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Et tu, TechCo? Some potential patent licensees should be outed for abusive behavior

What is the appropriate response to a legitimate request for patent licensing?

If you are an information technology company comfortable taking full advantage of confusion in the patent system, and unfettered by business ethics, it may be tossing the offer in the garbage can — just because you can.

Can a business simply ignore a reasonable licensing offer or does it have an obligation, ethical or otherwise, to take seriously a reasonable request to consider a license to an invention it requires or may already be using?

For an executive at one inventor-owned business, Personalized Media Communications, being totally ignored when a legitimate request to discuss a patent license is presented is an abusive practice and a threat to innovation that must be stopped.

The Real Issue

“Too often, this abusive behavior is conflated with ownership models to deflect attention from the real problems,” said Aaric Eisenstein, VP Licensing Strategy. “PR efforts targeting ‘trolls’ have warped stories of threats to mom & pop businesses to cast large companies as the equally helpless victims of these ruthless predators… the real issue is abusive behavior, and that’s what needs to be targeted…

“The responsibility for ending abuse rests not only with the Patent Office and the federal courts but also with the stakeholders in the patent system themselves. The stakeholders cannot simply complain and lobby for one-sided solutions. They must work together to improve the system upon which they all depend.

“The responsibility for ending abuse rests not only with the Patent Office and the federal courts but also with the stakeholders in the patent system themselves.”

“Following these rules eliminates both problems: skimpy-to-ridiculous notice packages and throwing legitimate packages in the trash.  It doesn’t matter whether the companies are large or small or whether they’re direct operating competitors or have completely different ownership models. The critical point is that these standards are targeted to prohibit abusive behavior per se

“The US patent system was the envy of the world for generations.  It can be again if we’re honest about its shortcomings and address them in direct and balanced ways.”

The TROL Act in the House of Representatives reintroduced legislation with apparent bi-partisan support that would give the Federal Trade Commission and the state attorneys general authority to issue civil penalties up to $5 million for sending misleading or bad faith letters demanding patent licenses.

There is no indication that penalties will also be instituted for bad faith on the part of businesses that ignore legitimate offers to license good patents, forcing owners to file suit.

Eisenstein is grateful to USPTO Director Andrei Iancu for having “reminded patent system stakeholders what US inventors have given the world and the right way to enhance the system.”

For the full article, go here.

Image source: seapine.com

Costs to establish clear patent ownership are soaring – Here’s why

It has never been easy for American innovators hoping to generate a return on their inventions, but new hurdles have made it impossible to license even the best patents.

Despite increased availability of capital and access to data, IT patents today have a much more difficult time proving themselves than a decade or a century ago. The vast majority of the public, stakeholders if indirectly, are not aware of the situation or its impact.

With the enactment of the American Invents Act (AIA) in 2012 and several supreme court decisions setting an ambiguously higher bar for patent certainty, licensing began to resemble scaling a high peak, with enough challenges even the most innovative business or inventor.

Two such obstacles are the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and inter partes reviews, created to validate patents already issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Until the AIA came along, USTPO-issued patents had enjoyed a “presumption of validity,” the standard since 1952.

Second Look

In theory, a “second look” for issued patents is not a bad idea. Examinations are not always as thorough as they could be. If it were fairly applied, these re-examinations would kill any dubious patents that should not have been issued by time-constrained examiners, and affirm those that deserve to be. This would make it easier for owners to license without resorting to costly litigation. In practice, however, is not the case.

Patents that the PTAB chooses not to review, and even those whose reviews are instituted and claims affirmed, still, are rarely seen as licenseable, and are subject to subsequent IPRs and/or protracted litigation. New and even more onerous obstacles to patent certainty have added to the time and cost of resolving disputes. How much time and cost?

 

Steep Climb

The illustration on this page, courtesy of Brody Berman Associates, IP communication specialists, is an illustration of the just how difficult patent licensing has become. That is not to say that every licensor must go through all of the steps, all of the time, but many do, especially those who believe the infringement warrants significant damages or a potential licensor believes the royalty costs outweigh the expensive legal ones. Many accused infringers have the capital and constitution to withstand a protracted dispute, which can last five years or more.

