Tag Archives: iam magazine

‘Innocent’ IP theft is widely accepted and dangerously viral – Why?

So widespread is IP abuse that it no longer is regarded as a crime by many of the people committing it or authorities entrusted to preventing it. 

What has happened to change law-abiding citizens and honest businesses into serial patent, copyright and trademark infringers?

Start with geometric increases in information and speed. Putting enormous computing (and copying) power in the hands of billions of people and tens of thousands of businesses has made access seamless. What’s theirs often feels like mine, even when it is not.

26069006_sA heightened sense of entitlement is another factor. People want their Rolex or Gucci bag, or latest Adele song, and they want it now, for a fraction of the actual cost if not for free. (The same could be said of the latest mobile phone chip.)

Many businesses believe that even if they did not invent a particular product feature, they definitely could have, and why should they pay for it if no one is forcing them to. Besides, someone has to identify infringement and prove it in court. Good luck with that.

Unusual Bond

Consumers and companies have an unusual bond: they know that they can freely infringe without much fear of retribution. And you know what, they think — “everyone seems to be doing it lately.”

A third but not final reason is suspicion of IP rights and owners. Patents, copyrights, trademarks all are government-issued, lawyer-administered and business-owned rights. The average person will never own an IP right and believes that benefiting from them is for the privileged or wealthy. They are only partially right. No one – not the lawmakers, not federal agencies, not the police, the schools or businesses or community leaders – has done a very good job of explaining what’s in IP for them?

Fueling the Rise in IP Abuse

“When theft is no crime” in the March IAM magazine, the Intangible Investor looks at the rise in IP abuse and what is fueling it. IAM subscribers can go here for the full article.

Free riding comes in many shapes and sizes. It is economically a threat and constantly growing. It has become so much a part of American fabric that millions of people, businesses and community leaders are not even aware that it is taking place. IP theft may seem like a victimless crime, but data shows it is not.

The Department of Commerce’s 2016 update, Intellectual Property and the US Economyreports that IP-intensive industries supported 45.5 million jobs and contributed $6.6 trillion in value added, equivalent to free-riding-final-2-768x34638.2% of US gross domestic product. These impressive results for IP holders are far from guaranteed if IP protections can be easily ignored. On the down side counterfeits, patent infringement music file sharing are way up.

Re-writing the Rules

Whether they acknowledge it or not, some companies and individuals are attempting to rewrite the property rule-book, or, at least, ignore it as long as they can. The impact may not be that readily apparent at first, but it will eventually be widely felt: by musicians, authors, inventors, investors, small businesses, consumers and companies selling products from automobile brake parts to pharmaceuticals and luxury goods – along with their employees. 

Lack of awareness plays a role in ignoring IP rights, but there may be something deeper and more insidious going on: distrust of authority and frustration with government and laws. Some of this anger has been orchestrated by anti-patent lobbyists.

Routine acceptance of IP theft also reflects the growing antipathy towards so-called ‘elites’, which led to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. Why IP holders don’t deserve exclusivity and land owners do is rooted in how the culture views IP rights and holders, as much as the difficulty accepting their value.

People need to be reminded that with IP rights, not every restriction is an obstacle.

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I will be announcing a non-profit organization in a few weeks dedicated to addressing the lack of IP awareness and increasing hostility to rights. Watch IP CloseUp for more information.

Image source: digitalguardian.com; theCenterforIPUnderstanding

 

Experts: Void from U.S. patent “train wreck” is being filled by China’s patent system

In a few short years China’s patent system has gone from an IP rights wannabe to one of the most responsive and patent-friendly systems in the world.

Leading U.S. IP experts say that underlying this rapid evolution is a desire for China to become a science and technology powerhouse, with the ability to create new and formidable industries that employ many of its 1.4 billion people.

“China wants to be an innovation leader for multiple reasons,” Irv Rappaport, former Chief Patent Counsel at Apple and National Semiconductor, who served on the Uruguay Round of GATT, told IP CloseUp recently. “It is fascinating to see how the U.S. patent system is imploding, while the Chinese system is exploding with activity and purpose.

