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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 registration@understandingip.org.

Image source: IPAS2017

Automakers and tech giants are locked in a strange patent race

At time when patent certainty and value are under attack, global automobile manufacturers are competing with major technology companies for IP rights to the future, especially driverless cars. 

The race is reminiscent of the competition between financial institutions, bigtech and fintech start-ups to control innovations in transactions, including those that relate to blockchain.

The automakers, like the banks, have traditionally cross-licensed each other in an effort to maintain patent peace and keep their franchise exclusive. It has yet to be determined if those participating in new technologies will wish to be similarly collaborative. Businesses like Google, Apple and Amazon certainly have the resources  and leverage to enforce inventions, if they choose to, or even buy a competitor.

The WSJ reports that a large part of filing in the auto industry has been with regard to self driving and connected cars, with 65% of GM’s filed patents in this area. Toyota, with more than 3,000 patents filed is by far the leader, but does not appear to figure into the self-driving patent race, choosing to focus on other areas of innovation, like efficiency (see graph below).

“Companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple, are pouring enormous resources into a vision of mobility that focuses on the driver experience,” writes Forbes“— so much so that they have the potential to take away some of the limelight — and profits — from the automakers many presumed would dominate car connectivity and driverless technology.”

Irony

There is some irony in the auto industry and financial patent races, since the Alice decision made software patents difficult to obtain and even harder to enforce. What are they thinking?

It remains to be seen how successful tech giants and disruptive banking and auto tech upstarts will be in competing with established players for innovation and rights – and if and how they will be able to deploy them. (With patents, sometimes leverage is more powerful than revenue.)

Two things are for certain: the source, ownership and importance of transportation inventions are changing; and the desire to secure meaningful patents that can be licensed will increase.

Image source: WIPO, Oliver Wyman; WSJ

Perception of patents & other IP rights is being taken more seriously

Do IP users – both businesses and individuals – view rights like patents and copyrights as potential assets that benefit commerce and society? Or, do they see them as nuisances to be ignored and, in some cases, disdained?

How IP rights are perceived, by whom, and why its starting to receive the critical attention it deserves.

Perception, which is known to affect value in all asset classes, is on the rise. Stakeholders are realizing that even sophisticated audiences are clueless about what IP rights generate, and for whom and that the growing hostility towards them has profound implications.

In the October IAM (out today), The Intangible Investor explores, “The premium on perception,” which highlights recent studies on IP perception. IAM readers can find a copy here.

Recent Studies

Several recent studies that look at how various audiences regard IP rights have set the stage for further research and analysis. They include:

European Citizens and Intellectual Property: Perception, Awareness and Behavior, a research report from the EUIPO, surveyed 26,000 EU citizens in 2013 and then again in a 2016 follow-up, published this year. Its findings show that while 97% of Europeans regard IP rights favorably, 41% of youths 15-24 believe that it is sometimes ok to buy counterfeits and many say they do, especially when cost is an issue.

Gregory N. Mandel, Dean of the Temple University Law School, questions the accuracy with which audiences see the IP system. In two seminal papers, he considers whether a system that is widely misunderstood can be effective. Professor Mandel and his team conducted research experiments with some 1,700 subjects. He has been researching IP and perception for over a decade with some startling results. The Public Perception of Intellectual Property was published in 2015, and What is IP for? Experiments in Lay and Expert Perceptions was this year.

The IP Strategy Report -2Q 2017 from Aistemos, and IP consultancy, edited by Professor Jeremy Phillips, provides additional useful data points regarding IP and perception. In a report published earlier this year that examined how patent disputes are covered by the technology, business and general media, the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU) found that technology media are more subjective than other business or general press when it comes to reporting about patent infringement. The report, Patterns in Media Coverage of Patent Disputes, examined 127 articles published in 2016.

 Refusal to recognize the integrity of IP rights is growing. Whether or not this is simply a failure to communicate or a function of self-interest is unclear.

Perhaps the most compelling evidence about U.S. need for IP education was co-written by a Canadian researcher, Dan Breznitz.  What the US should be doing to protect Intellectual Property? appeared in the Harvard Business Review.

Failure to Communicate?

For some audiences, refusal to recognize the integrity of IP rights is growing. Whether or not this is simply a failure to communicate or a function of self-interest is unclear. What is clear is the need to quantify changes in attitude, what motivates them and their impact.

IP professionals have done an exceedingly poor job of explaining patents and other rights, to stakeholders, including their own boards of directors and investors. Perhaps they are fearful of setting the stage for future accountability, perhaps they think no one will care?