Defendants who take their time engage in what is known as “efficient” infringement. For a patent holder to prove patentability, validity, infringement and damages is frequently too costly and time-consuming a climb, so why bother? For many IT patent holders, licensing without litigation is no longer an option.

From Edison to Alexander Graham Bell to Nicola Tesla, market leaders have been reluctant to accept new ways of solving old problems if it may hurt their bottom line. An expensive challenge with many impediments along the way is one way of mitigating a threat. Patents that are held by businesses and individuals but are not used (enforced) are seen as less threatening to established businesses. To them, the best patents are seen but not heard.

An overly arduous path to patent certainty not only tilts the playing field, it dissuades competition and dims the future.

Image source: Brody Berman Associates, Inc.

 

Patent “abuse” stories is the subject of a website and forthcoming book

From Michelangelo to Edison and Bell, inventor success stories are well-known.

But patent and inventor abuse stories – such as inventor Robert Kearns’ and his intermittent windshield wiper, famously infringed by almost every auto manufacturer and well-captured in the feature film, “Flash of Genius” – are less well-known.

An organization supported by a GoFundMe campaign is looking to change that. Protect American Innovation has been collecting patent abuse stories since July and has thus far gathered 16 examples of dramatic abuse. Some of the examples cite videos.

Protect American Innovation, which is described on its website as a “coalition of businesses, innovators and inventors, to spread the word about patent abuse and to push for effective change in the U.S. Patent System,” supports the Stronger Patents Act, which hopes to correct the over-reaction and weakening of the patent system caused by the American Invents Act. The Bill is currently in the House Judiciary  Committee.

For PAI patent abuse stories, go here. They help to explode the myth of the abusive “patent troll.” Those interested in the website may also want to know about a book being written by IP consultant David Wanetic about patent and inventor abuse.

Incisive Op-Ed

Also on the PAI website is “The Time to Revive the American Patent System is Now!”, an incisive op-ed written by Chief Judge or the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (ret.), Paul R. Michel. It succinctly restates that the U.S. is losing its innovation edge and how a balanced patent system can help to fix it. Judge Michel’s piece can be read here.

“… to overcome the massive PR campaign of the FANGs, featuring largely fictional or exaggerated tales of patent ‘trolls’ abusing the system with baseless law suits, leaders in Congress need stories to illustrate the harms of the AIA reviews and Supreme Court cases.”

For the Save the Inventor video feed with more than 100 videos, go here.

Image source: savetheinventor.com

Too sexy to be taken seriously: movie star’s invention story is a lesson for both men and women

In the 1930s she was called “the most beautiful woman in the world,” but screen star Hedy Lamarr was obsessed with how things worked.

An Austrian émigré in Hollywood, Lamar, intellectually curious and highly patriotic, and who was raised Jewish, wanted to do something to help her adopted country defeat the Nazis. This prompted her to develop a complex, secret communications system that would later serve as the basis for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, wireless phones, GPS, and other developments.

Problem was it took the Navy 20 years to take her and her co-inventor seriously. Both were high school dropouts and of Austrian and German extraction at a time of heightened suspicion and spying. This fascinating story is explained in greater detail in The Intangible Investor in the November IAM magazine, “Torpedo invention laid the foundation for Wi-Fi and more.” Subscribers can find it here starting October 1.

What drove Lamarr to invent is a focus of this fascinating and well-received documentary, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (96% rated on Rotten Tomatoes). It is available on Netflix and on DVD from many public libraries. Even those familiar with the story will find the film worth watching. It illustrates that some of the best inventions derive from the most unlikely sources and can seem implausible.

For more on Lamarr’s background, go hereFor her patent, 2,292,387, “Secret Communications System,” go here.

“Bombshell” estimates that Larmarr’s invention, had it been widely adopted, would have been worth $30 billion.