“For more than a decade the U.S. has been emasculating its patent system, while the Chinese have been studying it and adopting the benefits of a well-coordinated and fast-moving one. The U.S. has gone from being on the global cutting edge in IP in the 1990s, to becoming a patent backwater, because of a well-heeled, anti-patent faction among technology companies that want to stifle competition.

“Train Wreck”

“China has watched the U.S. train wreck and is moving fast to fill the void,”continues Rappaport. “It wants to become the world’s ‘Eastern District of TX,’ that is, a fair and fast adjudicator of disputes that respects patent holders’ rights. China will soon be the world’s largest economy with the biggest population and a middle class the size of England, France and Germany combined. Their commitment to innovation can not be ignored.”

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Peter Holden, CEO of ipCreate and former managing director with London-based Collar Capital and a founding executive with IP Value, has worked extensively with Asian companies and patents. He has traveled to Korea, China and Japan more than 100 times over the past twenty years. “The Chinese have learned from the U.S. and are sincere about making their IP system the best — one that will encourage innovation and help their nation to become the economic leader. It is not merely a thought. It’s an idea that they are dedicated to.

“China’s attitude towards foreign patent enforcement may not always be as generous as it is currently. It knows that it needs to bend over backwards to be fair if it is to be taken seriously on a global scale. To encourage competition there needs to be a level playing field.”

Counterfeits Still Rule

But China’s record on counterfeits is poor, with everything from luxury goods to pharmaceuticals sold domestically and exported globally. According the U.S. International Trade Commission, Chinese theft of U.S. IP in 2009 alone cost almost one million U.S. jobs and caused $48 billion in U.S. economic losses.

“Counterfeit goods are still an issue for China,” says Erick Robinson, a patent attorney in Beijing and author of Defending a patent case in the brave new world of Chinese patent litigation, in the current issue of IAM magazine. “However, sales of fake goods are no longer openly accepted and the government has been on the war path trying to stop them in different ways. Authorities know that in order to be taken seriously about IP rights, they cannot ignore the problem of counterfeit goods.”

For a prior IP CloseUp post summarizing the Robinson article, go here.

“Go-To” Jurisdiction

China is just beginning to build its giant tech companies. They have succeed with Alibaba and Huawei, and acquired Lenovo from IBM, which is now a $45 billion (USD) business. Their big businesses currently have less to lose from strong patents and quick dispute resolution than those in the U.S. and Europe. To create successful businesses and attract investment, incentives need to be provided, and strong patents and a reliable legal system for adjudicating disputes are great for encouraging that.

Perhaps when China has as many big tech players as the U.S. it will start to think more defensively, but for now it is the perfect setting for encouraging new ideas with strong patents and courts that make it easy to obtain injunctions.

“It’s interesting that the Chinese are encouraging large foreign corporations to sue non-Chinese companies in China,” opines Rappaport. “This suggests that they are looking to become the patent litigation go-to jurisdiction.” As their innovation grows and becomes more complex, I believe they will have less interest in exporting cheap knock-
china-is-receiving-the-most-invention-patent-applications-in-the-world-insideiim-rishikeshakrishnan-1024x792

offs.  Their IP path is similar to that followed by many of today’s developed economies, such as Japan and South Korea.  You start off copying others and gradually move to internal innovation.”

Despite China’s success in facilitating stronger patents and more decisive courts, a huge question is just how prominent a role will patents play in new companies in a data-driven information age.

“Given the accelerating pace of technology development and nature of discoveries, which are frequently software driven, it’s not clear whether existing patent systems can remain relevant in the longer term,” says Rappaport. ” This effect may partially explain why patents currently seem to be less relevant in the U.S.  It remains to be seen whether this is a longer term development. It is a development that needs to watched.”

“100% Win Rate”

“Trust the Chinese government to do what is best for the Chinese people,” reminds Beijing-based Robinson. “It’s less about assisting foreign patent holders than establishing a really viable IP system that encourages innovation and growth, and that attracts foreign investment. Forty-percent of the smart phones in India are currently manufactured by Chinese companies. Innovation coupled with enforcement will drive China’s new businesses and help them grow.”

