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Gene-editing break-through: can a collision of science, ethics and (patent) ownership be avoided?

The USPTO decided in February that the rightful intellectual property owner of CRISPR in eukaryotes, a time-saving tool that makes it cheaper and easier to edit gene sequences, should be Feng Zhang, Ph.D., and The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, not Jennifer Doudna, Ph.D., and the University of California, Berkley, who had conducted the earlier research.

However, Doudna and her team, which included Emmanuelle Charpentier, now with Max Planck Institute in Berlin, are on track to obtain a European patent for CRISPR. They recently filed an appeal against the USPTO’s decision, setting the stage for a showdown.

CRISPR will allow an organism’s DNA to become “almost as editable as a simple piece of text.” Using CRISPR, scientists will have the capacity to alter, insert and delete genes in plants, animals and, even in humans.

The implications are very big indeed, both in terms of science and profits, and, especially, ethics. Universities and businesses stand to generate potentially billions of dollars. Medical research will never be the same.

[For a good description of how CRISPR-Cas9 works, go here. ]

The battle lines are being drawn to determine the rightful owner of aspects of the development: Berkeley and Dr. Charpentier vs. Broad Institute/MIT and Harvard. It could mean an eventual pay-out of billions of dollars.

World-Changing

In 2012, Cal biochemistry and molecular biology professor Jennifer Doudna and microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier, now of the Max Planck Institute, changed the world. They invented CRISPR-Cas9 (as opposed to eukaryotes, which is any organism with a nucleus enclosed in membranes), a gene editing tool that uses a protein found in Streptococcus bacteria to chop up and rearrange viral DNA with precision.

“The implications of the technology were immediately apparent, astonishing, and perhaps just a wee bit scary.” 

“The implications of the technology were immediately apparent, astonishing, and perhaps just a wee bit scary,” reports California Magazine. “Ultimately, CRISPR applications might be developed to wipe out genetic diseases, produce bespoke bacteria that could pump out everything from hormones to biofuels, and engineer exotic animal chimeras.”

It is one thing to use an editor to eliminate genetic mutations, such as those found in sickle-cell anemia, writes the Wall Street Journal, however, “it is quite another thing to edit the germ line—that is, to make changes that would be passed on to future offspring.

“Would it be permissible, Ms. Doudna asks, to lower an unborn child’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease? If so, would it also be permissible to edit for greater intelligence or athleticism or even, say, for a particular hair color? While all such uses would ultimately require regulatory and institutional review, it is the notion of building a social consensus that is particularly fraught.”

The three main researchers involved in these patent cases have developed their own companies that focus on CRISPR: Doudna developed Intellia Therapeutics, Zhang developed Editas Medicine and Charpentier, now at a Director at Max Planck’s Infection Biology, developed CRISPR Therapeutics. So, both universities and businesses stand to benefit.

These university-based cases often result in sharing through cross-licensing. Remicade, for example, a highly successful biologic for treating auto-immune responses like Crohn’s disease which has generated over a $1 billion so far, has multiple university participants, but is primarily owned by NYU.

Who Benefits?

Yet another question that is raised: Is it right for highly endowed universities like Harvard to get richer as a result of government-funded research? Almost 70% of university research is provided by the U.S. government. Harvard’s 2016 endowment was $36.4 billion.

With the potential impact on society so great, patents may play much more than a financial role. They depending who controls them, they may turn out to be the lynch-pin for ethical application of advanced gene-editing.

In the most interesting chapters of her new book, “A Crack in Creation,” Ms. Doudna wrestles with her ambivalence about the tool she has helped create. She concludes that she no longer feels comfortable operating inside her “familiar scientific bubble”: She must take on a role as a public citizen and address not just the power of gene editing but the ethics of it. At stake, she believes, is “nothing less than the future of our world.”

Image source: bloomberg.com; rsb.org.uk

Startup mentored by Brody/Berman and Center for IP Understanding (CIPU) is LES Business Plan Winner

Takachar, a small business working with farmers in Kenya to develop an inexpensive, ecologic method for turning biomass (waste) into fuel, is the Global Winner of the 2017 Licensing Executives Society (LES) Business Plan Competition.

