He built his company on the same ‘don’t ask permission’ ethic the Larry Page had embraced… ‘Who will stop me?’ [A phrase which can be found in Ayn Rand’s controversial novel, The Fountainhead.] This became the center tenet of Internet disrupters, from Thiel’s PayPal right up to Travis Kalanick’s Uber.”

Taplin writes that Google, who championed the tagline for its corporate code of conduct, “Do no evil,” controls 88% of online searches and search advertising, while Facebook has 77% market share in social media and Amazon a 70% share of e-book sales. He does not consider Apple a monopoly because its main hardware business has many competitors.

“The tech elites jealous guarding of its own monopoly platforms,” says Taplin, “is built upon a blatant disregard for the artist’s intellectual property.”

“More people than ever are listening to music, reading books, and watching movies, but the revenue flowing to the creators of that content is decreasing while the revenue flowing to the big four platforms is increasing. Each of these platforms presents a different challenge for creators. Google and YouTube are ad-supported ‘free-riders’ driven by a permission-less philosophy.”

Permission-less free-riding, or “efficient infringement” in has also come to dominate other parts of the IP workplace, rendering simple patent licenses more arduous than ever.

Consent Decree

How does Taplin propose we prevent Internet monopolies from violating the rights of individuals, businesses and IP holders, and impeding innovation? You regulate them like utilities.

It would be very difficult for many people and businesses to live without Amazon, Google, YouTube and Facebook, but it is becoming impossible for many who produce intellectual property to live with them.

This is not something that their founders and shareholders want to hear, but it may be inevitable. Europe is more apt to regulate BigTech than the U.S. – and it is not mere jealousy. If Google, for example, is indeed a monopoly, Taplin, a former tour manager for Bob Dylan, asks, would a consent decree like the one that the government made Bell Labs enter into in 1956 work? He believes it would.

Easy Ride is Over

The Guardian, the British daily, said “Move Fast and Break Things is a timely and useful book because it provides an antidote to the self-serving narrative energetically cultivated by the digital monopolies. They have had an easy ride for too long and democracies will, sooner or later, have to rein them in.”

It would be very difficult for many people and businesses to live without Amazon, Google, YouTube and Facebook, but it is becoming virtually impossible for many who produce intellectual property to live with them.

My full review of Jonathan Taplin’s new book can be found here, on IP Watchdog.

For more information or to buy Move Fast and Break Things, go here.

For a preview (via Google), go here.

Image source: jontaplin.com

 

Bloody AC-DC patent war depicted in new novel by Oscar winner

If you thought the 19th Century was a kinder, gentler time for the people responsible for break-through inventions, you would be mistaken – it was not much better than today. 

The bitter battle for the electricity standard between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse was nastier than a bar room brawl. It has all the drama of a Hollywood movie, which, in fact, it is currently being made into.

Last Days of Night is a New York Times best-selling historical novel written by the Oscar-winning writer of “The Imitation Game.” It tells the true story of the battle between direct and alternating current for the electricity standard, one that involved fundamental patents, lawyers (Paul Cravath, 18 months out of Columbia Law School), lawsuits (312 of them), bankers (J.P. Morgan), a phobic inventor (Nikola Tesla), the press, and electrocutions of animals and a human.

Keen Observer

Last Days of Night is not classic literature. Its short chapters give it the feel of a pot-boiler. However, the book’s is timely for an ability to reveal character – good and bad – in the face of adversity and is a keen observer of the inventive process.

It is no surprise that its author, Graham Moore, won an Oscar for his adaptation of The Imitation Game, the story of British mathematician Alan Turing, who cracked the Nazi’s enigma code, but who was a victim of his time.

Moore is currently adapting Last Days into a major motion picture starring Eddie Redmayne, who won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the young Steven Hawking in The Theory of Everything. The Last Days movie, with an all-star team in control, has a good shot at achieving what few books and films have: a realistic portrait of the relationship between inventions and the people and systems that drive them.

Deeper Dive

IAM subscribers go here for the May issue, which contains “Book Sheds New Light on an Epic Patent Battle,” a deeper dive into this strangely inspiring, mostly factual, novel that reminds us that the premium on new ideas is as tied to people as it is to capital and genius.

Much to his credit, Graham Moore’s provides a lengthy note from the author, detailing what he condensed in the novel and why. His historical timeline (mrgrahammoore.com) helps readers to separate fact from fiction, for a fuller appreciation of the people and events that helped to secure a bittersweet victory for AC.

