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China’s growth in European patent apps was three times the U.S. in 2017

The European Patent Office (EPO) 2017 annual report, recently published, revealed several surprising patent filing trends, including the rapid growth of China .

The People’s Republic of China filed 16.6% more applications last year than in 2016, three times more than the U.S., which filed 5.8% more.

The five most active patent filing companies were Huawei (China), Siemens (Germany), LG (Korea), Samsung (Korea) and Qualcomm (U.S.).

The U.S. comprised 26% of all European applications submitted in 2017; Japan 13%. German was the lead European filer with 15% of those coming from Europe and about 7% overall.

2017 European Patent Office Annual Report

Infographic with highlights of the EPO Annual Report 2017


After European patent filings dropped slightly in 2016 from 2015, they were up overall by 3.9% in 2017.

Top fields were Medical Technology, up 6.2%, and Digital Communication, up 5.7%. Transport was down 4.2%.

SMEs, individual inventors, universities and research institutions, comprised 31% of applications; larger enterprises 69%. Grants were up 10.1%. Among European nations, Denmark experience the greatest application growth, 13.1%

For the full 2017 EPO Annual Report, go here.

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Pace of patent litigation declines; 2018 applications still flat

Early indications are that U.S. patent litigation for 2018 is on track to be among the lowest in since 2005.

So far in 2018, approximately 555 patent infringement suits have been filed (3,330 on an annualized basis). This is off from a peak of 5,874 in 2015, or an average of 979 every two months. In 2005, the lowest litigation filing year in recent memory, there were just 2,582 suits. In 2017, there were 4,072. January and February are early indications, and there is time for the rate to increase.

According to statistics provided by intellectual property research firm Patexia, January 2018 patent applications came in at 27,720, just 631 higher than 2017, 27,089, which was the lowest year for that month since 2012. February applications are running behind last year, which came in at 28,329 for the same month. Final figures are not yet in.

This trend in patent applications and litigation has been accompanied by a flattening of Inter Partes Review (IPR) petitions filed. IPRs have been fairly level for the past three years, peaking in 2017 at 1,725. So far this year (through February) there have been approximately 250 IPRs filed, putting 2018 on track for about 1,500, slightly below the last two years on an annualized basis. No information on the number or percentage of instituted petitions was provided.

Litigation, IPRs and CBMs Filed to Date

IPRs and Litigation

Difficulty obtaining software and business methods patents are a likely reason for the drop in U.S. patent applications, as well as the increased difficulty defending patents. Patent uncertainty and decreased need for defendants to take a license or engage in licensing discussions, as well as the high cost of litigation, are possible reasons for an increase in IPRs.

For Patexia live litigation statistics, go here.

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E-cigarettes is the fastest growing patent class; followed by 3-D printing and machine learning

Vaping may not be a turn-on for everyone, but the fastest growing United States Patent and Trademark Office category over the past five years is e-cigarettes, with a compound annual growth rate of 45%.  

Much of e-cigarette growth, according to patent research company IFI Claims, who conducted the research, was in the subclass A24/47, “Simulated Smoking Devices.” The rapid growth within this classification may be due to full legalization of cannabis in some states, and prescription access in others.

Man smoking e-cigarette

Atria Client Services leads in this group with 90 published applications, followed by Philip Morris Products with 80.

The next fastest growing patent classification, with a five-year compound annual growth rate of 35%, is 3-D Printing. 2017 published application leaders in this area were General Electric (89), Xerox (78) and Boeing (50). HP Development came in at 48.

The third most active patent category at 34% was Machine Learning, sometimes known as artificial intelligence. Companies leading in predictive models and related areas include IBM (654), Microsoft (139) and Google (127). They were followed by LinkedIn, Facebook, Intel and Fujitsu.

Driverless Space is Active

Fourth from the top at 27% was Autonomous Vehicles, USPTO patent classification GO5D. Applications included automatic pilots for air and land vehicles. IBM was the leader in this category, too, with 80 published patent apps, followed by Ford Global Technologies (79), Shenzhen-based, SZ DJI Technology (63), followed by Toyota, Honda, GM and Bosch.