The company, led by Kevin S. Kung, an MIT doctoral student, was mentored in the Business Plan Competition by Bruce Berman, CEO of Brody Berman Associates and President of the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU), an independent, non-profit.

Takachar’s unique IP strategy provides farmers free open-source technology, followed by patents licensed to the company exclusively by MIT, trade secrets and trademarks. The goal is to provide affordable franchises in Africa, India and other parts of the world, where economical sources of fuel are crucial to the success of small farms and disposing biomass is a challenge.

The Global LES Business Plan winner receives a $5,000 cash award and in-kind IP support. For more information about Takachar, go here.

Second Global Winner

Berman also mentored the 2016 LES Business Plan global winner, Fruti-Cycle Project, an Ugandan start-up that provides affordable, portable refrigeration for delivering produce to market faster and with less spoilage. For more information about Fruti-Cycle, go here.

“It is a privilege to work with innovative and ambitious young people, like Kevin and Nelson,” said Berman, who has 25 years of IP consulting experience. “They have the right combination of vision, technical skill and tenacity to turn original ideas into businesses that provide timely products and solutions. Takachar and Fruti-Cycle Project are good examples of utilizing integrated IP rights strategies in diverse parts of the world.”

Takachar Strategy

Image source: Takachar

Michelle Lee to keynote “Patents for Financial Services Summit,” 7/19

The 14th Annual Patents for Financial Services Summit being held July 19-20 at the Sheraton Times Square Hotel will examine recent developments affecting banks and other financial institutions. 

The featured speaker for 2017 is Michelle K. Lee, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director, United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Ms. Lee will address “The Current State of U.S. Patent Law.”

IP CloseUp readers can save $200. Use code IPCNYC. 

2017 program highlights include:

  • Consider the impact of recent and pending Supreme Court cases, including TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods (venue and forum shopping), SCA Hygiene Products AB et al. v. First Quality Baby Products LLC (the availability of the doctrine of laches as a defense in patent litigation), and of Impression Products Inc. v. Lexmark International Inc. (patent exhaustion)
  • Evaluate best practices in oral argument before the PTAB and pinpoint the necessary information to communicate in an efficient and complete manner
  • Identify where changes have occurred in patentability and if additional clarity is available
  • Provide practical advice for weighing the costs and value of opinions of counsel, including when they should be obtained and from whom
  • Review the law of patent eligibility as it relates to FinTech in a number of jurisdictions outside of the U.S., including Canada, Australia, Japan, Singapore, and China
  • Earn CLE: This program was designed to satisfy approximately 13 hours of Continuing Legal Education credit requirements and is appropriate for both newly admitted and experienced attorneys

For a full list of speakers, go here; for the conference agenda, here.

To register as an individual or group, please go here.

Image source: worldcongress.com

10th Intl Legal Alliance Summit in NY, June 15, will confer IP awards

The International Legal Alliance Summit & Awards will celebrate its tenth anniversary in New York on June 15, 2017 with approximately 500 in-house counsel and law firms from around the world.

Attendees will discuss such hot topics in domestic, cross-border and M&A intellectual property issues as IP strategies, patent eligibility and IP portfolio management. They will also be present to see honors awarded to the best legal departments and law firms in their respective fields.

Organized by Paris-based Leaders League, the interactive one-day program provided participants with networking opportunities by way of one-to-one meetings, expert-lead roundtables, and seated lunch and dinner and cocktail receptions.

The General Counsel Awards recognized the best legal, tax and intellectual property in-house departments, while the Law Firm Awards Ceremony in the evening will celebrate the best performing independent law firms. For nine years, the International Legal Alliance Summit & Awards has supported the players of the legal industry in the search of expertise, networking and achievement.

Fifty legal department from large international companies will run for the victory during the networking lunch and 150 law firms from more than 25 countries during the gala dinner.