As reported by Robinson in IAM, “foreign plaintiffs notched a 100% win rate [65 – 0] in civil cases heard by the Beijing IP Court last year, according to a judge who has been on its roster since it was established in 2014.”

Wake-Up Call

A decade of weakening has taken its toll on the U.S. patent system and patent holders. It will not be quick to recover unless a concerted effort can be made to take IP rights seriously. Allowing U.S. patent policy to be dictated by those with the greatest financial success and market share may be appealing to shareholders, but it is not necessarily what is needed for the nation to remain competitive in a global economy, and to generate new businesses and jobs.

Hopefully, the wake-up call comes soon for the U.S. and it can retain the title of innovation leader it has held since the 19th Century but is slipping away.

Image source: insideiim.com; chinapatentblog.com; wsj.com

China is poised to overtake the U.S. as the leading patent system

A few years ago a company whose patents were violated in China had little or no chance of defending its rights. 

Determined to move beyond its role as a low-cost provider of look-alike consumer products, and establish itself as an innovation leader, China has learned from the successes – and mistakes – of other intellectual property systems, especially the U.S. The nation of 1.4 billion inhabitants has rapidly emerged as what is currently among the fairest and most patent holder-friendly systems in the world.

Chinese patent courts second only, perhaps, to Germany in quickly and fairly adjudicating disputes.

A fascinating article in the current IAM magazine, “Defending a patent case in the brave new world of Chinese patent litigation,” details China’s rapid rise from low-cost copier to a patent power, and a nation that has caught the attention of major global technology powers who are often defendants.

Damages awards are relatively small in China, with median awards currently around 35,000 Renminbi or about $5,000, but injunctions, the power to stop a likely infringing product from being sold, are now issued over 99% of the time to winning parties. NPEs, what some U.S. companies refer to as patent “trolls,” are treated fairly as long as they their patents are of sufficient quality and are the companies are generally supportive of Chinese welfare.

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Patent litigation win rates, according to the article, average around 80%. Startlingly, foreign plaintiffs fare better statistically than Chinese. 

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The U.S. effectively ended the granting of patent injunctions in 2006 with EBay v. MercExchange. Now, only operating companies can obtain them in rare circumstances. This removes most of the leverage afforded patent holders. Granted, injunction abuses are a fact of life, and dubious patents have at times been used to enjoin products, costing companies time and money. But without the power to stop a product from being sold, patents have little meaning.

Race to the Bottom

“Largely as a result of the United States’ race to the bottom in terms of patent enforcement, Germany has emerged as a go-to patent jurisdiction, with virtually guaranteed injunctions, quick time to trial and no discovery resulting in a highly efficient system,” writes Beijing-based Erick Robinson, chief patent counsel, Asia-Pacific for Rouse, a global IP strategy firm.

Patent-holder Win-Rates and Median Damages Awards 

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“Enter China. For years the laughing-stock of all things IP related, the Middle Kingdom was ridiculed for the easy availability of counterfeit handbags, software and DVDs. However, over the last 15 years, and especially in the last two to three, China has put together an extremely effective patent enforcement system. Based largely on the German system and all of its advantages, but with selected portions from US law, China has now become a top forum for patent litigation.”

Unlike most countries which enjoin making, using and selling allegedly infringed products in-country, as well as imports, Chinese law also bans infringing exports from leaving the country. So, for example, if the accused device is Apple’s iPhone, not only can sales of iPhones in China be enjoined, but also exports of the devices from China. This would enable a patent owner to achieve an effective worldwide ban, since iPhones are manufactured in China.

Slippery Slope

With U.S. patent protection significantly diminished over the past decade, and China’s on the rise, the U.S. is on a slippery slope when it comes to stimulating R&D, innovation and investment. It is well on its way to becoming a second-rate patent system, and a slip in disruptive innovation, necessary for the creation of new industries, difficult to measure in real-time, has probably started. Certainly, companies and their stakeholders are thinking twice before pursuing or relying upon USPTO-issued patent protection.

