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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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China says it leads the U.S. in blockchain patents and investment

While China is no fan of bitcoin mining – it has moved to close mining operations – it is actively pursuing block chain patents, and is touting its leadership over the U.S.

China is the leading country for blockchain patents with Alibaba and PBOC on top, claims TechNode, a Chinese IP publication that partners with TechCrunch. Blockchain is a shared digital ledger that facilitates transactions, but whose practical application has yet to be determined. A wide range of U.S. financial institutions and technology companies are interested in blockchain, as well financial technology startups, many of whom have high valuations.

Out of the top 100 companies, reports TechNode citing Chinese data, 49 were Chinese, 23 from the US (see below for table of top 100 rankings). It is unclear if the leadership is in U.S. or China-issued patents, or both.

“An increasing number of companies in China are seeking ways to patent blockchain-related inventions, an effort that is in line with the Chinese government’s agenda to push forward with FinTech applications,” reports CoinDesk.

As reported by CoinDesk previously, major financial institutions, namely Bank of China, have already weighed in on issues such as blockchain scaling. (See “China’s Biggest Political Event Sees Blockchain Praise“)

China Blockchain Growth Exceeds the U.S.

IPRdaily, a Chinese language “integrated services organization focusing on new media for intellectual property and is committed to building the most influential IP cooperation platform in the world,” follows blockchain developments.

A report from IPRdaily – which is readily translated on Google Chrome browser – shows that blockchain financing growth in China far exceeds the United States, leading the world. The statistics show that as of December 17, 2017, the global total market capitalization of digital assets has reached 600 billion US dollars, compared with only 17.7 billion at the end of 2016. In less than a year, an increase of nearly 3300%.

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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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Study finds that black, hispanic and women inventors lack opportunity and role models

Economic hardship and lack of exposure to innovation are preventing minorities, low-income backgrounds and women from becoming inventors. 

Those are the findings of “Lost Einsteins: Innovation and Opportunity in American,” conducted by the Equality of Opportunity Project (EOP). The study was conducted by researchers from Stanford, Harvard, the London School of Economics and MIT.

EOP analyzed the lives of more than one million inventors in the United States to understand the factors that determine who becomes an inventor in America.

“If women, minorities, and children from low-income families invent at the same as high-income white men,” the study concluded, “the innovation rate in America would quadruple.”

Patent Grants vs. Patent Success

Dramatic differences in patent grants do not account for lack of patent success.

The report did not examine reasons for the failure of  “advantaged” inventors – those from better socio-economic background – to establish businesses, generate licenses and otherwise contribute successfully to innovation and technology. This may more likely be a result of weakened IP laws under the American Invents Act and a general lack of support for inventors, including those associated with corporate research departments and research institutions.

The study concluded that children who excelled in math were far more likely to become inventors but that being a math standout was not enough. Only the top students who also came from high-income families had a decent chance of becoming an inventor.

Low-income students who are among the very best math students – those who score in the top 5% of all third graders – are no more likely to become inventors than below-average math students from affluent families.

While minority inventors certainly should be nurtured, the high failure rate of innovators who had the benefit of and privilege raises serious questions about whether financial support and role-models are the only resources bright people from minority groups need to succeed.

The full Intangible Investor, “Minority Inventors ‘Lost,'” in the March IAM magazine, go here

Study documents for the Equal Opportunity Project – including an executive summary, slides and a paper – can be found here

For the summary slides alone, from which the above images were generated, go here.

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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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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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Short-term thinking about intellectual capital weakens the U.S.’ ability to compete

A well-known economist and entrepreneur, whose work has been cited more than 120,000 times as tracked by Google Scholar, says that businesses and managers who fail to properly acknowledge the contribution of intellectual capital, including IP rights like patents and trade secrets, are dangerously short-sighted. 

David Teece, Director of the Tusher Center for the Management of Intellectual Capital, at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, says “We are at a critical junction in the evolution of our society and the economy. If we continue to protect and reward just the production of tangible goods (objects), while short-changing intangibles (ideas, inventions, creative-works, know-how, relationships, etc.), we will be out of step with technological progress and the march of civilization.

“Economies will eventually stutter if the creation of intangibles is compromised through poorly designed and weakly enforced intellectual property rules.”

Brief and Keynote

These remarks were part of a brief he wrote for the Tusher Center, which can be found here. He delivered more detailed remarks as the keynote at the first IP Awareness Summit in Chicago in November. The title of his talk was “IP Rights Erosion: A Growing Threat to U.S. Economic Leadership.” For the complete Intangible Investor column, “Short-changing intangibles – is risky business,” in the January IAM magazine, out this week, go here.

Dr. Teece believes that improving awareness of and attitudes towards intangible assets ought be part of industrial and innovation policy debates. “Nations that rely on creativity,” he says, “must be vigilante in maintaining systems that permit innovation, authorship and creativity to thrive.”

For the outline of Dr. Teece’s talk, go “IP Rights Erosion: A Growing Threat to U.S. Economic Leadership.”