Corporate IP Counsel

Speakers include senior counsel and IP executives from IBM, Philips, Microsoft, Mondelez, Caterpillar, Samsung, Canon, L’Oreal, Total, Lufthansa, MetLife, UBS, Open Invention Network and The Clearing House associations of banks. For the full list of speakers, go here.

The International Legal Alliance Summit & Awards is pleased to present its 10th edition of the Expert Insights conferences. Over 70 outstanding international speakers debated on the latest issues the industry is facing and highlighted the new challenges to overcome with their experiences, knowledge and analysis

Traditional conferences, say the producers, leave to chance finding the best networking opportunities. By using the internet platform, attendees can schedule one-on-one meetings of their choice.

The Expert Insights Conferences are the opportunity to benefit from 60+ experts of the legal industry. The ILA Summit will feature 14 panel discussions

For the 2017 program, go here;

To register, go here.

Image source: www.ilasummit.com

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 free preview chapter (via Google), go here.

Image source: jontaplin.com

 

Fixing the patent system/ promoting jobs is focus of Capitol Hill event

An increasing number of experts say the U.S. has lost its edge in the battle to secure and defend meaningful patents that stimulate competition.

It is with making U.S. patents important again that “Promoting Innovation, Investment and Job Growth by Fixing America’s Patent System” is being held on Monday May 8 at the United States Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.

The invitation-only event hosted by the U.S. Chapter of the International IP Commercialization Counsel (IIPCC), will feature an all-star list of presenters from business, government and law.

Speakers Include

Dr. Carl J. Schramm, University Professor, Syracuse University; Former President of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship; Board Member IIPCC; David Kappos, Partner, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP; Former Under-Secretary of Commerce and Director of the USPTO; Q. Todd Dickinson, Senior Partner, Polsinelli, PC; Former Under-Secretary of Commerce and Director of the USPTO; Judge Randall Rader, Former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; Board Member IIPCC;  Judge Paul Michel, Former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; Charles Henry Giancarlo, Former CTO and Chief Development Officer Cisco Systems and former Managing Director Silver Lake Partners; Phil Johnson, Former Senior VP, Intellectual Property Strategy & Policy, Johnson & Johnson; Marshall Phelps, Vice-Chairman, Center for IP Understanding; former VP IP for Microsoft, IBM, Bob Pavey, Partner Emeritus, Morgenthaler Ventures; former Chairman of the National Venture Capital Association;

Manny W. Schecter, Chief Patent Counsel, IBM Corporation; Laurie C. Self, VP and Counsel, Governmental Affairs, Qualcomm; Bill Elkington, Chair & President Elect, LES USA and Canada; Senior Director, IP Management, Rockwell Collins; Orin Herskowitz, SVP of IP & Tech Transfer, Columbia University; Executive Director of Columbia Technology Ventures; Teaches ‘IP for Entrepreneurs’ in Columbia’s Engineering School; Professor Adam Mossoff, Director, Center for Protection of Intellectual Property, George Mason; Professor Jeffrey A Lefstin, Associate Academic Dean and Professor of Law, UC Hastings; Robert B. Aronoff,  U.S. Executive Director, International IP Commercialization Council; Managing Partner, Pluritas; Damon Matteo, CEO, Fulcrum Strategy; Robert P. Taylor, President, RPT Legal Strategies; Venture Advisor, New Enterprise Associates, Bruce Berman, Chairman, Center for IP Understanding; Publisher, IP CloseUp; Principal, Brody Berman Associates; Elvir Causevic, Managing Director, Houlihan Lokey Tech+IP Advisory, Art Monk, VP IP Transactions, TechInsights; Rob Sterne, Founding Director at Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox

Opening Panel

IP CloseUp publisher and editor, and Center for Intellectual Property Understanding Chairman, Bruce Berman, is moderating the opening panel at 2:00 pm: The business impact of IP uncertainty and negative attitudes. Panelists include:

  • Manny W. Schecter (IBM)
  • Phil Johnson (J&J)
  • Marshall Phelps (Center for IP Understanding)
  • Laurie Self (Qualcomm)
  • Bob Pavey (Morgenthaler Ventures)

“Our patent system may no longer be providing the protection and incentives necessary to entice investors and entrepreneurs to assume the enormous risks that inhere in the creation of many new technologies and new companies,” said Rob Aronoff, IIPCC U.S. Chapter Chair.

