Tag Archives: innovation

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

IP Awareness Summit update: keynotes to include top-ten inventor, Jay Walker, USPTO Director Iancu and IBM’s Schecter

Priceline.com founder and one of the most prolific and successful U.S. inventors in history will join USPTO Director Andrei Iancu and IBM Chief Patent Counsel Manny Schecter as featured speakers at the IP Awareness Summit in NYC on November 29.

The Summit will is being held by the Center for IP Understanding, an independent non-profit, at Columbia University’s famed Pulitzer Hall in the School of Journalism in conjunction with Columbia Technology Ventures.

Mr. Walker, an owner of TEDMED, which bridges the gap between science and the public, has long held that despite increases in U.S. technology and innovation, the patent licensing system is broken.

“The fact is that without a functioning licensing system we really don’t have what need to compete,” Mr. Walker, a former member of the Forbes 400, has stated. “Licensing is the way that inventions get into the economy; it’s the way they get used and brought into the marketplace and creates jobs and helps our economy to be more competitive.”

Mr. Walker is number eight on the U.S. all-time U.S. inventor list with 950 issued utility patents. Thomas Edison had 1,084. At the current pace, Walker will surpass Edison sometime in 2023. Many of his patents cover gaming and risk calculation.

Iancu and Schecter, too

Joining Mr. Walker as an IPAS 2018 featured speaker is USPTO Director Andrei Iancu, who will present at 1:30 and is likely to touch upon U.S. and China IP issues. Another featured presenter is Manny Schecter, Chief Patent Counsel of IBM, who will speak about the impact of a faster, more digitized world on IP and how it is seen.

Other speakers and panelists include a range of IP thought-leaders, owners, educators and organizations from the U.S., Europe and Asia, who will present and serve on panels. Luncheon breakout sessions will permit IP holders, creators and others to consider specific IP leadership challenges. Registration for IPAS 2018 is now open to the public but space is limited.

The IPAS 2018 theme – IP Literacy in a Digital World will be the basis for examining the impact of information and speed on how intellectual property is seen and often taken for granted, as well as ways to address the disconnect through education and the media.

To view the IPAS 2018 program and event website, visit www.ipawarenesssummit.com.

To register, go here.

The current list of IPAS 2018 participants and partners can be found on the home page. Persons who wish to apply for a discounted registration, contact explore@understandingip.org.

To learn more about the Center for IP Understanding, www.understandingip.org.

Image source: bloomberg.com; TEDMED

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

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 

Authors to DOJ: “Strong patent rights are vital to U.S. economic and security interests”

The United States Supreme Court and the Congress have moved to weaken patents over the past seven years without realizing the inherent danger to national interests.  

“Strong patents rights are vital to the economic and national security interests of this country,” say James Rill and David J. Teece in an article published last week, The DOJ must Exalt Intellectual Property Rights,” in RealClear Markets.

The article states that the U.S. Department of Justice must use its power to move intellectual property rights like patents into mainstream acceptability, and prevent them from being undermined “under the guise of anti-competitive behavior.”

Authors James Rill, Senior Counsel at Baker & Botts, served as Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust at the U.S. Department of Justice; David J. Teece is Professor in Global Business and director of the Tusher Center for the Management of Intellectual Capital at the Walter A. Haas School of Business UC Berkeley and a renowned economist.

“Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim’s recent policy statements and enforcement actions have re-asserted the historical value of intellectual property rights,” say Rill and Teece.

“He has suggested that the value of these rights have been inappropriately curtailed by the misapplication of antitrust principles, which could threaten the future of U.S. innovation efforts. As a result, AAG Delrahim has begun to restore the balance between antitrust and intellectual property rights, and has moved this important issue to the forefront of antitrust discourse.”

For the full article, go here.

Better Incentives Needed

Also published last week by Professor Teece in Competition Policy International, is a related in-depth article, “Enabling Technology, Social Returns to Innovation, and Antitrust: The Tragedy Of Depressed Royalties.” 

“Empirical studies show that almost all classes of R&D activity are under-supported,” argues Professor Teece. “Two in particular are grossly under-compensated: (a) basic research and (b) enabling (or general purpose) technologies… consideration needs to be given to amplifying, not diminishing, incentives for upstream investment in R&D. Such investment is perhaps among the most precious that society makes.”