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Update: 62 weird but strangely useful facts about bitcoin

$100 invested in bitcoin in July 2010 is worth about $6M today. For many, it is still unclear if blockchain is a viable alternative currency, an investment or a scheme that has made some people rich.

One Bitcoin today currently equals $7,416.88, up from under $500 over a year ago.

With those multiples you can see why patent and other IP holders are highly interested in the future not only of bitcoin, but other blockchain based crypto-currencies and transaction platforms. If bitcoin, which started it all, is far from perfect, blockchain, the technology that provides its basic infrastructure, can be seen as bitcoin 2.0.

The number of cryptocurrency and blockchain-related patent applications being submitted and published in the US has nearly doubled in 2017, reports Coin Desk.

Data from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database indicates that there were 390 patent applications related broadly to blockchain technology published between January and July of this year.

“Overall, this represents a 90% increase compared to the same period in 2016, when 204 applications were sent to the USPTO,” said the publication.

The dataset includes combined keyword search results using terms such as “bitcoin,” “ethereum,” “blockchain” and “distributed ledger,” among others.

Bank of America has been among the most active filers. Three new submissions, initially filed with the USPTO early last year, add to a total of 20 blockchain and cryptocurre

ncy-related patent applications filed by the bank since 2014.

Diversity of Perspective

Not everyone agrees that bitcoin should be greeted with unbridled enthusiasm.

“Right now these crypto things are kind of a novelty,” JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon told a CNBC-TVreporter in New Delhi. “People think they’re kind of neat. But the bigger they get, the more governments are going to close them down…”

“It’s creating something out of nothing that to me is worth nothing,” he said. “It will end badly.”

Dimon was concerned that with bitcoin, ethereum and various initial coin offerings (ICOs), there are now cryptocurrencies everywhere. Several nations have even banned bitcoin.

Early Adopters

Despite Dimon’s comments, 69% of banks that participated in an Infosys survey reported that they were experimenting with permissioned or private blockchains, and some governments and an increasing number of companies, including Dell, Microsoft and Expedia accept bitcoin as payment.  The FBI, states the image below developed by a gambling site the developed the image, owns 1.5% of all bitcoins.

Below is an infographic that updates an earlier IPCU post. It’s called “62 Insane Facts About Bitcoin.”


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Patents’ early role in creating leading tech businesses eyed

Some information technology companies dubious about strong patents that can be used to restrict their activities or force them to pay licensing fees, appear to have benefitted from securing patents early in their life-cycle.

It’s doubtful whether their early patent success can be similarly reproduced today.

According to a post on the IPfolio blog, a diverse group of IT companies that drew early on patents includes Dropbox, FireEye, Zynga, Square, Facebook, Theranos, SolarCity, GoPro and Apple. 

“[Some] startups remain true to the original vision of the founders,” writes IPfolio. “By analyzing their first patent filings, it’s easy to see which ones have remained committed to plans likely first sketched on a whiteboard in a spare bedroom. In many cases, these ‘seminal patents’ closely describe what the company stands for today.”

“Here are the first patents granted to ten of Silicon Valley’s hottest companies. Fledgling startups when they first filed to protect their intellectual property, they’ve since created billion-dollar businesses around the seminal inventions.” For the full story, go here.

Apple: Microcomputer for use with video display (1977)

Decades before Apple expanded into mobile communication, music distribution and timepieces, it was synonymous with digital design. Steve Jobs’ less well-known co-founder Steve Wozniak invented a method for displaying color and high-resolution graphics using a standard cathode ray tube, which this April 1977 filing described. It was Apples’ first patent.

Google: Method for node ranking in a linked database (1998)

Above is Google’s famous PageRank patent, it’s first. Larry Page’s invention valued a webpage based on how many other pages linked to it. Filed in January 1998, the approach provided a significant improvement in the quality of search results, a key factor in Google’s rise as the dominant search engine. The original assignee was Stanford University, which received 1.8 million shares of Google stock in exchange for a long-term license.

Taken Seriously

For most of the ten tech high-fliers noted by IPfolio, strong patent protection helped them to be taken seriously. For others, like Theranos, the patents could not save a flawed business model and questionable leadership.

It is doubtful whether unicorns and other start-ups today can rely on patent protection to build their businesses in the way successful tech companies were able to in the recent past. There is too much uncertainty about what is patentable and what is a valid patent.


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Experts at IPAS 2017 will explore growing disregard for IP rights

At a time when the value of IP rights under attack by businesses, individuals and the courts, the first IP Awareness Summit will examine the reasons and possible responses.

The Intellectual Property Awareness Summit, which will take place in Chicago on November 6, is the first conference to address the role of IP understanding – and the lack of it – in innovation, ideas and value creation.

IPAS 2017 (subtitle: Enhancing value through understanding) will examine what are acceptable behaviors on the part of IP holders and users, and consider the rapid rise in Internet IP theft and “efficient” patent infringement, as well as distinguish between legitimate and abusive licensing.

