Tag Archives: CNN

Antitrust Attorney General suing AT&T supports patent monetization

Yesterday, United States Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Division, Makan Delrahim, filed suit to stop the $85 billion AT&T-Time Warner merger, which previously had been progressing through regulatory approval. 

Almost at the same time, in a recent carefully crafted speech before a business and law audience, he outlined his preference for reliable patents and consistent, free-market enforcement. Putting a patent attorney in charge of antitrust may be the Trump administration’s best idea yet.

Delrahim’s remarks were delivered recently as part of the USC Gould School of Law’s Center for Transnational Law and Business Conference.

“Fresh thinking about the implications of SSOs [standards setting organizations] and the proper role of antitrust law is long overdue,” said Delrahim, who is the first patent attorney to head the Antitrust Division. “Bargaining over new and innovative technologies is a high stakes game, and each side has an incentive to use every means necessary to improve its end of the bargain.  In this game, the competitive market process should win.”


The thoughtful speech was welcome relief to IP holders, especially non-practicing entities whose primary business is patent licensing. However, some people thought the timing and intent of the remarks were more difficult to discern.

“Clearly he [Delrahim] is sending a message that the AG’s office, and perhaps the Trump administration, knows the difference between IP exclusivity, which is conducive to innovation and businesses, and anti-competitive behavior,” a significant patent holder told IP CloseUp.

It’s ironic that his comments were made just days before the DOJ’s decision to sue to stop the AT&T-Time Warner merger, or maybe not.

Yesterday the Department of Justice sued to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger, citing its anticompetitive nature and ability of the combined company “to drive up the cost of channels like HBO, CNN and TBS to rivals and ultimately to consumers.”

Senate Committee on the Judiciary documents submitted in support of Delrahim’s confirmation, show that he has worked in the White House as an advisor and has had a distinguished private legal career, often supporting acquirers in large transactions.

Delrahim emigrated from Iran with his family in the 1970s when he was ten years old to escape the political strife. After law school, he joined Patton Boggs. In 1998, Delrahim became a counsel to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, working under Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Jon Leibowitz, who was then a Democratic Senate aide and worked with Delrahim, remembered him as being a pragmatist.

His video recorded confirmation hearing, worth looking at. Delrahim’s testimony occurs approximately 52 minutes into the recording.

Not a Vigilante

CNN, which may have to be sold to permit the AT&T-TWC merger to go through, reported that “A long time colleague of Delrahim’s who says he is a liberal told CNNMoney that he can’t imagine that Delrahim ‘would engage in any type of vigilante justice to help the president in the deal…That’s just unfathomable to me.'”

Delrahim IP background and more enlightened approach to patents in the marketplace could go a long way to repairing the legislative and judicial hits that the patent system that has taken over the past six years.

“We don’t have the tools to know what the competitive royalty rate is,” concluded Delrahim in his USC speech, “—we’re not price regulators, after all—and if we inject antitrust law where it does not belong. It can actually subvert the competitive process and do serious harm to American consumers and to innovation itself… It’s time to correct this asymmetry to ensure that there are maximum incentives to innovate, and equally proper incentives to implement.”

For the text of Delrahim’s remarks, go here.

Image source: bostonherald.com; fortune.com

Tech cos use patents to turn up the volume on smarter hearing devices

Aging baby boomers, exposed to a lifetime of loud music, are more demanding than past generations about the quality of what and how they hear.

Don’t expect them to sit by idly watching Mick Jagger mouth the words to Satisfaction.

A group of leading technology companies familiar with consumer lifestyle preferences are helping to reshape the emerging hearables industry. A cross between a tiny wearable and smart prosthetic, it would be unfair to call these devices hearing aids. They are tiny, but powerful, information processors which, 13892-32c56cdb6fd37fccfbd10d1ffb425f54if properly programmed to individual users’ needs, can do far more than merely amplify speech.

Some will be able to offer simultaneous foreign language translations and are fully customizable with a phone app.

360 Million Hearing-Impaired 

Companies vying for leadership in the field include Samsung, Apple, Qualcomm and Google, as well as those already in the business – the so-called ‘big six’, each with decades of practical experience.

For the whole story see “Turning up the volume on hearables,” in the Intangible Investor in IAM magazine’s November issue. Subscribers can find my fully linked report here.