Recent attempts to track and understand attitudes toward IP are an important step in the right direction. More work needs to be done. An IP system which the participants do not understand or whose values they do not respect is no IP system at all.

Image source: euipo

 

 

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.

 

Image source: bitcoinplay.net; bitcoin.com

 

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.

Image source: promarket.org

Amazon’s controversial ‘1-Click’ patent will expire September 12

This year’s 9/11 remembrance will be followed but an anniversary of a different sort.

September 12 marks the day that Amazon’s controversial “1-Click” patent is set to expire and the invention placed in the public domain.

One-click has generated significant profits and market share for Amazon over the past eighteen years, but its expiration is expected to have minimal impact on the giant online retailer, whether or not other sites adopt similar transaction practices after the patent expires.

Amazon first applied for a patent on 1-Click in 1997, and it was granted in 1999 in the heart of the Christmas selling season. The core of the invention revolves around storing customers’ payment and address details, so only single click or tap on a smartphone in required to fulfill an order. This means that there are fewer steps to ordering, which is less time-consuming and more seamless.

In 2015, Amazon launched the “Dash” Button, a proprietary method for quick ordering. “Dash Button devices are WiFi-connected devices to place in your kitchen, pantry, or anywhere in your home you use your favorite Prime-eligible products,” says Amazon. “Simply press the button to reorder when you’re running low, and your products are on their way.”

Virtual Dash Buttons, introduced in 2017, are shortcuts to that make it easier to find and reorder favorite products on Amazon’s mobile app and website, and are available for free for millions of products that ship with Prime.

$2.4 Billion

The website Rejoiner says that the 1-Click patent has been worth as much at $2.4 billion to Amazon over the years. Amazon, which licensed the patent to Apple in 2000 for an undisclosed amount, has never been able to secure a patent for one-click for online retail in Europe.

 

Google is already working on a one-click payments system for its Chrome browser, and other browser companies are expected to follow.

Payments.com says that Google’s version of one-click payments will provide customers with a drop-down menu of stored shipping addresses and credit cards when shopping on a participating merchant’s website. The customer can click on the address and card to be used, enter the three-digit security code on the card and hit “pay now.” Other browser companies may choose to use a fingerprint instead of the security code.

Question: Would Amazon, or for that matter an independent inventor, be able to secure and defend a patent on one-click transactions today? It’s highly doubtful.

“Amazon may be prepared to lose its one-click payments advantage,” reports Business Insider, “as it looks to build an edge in other corners of the e-commerce market. For example, it has spent billions to strengthen its logistics and fulfillment operations to position itself as a leader in faster delivery.

“And as consumers increasingly demand speedier shipping, Amazon should benefit from its early investment in this area. Moves like this one indicate that the company is focused on carving out new advantages as the e-commerce space evolves.”

Brand Loyalty 

Amazon was recently issued a patent on a system for an “on demand apparel manufacturing system,” which can quickly fill online orders for made-to-order suits, dresses and other garments. Go here to see how it works. It’s clear that Amazon has not given up on trying to dominate the e-commerce space with inventions that are timely and which it can defend.

Amazon is all about brand loyalty and delivering a wide range of goods, at the best price, quickly. Prime and other customers are unlikely to go elsewhere just because other online stores have the same single button to make purchases easier. With a growing patent portfolio, Amazon is likely thinking of new e-commerce solutions that generate more profits and command more customers.

A good question is would Amazon, or for that matter an independent inventor, be able to secure and defend a U.S. patent on one-click online retail transactions today? It’s highly doubtful.

“Amazon has many different ‘one-click’ patents,” write Rolf Claessen, German IP attorney on Quora. “Which one do you mean? Do you mean all of them? Many also have been invalidated or not even granted – at least in Europe.

“In other countries like Australia, Amazon also could not successfully enforce the patent(see ZDNet). It seems that since about 2011, Amazon no longer tries to enforce the patents to collect royalties. I am not aware of any court action, where Amazon was successful enforcing any of these patents.”

Amazon’s Custom Clothing Patent

 

Image source: forbes.com; nyt.com

Blockchain patent publications picked up speed in August

An uptick in recent blockchain patent publications may be an indication that the technology is quietly picking up steam, with competing big banks and tech businesses vying for leadership.

“The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published in late August 2017 nine additional patent applications related to blockchain technology that was filed by Bank of America,” reports The Coin Telegraph, an industry publication.

The patents, which relate to the carrying out and settling transactions within a payment network, were all filed on Feb. 22, 2017, so the process took only seven months. So far, BofA has filed over 30 blockchain technology-related patent applications, including some 18 in 2016.