To purchase Last Days of Night, go here.

Image source: mrgrahammoore.com

Attorney-investor is willing to share patent filing costs & risks with clients

Many law firms still seek to participate in the outcome of clients’ patent litigation, but few are willing to share the cost of obtaining and maintaining invention rights, which frequently turn out to be worthless. 

A new book by an innovative Colorado attorney and inventor suggests that patent lawyers need to have more skin in the prosecution game, and that filing patents just to have them is a waste of their client’s time and money.

Russ Krajec, author of Investing in Patents: Everything Startup Investors Need to Know About Patents, says that the high cost of obtaining, maintaining and defending patents is prohibitive for most young companies. But without patents they can undermine their future, the value of their enterprise, and the fate of their investors.

_______________________

Recent studies indicate that 30 percent of U.S. “unicorns” (start-ups with greater than $1B in valuation) have no patents and 62 percent have fewer than 10 patents.
(David Kappos, et al. the New York Law Journal)

________________________

In the January issue of IAM magazine, available this week, you will find my Intangible Investor review of Krajec’s deft book and industry-challenging strategy, “A strong case for a new approach to patent investing,” accessible to IAM subscribers, here.

Investing in Patents, deceptively spare at just 139-pages, is relevant to all patent filers, lawyers and investors, in addition to young companies, many of which are choosing to forgo patent protection. (See excerpt from The New York Law Journal article above.)

Patents are more expensive than ever, just over $56,000 for the average one over the course of its life. Defending them has reached new highs of cost and risk. A case through IPR(s) to trial can cost several million dollars and require more than five years, with a reduced likelihood of success.

Average Cost of a Patent Over its Life

patent-cost-pie-chart-v1-1

Engineer, Inventor, Financier

Investing in Patents is available at Krajec.com or on Amazon.com, here. In addition to being a patent attorney who has worked for H-P and other companies as a practicing engineer, Krajec has more than 40 patents to his name and, earlier in his career, was a USPTO patent examiner. He also runs BlueIron, LLC, an IP finance and management company.

While the sugg51l5ndgkvlestion of joint or fractional patent ownership is compelling, it is not entirely new or simple. As in most agreements, the devil is in the details.

It is unclear how Krajec believes ownership of a patent should be divided and who has the right to license, enforce, sell or otherwise leverage it – and when. Perhaps, most importantly, who gets to define success?

Given the current high-risk/low return scenario for obtaining and licensing patents most high-tech patents, this lawyer’s ownership alternative may be just what is needed to realign interests and enhance performance.

 

 

Image source: aipla.org; krajec.com

Raymond P. Niro, pioneering patent litigator, is dead at 73

Raymond Niro, a highly successful patent litigator who represented primarily inventors and other plaintiffs, passed away on August 9 at the age of 73.

It was reported that he was in ill-health and died of heart failure while vacationing in Italy.

IP Law 360 described him as a “pioneering intellectual property attorney and who often represented patent licensing companies and inventors in infringement disputes against larger corporations.”

“If I had to write my obituary – and I hope that I don’t have to do that very soon,” said Niro in May, “I’d say this is a guy who … dedicated his life to try to promote innovation and to help level the playing field for inventors who had to take on some of the big corporations.”

A chapter that Niro wrote for my 2006 book, Making Innovation Pay (Wiley), asks “Who Benefits from Patent Enforcement?” My introduction to the chapter is below. 

*****

Profile: Little Guys Like Him

“I don’t have to be liked by everyone, just respected,” Ray Niro once told a reporter.

The founder of Chicago litigation boutique Niro Scavone Haller & Niro has developed a reputation for representing independent inventors and smaller companies in patent lawsuits in which he has an equity stake. To his adversaries, he is often painted as a predator or “troll,” or, at least, representing them; to his clients, he is a white knight.

Niro is praised for giving independent inventors and small companies a voice and for helping them to level the playing field. In the high-stakes poker game that is called patent litigation, spending $10 million or more on a dispute that goes to trial is not uncommon. Needless to say, Niro, whose firm foots the bill for his time and costs, is selective about the cases he is willing to take on contingency.

His team conducts extensive due diligence, which he discusses in the following chapter. He accepts fewer than 20% of the cases his firm reviews. By any standard, Niro’s track record is impressive: more than $500 Niro_Raymondmillion won in jury and bench trials and in settlements in more than 200 patent cases over 20 years. His best-known cases include a $57 million jury verdict in a trade secret suit against a snowmobile manufacturer and its engine supplier, which was later increased to $75.5 million; a $48 million jury award against an ink manufacturer; and a $20 million patent infringement award against Square D Company.