IPAS 2017 is being held by the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU) an independent non-profit, and Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology.

IP owners – including patent, copyright and trademark holders – organizations, executives, investors and inventors from several countries will be attending. For information about the program, panelists and partners, go here

For a post about the need for broader and better non-legal IP education on the IAM blog written by Manny Schecter, Chief Patent Counsel of IBM and a CIPU board member, go here.

For more information about the Center for IP Understanding, started in 2017, go here.

Conference attendance is by invitation. Persons who would like to request an invitation can write to

Image source: IPAS2017

Bitcoin prices dive: 58 bitcoin facts that will amuse and enlighten

It has been a decade since the appearance of bitcoin, the alternative or cryptocurrency based on a blockchain, a “decentralized” network or shared ledger that facilitates transparency. 

The currency’s pricing gyrations have been nothing short of a roller coaster ride, with bitcoins trading in 2017 as low as $750 and as high as $5,000.

Bitcoin is down from its September 2 high of $5,000 “on speculation,” reports Coindesk, “that the Chinese government is launching a crackdown on [bitcoin] exchanges.” Some others are blaming JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon’s scathing attack on bitcoin for the meltdown in the prices seen on September 13.

Business Insider says that as of last September 7 bitcoin is up 355% for 2017 (for the current price, go here).  More recently, it has hit a three-week low, and some believe it appears to be hurtling toward correction at around $3,000.

Hyped & Misunderstood

“No term at present is more hyped or misunderstood than blockchain,” reports FORTUNE. “A blockchain is a kind of ledger, a table that businesses use to track credits and debits… [It is] a definitive record of who owns what, when.“tp

“Properly applied, a blockchain can help assure data integrity, maintain auditable records, and even, in its latest iterations, render financial contracts into programmable software… Even if participants don’t trust one another, they can rely on the shared ledger through the transaction dance of their software.”

Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and MasterCard are among the most frequent recipients of blockchain patents. As reported in IP CloseUp, patent publications and grants are on the rise.

But despite price volatility, or perhaps because of it, bitcoin continues to attract converts. Among those who accept transactions with them are Microsoft, PayPal, Fortune magazine, Intuit, Amazon, Home Depot, Target and more than 100 companies.

Bitcoin is not blockchain, but the currency made possible by a blockchain platform or “shared ledger that underlies it. This is said to allow for transparency without any one party controlling clearing or profiting unfairly.

Bitcoin = Blockchain 1.0

Bitcoin is one manifestation of the blockchain ecosystem. It is an example of what a blockchain can do, but it is just the beginning. Blockchain 1.0, if you will. Industries as diverse as energy, healthcare and law are already using variations on blockchain technology.

The attraction of bitcoin is many-fold. Most important, it is highly private if not totally anonymous and eliminates the cost of middle-man and confusion from lack of transparency. 16.4 million bitcoins have been minted; after 21 million no new coins will be created. Once all coins have been mined value from the system, it has been said, will be derived from transaction fees (kind of like shares of stock).

For a bitcoin primer go here.

For those of you interested in the history of the bitcoin and early blockchain era, the following infographic – “10 Years of the World with Bitcoin – 58 Insane Facts” – from BitcoinPlay will enlighten as well as amuse. Source urls can be found at the bottom of the image.


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U of Chicago-Booth Business School article is ‘junk’ IP science

An ill-founded attack on U.S. IP rights appearing yesterday in the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business publication, “Pro-Market,” is a sobering reminder that there those who believe that IP rights should be eliminated and are willing to resort to propaganda to make it happen. 

The article, “Intellectual Property Laws: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing,” is a wakeup call to millions of Americans who believe in innovation, authorship and free-enterprise. It must be read to be believed.

Intellectual Property Laws: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing by ink Lindsey and Steven M. Teles of the libertarian Niskanen Center, is a bold challenge to prove that IP has meaning in a digital world, and whether most rights can simply be ignored.

Authors Lindsey and Teles cite the much-debunked 2012 Bessen-Meurer research that claims $29 billion in costs to companies as a result of patent litigation.

“In other words,” state the authors, “outside the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, American public companies would apparently be better off if the patent system didn’t exist.”

The authors conclude: “The copyright and patent laws we have today therefore look more like intellectual monopoly than intellectual property. They do not simply give people their rightful due; on the contrary, they lavish special privileges on copyright and patent holders to the detriment of everyone else. Therefore, it is entirely appropriate to strip IP protection of its sheep’s clothing and to see it for the wolf it is, a major source of economic stagnation and a tool for unjust enrichment.”

The Niskanen Center, which Lindsey and Teles are associated, generated almost $2 million in 2015 revenues. The organization’s website does not indicate the sources nor does there their 990 annual statement.

Pro-Market is the blog of the Stigler Center at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. The article is adapted from their upcoming book “The Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth, and Increase Inequality” (Oxford University Press).

The article, “Intellectual Property Laws: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing,” can be read here.

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