“The various patents already filed by the bank mainly focused on the whole cryptocurrency exchange and payment process. Among them were the areas of real-time conversion, transaction validation, risk detection, and online and offline storage.

“The other patents involved the use of distributed ledgers to validate the factualness of information and those who handle it, as well as a peer-to-peer payment system that operates on the blockchain.”

In September 2016, the bank partnered with Microsoft for a joint project aimed at developing and testing blockchain applications for trade finance.

“Under the deal,” reports The Coin Telegraph, “the bank will collaborate directly with Microsoft Treasury for the creation of a Blockchain system that can speed up transactions between the partners.The partners have already hinted that they are already testing how the system can facilitate the letter of credit process.”

***** 

Leading cryptocurrency startup Coinbase received in mid-August a patent related to a security system for storing and distributing private keys.

The USPTO approved and published the patent on August 15, reports Econotimes.com. Entitled “Key ceremony of a security system forming part of a host computer for cryptographic transactions’, the patent lists former Coinbase engineers James Hudson and Andrew Alness as inventors, CoinDesk reported. The patent application for “key ceremony” was submitted in 2015. The startup has filed a number of patents related to security of private keys in the past.

*****

Also last week, the USPTO published the details of Visa’s new patent application. The biggest credit card company’s plans for the digital asset network are quite broad, reports Bitcoin Magazine. However, it might be possible that the company is planning to file a patent for the Visa B2B Connect.

The blockchain enterprise company Chain and Visa announced their new partnership in October 2016, in which the two firms decided to develop “a simple, fast and secure way to process B2B payments globally.” The Visa B2B Connect platform’s pilot is expected to launch in 2017, indicating a connection between the USPTO digital asset network patent and the new B2B solution.

*****

Coincidence? Maybe. Publication dates cannot be controlled, but they can be managed. A spate of controversial financial transaction patents publishing in mid-August should draw more attention than they would otherwise deserve.

 

Image source: datafloq.com; cointelegraph.com

“Turn and face the strange” – Patent values fall to earth; PIPCOs, too

Changes, or should we say “ch-ch-changes,” channeling David Bowie, who reinvented himself repeatedly, have decimated the performance of most publicly held patent licensing companies.

Public IP licensing companies (PIPCOs) are changing their names and restructuring in an attempt to reframe themselves. The move appears part of an effort to shed the past, given that many of these businesses have significantly under-performed the S&P 500 Index.

With patent values at historic lows, a fresh perspective is welcome. But can PIPCOs turn the corner and successfully adapt to changing times (and valuations) in the patent space? Only some are likely to succeed.

A fuller discussion of public IP companies, “PIPCOs adapt to ch-changing times,” can be found in my “Intangible Investor” column in the September IAM magazine, out today. Subscribers can find the piece here. It includes companies that have changed their name or issued reverse splits of their stock. or otherwise reinvented themselves as operating companies with product sales.

A Closer Look

A closer look at the IP CloseUp 30 reveals several significant developments. One trend which financial analysts tend to question is rebranding; another is a reverse split, where a $0.50 stock can suddenly become a $4 one when investors are provided with fewer shares at a higher price.

To casual observers, it can appear that performance has taken off, when in fact the weak stock price is merely being obscured by a diminished public float. Many PIPCOs were formed by a merging a private enterprise into a public shell, which while not disreputable, often comes with baggage.

While one can appreciate different patent strategies – the need to monetize good assets through different business models – the perils of public ownership are ill-suited for the majority of companies whose primary focus is licensing.

Still, there are public and private patent licensing company successes, including Finjan, which has successfully fended off multiple IPRs, Network-1, inventor-owned PMC (Personalized Media Communications), which continues to license, and colleges like Northwestern and NYU, which have scored big on pharmaceutical licensing.  

Stanford University’s patent licensing take in shares of Google are said to be worth more than $300 million.

Image source: wikipedia.org

New certificate program in IAM for non-IP professionals is being offered by the Illinois Institute of Technology

Lawyers are no longer the only people interested in intellectual property rights.

IP underlies practically everything that developed nations invent, author or manufacture. Professionals who are under increasing pressure to understand, help manage and maximize return of patents, copyrights and trade secrets include people like bankers, engineers, paralegals, marketing professionals, administrators, as well as those responsible for financial oversight.

Now, they can get the valuable skills they need to help businesses compete in an ideas-based economy.

Illinois Institute of Technology has announced that it is offering the Intellectual Asset Management (IAM) online certificate program to help to equip a wide-range of professionals to handle key aspects of the IP value life-cycle, including how to acquire Intellectual Property (IP), maximize value, and engage in patent analytics important for success.