The remainder of the top eight looks like this: Moulding Materials, 27% (Boeing, 3M Innovative Properties, Saudi-based SABIC Global Technologies, Honda, Xerox, Nike and Hyundai); Hybrid Vehicles, 26% (Toyota, Ford, Hyundai, Honda, GM, Scania and Kia); Aerial Drones, 26%, (Boeing, Sikorsky, SZ DJI Technology, Airbus GmbH, Goodrich Airbust Ltd., and Bell Helicopter Textron); and Food, 24% (Nestec (related to Nestle), Abbott, Danone Group division, Nutricia, Dutch multinational DSM IP Assets, Malaysian-based sweetener producer, PureCircle, Conopco (Unilever) and Mars.) This classification is called “Foods, Foodstuffs or nonalcoholic beverages.”

For the complete “Eight Fast Growing Technologies” slide deck, go here.

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Why a $1.6B billion law suit for non-payment of royalties is not likely to affect Spotify’s March IPO

Spotify recently filed confidential plans for an initial public offering to take place on March 31 on the New York Stock Exchange were thrown a curve when it was sued by Wixen Music Publishing for damages of at least $1.6 billion and injunctive relief. 

Wixen accused the Swedish company of streaming thousands of its their artists songs without compensation. Wixen’s 2,000 members include Tom Petty, Neil Young, the Doors and the Beachboys, which Variety says represent between 1% and 5% of music streamed.

Spotify has an estimated valuation of about $19 billion and $3 billion in annual revenues. As of fall 2017, the leading streaming platform had accumulated 140 million regular users, including 60 million paid subscribers. Initially, its shares will trade privately, allowing some early investors to cash out.

It would be the first major company to carry out a direct listing, an unconventional way to pursue an IPO. Spotify plans to simply list its shares on the NYSE and let them trade, and, for now at least, will not raise additional capital.

Silver Lining?

Horacio Gutierrez, Spotify’s General Counsel, was recruited from Microsoft in 2016 where he learned the licensing business under the stewardship of Marshall Phelps, an IP licensing pioneer. Before establishing MS’s leading patent licensing program, Phelps helped generate more than $1billion in annual royalties for IBM.

My money is on Gutierrez to settle this suit in a timely manner and for Spotify to move on, uniquely positioned for success.

“Forcing Spotify to step up and enter into an agreement with a major publisher that is fairer to its artists may expose the streaming site to similar deals, but it will also solidify its reputation as the content leader amid streaming services,” an industry observer told IP CloseUp. “It will likely set a precedent for others industry deals of this nature and make it more difficult for Pandora, YouTube, and others to continue paying token royalties.”

Wixen’s lawsuit, reports Rolling Stone, follows several other lawsuits that have focused on Spotify’s alleged failure to pay [appropriate] royalties on a song’s musical composition. Recorded songs have two separate copyrights: The sound recording, which is typically owned by the record label, and the musical composition (also known as the “mechanical license”), which is owned by the songwriter and publisher.

In 2017, Spotify settled a class action brought by Cracker front-man and artists rights activist, David Lowery and another artist, for $43 million.

Proposed Changes

In the meantime, the Music Modernization Act, a bill introduced in the United States House of Representatives on December 21, would impact copyright holders suing over mechanical reproduction after Jan. 1, 2018, which helps explain the New Year’s Eve lawsuit filing.

“We are very disappointed that these services will retroactively get a free pass for actions that were previously illegal unless we actually file suit before Jan. 1, 2018,” said Wixen president Randall Wixen in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “Neither we nor our clients are interested in becoming litigants, but we have been faced with a choice of forfeiting rights and damages, or taking action at this time.”

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They shall overcome: Classic song’s copyright is invalidated by non-IP attorneys

The iconic protest song, “We Shall Overcome,” is now in the public domain after a small team of primarily non-IP lawyers succeeded in having its copyright invalidated.  

The settlement with publisher Ludlow Music, according to Law360, “which for decades charged fees for use of the civil rights anthem — came after nearly two years of class action litigation aimed at freeing the song from copyright protection.”