In 1997, the National Law Journal named him “one of the ten best U.S. litigators,” and in 1999 it named him “one of the ten best trial lawyers in Illinois.” Contingency wins, where he might share 40% or more of the recoveries, have made Niro a wealthy man. He lives most of the time in Boca Raton, Florida, and has a home in Aspen, Colorado, which he built with former partner, Gerald Hosier, who is best known for generating more than $1 billion in damages and royalties on behalf of inventor Jerome Lemelson, a known patent submariner until a 1996 change in the patent law to 20 years’ exclusivity from filing effectively ended the loophole. (The Lemelson-MIT Program, endowed by the Lemelson Foundation, rewards unsung inventors. MIT describes Lemelson as “one of the world’s most prolific inventors.”)

Niro loves to go to trial. At 67 years old, the admitted sports fanatic remains fighting fit and lifts weights for 45 minutes four times a week and cycles in Aspen’s 8,000-foot altitude. He owns a Falcon 10 jet and at one time owned six Ferraris, including two 360 Spiders and a 575 Maranello. He has 10 grandchildren and million, which the trial judge later increased to $20 million. Calabrese died 19 days later. “Frank was grateful for what Ray Niro did for him,” said Kathleen Calabrese, the inventor’s widow.

“Ray was the only attorney we could find [who was] willing to take the case on contingency. He worked hard and never gave up on Frank.”

But not all of Niro’s has been married to the same woman for 41 years. The son of an immigrant bricklayer from Abruzzi, Italy, Niro grew up in Pittsburgh, where he says he learned to root for the underdog and still does.

Trained as a chemical engineer, Niro is still able to connect with juries and judges. “I learned early on that as a litigator you need to tell a story that juries and judges understand,” he told me. “You can’t talk down to anyone. I get great personal satisfaction from helping people to win cases that may not otherwise have been heard.”

Frank Calabrese was an underdog. A Waynesboro, Pennsylvania inventor, he claimed his invention, a patented data relay system, was stolen by Square D in the 1980s. He sued when he discovered that the company had been marketing a similar system and refused to pay him for it. In the four years it took for the case to go to trial, Calabrese developed colon cancer.

“Towards the end of the trial,” says Niro, “Frank, who was dying, told me ‘the money doesn’t matter. I want to be vindicated.’” And vindicated he was on January 26, 2000, when a jury awarded Calabrese $13.2  clients are defenseless little guys. Some are investors, like publicly traded Acacia Technology (NASDAQ: ACTG), which buys patents and asserts them because they understand some companies’ aversion to risk and low tolerance for the costs associated with complex patent litigation. To that Niro responds that while he prefers to work directly with inventors and small companies, middlemen can benefit the system and have the right to exist.

Niro’s chapter, “Who Benefits from Patent Enforcement?” discusses the importance of asserting patent rights not only for the less resourceful plaintiff but for society as a whole and for innovation. “When it comes to using patents for business advantage,” concludes the bearded litigator, “the little guy is not the one who is gaming the system, although many defendants would like you to think so.”

*****

Photo caption from book: It’s the high life for litigator, Ray Niro, who tools around in his Ferrari near Independence Pass (elevation 12,095 feet), not far from his Aspen home.

Those wishing to read Raymond Niro’s chapter in Making Innovation Pay can order here.

Image source: legalexecutiveinstitute.com

Engaging IP book for students is free via iBooks or PDF, $.99 Kindle

The US intellectual property system has been the envy of nations everywhere. Despite this, confusion reigns about what are patents and other IP rights, and whom do they serve.

A new book has been published that makes it easier for college students and non-IP professionals, including inventors, engineers and investors to understand how IP rights work in the real world and how they affect peoples’ lives.

In an increasingly digital, knowledge-driven economy, an understanding of IP rights needs to be part of a core curriculum. The Intangible Advantage: Understanding Intellectual Property in the New Economy serves that mission admirably.

Compiled by an all-star team of writers, jurists, lawyers and professors, The Intangible Advantage (TIA) explains in clear, non-technical prose how the IP system works and the many audiences (aka stakeholders) it benefits. TIA is a revealing journey through the history and practice of IP in the United States. It is the first comprehensive text book for students that explains the IP system’s strengths and weaknesses, and dispels many of the myths surrounding them.