“In recent years patent reform initiative have resulted in significant unintended consequences, including a decline in the reliability of patents is contributing to a waning of entrepreneurial energy and a decline in the risk tolerance of American investors and entrepreneurs.

Profound Implications

“This shift has profound implications for the long-term U.S. economy, as China, Korea, Germany and other countries expand the role that patents play in their economies with ambitious plans to displace American dominance of technology in the years to come. This program will explore the direct and essential role that strong and enforceable ‘good patents’ play in allowing investors and entrepreneurs to justify the high levels of risk that drive innovation.”

Conference sponsors include Houlihan Lokey, TechInsights, Qualcomm and Pluritas.

Partners include IAM Magazine, the Licensing Executives Society, the Center for IP Understanding, USIJ Alliance for Startups & Inventors for Jobs and IP CloseUp.

For more information, go here.

Those interested in attending can request and invitation, availability permitting, by emailing rob.aronoff@iipcc.org.

Image source: iipcc.org; west-windsor-plainsboro.k12.nj.edu

 

 

Philanthropist & patent licensing pioneer, Eugene Lang, dead at 98

One of America’s most successful and charitable patent licensing strategists passed away last week. 

Eugene M. Lang, describe as “an American folk hero” for his generous philanthropy, grew up on Manhattan’s East 83rd Street in a $12 per month railroad flat.

He went on to donate more than $150 million to charities and institutions during his lifetime for educational causes, including the I Have a Dream Foundation, which he established in 1981; the Eugene Lang College, part of the New School in Manhattan; the Eugene M. Lang Center for Entrepreneurship at Columbia University School of Business; and Swarthmore College, which he entered at 15 on a scholarship.

Much of Lang’s fortune was derived from the Refac Technology Development Corporation, it was reported in his obituary, a public company he founded in 1952 that specialized in the licensing of patents and financing high-tech ventures.

Thousands of Suits

“REFAC held patents relating to LCDs, ATMs, credit card verification systems, bar code scanners, VCRs, cassette players, camcorders, electronic keyboards, and spreadsheets,” reports Wikipedia, “and filed thousands of lawsuits against other corporations to secure licensing fees or out-of-court settlements, a business practice of some very large corporations such as Microsoft and Google as well as large startups such as Intellectual Ventures, and sometimes criticized as patent trolling.

Some considered Refac International Ltd., known for suing thousands of big and small companies to protect its patents, the model on which other non-practicing entities (NPEs) were based. In 1990, the company was chastised by a federal appeals court in Washington after losing a major lawsuit it filed against 118 Southern California companies selling products with liquid crystal displays.

The New York Times reported that Refac — the name stands for resources and facilities — had made much of its money “by aggressively filing patent infringement suits against companies like IBM and Eastman Kodak and retailers like R.H. Macy and Radio Shack on behalf of inventors of a wide range of products: liquid crystal displays, automated teller machines, bar-code warning systems and spreadsheet software.”

In a letter to The Times [valuable for its historical and factual content], Mr. Lang called the article “grossly distorted” and pointed out that most of the clients represented in lawsuits had sought out Refac after offering licenses to the corporations for their inventions and being turned down.

He illustrated his argument by citing the inventor of the laser who had tried to get industry to recognize his role and succeeded only after Refac won validation of his patents in the courts.

“For Refac, the drama of litigation began in 1975 when Gordon Gould, after battling industry opposition since 1959, asked us to represent his claims as inventor of the laser,” wrote Lang.

“Concluding that Mr. Gould’s claims had genuine merit, Refac, against all odds, accepted the challenge. It took until 1987 and some $4 million, but the courts finally validated every patent of Mr. Gould’s. Despite vituperative reactions from the laser industry – analogous to quotations cited in your article – claims that in 1975 might have been labeled ”all but worthless” now generate annual royalties in excess of $12 million.