It remains to be seen if China, a continuing source of counterfeit goods that are shipped worldwide, is committed to providing its businesses, as well as those outside of the country, with a legal system that can meet the needs of all business holders, and permit fair and timely resolution of legitimate disputes.

High Win-Rates; Low Damages Awards

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China is now the second largest filer in the U.S. and, while its companies have rarely resorted to filing suits in the U.S. against U.S. companies, there is little doubt that it will do so in the future. Technology giants include Alibaba, Xiaomi, Huawei and Lenovo.

China is likely to be more aggressive enforcing its patents than U.S. frequent-filer Japan, which has been reluctant to engage in domestic or foreign patent disputes. (There are some signs that is changing.) Samsung, by far the largest holder of U.S. patents in the world, has shown a greater willingness use its patents for licensing and leverage.

China may or may not be deliberately attempting to embarrass U.S. and eventually surpass its moribund IP system, but the impact is the same. Continued lack of awareness of what IP rights achieve and for whom, and lobbying, has significantly compromised the once-exemplary U.S. patent system. The Chinese are not too new to capitalism not to see this as an opportunity to compete. For the U.S.’ sake, let’s hope it’s not too late to make invention rights a priority again.

Subscribers can access The brave new world of Chinese patent litigation here.

FUTURE POST: What patent experts believe China’s patent-friendly system means for the U.S. – Experts: Void from U.S. patent “train wreck” is being filled by China’s patent system

Image source: IAM magazine

Attorney-investor is willing to share patent filing costs & risks with clients

Many law firms still seek to participate in the outcome of clients’ patent litigation, but few are willing to share the cost of obtaining and maintaining invention rights, which frequently turn out to be worthless. 

A new book by an innovative Colorado attorney and inventor suggests that patent lawyers need to have more skin in the prosecution game, and that filing patents just to have them is a waste of their client’s time and money.

Russ Krajec, author of Investing in Patents: Everything Startup Investors Need to Know About Patents, says that the high cost of obtaining, maintaining and defending patents is prohibitive for most young companies. But without patents they can undermine their future, the value of their enterprise, and the fate of their investors.

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Recent studies indicate that 30 percent of U.S. “unicorns” (start-ups with greater than $1B in valuation) have no patents and 62 percent have fewer than 10 patents.
(David Kappos, et al. the New York Law Journal)

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In the January issue of IAM magazine, available this week, you will find my Intangible Investor review of Krajec’s deft book and industry-challenging strategy, “A strong case for a new approach to patent investing,” accessible to IAM subscribers, here.

Investing in Patents, deceptively spare at just 139-pages, is relevant to all patent filers, lawyers and investors, in addition to young companies, many of which are choosing to forgo patent protection. (See excerpt from The New York Law Journal article above.)

Patents are more expensive than ever, just over $56,000 for the average one over the course of its life. Defending them has reached new highs of cost and risk. A case through IPR(s) to trial can cost several million dollars and require more than five years, with a reduced likelihood of success.

Average Cost of a Patent Over its Life – $56,000

patent-cost-pie-chart-v1-1

Engineer, Inventor, Financier

Investing in Patents is available at Krajec.com or on Amazon.com, here. In addition to being a patent attorney who has worked for H-P and other companies as a practicing engineer, Krajec has more than 40 patents to his name and, earlier in his career, was a USPTO patent examiner. He also runs BlueIron, LLC, an IP finance and management company.

While the sugg51l5ndgkvlestion of joint or fractional patent ownership is compelling, it is not entirely new or simple. As in most agreements, the devil is in the details.

It is unclear how Krajec believes ownership of a patent should be divided and who has the right to license, enforce, sell or otherwise leverage it – and when. Perhaps, most importantly, who gets to define success?

Given the current high-risk/low return scenario for obtaining and licensing patents most high-tech patents, this lawyer’s ownership alternative may be just what is needed to realign interests and enhance performance.

Image source: aipla.org; krajec.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

Contrarian patent investors see opportunity where others see risk

The emergence of contrarian patent investors – bargain hunters hoping to cash in on decidedly soft market for  licensing and sales – are an indication that the bottom of the bear market for patents may be at hand.