Clear and Concise

Chief writer, David Kline, is co-author of Rembrandts in the Attic (HBS Press), the first serious book about patents for business managers and investors. Kline is a former Pulitzer-nominated war correspondent, who has contributed to many business and news publications.

Serving as the book’s executive editor was David Kappos, Under Secretary of Commerce and Director of the United States Patent and lockup-ipad-verticalTrademark Office, 2009 to 2013. Prior to that Mr. Kappos was chief IP counsel at IBM. Also integral to the project was Hon. Paul R. Michel, Chief Judge for the Court of Appeals of the Federal Circuit (CAFC) who sat for 22 years on the bench, from 1988 to 2010. CAFC is the the highest patent court.

Giving Back

The Intangible Advantage is published by the Michelson 20MM Foundation. Established by Dr. Gary K. Michelson, an inventor, a spinal surgeon who responsible for 340 issued US patents and 953 worldwide. Dr. Michelson sold his company for $1.35 billion to Medtronic in 2010 as a settlement in a patent dispute.

The Michelson 20MM Foundation supports and invests in leading edge entrepreneurs, technologies, models, and initiatives with the potential to improve post-secondary access, affordability, and efficacy.  Dr. Michelson also founded the Gary Michelson Medical Research Foundation, which since 1995 has supported forward thinking initiatives in medical science by leveraging the collaboration of engineers, scientists, and physicians to solve real world problems; rapidly moving medical advancements into our society.

Separating Truth from Myth

The Intangible Advantage is written with clarity and charm, a Kline’s trademark that can be found in the books and articles about IP that he has written under his own by-line and those he has co-authored. IP professionals as well as students will gain from the historical insights the book provides, such as that despite media and hoopla about “trolls,” patent trials have remained virtually flat at around 100 for 30 years.

Given the explosive increase in patent filing and grants — About 325,000 US patents were issued each in 2014 and 2015 alone, and there are literally millions in force — the number of disputes that go to trial is extraordinarily low — not what the media would have us believe.

static1.squarespaceWhat The Intangible Advantage does exceedingly well is explain the US patent system and how rights can be used productively. It reminds readers that the system exists to facilitate sharing information about new inventions and stimulate new business, not to keep inventions secret or deter commerce. US IP rights differ markedly from others, especially the 18th and 19th century English system, which was more closely associated with privilege and class. The book underscores that the US system strives to use IP, especially patents, to level power, not to wield it.

TIA is un-intimidating at just 287 pages (1320 KB), a good length for those who want to know more without getting into legal minutiae. The book is available at iBooks for free and on Kindle for just $.99. An inexpensive print-on-demand edition (under $10) is also available. I downloaded a copy to my Kindle in about 15 seconds and read it over several days.

Start Learning Now

For the free iBooks version, go here or to your iBooks app store.

For the 99 cent Kindle version, go here or to the Kindle store.

For the $6.68 print on demand version, go here.

For the free standard Widows PDF version, go here.

The main Michelson 20MM Foundation resource page provides additional information.

In addition to Kline, editorial credits include:

Randall E. Kahnke (Author), Robert G. Krupka (Author), Kerry L. Bundy (Author), David Kappos (Editor),Paul R. Michel (Editor), Phillip J. Kim (Editor), Mayra Lombera(Editor), Marisa S. Moosekian (Editor), Gary K. Michelson (Preface).

The book is accompanied by a series of 3-minute animated videos available on YouTube answering such common questions as “Can I Patent That?”“Is it Fair Use or Infringement?” and “What If Someone Infringes Your Trademark?

Education – the Future of IP

IP literacy is no longer an option, it is a requirement. A rudimentary understanding IP rights and the patent system is essential for individuals to excel in a knowledge-based economy.

Until recently intellectual property has been taught primarily in law schools or the occasional business school seminar. The history and use of US IP rights is an amazing success story, whose impact needs to be conveyed accurately to wider audiences, and repeatedly over time.

The Intangible Advantage – not to be confused with my 2015 book, The Intangible Investor – is the first IP text book for non-IP professionals, especially college students, that makes it easy to learn about an integral part of American history and commerce.

Image source: 20mm.org; michelsonip.com

“Secrets” is required reading for informed managers and investors

In an information age that worships data and transparency, the trade or business secret has never been more valuable.  

“Secrets” is an essential guide to understanding, using and profiting from trade secrets, or “know-how,” perhaps the most misunderstood of intellectual property rights.