Impulsive Gesture

A self-made businessman who flew coach class and traveled on subways and buses, Lang is best remembered for his impulsive gesture in June 1981, when he was invited to deliver the commencement address to 61 sixth graders at Public School 121 on East 103rd Street in Spanish Harlem. He had attended P.S. 121 as a boy 50 years earlier.

He made himself personally available to the students, counseling them when they faced obstacles such as teen pregnancy, addiction, and delinquency. He cheered them at their graduations and helped arrange for jobs. When a student was incarcerated at Sing Sing, he helped him pursue college course work from prison.

In addition to his daughter, Jane Lang, a Washington lawyer and community activist, Lang is survived by two sons, David and the film and stage actor Stephen Lang (Avatar, Conan the Barbarian, Gettysburg); a sister, Barbara Lang; eight grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton awarded Mr. Lang the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

For more information about the Eugene M. Lang Foundation, go here.

Image source: thenewschoolhistory.org; newsworks.org

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

Center for IP Understanding is started by leading IP execs to raise awareness, improve attitudes

The Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU), an independent, unaffiliated non-profit dedicated to increasing IP awareness and improving negative attitudes towards patents, copyrights and other rights, was launched in New York last week. 

As reported in IAM, Law 360, World IP Review and other publications, the non-profit Center for IP Understanding was founded to address the uncertainty among audiences regarding patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets — especially who do they benefit and their impact on new ideas and jobs.

“[The Centre’s] creation is in many ways a response to the battering that IP’s public image has taken over the last several years,” reported IAM blog, “particularly in the US. In that time a series of Supreme Court cipulogodecisions are widely seen to have undermined patent rights; the idea of efficient infringement has taken root; and the ‘patent troll’ narrative has gained wider traction in many parts the media.”

Outreach

Executives and advisors involved in CIPU on the board of directors or as informal advisors include Marshall Phelps (Microsoft, IBM, retired), Brian Hinman (Philips, active), Keith Bergelt (Open Invention Network, CEO), Harry Gwinnell (Cargill, Eastman Chemical, retired), and trade secret expert James Pooley (Orrick).

Also helpful in getting CIPU underway were Judge Paul Michel (Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, retire), David Kappos (Commissioner of the USPTO, retired) and film producer and author Irv Rappaport, former chief patent counsel at Apple and Medtronic, who has generated more than 20 patents, and Jonathan Taplin, a film producer, author and Director Emeritus of the Annenberg Innovation Lab a the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Among the CIPU’s goals for 2017 are a survey of IP awareness and attitudes among the general public and business owners; a research report on trends in media coverage of patent disputes; and a possible joint conference with Duke University on Innovation Policy.

The Center for IP Understanding also plans to provide outreach to educators, parents and business that help to facilitate better IP behavior.

Cultural Shift

“We have entered the ‘free-information’ era, where online content and patented inventions are readily pocketed by those who would never dream of shoplifting,” said Bruce Berman, CIPU Chairman, and CEO of Brody Berman Associates. “Products like music, books, novel designs, inventions and counterfeit goods appear to be there for the taking – or feel as if they should be. Uncertainty about what IP rights cover and their appropriate use compound the problem. CIPU will address these and other issues.”

“IP confusion is costly for consumers and businesses alike,” said Vice-Chairman Marshall Phelps, who is a member of the IP Hall of Fame. “Free-riders – unauthorized users of IP-protected products and works – come in many shapes and sizes. They impact performance and investment, as well as job creation. IP awareness and acceptable behaviors are too important to be left to audiences to decide on their own.”

For the IAM story go here.

For the Law 360 article go here.

For the full launch announcement go here.

For more information about the Center for IP Understanding, please visit www.UnderstandingIP.org. 

Image source: The Center for IP Understanding

InterDigital leads PIPX public IP stock index to a 44.9% gain for 2016

The PIPX public IP licensing company stock index soared to a 44.9% increase in 2016, led by an impressive 86.3% move for InterDigital.