Lamarr and her co inventor, George Autheil, a respected American avant-garde composer and concert pianist who spent a decade in Paris associating with James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway, posthumously made it into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

“If you do good,” Lamarr said, “people will accuse you of selfish motives – do good anyway.”

Image source: washingtonpost.com 

 

IPCU readers can save $200 on IP Dealmakers Forum Nov 6-8 in NY

Patent monetization is alive and improving.

Look no further than the 5th annual IP Dealmakers Forum, which will attract the top players in IP licensing, sales and litigation funding to the Alexandria Center overlooking NYC’s East River, November 6-8.

IP CloseUp readers can save $200 off of registration by using discount code IPDF18_CIPU.

Panels include:

  • IP Market Roundup: Light at the end of the Tunnel
  • In Patents We Trust: Government Updates & Outlook
  • Leveraging Data to Identify Valuable Patents
  • SEP, FRAND & Getting Ready for 5G
  • IP Investors Roundtable: Opportunities In and Around IP
  • What Matters Now: Navigating the New Deal Landscape
  • Corporate Governance & Activist Investing in IP

One-to-one meeting and networking sessions will be held throughout the conference.

A partial list of speakers includes:

  • Erich Andersen, Corporate VP & Chief IP Counsel, Microsoft
  • John Lindgren, CEO, IPVALUE
  • Todd Dickinson, Former Director, USPTO
  • Fred Fabricant, Head of IP Litigation, Brown Rudnick 
  • Paul Michel (ret.), former Chief Judge of CAFC
  • Hans Sauer, Deputy General Counsel for IP, BIO

For the full IPDF agenda, go here.

To register, go here.

CLE credit is available.

Images source: ipdealmakersforum.com

LES annual meeting to be held in Boston October 14-17

The birthplace of innovation, Boston, is the site for the 2018 Licensing Executives Society meeting.

The opening session, “Advancing Innovation Through a Renewal of Trust,” will feature Andrei Iancu, USPTO Director, Bill Elkington, Senior Director – IP Management, Rockwell Collins and Walter Copan, National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Director and Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology.

Other sessions include:

  • Funding Startups – The Boston Perspective
  • Increasing ROI for Government-Funded Research
  • Advanced Telecommunications Licensing, 4G, 5G and LTE for Automobiles
  • US or Them – Who is Going to Set Standards for Licensing
  • Patenting Machine Learning
  • 2018 Tax Consequences: Coordination of IP Monetization and Tax Planning
  • Life Sciences Partnering Performance and Reputation Survey Results
  • Maximizing IP Value and Minimizing Risk in M&A Transactions

For the full 2018 LES annual meeting agenda, go here. For the speaker biographies, please visit http://www.lesmeetings.org/am18/speakers/

To register, go here.

Image source: lesmeetings.org 

IP CloseUp is named a “top 50” intellectual property blog

IP CloseUp has been named by Feedspot as a top-50 intellectual property blog.

Feedspot, a news aggregator, named the top 100 IP blogs in which IP CloseUp was number 48.  IPCU beat out quality competition, including many law firm publications and those from leading IP services providers.

Criteria for inclusion on the list includes number of searchers and followers, as well as content.

“It’s an honor to be recognized as a leader in IP news and analysis, especially in the company of such publications as IP Watchdog, IAM and IP Law 360,” said Bruce Berman publisher and editor of IP CloseUp. “IPCU’s mission is to spot relevant trends early with the help of our network of IP and industry contacts.”

IP CloseUp, which first appeared in 2010, covers original and thinly reported IP developments, events, people and transactions, via weekly posts. IPCU also makes available interesting videos and reviews new books. It’s coverage of automotive inventor Robert Kearns, who was depicted in the film, “Flash of Genius,” has generated more than 75,000 visits.

For the complete top-100 list, go here

Image source: feedspot.com

 

Rich values for IP services providers defy investor expectations

Prices for companies that support and sell IP services and analytical software remain surprisingly strong, even as patent licensing and sales continue to decline.

Their success appears to be fueled by the very problems facing patents: lower values and lack of certainty.