A number of operating companies and some NPEs have been quietly acquiring patent families and portfolios at bargain rates. They include financial institutions, such as banks, traditional tech players, a few NPEs, and “unicorns” looking to shore up their valuation with intangible assets.

Betting aodd-one-outgainst the prevailing sentiment by seeking to identify under-priced assets does not come easily for professional investors or businesses. A strong stomach and sufficient cash is essential.

Contrarians who invest in traditional asset classes like stocks, bonds and money market instruments, can be rewarded for their good timing and persistence. Those who delve into commodities and real estate, too.

But while patents are assets to some businesses – “intangible” investors at heart – they are not a traditional asset class. Uncertainty surrounds patent validity in many classes, and patent value is often context-driven. Additionally, patent litigation is more unpredictable since the Patent Trial and Appeal Board was established.

Acquiring patents is more like buying a futures contract than investing in securities, which historically, at least, tend to bounce back over time. Patents also lack price transparency and market liquidity, which are essential for most investors’ comfort level, and are subject to judicial and political winds.

So, what do secondary market buyers know that others don’t?

Bargain Basement

In “Au contraire?,The Intangible Investor column in the July IAM magazine, I consider patents as an asset class, and those brave investors with the courage (and cash) to recognize opportunity where others see adversity. IAM subscribers can read it here

“Current low IP company share prices are a road to finding a bottom in an emerging market,” says Mark Argento, head of capital markets and a senior research analyst at Lake Street Capital Partners. “It is a part of the process of patents becoming more widely understood and accepted as assets. While the shakeout is unpleasant for some, it is part of an evolutionary process from which at least some will benefit.”

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Benjamin Graham wrote in The Intelligent Investor, a highly regarded book about value investing: “The investor’s chief problem – and even his worst enemy – is likely to be himself.”

To be a true contrarian, an investor needs to do what others are not doing, even when it may seem unwise to do so. It takes guts to go against a market and one’s own instincts.

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“Patents as an Asset Class” will be the subject of a debate I am moderating at IPBC Global in Barcelona on June 7. Stop by to hear the pros and cons of patents as assets. The IPBC session has the makings of a very lively exchange. Audience participation is encouraged. Drinks will be served directly after.

Image source: valueinvestasia.com; novelinvestor.com 

Responsible Patent Licensing is focus of Wall Street event

Not all patent licensing businesses are alike.

“NPE 2016: The Business of Responsible Licensing,” scheduled for March 22 at the Convene conference in New York, will differentiate patent monetization companies by examining their business models, strategies and the managers who run them.

The conference will focus on the non-practicing entity (NPE) industry, including both public and private companies. In 2015, the NPE 2016 brought together leaders from the licensing company sector and the wider corporate IP and investment communities to discuss the challenges and opportunities of running a patent licensing business, especially in today’s challenging climate.

NPE 2016 is the only gathering that examines how NPEs operate and contribute to the innovation and the economy.

3J6A3349Moderator-led panel discussions with audience Q&A at the end of each will be featured. Sessions are designed to focus on the specifics of building and running successful NPE, as well as on the opportunities available to investors.

Beyond Monetization

This year’s sessions will consider licensing best practices, building and managing a patent portfolio, licensing dos and don’ts, litigating in Europe once the Unified Patent Court has been launched, licensing opportunities in new sectors and moving IP commercialization beyond monetization.

Last year’s attendees included:

• NPE executives
• In-house counsel and legal directors
• Private practice lawyers
• Licensing executives
• Patent brokers
• IP policy professionals
• Investment professionals

IP CloseUp readers who use the promo code IPCLOSEUP before February 19 are eligible for a $150 discount off of the full $895 registration.

For more information about NPE 2016 or to register, go here.

For he full program, go here.

 

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Image source: convene.com; iam.com

 

Panasonic, NEC & Sony are battling with IBM for patent sales leadership

Despite dramatically lower patent valuations, some big companies, including under-performing foreign holders, have taken the number of U.S. sales to new highs.

While IBM still leads, over the past three and a half years, it has been joined by IP-conservative firms from Japan, notably Panasonic/Matsushita, NEC and Sony. All four of these companies have something in common: poor recent financial performance.