With a market capital in excess of $3 billion, InterDigtal (IDCC) led the value weighted PIPX with another stellar performance.  Poor performers for the year included Neonode (-27.3%, NEON), ParkerVision (-20.0%, PRKR) and VirnetX (-14.4%, VHC), who made less of a dent in overall PIPX performance because of their lack of market value. The S&P 500 stock index for the year was up 9.5%, a significant portion in the 4Q following November’s presidential election.

“For Q4 the PIPX index was up 11.2% after a remarkable 20.4% in Q3,” noted Dr. Kevin Klein, Vice President and GM of Products and Licensing at VORAGO Technologies, who compiled the IP stock performance data for IP CloseUp. “Pendrell underwent a reverse 1:10 split during Q4, as have several other of the smaller companies in the index, another example of the their shrinking share price and market capitalization.”

percentage-change-2016-4q-figure-3-jpeg

The imminent departure of President Obama, an advocate of weaker patents, and the election of Donald Trump, a strong supporter of proprietary content and brand, also may have had something to do with strong 4Q performance for the PIPX.

Despite the over all gains for year and quarter, Marathon (MARA) and ParkerVision were down 38.8% and 56.3% respectively in the 4Q, and were up 7.5% and down 20.0% for the year. Litigation developments were likely influences.

For both the year and 4Q, performance for InterDigital Tessera (TSRA) and Acacia (ACTG) accounted for all the PIPX gain and offset some of the losses from the smaller component companies.

4q2016graph

“InterDigital, Tessera, and Rambus (RMBS) continue to drive the recent growth in the index and make up an ever-increasing share of the index,” stated Dr. Klein. “These three companies accounted for 37% of the total value of the index at the inception in 2011, today they make up over 80% of the total value of the index. InterDigital alone now accounts for over 40%, up from 15% at inception.”

Change in value of PIPX component companies 2011-2016

4q-figure-4-jpeg

 

Five Years of Data

After more than five full years of tracking, the PIPX seems to be suggesting that a handful of strong IP licensing companies are getting stronger and the weaker (smaller) ones are becoming more volatile.

For the full 2016 and 4Q PIPX report, go here.

 Image source: PIPX IP Stock Index

 

IP CloseUp visits were up 81% in 2016, breaking previous record

It was the second record-breaking year in a row for IP CloseUp readership, with 43,946 visits in 2016, an 81% increase from 24,273 in 2015. The previous record increase was 31% in 2015, up from 2014.

The most popular51yeitvgpal post was “Kearns’ son still fuming over wiper blade suit,” with 21,652 views. Other popular posts included “For Samsung charity begins at home, Marshall, TX,” coming in with 5,464.

The Kearns article, detailing his 12-year patent suit with Ford and other auto companies, has generated 31,081 hits since it was originally posted in 2011.

Renewed interest in the Kearns biopic detailing the inventor’s patent suit, “Flash of Genius,” starring Greg Kinnear and Alan Alda, likely stimulated interest in the topic, as well as new obstacles to patent licensing.

 

Image source: amazon.com; hippajournal.com

 

Inventor Kearns’ fight with Ford & other auto cos is 2016’s most read IP CloseUp post; 20,000+ visitors

An article summarizing inventor Robert Kearns’ epic battle against the automobile industry is this year’s most read IP CloseUp post with more than 21,000 visits.

The post summarizes the twelve-year patent suit mounted by Kearns, the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper, against Ford and much of the automobile industry in the 1980s and 1990s, for stealing his invention.

“Kearns’ Son Still Fuming Over Wiper Blade Fight” generated 21,374 visits thus far in 2016, up from 6,928 in 2015. Total visits are over 30,000, which makes it the most read of almost 300 IPCU posts.

What about this story resonates with readers?

It could have something to do with the 2008 movie, Flash of Genius, that memorialized Kearns’ battle and depicted how it contributed to his mental breakdown and loss of his family.