IP tools providers are the proverbial sellers of picks and shovels; the “miners” take the primary risk. Most are satisfied with the steady cash flow, while their clients make the big bets in R&D and litigation. Uncertainty makes investing even more dangerous and the information premium more valuable.

                                    __________________________________________

For the full IP services deal story, “Defying the monestisation market” in the September IAM magazinego here. In this issue the Intangible Investor explores recent IP service firms transactions and their prices.
                                         ______________________________________

Examples of IP services successes include CPA Global’s 2017 acquisition by private equity firm Leonard Green & Partner’s for 2.4 billion pounds ($3.1B USD). Cinven had acquired the firm in 2012 from Intermediate Capital Group for around £950 million ($1.3 billion), backed
by $555 million of debt financing.

In 2015, CPA Global – with approximately $12 million in revenues and no profit – acquired Innography for an undisclosed amount. An industry-insider told IP CloseUp it was likely between $80 and $90 million, or about seven times revenue. Innography, with a strong reputation, had raised $14 million in venture capital.

AI Driven

Thomson Reuters sold its IP and Science business in 2016 to Onex and Baring and Private Equity Asia for $3.55 billion. The company is now Clarivate Analytics.

Among the newer and more interesting entries in the IP services space is ClearAccessIP, a Palo Alto, CA-based firm “that indexes patents, looks for vulnerabilities in a corporation’s patent strategy, and finds opportunities in a patent collection for further value.”

Founded by Nicole Shanahan, a young patent attorney who served as a researcher for IP scholar Colleen Chien at Santa Clara University College of Law. Professor Chien is a member of the Clear Access IP Advisory Board, along with former AIPLA president Wayne Sobon.

“I am essentially trying to build and democratize a marketplace platform because not all patent holders and sellers can afford the large transaction firms,” she says. “I’m also solving a very old problem and putting docket management in the cloud.”

An extensive interview with Shanahan appears in Software Engineering Daily. The audio can be found here; the written transcript, here.

Ms. Shanahan, it seems fair to inform readers, has been living with Sergey Brin, founder of Google and President of its parent company, Alphabet, Inc., which, historically, has been dubious about strong patents.

New Wave

IP services and software providers, especially those using the latest algorithms, may represent a new wave for beleaguered IP holders and their law firms seeking to manage patent risk. The computing strength and analytics capability they offer may be just what some IP holders and margin-conscious law firms need to compete, or these companies may simply be repackaging the outsourcing mantra for the AI age.

These relationship-driven, technology-focused service providers are likely to grow in value as global patent applications and portfolios increase and uncertainty lingers. An improved outlook for patent licensing will make them even more attractive.

Image source: softwareengineeringdaily.com; clarivate.com; cpaglobal.com 

Can blockchain be a game-changer for millions of IP transactions?

The abundant promise of blockchain has yet to be realized. To many in IP, finance and tech, it is just beginning to come into sight.

The initial application of blockchain’s distributed ledger, bitcoin, has turned out to be more of a speculative sideshow than a legitimate alternative currency. We hear repeatedly that bitcoin is merely the first of many possibilities, and that blockchain should not be judged on the basis of bitcoin.

Fundamental Change?

One of the most intriguing areas of potential for blockchain, or encrypted distributed ledger of data, is transacting IP rights — so-called smart transactions. Smart transactions aim to make more efficient millions of copyright, patent and trademark licenses by providing greater transparency and the removing costly middlemen. It sounds great – but can it really happen or is it merely the alchemists’ fantasy?

In April, Managing Intellectual Property, magazine ran a feature on blockchain, “Blockchain Party,” which can be found here. The special report discusses how blockchain will fundamentally change IP transactions, and haw already started to. The race for blockchain patents is well under way, with U.S. and some European banks, fintech firms and tech companies jockeying for position with the Chinese.

Who use blockchain?

The following infographic from Bitfortune.net, a bitcoin promotion and gaming website, offers 16 industries and areas where distributed ledger adoption is underway. (Sources for the data are offered at the bottom of the graphic. They have not been checked.)