Teece cites Nobel Laureate economist Douglass North on the impact of innovation incentives:

Throughout man’s past he has continually developed new techniques, but the pace has been slow and intermittent. The primary reason has been that the incentives for developing new techniques have occurred sporadically. Typically, innovations could be copied at no cost by others and without any reward to the inventor or innovator.

Recent efforts to enlist antitrust as a lever against patents, says Professor Teece, “have threatened to undermine incentives for R&D in several important areas.”

Subtle, theory-based antitrust arguments around patent “hold up” are a handy disguise for implementers and antitrust agencies to use to under-reward and thereby under-incentivize legitimate innovators.

Image source: cjnotebook.com; wsj.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

$88.3M (CD) for Canadian IP literacy and tools via new strategy

The Canadian government has announced that it is investing $88.3M CD in a new IP strategy that incorporates tools and education, and improves literacy. Canada’s population is approximately one-tenth of that of the U.S.’

The government wants to help business, creators, entrepreneurs, and investors better understand, protect and access intellectual property (IP) through a comprehensive IP Strategy. The full story can be read on IP Watchdog.

Legislation, Literacy, Advice

The IP Strategy will make changes in three key areas: Legislation, Literacy, and Advice, according to a statement and Canada’s IP Strategy website.

The Canadian government announcement said that intellectual property is a key component of an innovation economy. It helps Canadian innovators reach commercial success, further discovery and create middle-class jobs by protecting their ideas and ensuring they reap the full rewards of their inventions and creations.

Canada’s IP Strategy will help Canadian entrepreneurs better understand and protect intellectual property and also provide better access to shared intellectual property. Canada is a leader in research, science, creation, and invention, but has lagged in commercializing innovations.

The new IP strategy received praise from a range of industries, from aerospace to biotech to entertainment.

A suite of seminars, training and information resources on the subject of intellectual property (IP) is tailored for businesses and innovators. As part of the “Literacy and Advice” section of IP Strategy, the Canadian IP Office (CIPO) will:

  • Launch a suite of programs to help improve IP literacy among Canadians.
  • Support domestic and international engagement between Indigenous people and decision makers as well as for research activities and capacity building.
  • Provide tools to support Canadian businesses as they learn about IP and pursue their own IP strategies.

Copyright Awareness

Earlier this year, the UK IP Office (UK IPO) introduced a copyright awareness program with a series of educational animations for students seven to eleven-years-old.  “Nancy and the Meerkats,” under the Cracking Ideas initiative, met with nasty opposition from media like Techdirt and Torrent Freak. They believe that helping children to understand IP right from wrong is a little more than brainwashing. These publications often have an IP axe to grind and believe that content and code should be broadly shared, and that piracy is not necessarily theft.

UK Teaches 7-Year-Olds that Piracy is Stealing” was the title of the Torrent Freak article, implying that it is not. Piracy is not OK, even if some coders, content providers, and patent infringers believe it is. A BBC story attempted to sort things out, but the negative publicity appeared to put the educators on the defensive when it is the infringers who should be. Teaching children IP right from wrong is part of good parenting.

Image source: ic.gc.ca

Rep. Collins speaks from IP experience at CIPU-GIPC innovation policy forum

On Tuesday an open briefing was held in Washington to better understand U.S. innovation and IP policy. Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA), a supporter of strong and certain IP rights, launched the event with a personal account of his exposure to IP rights growing up in rural Georgia. 

He said that a number of his relatives and neighbors were chicken farmers, “some of whom invented new and more effective processes to produce and process eggs and poultry that were protected under IP law.”

The keynote comments of the Congressman were part of a program, “Innovation Policy and Intellectual Property: Building on a Strong Foundation,” held by the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU), an independent non-profit, and the Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC), a division of the United Stated Chamber of Commerce.

House Judiciary Committee

Congressman Collins is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and also is on the sub-committee for the Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet. He was a sponsor of the recently enacted, and broadly supported Music Modernization Act, which passed the House 415-0, and has developed and supported other IP-friendly legislation. “IP is a part of the fabric of the nation,” he said. “American freedom is tied to an effective IP system.”