The suit, filed by the filmmakers behind “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and others who wanted to use the song, argued that “Overcome” was merely a repackaging of a century-old African-American spiritual, meaning it couldn’t be locked up with a copyright. Last fall, a New York    judge agreed.

Under the terms of the deal, Ludlow Music will return the licensing fees paid by the plaintiffs and will no longer claim a copyright to the song. The tune, the publisher said, will be “hereafter dedicated to the public domain.”

Free at Last

The copyright invalidation of “Overcome” is the latest victory for lawyers from Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP, whose focus is social justice, consumer protection and labor law, reported the newsletter, and is rapidly becoming the authority for lawsuits aimed at proving that a famous old song should be in the public domain.

Those lawyers, Randall S. Newman and Mark C. Rifkin, famously won a court order in 2015 over the ubiquitous “Happy Birthday to You,” eventually securing a similar public domain agreement and $14 million in repaid licensing fees. That victory led to the “Overcome” case, as well as another pending case challenging the copyright to “This Land Is Your Land.”

In a telephone interview with Law360, Newman and Rifkin said they hadn’t exactly set out to corner the market on freeing famous songs — neither had done much copyright work prior to these cases — but that they welcomed their newfound niche.

“Please don’t call us the caped crusaders of copyright,” Rifkin joked. “But somebody has to hold owners accountable for misuse of a copyright like we saw in these cases.”

For the full Law360 story and links, go here. 

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Royalty rates paid musicians decline for some streaming services

When it comes to getting paid, the bigger streaming service is not necessarily better for most musicians and song writers.

While the revenue and market share have grown for the leading streaming services, some significantly, the royalties paid to artists have been declining.

According to a recent article in The Trichordist, a publication dedicated to the protection of artists rights in the digital age, streaming royalties paid to artists declined in 2017.

The blog took snapshots from a major indie portfolio for 2017, 2016 and 2013. It found that “when streaming numbers grow, the per stream rate will drop.”

This data set is isolated to the calendar year 2016 and represents a label with an approximately 150 album catalog generating over 115 million streams, a fairly good sample size. All rates are gross before distribution fees.

Spotify was paying .00521 back in 2014, two years later the aggregate net average per play rate dropped to .00437 in 2016, a reduction of 16%, reports the Trichordist. The current effective per stream rate at Spotify has now dropped to 0.00397, a reduction of 9% since last year. This a cumulative reduction of 24% since 2014, which is an average decrease of 8% a year of the per stream rate.

Business Model Questions

“If the music business could set a per stream rate that allowed revenue growth, proportionate to consumption growth that would be a much better model,” said David Lowery, editor of The Trichordist and leader of the band Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven. Lowery teaches in the Music Business Certificate Program at Terry College of Business, University of Georgia.

A notable change from last year is that Pandora replaces YouTube with the greatest value gap of streams at 21.56% volume with only 7.86% of revenue. YouTube drops to 8.38% of volume with only 1.70% of revenue.

Indie Label Sample: 115 Million Streams

Top Players

Apple appears to be the lone streaming service that is growing both in market share and revenue, and is paying relatively high royalties. It accounts for 22.29% of the revenue on 10.48% of the streams, and pays approximately six-times the per-stream royalty rate of Pandora. (Apple’s iTunes is a direct purchase model, while Pandora offers a more radio-like format, which precludes on demand listener selection.)

More than 95% of the streams and 98% of the revenue were concentrated in the top ten companies. The top three, Spotify, Apple iTunes and Pandora, comprise about 80% of the streams for this representative catalogue and 82% of the total streaming revenue.

For The Trichordist‘s 2017 streaming sample, go here; 2016, here; and 2013 here.

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IP “literacy” matters – Ideas Matter promotes IP understanding for all

A basic literacy about IP rights is everyone’s responsibility. 

While at times complex, patents, copyrights, and trademarks can be widely understood if people are clear about their purpose and who they benefit.

Putting IP rights in perspective is serious business – especially given that knowledge-focused economies place an increasingly high premium on innovation, authorship, and brand.