Bitfortune says “many experts believe that blockchain will change our world in the next 20 years as much as the internet has over the past 20.”

[Three useful blockchain articles follow the long infographic below.]

 

More on blockchain:

IP CloseUp: 59% of blockchain patents are owned by developers; BofA and IBM dominate banks and tech players.

DS Avocats: Blockchain, Smart Contracts and Intellectual Property.

WIPO Magazine: Blockchain and IP Law: A Match Made in Crypto Heaven?


Inauspicious Beginnings

Can blockchain shake off its inauspicious beginnings as bitcoin foundation and deliver on its promise?

Many are pulling for it, including me and several banks, fintech businesses and technology players, who are either investing heavily or hedging their bets.

 

Image source: bitfortune.net

In Memoriam: Dan Scotto, perennial “All-America” Wall Street Analyst and Research Director

Dan Scotto, a Wall Street research icon in the 1980s and 1990s died last week and with him an era of investment research that is not likely to return.

Dan’s understanding of assets, tangible and intangible, and how they could be monetized, was ahead of its time. He taught by example and showed a generation of debt investors the value of seeing beyond the financials and understanding people.

He taught me that every discrepancy between an S&P or Moody’s rating and a bond analyst’s is a potential news story or investor opportunity.

Dan spotted weaknesses in Enron early for BNP Paribas, and on August 23, 2001 changed his “buy” rating to “hold” and told clients that the bonds “should be sold at all costs and sold now.” He later told the Wall Street Journal that if he had gone with a “sell” rating instead, “I’d have been taken out to the guillotine that very day.” When he called out Enron, he had become an inadvertent “whistle-blower.” To Dan, he was simply doing his job with his trademark grace and humor.

Brooklyn-born

Dan grew up in Red Hook, which at the time was an unfashionable part of Brooklyn. He marveled at the transformation and split his time between Manhattan and Greenwich. Despite his impressive track record and trademark J. Press suits he was never fully comfortable in Greenwich or Manhattan, and seldom went out or traveled, except on business. He was married to the job.

Dan Scotto, circa 2000

Dan came up as a high-grade (corporate) bond analyst first at Standard & Poor’s and then at L.F. Rothschild, Unterberg, Tobin, the venerable high-tech underwriter, where he remained focused on corporate debt for institutional investors. His ascendance coincided with a time of declining interest rates, and a good place for a bond analyst not afraid to make buy-sell recommendation. His specialty was electric utilities, where he was revered, but he also managed other top analysts in telecommunications, banking and energy, among other industries.

Dan and his team were brilliant, but they were not the intimidating quants that some funds tout. That was not Dan’s style. He and his team trusted their ability to understand management and read between the lines – and they were almost always right. Dan did his homework, and worked closely with his friend and most trusted adviser, telecom analyst Marion Boucher (now Marion Holmes), leading a research team that won Institutional Investor “All-America” honors on a regular basis. The first year that bond analysts were included in the i.i. investor poll, Dan was number one in all categories.

Investors not Bankers

At a time when basic industry research and investment banking business mattered most, Dan focused on investors’ needs, and they loved him. After L.F. Rothschild (which Dan liked to call “the Brooklyn Rothschild”) he went to the venerable Donaldson, Lufkin & Jennette (DLJ), which eventually absorbed into Credit Suisse, and then to Bear Stearns, one of the fiercest firms on the Street, where he and his high-grade team achieved top research honors.

Dan could be a tortured soul – especially if things did not go right or when people disappointed him. He was proud of his unprecedented nine-year number one “All-American” ranking – something he knew that he had to earn annually. He was cynical about Wall Street, especially bankers, who used him as bait for deals, and traders, who saw him as overhead that took bonus money out of their pockets.

Dan will be remembered not only for his instincts and dedication, but also for his loyalty, good humor, incisive and and often playful written reports, and, most importantly, his generosity of spirit. He will be missed.

Rest in peace.