Bittersweet Victory

Flash of Genius, starring Greg Kinnear as Robert Kearns and Alan Alda, as Gregory Lawson, his ambiguous attorney, opened to mixed but generally positive reviews (59% Tomato Meter; 55% Audience Score). It had a $20 million budget but grossed just $4.8 million at the box office. (Alda, of M*A*S*H fame, BTW, is a champion of understanding science 51yeitvgpaland innovation, and founded the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.)

The movie has many fans. I suspect that when it it is streamed or runs on a movie channel curious viewers run to Google hopeful of learning more about the enigmatic Kearns and his dispute with auto giants. It pitted him as David to their Goliath. (Thanksgiving weekend alone, which is prime movie-watching time, there were more than 1,500 visits to the post on IPCU.)

Even though Kearns eventually won significant awards, $10.2 million from Ford, and a total of $30 million from Chrysler, it is easy to believe that the struggle, which cost him his family and affected his sanity, may not have been worth it.

Apparently, no one thought so except Kearns, a college professor, former cryptographer in WWII and officer at a U.S. agency that was the forerunner of the CIA. (See the link to his obituary on the original IP CloseUp post, above.)

High Search Ranking

The Kearns’ post’s popularity probably also has something to do with its high Google search ranking under Kearns’ iconic name. It’s the second item after a rather tepid Wikipedia entry.

Supporters of the film include Peter Travers, long-time film critic for Rolling Stone. He gave it three out of four stars, saying “Kinnear takes the star spot in Flash of Genius and rides it to glory… Kearns wasn’t a movie hero. His halting courtroom delivery lacked Hollywood histrionics. Kinnear plays him with blunt honesty, sagging under the weight of stress but maintaining a bulldog tenacity that would win the day. Was the battle worth it? Kearns’ conflict is readable in Kinnear’s every word and gesture. His performance is worth cheering”.

Stephen Holden of The New York Times called the film “a meticulously constructed mechanism, one that wants to convey the same mixture of idealism, obsession and paranoia found in whistle-blower movies like Silkwood and The Insider,” thought it “has the tone and texture of a well-made but forgettable television movie”.

Lead actor Greg Kinnear, who in the lead role is more likable than Kearns was, won the Boston Film Festival Best Actor Award for his portrayal.

kearns-familyThe Kearns story strikes a chord deep in everyone. It is a quintessentially American tale of the forward-thinking little guy against diverse array of nay-sayers, his family included. Kearns’ sincerity as an engineer who craved recognition for his work more than his financial security is not lost on audiences, who see Flash of Genius, weaknesses aside, as an emotional and somewhat cautionary tale that is difficult to forget.

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Whether it was ego, anger, greed, or a combination, that ultimately motivated Kearns to go as far as he did for as long, the inventor’s greatest accomplishment may not be the valuable device he created, which no doubt helped save lives, but his perseverance and drive to prove that it was stolen from him.

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Whether or not Kearns was selfish or unbalanced, patent holders have benefited from his trail-blazing determination and refusal to take settlement money when he needed it most.

Stacked Deck

The environment for inventors and innovative small businesses today who wish to license their rights is not much different from when Kearns fought his epic battles. In fact, the obstacles may be worse.

With “efficient” patent infringement the preferred strategy of many the leading technology companies today, and higher validity and patentability hurdles established by the Patent Trial and Appeal board and the courts, the deck continues to be stacked against IP holders – even those with the capital, time and patent quality to succeed.

[Note: A company that employs “efficient” infringement believes that it is highly unlikely it will be caught using an invention it is not entitled to, and if it does, it is unlikely that it will have to pay much. For them, choosing not to take a license unless forced to by the courts is in their view a prudent business decision, ethics aside.]

Flash of Genius is available from Amazon, iTunes and other sources, to stream, rent or buy. Recently, it became available to Netflix subscribers for free. The official movie trailer can be seen here.

For those interested in the topic of Kearns and independent inventing, the long and thoughtful 1993 New Yorker magazine article by John Seabrook on which the movie is based is not to be missed. It is available for free by going here.

To read the original Kearns post on IP CloseUp, go here.

Image source: allesantiago.wordpress.com; amazon.com

 

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