Ideas Matter, a London-based consortium of IP holders and innovative businesses believes it is necessary to provide audiences more information about why IP rights are important and how it affects people. Recently, it teamed with the Center for IP Understanding at the IP Awareness Summitt in Chicago, to produce a video about the need for everyone to know more about IP rights.

“I think the economies of the world have realized that the market is controlled by innovation and invention,” said Judge Randall Rader (ret.), Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. “That requires research, that requires development of new ideas and resources, and, of course, those investments need protection.  That’s where the intellectual property system pays benefits.”

Ideas Matter released a video of interviews with IP experts and holders conducted at the IP Awareness Summit in Chicago. IPAS 2017 was held by the Center for IP Awareness (CIPU) in conjunction with Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology.

For background about the video and Ideas Matter, go here. Twitter: @IP_IdeasMatter.

To view the five-minute video, go here or click on the image above.

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44% of top U.S. patentees for 2017 are U.S. companies; 50% are Asian

Many companies received more U.S. patents in 2017; IBM, the perennial leader, was number one for the 25th year. However, there were some notable declines in patent grants.

Canon, Qualcomm and Google were down 10%, 9% and 13% respectively. It is difficult to determine if it is as a result of poor company performance or a shift toward higher quality. Toshiba 20%, Philips 15% and Brother Industries 24%. The grant results were provided by IFI Claims. They also were reported in Law 360. Facebook at number 50 was up 49%, but on a much lower base; Toyota was up 36%, an indication that the automobile companies may be positioning themselves in autonomous vehicles and batteries for electric cars.

(Click on image for the entire list or go to IFI Claims at the link above.)

What does it mean?

Interpreting this data is not simple. Clearly, more is not necessarily better, and some patent recipients, like IBM, up 12% in 2017, frequently do not hold their grants to term. (Samsung, the largest U.S. patent holder, is a much larger active holder than IBM.)

But being able to afford patents and obtaining them with a purpose is typically a positive among information technology companies. Only 22 of the top 50 U.S. patent recipients are U.S. companies, down from a decade or more ago. Fifteen are Japanese, five Korean and four Chinese. (One is from Taiwan.) European businesses accounted for four companies on the 2017 list – the same as the number as China without Taiwan, and one fewer than Korea.

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IPCU readers get $200 off 10th IP Corporate Counsel Forum in NY

The 10th annual Corporate IP Counsel Forum will take place this year March 14-15 at the Sheraton Times Square in New York.

The keynote address will be delivered by Hon. Paul R. Michel, Chief Judge for the United States the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, 2005-2010, ret; Circuit Judge, 1988-2010. Judge Michel is known as a strong advocate of improving the patent system and patent quality.

Judge Michel will address the controversies and issues surrounding the patent system, especially how to address patent enforcement quality in an era of greater IP uncertainty. The title of his talk is “Explore the Future of the AIA.”

Among other issues, Judge Michel will consider:

  • What must be learned from the past to make necessary adjustments in order to spur adequate private investment in R&D and commercialization, and to create new jobs and prosperity.

Leading IP Holders

Other Corporate IP Counsel Forum presenters and attendees include senior IP executives from JP Morgan Chase, General Electric Corporation, NCR Corporation, Royal Philips, Coty, Inc., Intel and Mastercard Woldwide, the Clearing House Payments Company (a global association of leading banks) and Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation – WARF.

IP CloseUp readers who register by February receive a $200 discount on the conference fee. Use conference code IPC2XX.

For the program and full speaker list, go here

To register, go here

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IP CloseUp visits up 26% in 2017; page views up 31%; readers drawn from 134 nations and territories

IP CloseUp, the blog of IP perspective, research, and people, grew in 2017 to more than 56,000 views and 44,000 visits, up 26% and 31% respectively from 2016.

Now in its seventh year, IPCU was read in 134 nations and territories in 2017. The top ten readers were the U.S., Canada, India, UK, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, South Korea, Taiwan, and France.  They were followed by the Netherlands, Japan, and China.

The most active month in 2017 was January, with 20,357 views. IPCU averaged a post a week and generated 52 posts for the year. Posts typically include links that make further research and exploration easier.