What I like best about James Pooley’s new book, subtitled Managing Information Assets in the Age of Cyberespionage, is the way he explores the ontology of proprietary business information – what it means, how it has come to exist, and how these secrets can be protected and monetized. He reminds us that even “negative” information can have significant business value.

A Silicon Valley veteran, Pooley has served as a lawyer, manager, diplomat, professor and writer. From 2009 to 2014 he was Deputy Director General for Innovation and Technology at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), an agency of the United Nations, where he ran the international patent system.

His seminal Trade Secrets for lawyers and Trade Secrets: A Guide To Protecting book_sideProprietary Business Information, first published in 1982 and aimed at business managers, are leading books in the field. Both have been reprinted.

Preferred Protection

Pooley says that despite the attention paid to patents, trade secrets are the preferred method of IP protection for R&D-intensive companies, and are relied upon at more than twice the rate of patents. He says that there are good reasons to have trade secrets:

“They’re cheap: you don’t have to pay for government certification. They’re broad, covering many things that patents can’t (indeed, they cover just about any business information, like sales data and strategic business plans), and unlike a published patent, you don’t broadcast to the competition what you’re doing.”

Enforcing a trade secret typically falls under state law, and there is no Patent Trial and Review Board or history of adverse judicial decisions to challenge their existence.

“Secrets” provides readers much practical advice, including forms for confidentiality, non-confidentiality and consultant agreements. It is a handy and deceptively insightful book, and will open the eyes of even experienced managers. The book includes sample non-disclosure and other agreements, and suggests best-practices and safeguards that should be put in place before an employee leaves a company to discourage him or her from using or sharing proprietary information.

In reading this book we are remind us that secrets falling into the wrong hands can destroy a project, or even bring down a company. The same technology that enables seamless communications, also makes data theft easy, cheap and increasingly difficult to detect.

Chart of IP rights (JPEG)

Know-How & Patents

Trusting employees, competitors, consultants with classified information, such as the specialized know-how, especially those that bring inventions or patents life, is a high-wire act that managers need help balancing. “Secrets” provides valuable guidance to managing those critical first-steps.

Trade secrets come in many forms. At some companies, patent licenses are effectively “given away,” because they facilitate lucrative technology licenses or know-how sales that enable a licensee to practice an invention more profitably. Just ask IBM. Know-how, sometimes marketed as “consulting,” is frequently the high margin, cash generator that get’s overlooked – the proverbial tail that wags the dog.

For more information about “Secrets,” to order, or for a free digital sample, go here.

Image source: veruspress.com; J. Pooley 

 

 

 

IP Dealmakers Forum will host 200+ patent monetization bigs in NY

The second annual IP Dealmakers Forum, December 7 – 8, will bring together leaders from the finance, legal and business communities to discuss the issues affecting patent licensing, sales and value, and to facilitate transactions.

New this year is a separate workshop for institutional investors that focuses on understanding IP as an asset class. This invitation-only, closed-door workshop will address the characteristics, market size and scope of patents as business assets, discuss practical investment issues, and examine the current investment universe. For additional information, go to here.

Luncheon Keynote

This year’s luncheon keynote is Edward Jung, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Intellectual Ventures, which holds more than 70,000 patents.  After leaving Microsoft where he was Chief Architect, Jung founded IV in 2002. As CTO, Jung sets strategic technology direction and new business models for the company. He holds more than 750 patents worldwide with has an additional 1,000 pending in the areas of biomedicine, computing, networking, energy, and material sciences.

The keynote topic is Driving Deals Through the Patent Storm”ip-dealmakers-logo-2015

Other speakers, at the New York event which will be held at the Apella event center overlooking the East River, include chief or senior executives from leading IP holders, both NPEs (non-practicing entities) and operating companies, institutional investors, financial institutions and PIPCOs (public IP licensing companies), including

France Brevets, Techquity, EverEdge IP, Finjan, Royal Philips, Gerchen Keller Capital, Fortress, IP Bridge, Northwater Capital, Wood Creek Capital, Allied Minds, WiLAN, American Express, nXn Partners, Bridgestone Americas, Swiss Alpha, Freescale Semiconductor, Ericsson and Marathon Patent Group.

For this year’s IPDF agenda and speakers, go here.