In the January IAM Magazine, the Intangible Investor looks at the latest trends in patent sales among the biggest sellers. Activity is up and emerging are new leaders, like Panasonic, which leads even IBM in U.S. sales for the first half of 2015.

Analysis conducted by Brody Berman Associates in conjunction with Envision IP, a law firm that specializes in patent research, reveals that “for the three-and-a-half year period from 2012 to early August 2015, the leading seller by far was IBM, with 5,356 patents. Buyers include Google, Facebook, Alibaba and Twitter. In 2014 alone, IBM sold 2,187 patents, the most in any year over the period by any of the 12 leading tech companies analyzed.

Leading Patent Sellers

“Surprisingly, the number two, three and four patent sellers in the 2012-2015 period were all Japanese companies,” writes this reporter. “Panasonic/Matsushita, NEC and Sony, with 4,203, 2,131 and 1,578 respectively. This is a dramatic shift for conservative Japanese electronics giants, which rarely litigate patents to generate revenue or enable others to.”

Subscribers can link to IAM’s January issue here.

Intellectual Venture’s 70,000 patent portfolio appears to contain no patents originally owned by Apple, Google or Qualcomm, as Envision’s findings indicate. Several patents owned by IV investors appear in its portfolio, including those of Nokia, Verizon, Microsoft and Sony. Only 268 of the 19,559 US patents owned by IV were identified as having a litigation history, representing less than 1.5% of the portfolio.

Top 4 Patent Sellers

Among the top companies IV purchased from are Kodak (1,057), American Express (643), AT&T (358) and Philips (313) and Ericsson (273).

A list of IV’s 35 top sources for acquisitions can be found here.

Image source: Envision IP, LLC

“Men of Progress” depicts U.S. inventing’s past, present and future

A group portrait that honors America’s rich invention history captures its greatest inventors in a moment in time that never actually occurred.  

The painting hangs in the grand, neo-classical National Portrait Gallery in Washington, once home of the United States Patent & Trademark Office. It depicts a symbolic gathering that honors America’s innovative past, while encouraging observers to speculate on its future.

Men of Progress (1862) is a study of how America saw its leading technologists in the 19th century. The romanticized gathering of great minds never took place but was a virtual product of artist Christian Schussele’s imagination, and underwriter Jordan Lawrence Mott, that took four years to piece together from individual portraits. (This was almost a century and a half before Photoshop.)

800px-Christian_Schussele_-_Men_of_Progress_-_Google_Art_Project“Men of Progress”

The National Portrait Gallery is a Greek-revival building, whose beautiful restoration was completed in 2006, which housed the United States Patent Office from at least 1867 to 1932. (The official NPG history has the USPTO moving in in 1842, before construction was completed.) Work on the building was started in 1831.

For my thoughts about why Schussele’s vision of America’s visionaries remains timely, please read “Fathers of Invention” in the September IAM Magazinehere. Both print and digital editions are available.

Necessity and Ego

“If necessity is the mother of invention,” I write in the Intangible Investor, “then ego is the likely father. The US industrial revolution spawned an innovation age prior to the Civil War that helped to transform the United States from a wannabe nation to one of greatness.

“In 1857 the inventor of a coal-burning stove, Jordan Mott, commissioned Alsace-born portraitist Christian Schussele to paint a group portrait of 19 US scientists and inventors who ‘had altered the course of contemporary civilization’”.

Those depicted in the portrait had never met as a group. The artist sketched separate studies of each subject before combing them in his final, formal composition. Photoshop would have made it easier, but that was some 140 years in the future.