Other presenters included CIPU board member Marshall Phelps, former Vice President of IP Business and Strategy at Microsoft and prior to that at IBM. Mr. Phelps also served as head of Government Relations for IBM in Washington in the 1980s, and previously was head of Asia-Pacific. He spoke about the threat to technology posed by “Japan, Inc.” in the Eighties, and how the U.S. was able to surmount the threat with the right combination of incentives.

“The threat to IP and innovation from China is real,” said Phelps in his introductory remarks, “but too much policy and the wrong incentives can create bigger problems. Making patent certainty a higher priority should be the first priority. Putting IP properly on the balance sheet would help, too.”

Manny Schecter, Chief Patent Counsel of IBM, also a CIPU director, and president of the Intellectual Property Owners (IPO) Education Foundation, was a panelist, as were, Alan Marco, former USPTO Chief Economist, Rob Atkinson, a pro-IP economist and President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), and Professor Adam Mossoff, an IP scholar and policy expert at George Mason University Scalia School of Law.

Among the goals of the panel was to explore:

  • What is U.S. innovation policy?
  • How does it relate to intellectual property?
  • Who should be responsible for it?
  • How should success be measured?

Audience Response

One the audience members asked if the Supreme Court, with Oil States and several other decisions, was “anti-IP.” The panel did not believe so, but thought that SCOTUS members may be poorly informed about the purpose and use if IP rights.

Another audience member stated the false narratives around phrases like patent “trolls” were part of a long-term “public relations campaign” that has seeded anger and hostility toward IP rights in general. He thought a sustained educational initiative could help to make the role of IP clearer for various audiences.

Image source: GIPC

Reactions to Oil States show that patent due process is not dead

Two days before World IP Day, on April 24, the Supreme Court of the United States relinquished significant judicial authority for patents to the executive branch in Oil States Energy v. Greene’s Energy.   

This decision upheld the constitutionality of the Patent Trial and Review Board. The Wall Street Journal stated in a thoughtful and uncharacteristically nuanced commentary, “This process [the inter partes review] was intended to discourage frivolous patent litigation, but is susceptible to political bias.”

Oil States overturns 200 years of judicial precedent and allows the federal government to revoke patents. Dissenting were Justice Gorsuch, President Trump’s appointee, and Chief Justice John Roberts.

” …the purpose of patents, which is to encourage innovation and reward investment, will be undermined if they can be nullified without due process and hearing before an Article III judge,” the WSJ concluded.

The WSJ’s editorial page got it right, even if SCOTUS did not.

Sin of Omission

James Carmichael and Brad Close writing in IP Watchdog, Despite Oil States, IPRs May Still be Unconstitutional,” reminds patent holders that the Court, by its own admission (or should that be “omission”?), ruled on a very narrow area of law and may have left the door open to further decisions that will strengthen patents.

“What was unfortunately never addressed in Oil States, and which the court specifically left the door open for, was that patents rights are still property rights for the purpose of Due Process–the inference being that IPRs may fail under the Due Process or Takings Clause.  Indeed the court seemed to lament that Oil States did not challenge the retroactive application of IPRs and their constitutional sufficiency on a broader basis.”

Carmichael and Close cite the justices tone in their written decision:

We emphasize the narrowness of our holding. We address the constitutionality of inter partes review only… our decision should not be misconstrued as suggesting that patents are not property for the purpose of the Due Process Clause or the Takings Clause.

Justice Gorsuch wrote that until recently, most everyone considered an issued patent a personal right—no less than a home or farm—that the federal government could revoke only with the concurrence of independent judges.

Dig In

Oil States did not go well for patent holders, but that was no surprise. What was somewhat unexpected was a strong stance from the US’ leading business periodical, the Wall Street Journal, about the shortsightedness of the Court’s decision, and that the Chief Justice and another member of SCOTUS also were not in favor of constitutionality for PTAB reviews.

Further judicial review of patents and patentability, if not the PTAB and IPRs, is order. If nothing else, Oil States puts a greater burden on USPTO Director Iancu to step-up and de-politicize PTAB administrative procedures and judges.

Despite the obvious loss, Oil States may prove to be the best reason for patent holders to dig in.

Image source: yahoo.com; law.com

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