IP CloseUp readers can still save $200 on Forum registration by using promo code “IPCloseUp_Special”.  A special landing page has been created for IP CloseUp reader registration: http://www.ipdealmakersforum.com/ipcloseup/

Apella-Lounge-Daytime-e1439319412266

Actionable Insights 

“The program is dedicated to providing attendees with actionable insights from successful dealmakers,” says Wendy Chou, co-founder and producer of IP Dealmakers Forum. Session topics include:

  • Boom or Bust: The Public IP Market One Year Later
  • All About Patent Quality – How to Invest in Powerful Patents
  • New IP Businesses, Investing for Innovation & Growth
  • The Evolution of IP Litigation Funding & Insurance Markets
  • 2016 Presidential Election Perspectives on Patents
  • How IP Drives Corporate Reinvention, M&A and Investments

Last year’s inaugural event connected diverse intellectual property monetization experts with public and private market investors, and was attended by approximately 200 investors, IP executives, and advisors. Due to popular demand, expanded space will be provided in 2015 for private one-on-one meetings.

Changing Times

“These are changing times,” said Ashley Keller, co-founder of Gerchen Keller Capital, and a scheduled speaker at this year’s Forum. “As the market shifts, understanding the increased importance of due diligence expertise, the changing perceptions of risk and valuation, and the sources and expectations of those with investment capital, is a prerequisite for anyone who intends to succeed in this arena.”

Image source: IP Dealmakers Forum 

“Triumph” book reexamines the case that launched 10,000 patent suits

Polaroid v. Kodak, concluded in 1991 after 15 years, was the first “billion dollar” patent damages award ($909 million).  Until this year, it was the largest satisfied judgment in a patent case awarded by a U.S. court. In current value the award would be almost $2 billion.

You could say that it was the case that launched 10,000 patent suits, many by non-practicing entities.

51YbbsBE48L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The Polaroid dispute involved patents covering instant photography, which at the time was among the most valuable technologies. But as one observer pointed out, by the end of the long dispute, the Polaroid-Kodak battle was “little more than two aging giants dueling on the decks of the Titanic.” Digital photography would soon eclipse instant photography, and both litigants were on the road to insolvency.

My review of A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War, by Ronald K. Fierstein, a former Fish & Neave attorney, describes it as a timely book, deftly written and useful to anyone affected by IP rights or who invests in technology.

Triumph is about an infamous case, a bold inventor and two innovative companies that lost their mojo at the apex of their popularity.

My review appears in IP Watchdog. Please click here to read it.

mi_2588914358240374

Image source: amazon.com

New Book Takes a Hard Look at How Businesses Profit from Patents

‘The Intangible Investor’ scrutinizes how to generate the best returns in innovation — Why some significant holders would rather see patents weakened, including their own.

What is innovative? Who owns it? What are the best ways to generate a return on new ideas? These are among the most vexing questions facing businesses today.

The Intangible Investor, by IP CloseUp contributor Bruce Berman, shines a light on the controversies surrounding innovation rights, including patents that protect inventions and copyrights that cover music and books.

It also helps readers to differentiate between patent “trolls,” who rely on the high cost of litigation to secure quick settlements with questionable patents, and legitimate holders that wish to license quality rights for a market price. The motivation of parties who fuel the debate with mud-slinging and half-truths is also scrutinized.

The Intangible Investor – Profiting from Intellectual Property: Companies’ Most Elusive Assets (CloseUp Media, ISBN-13: 978-0615952352) goes to the heart of what constitutes the innovation economy: ideas, performance and utilizing intellectual property rights to generate value.

The book’s website here provides more information, as well as a sample that includes the Introduction and Foreword. 

cover

“Bad Actors?”

Bruce Berman’s fifth book provides businesses, investors and general audiences (1) a basis for understanding how IP can generate hidden value, (2) a foundation for what is meant by patent quality, and who, in fact, are the IP systems’ bad actors, and (3) a context to discern IP developments of the recent past in the hope of providing a clearer vision of the future.

“One of the most remarkable things about this collection is how these 64 essays written have weathered the test of time,” says Gene Quinn, editor of the popular IP Watchdog and a patent attorney who wrote the Foreword

“They are as relevant today as they were when they were written for IAM beginning in 2003, which is a testament to Berman’s forward thinking and understanding of the issues.”

The Intangible Investor is available in print and digital editions for under $20, and can be purchased on Amazon.com here.

Image source: CloseUp Media

Patents – The Rights We Love to Hate

A Misunderstood Symbol of Control, Patents are the Rodney Dangerfield of Assets: “They Can’t Get No Respect” –

Recent record prices for patent sales and shares of selected technology businesses (e.g. Nortel, Motorola, InterDigital) have turned up the volume on angry anti-patent rhetoric.

