Tag Archives: Financial Times

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: Some IP holders may benefit, most won’t

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 places some IP rights holders squarely in the sights of the tax collector, while providing others with an opportunity to license overseas without having to resort to international asset transfers to maximize returns.

Patent, trademark and copyright owners of all sizes would be wise to revisit the nature and tax implications of their transactions, including direct patent sales, as well as where their IP assets are best located. This is a direct result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), the impact of which on IP holders is starting to be understood.

The new law is partly a response to businesses that hold massive amounts of revenue-producing assets outside the United States in so-called ‘patent boxes’ – devices which allow revenue on assets held within them to escape most local and all domestic taxes derived from IP-related revenue.

Like Wildfire

“Patent boxes have spread like wildfire,” Edward Kleinbard, former chief of staff of the US Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, now a law professor at the University of Southern California told the Intangible Investor. “Their success was doomed from the start. The international environment for intangibles and tax has evolved. With more products to license from sources worldwide and more revenue derived from them, these devices, which originally were restricted to a handful of nations, have become diffuse.”

The most famous (or infamous) product of the IP asset tax avoidance schemes, known as the “double Irish,” has been used by large corporations, including Facebook Inc, Google parent Alphabet, Inc and drug maker Allergan PLC.

The TCJA aims to lure IP locations back to the US, but whether the benefits are sufficiently attractive is still unclear. The Wall Street Journal coverage of the TCJA can be found here. For the American Enterprise Institute take on the Act, go here.

Rana Foroohar, a journalist who reports for the Financial Times, says in a video that a growing “tech-lash” (backlash) against the imbalance of power generated by U.S. tech giants extends to how they use proceeds from overseas licensing revenues to buy foreign bonds. Curtailing this activity has the potential to cause disruption in the bond market and interest rates, she says. Foroohar’s video clip on the potential ramifications of tax increases can be found here.

Self-Licensing

Rather than licensing to themselves (or the entities they control) to generate income that avoids taxes and use those proceeds to invest in corporate bonds, techcos might consider generating genuine IP revenues, as well as taking, and paying for, licenses they need from other holders.

For the full Intangible Investor story, “Identifying the impact of the US tax act,” in the May IAM magazine out this week, go here.

Image source: brodyberman.com

Financial Times article slams US patent syst for business model bias

An article that appeared last week in the Financial Times calling into question the effectiveness of a U.S.  patent system dangerously weakened by bad legislation and a false narrative about patent “trolls,” has won praise for its accuracy and honesty.

In a rare instance of serious business reporting on intellectual property rights, award-winning journalist, Rana Foroohar, slammed Silicon Valley companies that have endeavored to impede patent licensing and diminish innovation challenges from companies they cannot control.

“Indeed, the only ones that seem not to be complaining about the current system are a handful of the biggest Silicon Valley companies — including Google, Apple, Intel and Cisco.” While they all have their own patents to protect, their business models, which involve products that include hundreds or even thousands of bits of IP, tend to do better when there are fewer patents to deal with.

“But small and mid-sized software and hardware suppliers as well as life sciences companies have very different business models — ones that live or die on the ability to protect a handful of patents, and thus monetise their years of investment. For many of these companies, the shifts in the system that began a decade ago have gone too far.”

Several small and large patent holders told IP CloseUp that the FT deserves praise for finally getting the patent story right, one calling it a “breath of fresh air.”  Many believe that the business press has failed to report accurately about the patent system, and has served to blow the patent “troll” narrative way out of proportion, especially for those outside of the IP industry.

FT allows subscriber access to the Foroohar article, Big Tech vs Big Pharma: the battle over US patent protection,” here. [Oddly, the title does not reflect the depth of the piece. Perhaps a more explicit one may have been too much for some readers or editors?]

For a free version of the article that ran on CNBC, go here.

Tech Titans

Much of Ms. Forhooar’s recent reporting in the FT has dealt with the rise of what she calls tech titans, many of which are attempting to maintain their dominance by keeping the patent playing field uneven and potential competitors at bay.

She has served as correspondent and reporter for CNN and Time, and spent 13 years at Newsweek, as an economic and foreign affairs editor and a foreign correspondent covering Europe and the Middle East. For a list of her recent articles, go here.

Forhooar has won many awards for her reporting and has received several journalism fellowships. She is a life-member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has written a book, Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business.

“Big Tech vs. Pharma” sets a sorely needed benchmark for the business press for reporting accurately on the intellectual property. Covering the impact that changes in the patent system have wrought, and who are the real beneficiaries, is both a challenge and an opportunity.

Image source: twitter.com; lovespace.co.uk

Accenture upsets blockchain believers with patent filing

Consulting giant Accenture has rattled the cage of the fintech community by filing a patent for an “editable” blockchain that would allow a central administrator to edit or delete information stored in a permissioned blockchain system.

Business Insider cites a Financial Times report that states a permissioned system is governed by a central administrator using agreed upon rules. This differs from permissionless systems, like those used by blockchain pioneers such as Bitcoin, which have no central authority. A key feature of permissionless systems is that the records they contain cannot be changed.

Accenture unveiled a prototype of the blockchain on Tuesday developed jointly by Accenture and Giuseppe Anteniese, a Stevens Institute of Technology professor.

accenture-quarterly-revenue-rises-97-percent-2014-9

Undermining Immutability?

“An editable system goes against one of blockchain technology’s key principals — immutability” reports Business Insider. The move is controversial to many because blockchain was conceived as an immutable, tamper-proof ledger, which eliminated the need for a centralized authority.

Accenture insists that immutability is not necessary in permissioned systems because everything is overseen by a single governing authority, and argues that the need for it in a permissionless system is part of the reason banks have been slow to create viable use cases with blockchain technology.

Business Insider thinks the success of Accenture’s system will depend on “whether or not financial services firms intend to use blockchain for use cases that require flexibility. Should they decide to implement the technology in more straightforward capacities, like managing their customers’ personal details, Accenture’s functionality would not likely be especially useful.”

Patent Application

There is no indication why a mere patent application — not a publication, notice of allowance, grant or successfully adjudicated right —  has reached this level of media coverage. Of late, blockchain-related patent filings, as well as issuances, have received significant coverage, prompting some to question where blockchain is headed.

Image source: businessinsider.com; bitcoinmagazine.com


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