Fathers of Invention

The following list identifies the inventors and their primary contributions, starting from the left side (The Father of the Fathers of Invention, Benjamin Franklin, hovers on the wall in the background):

Dr. William Thomas Green Morton: surgical anesthesia
James Bogardus: cast-iron construction
Samuel Colt: revolving pistol
Cyrus Hall McCormick: mechanical reaper
Joseph Saxton: coal-burning stove, hydrometer, ever-pointed pencil
Charles Goodyear: vulcanization of rubber
Peter Cooper: railway locomotive
Jordan Lawrence Mott: coal-burning cooking stove
Joseph Henry: electromagnet design
Eliphalet Nott: efficient heat conduction for stoves and steam engines
John Ericsson: armored turret warship
Frederick Sickels: steam-engine gear and steering device for ships
Samuel F. B. Morse: electric telegraph
Henry Burden: horseshoe manufacturing machine
Richard March: rotary press
Erastus Bigelow: power loom for carpets
Isaiah Jennings: threshing machine, repeating gun, friction match
Thomas Blanchard: irregular turning lathe
Elias Howe: sewing machine

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I encourage those visiting Washington, IP professionals, inventors, and anyone interested in the great innovation history of the US, to stop by the National Portrait Gallery and take in this inspiring portrait. Admission is free.

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Image source: commons.wikimedia.org; Edward Sachse & Co., chromolithograph, c. 1857.

More Patent Holders, Filers Need to be Mindful of Bad Behaviors

Companies that denigrate independent patent holders who enforce their rights should take care not put all of the blame for the patent system’s ills on NPEs — There is plenty of bad patent behavior to go around. 

In the patent system it’s getting harder to tell the bad actors apart. And you know what they say about bad karma: What goes around comes around.

In the current Intangible Investor, in the March IAM, What’s in Their Wallet?,” I speculate about the dangers of complaining too loudly about how and by whom patents are being used. It can come back to haunt some large holders, many of whom hold large numbers of dubious patents and could be considered serial infringers.

REGULATE-tmagArticle“High patent counts are frequently a tactic rather than a solution and are an unreliable measure of success,” I write. “They are no more an indication of efficiency or innovation than a frivolous suit is of infringement. The quality of a patent holder’s portfolio matters, regardless of whether there is an intention to enforce it.

“Securing questionable patents is not a crime (although perhaps it should be), while enforcing them borders on one. This double standard will not exist forever. Decrying frivolous litigation loses meaning when the most vocal detractors of the current system are responsible for some of its worst patents.”

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In “The Mousetrap,” Hamlet’s play-within-the-play designed to catch the King, Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude, observes, “The lady doth protest too much.”

According to Wikipedia the quotation has been used “as a figure of speech to indicate that a person’s overly frequent or vehement attempts to convince others of something have ironically helped to convince others that the opposite is true, by making the person look insincere and defensive.”

Smart holders of some large patent portfolios would be wise to heed the advice. Subscribers to IAM can find “What’s in Their Wallet?” here.

Image source: depts.ttu.edu; dealbook.nytimes.com

Responsible Patent Licensing is Focus of NY Financial Conference

Executives of top patent holders will participate in “NPE 2015: The Business of Responsible Licensing” to be held in NYC’s financial district on March 12. There are still some audiences that believe that NPE, or non-practicing entity, is just another term for patent “troll.” To them patent holders who wish to license their inventions but do not sell products are suspect. More suspicious are companies that refuse to recognize that there are vast differences in the quality of asserted patents and the business that own them. NPE 2015: The Business of Responsible licensing will examine those differences and ways to combat misconceptions among patent holders. The conference will attract both non-practicing and practicing patent holders of all sizes, as well as investors, law firms, and law makers. NPE 2015, which will 6a00d83452408569e2010534bb9b53970b-800wibe held in NY’s financial district at the Convene conference center, steps from the stock exchange, is being produced by IP publishing and conference leader IAM, which produces the Global and Asian IP Business Congress. Businesses that engage in responsible patent licensing, that deploy quality rights for a market return, differ significantly from “trolls” who undermine the patent system by relying of the high cost of litigation to force a quick settlement. Recent legislation has done much to eliminate that strategy. Increased Scrutiny “Non-practising entities (NPEs) are facing greater scrutiny than ever before – be it from the media, US Congress, regulatory authorities or the courts – with much of that attention casting them, and large parts of the patent market, in a negative light,” writes conference organizer Richard Lloyd. “But at the same time, many NPEs’ business models are proving successful. A growing band of public IP companies (PIPCOs) have attracted new investors to the sector. The licensing strategies of many NPEs have never been more sophisticated, with several emphasising a shift away from litigation. And the growing confidence in the sector can be seen in several businesses committing themselves to best practices and playing an active role as the licensing sector considers adopting industry-wide standards.” IP thought-leaders who will be present at the conference include John Lindren, CEO of Conversant, which has taken a leadership role promoting best practices for patent licensing, Hon. Randall R. Rader, former Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and David Kappos, former USPTO Commissioner. A full list of speakers can be found here. “The days of asserting questionable patents to secure early settlements from defendants are all but over,” said Gerald Holtzman, President of Personalized Media Communications, an inventor-owned company,3J6A3349 who will participate on a panel in New York on March 12. “Still, there are those who would prefer patents be even weaker to further their agenda. America needs strong patents and a viable system to nurture innovation, encourage commerce and provide jobs.” “Being able to distinguish clearly between good patents and legitimate holders is an essential part of the equation.” Persons interested in attending, NPE 2015 can register here. Image source: wf360.typepad.com/; convene.com