Patent owners of all shapes and sizes, including some operating companies, continue to be described in a variety of unfavorable terms, some of them unprintable.

On balance patents do much more good than harm, and the U.S. patent system, far from perfect, works well. It is responsible in part for spawning the most innovative companies in the world.

Many software developers, academic economists, CEOs and others, clinging to half-truths nurtured by myths and self-interest, believe that patents are anti-competitive, impede progress, tax consumers and line the pockets of lawyers.

“A Bull Market in Tech Patents, an article by Steve Lohr, veteran New York Times technology reporter, served to perpetuate the anti-IP myth. In it Lohr suggests that the patent gold rush has a darker side. “It is diverting money from innovation from industries crucial to the economic future of the United States.”

This is utter nonsense. Conclusions drawn in the article are likely based in part on what companies Lohr covers and analysts like Harvard professor Josh Lerner are telling him. Lerner is co-author of Innovation and Its Discontents, a strangely myopic book which I reviewed (skeptically) for Nature Biotechnology. It suggests that patents have become too strong and are destroying businesses, innovation and endangering lives.

*     *     *

What is it with patents that raises the ire of otherwise intelligent people?

One reason is that patents are highly abstract, “exclusive” rights that on occasion can stop speeding products cold. 

Patents are complex to understand, difficult to validate, dangerous to monetize, frustrating to value, and expensive to acquire and enforce. 

Their performance is almost impossible to measure. Infringing a patent often is easier and much cheaper than licensing it or conducting costly R&D to design around. And then the infringer has to get caught and prosecuted. For some businesses patent infringement settlements are like a speeding ticket. They pay it if they have to and go on their merry way. They may still be ahead billions of dollars had they done the the right  thing.

I am not a particular fan of Intellectual Ventures, a NPE which has acquired more than 35,000 patents. A recent NPR broadcast, “When Patents Attack,” is dramatic radio entertainment but shoddy journalism. It was aimed at exposing the evil patent system as embodied by I.V. I am a big fan of This American Life, so their feeble expose hit home. What were they thinking?

*     *     *

Often when a company believes it has the patents it needs to do business it does not. This can be painfully frustrating, and costly. It is the nature of business innovation, predating Alexander Graham Bell and Edison. Smart companies do their best prevent infringement by searching prior art and planning for the inevitable disputes. They also build a patent portfolio that can provide some leverage against operating companies. Frustration of this kind does not mean that invention rights are evil or counter to most Americans’ economic interests. The Founding Fathers thought IP rights served an important purpose, writing them into the U.S. Constitution before the right to raise and support a standing army and the right to declare war.

The fact that some companies are finally respecting patents is not only good for shareholder value, it can provide a boost to innovation. Now that the patent playing field is actually starting to level, some businesses are having trouble adapting A number of companies with abundant numbers of patents would still like to see them weakened, in general, and threats to their franchise diminished.

The pricing of the Nortel and Motorola patent portfolios got out of hand because some companies thought they could provide next generation mobile or 4G products and services without the necessary IP rights. They were wrong. Brand power is mighty, but it still is no match for the right patents. When businesses need to catch up quickly, the market extracts a pricing premium. Research in Motion paid for its IP mistakes in 2006 when it wrote a check for $612.5 million to settle an infringement suit. (Reportedly it could have settled for some $40m several years earlier.) Microsoft paid dearly in the 1990s for its mistakes, but had the luxury of time to catch up.

Google did not. Facebook, LinkedIn and Groupon with a dozen or fewer patents each, will not be far behind.

Costly as it may appear, IT companies are learning that it is often more efficient to pay a premium for proven rights that they must have than spend billions, plus years of time, on hundreds of speculative inventions and their questionable rights that may some day have value. The pharmaceutical industry is well acquainted with the need to conduct M&A along with its R&D.

Maybe there is a lesson here: A buyer really doesn’t know if it has overpaid until all of the accounting is in. For some cash-rich and credit-worthy companies, buying patents at a premium that will shape a market, slow competition or deflect litigation or a possible injunction is less lazy a decision than a prudent investment.

Those who encourage disdain for innovation rights because of some businesses’ lack planning or scruples (or both), or because independent patent holders today are better equipped to confront infringers, are doing innovation and commerce both a disservice.

Image source: businesstm.com, engadget.com

“Patent Failure” Fails to Recognize Danger of Too Much Repair

A Reply to Professors Bessen and Meurer’s Book About the Difficulty of Perfecting the Patent System

By Roya Ghafele and Benjamin Gibert

The publication of Patent Failure: How Judges, Bureaucrats and Lawyers Put Innovators at Risk (Princeton University Press, 2008) by James Bessen and Michael Meurer challenged the conventional wisdom on the relationship between patents and innovation.