Earned Credits

The IAM program’s three courses, which can be completed in twelve weeks, are derived from the IP Management and Markets (IPMM) master’s degree program offered through IIT in conjunction with Chicago-Kent College of Law. While the IAM certificate is an end in itself, those wishing to go on to the IPMM master’s degree program will receive twelve earned credits towards it. For student perspectives about the IPMM program, go here.

The faculty for the IAM program includes Mickie A. Piatt, Program Director, Associate Professor of Law and Deputy Director of the Program in Intellectual Property Law, at Chicago-Kent College of Law. Professor Piatt is a leading IP educator.

Jackie Leimer, who teaches Acquiring IP, was formerly Associate General Counsel, Global Intellectual Property for Kraft Foods, where she managed all aspects of the company’s trademarks and patents, including clearance, dispute resolution and portfolio management (65,000 registrations and 3000 patent families).

Professor Anthony Trippe is the instructor for “Patent Analytics and Landscape Reports for Decision Making.” This course is the first-of-its-kind in patent analysis, and is part of the IP Management and Markets Masters Degree program at IIT. Professor Trippe is an IAM 300 leading IP strategist.

Speed of Change

“The U.S. and other economies are increasingly innovation-based and content-driven,” said Professor Piatt. “Keeping up with the speed of change in intellectual property rights is a best practice not just for lawyers, but for anyone in business, management, finance and other disciplines. It is fundamental to maximizing return on investment. The online IAM program is designed to facilitate understanding of IP dynamics, and how best to participate in the upside of IP rights.”

Graduate degrees and certificate programs for non-lawyers have become increasingly popular. Outside of the U.S., they are being offered in such places as Singapore, Tokyo, Strasbourg, France, Sweden, and London. Some leading U.S. universities are now getting involved.

For more information about the Intellectual Asset Management program, including how to register for the Fall classes, which start on September 10, go here. Early application is August 11.

Image source: iam.iit.edu

 

BofA, JPMChase & Morgan Stanley are top banks for patent loans

Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley are the currently leaders in patent-based lending, according to a recent update of a 2015 study.

Relecura, Inc., a California patent research and analysis company, reports that Bank of American had 60,093 transactions for a total market share of 16.87%. JP Morgan Chase had 45,304 transactions for a 12.72% market share. Morgan Stanley, which was number 11 on the 2015 list, came in at third in 2017 with 24,244 loans and 6.80% of all transactions.

The total number of transactions between 2011 to 2016 were 947,907, consisting of 356,287 applications.

Long History

There is along history of IP-backed bank financing. Businesses of all sizes and types have used it to raise money using patents, copyrights and trademarks as collateral. Distressed businesses tend to use it the most, perhaps when other sources of capital dry up.

In 2015, the key companies securing loans using patents include General Motors, Avago (now Broadcom Limited), Alcatel Lucent and Kodak.

JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Wilmington Trust, and Deutsche Bank were the top banks doing IP backed financing deals. GE Capital also was an active lender.

Several governments have been major IP lenders, including the China Development Bank, which in 2014 pledged the equivalent of $1.3 billion USD agains a portfolio of 134 patent and 34 trademarks. Korea and Singapore have also been active IP lenders.

Most Active Borrowers

Key sectors doing the borrowing include software and hardware companies. Other active sectors employing IP backed financing include digital data processing, digital communication, IT methods for management, telecommunication, semiconductors, and television & video transmission.

An excellent infographic summary of bank lending on patents can be found, here.

For the full May 2015 presentation, go here.

Image source: Relecura, Inc.

Qualcomm counter-offensive reminds NY Times readers who put the ‘smart’ in smartphone

Qualcomm is the first known patent licensor to tout its invention prowess in a New York Times ad directed at the business community. 

One of the world’s most successful licensing businesses reminded Times readers – in a sparsely worded, full-page ad that ran in the business section on July 17 – that it “invented the essential technologies that make your smartphone so indispensable.”

“”You know how you’re in love with your smartphone?,” ran the headline in big block letters. “That’s just the beginning.”

Fighting Back

The ad is a brilliant counter offensive move – one that has been much needed among patent licensors. It reminds diverse audiences, including the public, lawmakers and the courts, as well as its and other shareholders, that Qualcomm technology is ubiquitous.

Its inventions may currently appear most dramatically in smartphones but will soon be almost everywhere through IoT, as Qualcomm “leads the world to 5G [technology]”.

Qualcomm’s $23.5 billion in 2016 revenue was driven primarily by patent licensing.