Some Licensing Companies will Likely Benefit from Higher Patent Hurdles

As businesses adjust to new judicial and legislative requirements public patent licensing companies will have to work harder and think smarter to compete against the stock market and each other.

Some are better-positioned to succeed than other.

Investors will soon learn which patent licensing companies are best-prepared to respond to the new patent quality and anti-monetization requirements handed down by the lawmakers and the courts.

Public IP companies (PIPCOs) not only need to surmount new legal obstacles to monetize their assets, but at some point in the near future will no longer have the benefit of a bull market to buoy their shares. Such obstacles will actually suit some companies as they rise to the new challenges, and competition increase. It’s hard to keep a good patent down, especially a heavily infringed one; nor is it easy to deter a determined patent holder.

PIPCOs have benefited from the momentum of a 65-month bull market, by most accounts, now in its final stages. Balance sheet basics like cash flow, market value and the ability to grow in adverse market conditions will be increasingly important as investors seek shelter. This provides opportunities for companies like Tessera, InterDigital and Rambus, all market valued at $1B or more. This will put pressure on thinly traded nano-caps, whose low value will present challenges in weak market for speculative stocks. Exceptions will be those tiny companies whose stock price outpaces their revenue stream.  

Market Cap

In “Higher patent quality hurdles may help some Licensing companies to prevail” in the January IAM Magazine I look at the PIPCOs that have out-performed the S&P 500, thus far, and those positioned to continue to. I also consider  RPX’s (NASDAQ: RPXCIP business model which has suffered, possibly from a perceived lack of need for defensive aggregation under new Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) reviews.

“A kind of normalisation appears to be taking place in the NPE space,” the Intangible Investor piece states. “While IP rights and Alice have made it more difficult for most companies (and law firms) to collect big damages awards, they have not affected all PIPCOs the same way. Those with quality and capital, and room to grow are in a good position to prevail. Stock prices are depressed as over-reacting investors adjust to lower patent values, but some smart investors will see this as a buying opportunity.”  

Stock Performance

The businesses in the IP CloseUp® 30 that exceed $1 billion in market cap all did well through the first three quarters, some even outperforming the S&P 500, which was up 5% at that point. Most of the rest performed poorly, with the notable exception of Marathon Patent Group (NASDAQ: MARA), whose share price was up 120% at the end of the 3Q. (It’s up 147.7%% over the past year as I write this.)  Of the seven most highly valued IP licensing plays RPX performed the worst. (See current 12-month performance comparison below.)

S&P Comparison

“IP licensing companies are a very small part of a larger public equities market,” says Mark Argento, senior equity capital markets at Lake Street Capital, who has been following PIPCOs for almost a decade. “Only a half, or so, are institutional grade stocks because of their size and volume. Investor sentiment is improving. We need to remember there is a difference between long-term investors and short-term traders.” (See 3Q market cap and 12-month return charts on this page.)

The January IAM will be published in late November.

Image source: Lake Street Capital Partners; Freescale Semiconductor; tnoonz.com; yahoofinance.com.

PIPX 3

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