Since its inception in 2011, there have been more than 120,000 visits to IP CloseUp and 176,000 page views.

The most read post this year was about Robert Kearns, inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper, who was forced to sue U.S. and other automobile companies in the 1980s for patent infringement. The Kearns post generated 17,548 visits in January. A subsequent Kearns post published in 2016 can be found here.

IP CloseUp coverage includes patents, as well as copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets. Subscriptions are free. IPCU can also be followed on Twitter @ipcloseup.

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2018 in focus: Videos from IP Awareness Summit explore better IP understanding

The IP Awareness Summit 2017 was the first IP event to focus on perception and awareness of intellectual rights and their impact.

Videos of panel discussions, held at Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology on November 6, have been posted to YouTube and the IPAS event website.

More than a record of the Summit, these videos move the IP awareness discussion to a new level, and are worth perusing whether or not you attended IPAS. (Some observers choose to view/listen while multi-tasking.)

IP Erosion

The presentations include economist and entrepreneur David Teece’s keynote, “IP Erosion: A Growing Threat to U.S. Economic Leadership.”

To access the IP Awareness YouTube channel, please enter “IP Awareness” on YouTube, or go here.

Panelists and their current or prior affiliations are identified on YouTube, beneath the videos.

All eight videos are centralized and can be accessed from the IPAS 2017 website, here. 

For specific IPAS panels, click or tap below.

IP Education Today

Identifying Good and Bad IP Behavior (intro)

Identifying Good and Bad IP Behavior (panel)

IP and Theft: The High Cost of Confusion

Keynote – David Teece, The Tusher Center, UC Berkeley-Haas School of Business
“IP Rights Erosion: A Growing Threat to U.S. Economic Leadership”

Media Coverage and IP

Making IP Awareness a Higher Priority

Breakouts: Impediments to IP Understanding


Feel free to tweet, post or otherwise share the IPAS YouTube videos with others. You can also send your thoughts and comments to


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RPX buyout rumors set share price at a 27% premium, or $800M

Shares of RPX (RPXC) opened today at $13.88, up 2.81%, after rising 5.6% last Wednesday on rumors from two sources that the defensive patent aggregator is a takeover target.

Richard Lloyd of the IAM blog broke the story on December 12, saying the a private group had offered $16.25 per share for the company, or $800 million, a 27% premium.

But some observers doubt whether RPX can fetch that high of a premium. Don Lonkevetch writing in this morning’s Patent Investor said:

“That’s because San Francisco-based RPX’s business has been hurt by its own past success in combatting non-practicing entities and the overall decline in patent litigation since the American Invents Act of 2011 made it cheaper and easier for companies to invalidate patents…

“As a result, big tech companies who have been among RPX’s biggest clients have grown increasingly reluctant to rely on RPX to put together syndicates to keep patents out of the hands of NPEs.”

The Patent Investor cites an anonymous source familiar with RPX (short for Rational Patent Exchange) who suggests  the company is worth about $12 per share.

Below IPO Price

RPX is already up about 24% this year, but is still trading well below its 2011 IPO price of $19 per share. Founding CEO John Amster left the company earlier this year after his suggestion to take the company private at $11 per share were nixed.

Baird analyst Jeffrey Meuler reiterated his Outperform rating last week and $15 price target on RPX Corp.

Earlier in the year, on March 8, CNA Finance reported that “Early this morning, stories started breaking that RPX Corp may soon be acquired. In fact, according to some of the reports, the company has received several offers from private equity companies to take it out of the public sector.”

On that day RPX shares rose 15%. Thus far, the RPX board has not commented.

If RPX were to be acquired at a significant premium to its current $668 million market capitalization, it would be a boost of confidence not only for the company’s shares and public IP companies (PIPCOs), but for patent holders in general. It could be a signal that patent values are headed higher.

On Thursday, USPTO Director Nominee Andrei Iancu was unanimously approved by Senate Judiciary Committee, signaling a further distance from the Michelle Lee-led USPTO that saw a dramatic rise in invalidations before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.

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