Image source: Whitehall Financial Advisors

AST’s 2018 patent purchase program is open July 9 – July 20

Patent holders, this year’s version of Allied Security Trust’s Industry Patent Purchase Program, “IP3,” is a good indication of where the demand is highest.

The 2018 fixed price, time-limited program AST and its members are searching for patents primarily in the following categories:

  • Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning
  • Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality
  • Automotive / Transportation Services
  • Blockchain
  • Internet of Things / Connected Devices
  • Smart Home
  • Software / Web Services

Most technologies are no surprise, but others, like Augmented Reality/ Virtual Reality, may encourage lawyers and their clients to revisit portfolios. It is also good to see interest in Software Patents, as well.

The window for submitting patents for sale will be open from July 9 through July 20.

For complete IP3 2018 program details and to submit your patents for sale, go here.

Image source: ast.com

“What kind of man owns his own computer?” Ben Franklin knows

Invention is about the future. Looking back at the technology and images that defined us, however, can provide an idea of where we are headed.  

A case in point is the Apple II personal computer. The ad below appeared in the venerable Scientific American magazine in May 1980. It seems almost laughable in its blatant appeal to the ego, although it was on the certainly on track about the PC’s ability to empower individuals and encourage creativity.

Ben Franklin designing the kite that helped to discover electricity (below) is a provocative image. Franklin was the original “scientific” American – statesman, inventor, writer. The Apple II, introduced in 1977, came with 4K of memory, expandable to 48K.  Its CPU speed was rated at 1 MHz. It was the kind of tool that could make genius even better.

Below is the original ad for the Apple II (full text is below the ad for easy reading).

What kind of man owns his own computer?

Rather revolutionary, the whole idea of owning your own computer? Not if you’re a diplomat, printer, scientist, inventor… or a kite designer, too. Today there’s Apple Computer. It’s designed to be a personal computer. To uncomplicate your life. And make you more effective.

It’s a wise man who owns an Apple.

If your time means money, Apple can help you make more of it. In an age of specialists, the most successful specialists stay away from uncreative drudgery. That’s where Apple comes in.

Apple is a real computer, right to the core. So just like big computers, it manages data, crunches numbers, keeps records, processes your information and prints reports. You concentrate on what you do best. And let Apple do the rest. Apple makes that easy with three programming languages— including Pascal—that let you be your own software expert.

Apple, the computer worth not waiting for.

Time waiting for access to your company’s big mainframe is time wasted. What you need in your department on your desk is a computer that answers only to you…

Apple Computer. It’s less expensive than timesharing. More dependable than distributed processing. Far more flexible than centralized EDP. And, at less than $2500 (as shown), downright affordable.

Visit your local computer store.

You can join the personal computer revolution by visiting the Apple dealer in your neighborhood. We’ll give you his name when you call our toll-free number (800) 538-9696. In California, (800) 662-9238. Apple Computer, 10260 Bandley Drive, Cupertino, CA 95014.

________________

A Manly Man

Note the ad’s manly images. (I guess 1980s women didn’t need a computer.) Ben Franklin was never a pinup for machismo, although he was said to be quite the lady’s man… $2,500 in 1980 is equivalent to about $8,000 today – a price almost no individual would be willing to pay for a personal computer. Computers have gotten smarter and smaller; people, not so much.

In 1980:

  • U.S. President Jimmy Carter proclaims a grain embargo against the USSR with the support of the European Commission
  • The Rubik’s Cube makes its international debut at The British Toy and Hobby Fair, Earl’s Court, London
  • The 1980 Winter Olympics took place in Lake Placid, New York
  • The United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
  • Pac-Man, the best-selling arcade game of all time, is released in Japan

Another print ad introduced the Apple II in September 1977. It included a $598 board-only version for “do-it-yourself hobbyists.”

And while we are on the subject, Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, available for free, here, is an unusually timely and readable work, especially for anyone interested in invention and the creative process.

Frank Woodworth Pine wrote that it was “the most remarkable of all the remarkable histories of our self-made men.” with Franklin as the greatest exemplar of the “self-made man”.

Image source: http://blog.modernmechanix.com; technobezz.com

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