This exercise in self-promotion, sadly, is necessary to remind audiences that inventions matter, and that Apple, Samsung, et al. simply do not have all of the innovation they need to sell products.

If licensees are not going to pay fairly for inventions that make their products special, licensors, like Qualcomm, will remind audiences about the technology that does.

Qualcomm can use the positive visibility. In January, the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against Qualcomm, accusing the company of using anticompetitive tactics to maintain its monopoly on a key semiconductor used in mobile phones.

“We put the ‘smart’ in smartphones.”

Days later, Apple, Qualcomm’s longtime partner, sued the company over what it said was $1 billion in withheld rebates. In the lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court for the Southern District of California, in San Diego (where Qualcomm’s HQ is located), Apple said the money had been promised in conjunction with an agreement not to buy chips from other suppliers or to divulge Qualcomm’s intellectual property licensing practices.

Invention Credit

The Times ad concludes with the url: qualcomm.com/weinvent. It leads to a thoughtful one-minute video that essentially says: “We’re not the name you think of when you think of smart phones, but we put the ‘smart’ in them.”

The Qualcomm ad reminds the world that Apple and other handset makers would not be what they are without Qualcomm inventions – which is true enough.

“Qualcomm – Why you love your smart phone.”

Go here to see a web version of the print ad.

Image source: qualcomm.com; nytimes.com

 

Apple is seeking to cut license royalties paid to record labels

While the share of revenue from streaming paid to record labels and recording artists is rising, Apple Inc., among the fairest licensees in on-line music, is now seeking to reduce record labels’ share of revenue from streaming.

Bloomberg reports that the record labels’ deal with Apple were expected to expire at the end of June, though they are likely to be extended if the parties can’t agree on new terms, according to the people who asked not to be identified.

“Part of negotiations is to revise the iPhone maker’s overall relationship with the music industry.”

The negotiations would bring number two Apple closer to the rate industry streaming leader Spotify Ltd. pays labels, and allow both sides to adjust to the new realities of the music industry. Streaming services have been a source of renewed hope following a decade of decline in the digital age.

Patent holders may believe there is an element of deja vu taking place in music content. Once rock solid copyrights are now subject to renegotiation and diminished revenue because of lost leverage due to lower valuations and easier access. A key will be finding what will make copyrights more relevant again, and creating more competition among streaming services for content.

More Optimistic

Record labels are now more optimistic about the future health of their industry, which grew 5.9 percent last year worldwide thanks to paid streaming services Spotify and Apple Music. They recently negotiated a new deal with Spotify further lowering their take from the service, provided Spotify’s growth continues.

“Apple initially overpaid to placate the labels,” says Bloomberg, “who were concerned Apple Music would cripple or cannibalize iTunes, a major source of revenue.”

For the full Bloomberg article, go here.

Sales vs. Streams 

Though online sales of music have plummeted over the past few years, they still account for 24 percent of sales in the U.S., according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Vinyl record sales also are up but they are still limited to a specialty audience, while CD sale are way down.

According to Billboard, streaming led the U.S. music industry to its first back-to-back yearly growth this millennium and in the first half of 2016 was the single ­highest source of revenue in the U.S. recorded-music industry, ­bringing in $1.61 billion. All three major labels — Universal, Sony and Warner — posted streaming-driven double-digit percent boosts in earnings throughout the year.

The Trichordist, a publication devoted to “Artists for an Ethical and Sustainable Internet,” reports that Spotify was paying .00521 back in 2014, two years later the aggregate net average per play has dropped to .00437 a reduction of 16%.

                     Apple Music generates 7% of all streams and 13% of revenue

YouTube now has their licensed, subscription service (formerly YouTube Red) represented in these numbers as opposed to the Artist Channel and Content ID numbers we used last time. Just looking at the new YouTube subscription service numbers isolated here, they generate over 21% of all licensed audio streams, but less than 4% of revenue! By comparison Apple Music generates 7% of all streams and 13% of revenue.

Apple sits in the sweet spot, generating the second largest amount of streaming revenue with a per stream rate .00735, nearly double what Spotify is paying. But, Spotify has a near monopoly on streaming market share dominating 63% of all streams and 69% of all streaming revenue.

The top 10 streamers account for 99% of all streaming revenue.

New Technology, New Values

IP rights holders, including those with patents and trademarks, need to think through where they fit in the current digital scheme of things, and how much should be expected in a world that finds not paying for others’ intellectual property increasingly acceptable.

For patent holders, the streaming/copyright battle could be the proverbial canary in the mine.

Image source: fortune.com

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