The authors basically posit that the poor boundary definitions of patents result in over-litigation. Arguing that the costs of litigation create disincentives for innovators, Bessen and Meurer suggest that the IP system has fundamentally failed as a system of property rights for public firms in the USA. Industry analysts and public commentators have jumped on the findings to justify various positions in patent reform debates. Patrick Anderson and Joff Wild have already responded to some of the shortcomings in the Patent Failure study, particularly with regard to the interplay between infringement suits, stock prices and NPEs.

Assessing the Damage

Bessen and Meurer have clearly taken a leaf from their own book. The conclusion that badly defined patent scope results in costly litigation is based on narrow definitions of patent trolls, public firms, high-technology industries and litigation costs. While this narrow scope is necessary to make their analysis feasible, the accompanying qualifications to their conclusions seem to have been lost in the ensuing storm. Patents do still provide incentives to individual inventors and to the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. They are also likely to provide positive incentives for private firms operating in multiple sectors. Yet, round after round of Chinese whispers has morphed the study into a declaration that the patent system is fundamentally broken, rather than an exploration of where it is challenged, why it faces problems and how we can solve them.

That major high-technology firms supported the study, which concluded that patents on software are too abstract and ill-defined, naturally raises some questions. It is not surprising that major software patent infringers would welcome a declaration of a broken patent system. However, regardless of funding, these types of studies still fulfill important roles: 1) they encourage debate on the efficacy of the current IP system; 2) they identify avenues for possible reform. Perhaps it is here that Bessen and Meurer have the most to offer.

Specialized courts such as the Federal Circuit have expanded their influence over patent law in the past twenty years. Whether or not this means patents no longer work, it is important to recognize this development and understand its impact in the USA. Identifying detailed mechanisms to render patent claims more transparent and improve patent search is another welcome contribution. Yet the suggestion that increased patent fees can reduce the number of patent applications may come at the cost of locking out smaller innovators and gearing the patent system towards large corporate actors.

No Easy Solutions

While the economic and philosophic underpinnings of Patent Failure are easy to follow and coherent, there seems to be less reflection about the possible consequences of their recommendations. Other suggestions, such as exemptions from infringement repayments when technology is invented independently from the patent owner, seem useful on the surface but may prove extremely difficult to implement in practice.

Perhaps Bessen and Meurer’s most important contribution is simply the idea that the patent system must recognize the limits of its grasp, regardless of whether we currently know how to set those limits. By recognizing these limits we can start to understand how national institutions can support patent law to fuel innovation in an era of new challenges and opportunities.

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Dr. Roya Ghafele is the Director of Oxfirst Limited, a boutique consulting firm focusing on the economics of innovation and IP. Within the University of Oxford, she holds Fellowships at the Said Business School, the Oxford Intellectual Property Research Centre and St. Cross College. Dr. Ghafele worked as an Economist with the U.N.’s World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  After having toured for five years as a ballet dancer she began her career in 2000 with McKinsey & Company. Dr. Ghafele is a consultant to Brody Berman Associates. roya.ghafele@oxfirst.com

Benjamin Gibert is a Research Associate with Oxfirst Ltd. Prior to joining the firm he was a research Associate in the University of Oxford where he graduated with distinction from Oxford and from Warwick University.
benjamin.gibert@oxfirst.com

Video: Smartphone Patent Fight is Also a War of Words

“What’s Going On?” says Google Chief Legal Officer About Collaborative Bidding –

The battle between Google (GOOG) and is smartphone rivals including Apple (AAPL) and Microsoft (MSFT) got more heated last week.

In a public statement flagged by Bloomberg TV Google Legal Officer David Drummond as saying: “Apple and Microsoft had been at each others’ throats, so when they get into bed together you have to wonder what’s going on.”

Google, with just 693 patents, recently added to its portfolio with a purchase of an additional 1,000 from IBM. It is not clear what those patents read on. Google and its competitors are actively interested in InterDigital’s (IDCC) heavily 4G portfolio.

Drummond said last week “Android’s success has yielded something else: a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, and other companies, waged through bogus patents.”

Steven Levy who wrote a book on Google, a latecomer to patent strategy, believes the public war of words may not be enough to fend off businesses holding patents the company needs.

Video source: Bloomberg


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