A Google search for hearing-aid–related patents by Apple, Samsung, and Qualcomm showed zero patents 20 years ago but 816 in 2015— slightly more than half of the total patent activities by the Big Six in the same period.

For the “Complete Guide to Hearing Technology in 2016” go here.  For “New Patent Applications: The Sound of Hearables to Come,” go here.

Sound Play

Apple has teamed up with Starkey Hearing Technologies to provide support for the company’s advanced Halo 2 smart device; Daymond John – founder and CEO of fashion brand FUBU, star of reality TV series screen-shot-2016-02-12-at-9-29-50-pm-e1455334928779Shark Tank.”  He told CNN that the technology has changed his life (see video here.)

Google is working on commercializing a high-end in-ear computer, according to press reports based on patent filings. The technology is reportedly part of its secretive new wearable tech initiative, known as Project Aura.

If hearables reach their market potential, vision, memory and other human-assist devices will not be far behind. Forgot what you stated for entertainment on last year’s tax returns? An assistant far smarter than today’s Alexa, Siri or Cortana (Microsoft), and swifter than Google, will be able to find what you need.

Yesterday’s iPod is looking like today’s iHear and tomorrow’s iKnow.

Image source: wearable.com; anewdomain.net

Apple acquires 26 finger print scanning patents from failed startup

26 of a tiny company’s 31 finger print scanning patents were recently transferred to Apple. How Apple plans to use the invention rights is not clear.

What is clear is that Apple has been watching Charlottesville, VA based Privaris, a biometric security company, for several years and, a company, reports Business Insider, which still exists but has not updated its website since 2009.

Why did Apple wait so long to make its portfolio move? (It had bought three patents from Privaris in 2012.) Did it have to acquire the patents to keep the portfolio out of the hands of competitors or NPEs?

Perhaps the Apple was biding its time to see who else was interested in the technology, or maybe there is know-how (trade secrets) associated with the inventions that it wants to control?

iPhone Improvement?

It has been reported that Privaris’ patents could potentially make the iPhone’s TouchID sensor more useful. For example, one of Privaris’ patents covers the ability to use a touchscreen and fingerprint reader at the same time. Another invention of Privaris’ could allow you to open a door with your iPhone by scanning your fingerprint and holding your phone up to a reader, similar to how you pay for items with Apple Pay.

“Armed with the ability to create a fingerprint scanner that resides beneath the iPhone’s touchscreen, but can still scan your finger through the phone’s display, Apple could finally be able to design an iPhone with logo_privarisan edge-to-edge screen.”

However, Apple doesn’t always create the technology it patents itself or acquires elsewhere, and has previously filed its own patent for a TouchID fingerprint sensor that sits underneath the touch screen of the iPhone or the iPad.

Patently Apple, a blog of unclear origins which usually waxes poetic about Apple inventions reports that, “According to [a] report, ‘Apple acquired its first three Privaris patents on December 19, 2012, and Apple bought most of the other Privaris patents in October 2014.’ Considering their website hasn’t been updated in four and half years, Apple has likely acquired the patents but not the company as the report suggests. It is not entirely clear what the relationship between Apple and Privaris is now, or will be in the future. The last transaction between the two firms closed in October 2014, and Apple bought its first three Privaris patents at the end of 2012.”

A CNN story takes the patent transfer as a sign of a planned acquisition. But why would Apple want the entire company if it has no apparent value? The company’s website also plusID90still lists Authentec, another biometric identity and security firm that Apple acquired in 2012, as a technology partner, Patently Apple reports.

However, MacRumours says that Privaris essentially shut down about five years ago, so Apple could just be buying the firm’s intellectual property.”The news section of the Pravaris’ site hasn’t been updated since 2009, and none of the company’s employees have changed their LinkedIn profiles to indicate that they now work at Apple.

Yours, Mine, Ours

Another possible reason for the Apple purchase: to keep these patents out of the hands of competitors like Samsung or Microsoft who would love to be able to license them to Apple or its competitors.

Should Privaris find itself insolvent and have to file for Chapter 11 relief, a possible scenario, a creditors committee could gain control of the patents (similar to Nortel or Kodak, but on a smaller scale) and either sell them for a good price to the highest bidder, or find an NPE partner to enforce them.

Either scenario could pose a challenge to the iPhone’s current leadership in biometrics. 

Image source: spie.org; prevaris.com


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