Tag Archives: innovation

China says it leads the U.S. in blockchain patents and investment

While China is no fan of bitcoin mining – it has moved to close mining operations – it is actively pursuing block chain patents, and is touting its leadership over the U.S.

China is the leading country for blockchain patents with Alibaba and PBOC on top, claims TechNode, a Chinese IP publication that partners with TechCrunch. Blockchain is a shared digital ledger that facilitates transactions, but whose practical application has yet to be determined. A wide range of U.S. financial institutions and technology companies are interested in blockchain, as well financial technology startups, many of whom have high valuations.

Out of the top 100 companies, reports TechNode citing Chinese data, 49 were Chinese, 23 from the US (see below for table of top 100 rankings). It is unclear if the leadership is in U.S. or China-issued patents, or both.

“An increasing number of companies in China are seeking ways to patent blockchain-related inventions, an effort that is in line with the Chinese government’s agenda to push forward with FinTech applications,” reports CoinDesk.

As reported by CoinDesk previously, major financial institutions, namely Bank of China, have already weighed in on issues such as blockchain scaling. (See “China’s Biggest Political Event Sees Blockchain Praise“)

China Blockchain Growth Exceeds the U.S.

IPRdaily, a Chinese language “integrated services organization focusing on new media for intellectual property and is committed to building the most influential IP cooperation platform in the world,” follows blockchain developments.

A report from IPRdaily – which is readily translated on Google Chrome browser – shows that blockchain financing growth in China far exceeds the United States, leading the world. The statistics show that as of December 17, 2017, the global total market capitalization of digital assets has reached 600 billion US dollars, compared with only 17.7 billion at the end of 2016. In less than a year, an increase of nearly 3300%.

Image source: iprdaily.com; technode.com

Pace of patent litigation declines; 2018 applications still flat

Early indications are that U.S. patent litigation for 2018 is on track to be among the lowest in since 2005.

So far in 2018, approximately 555 patent infringement suits have been filed (3,330 on an annualized basis). This is off from a peak of 5,874 in 2015, or an average of 979 every two months. In 2005, the lowest litigation filing year in recent memory, there were just 2,582 suits. In 2017, there were 4,072. January and February are early indications, and there is time for the rate to increase.

According to statistics provided by intellectual property research firm Patexia, January 2018 patent applications came in at 27,720, just 631 higher than 2017, 27,089, which was the lowest year for that month since 2012. February applications are running behind last year, which came in at 28,329 for the same month. Final figures are not yet in.

This trend in patent applications and litigation has been accompanied by a flattening of Inter Partes Review (IPR) petitions filed. IPRs have been fairly level for the past three years, peaking in 2017 at 1,725. So far this year (through February) there have been approximately 250 IPRs filed, putting 2018 on track for about 1,500, slightly below the last two years on an annualized basis. No information on the number or percentage of instituted petitions was provided.

Litigation, IPRs and CBMs Filed to Date

IPRs and Litigation

Difficulty obtaining software and business methods patents are a likely reason for the drop in U.S. patent applications, as well as the increased difficulty defending patents. Patent uncertainty and decreased need for defendants to take a license or engage in licensing discussions, as well as the high cost of litigation, are possible reasons for an increase in IPRs.

For Patexia live litigation statistics, go here.

Image source: patexia.com

Study finds that black, hispanic and women inventors lack opportunity and role models

Economic hardship and lack of exposure to innovation are preventing minorities, low-income backgrounds and women from becoming inventors. 

Those are the findings of “Lost Einsteins: Innovation and Opportunity in American,” conducted by the Equality of Opportunity Project (EOP). The study was conducted by researchers from Stanford, Harvard, the London School of Economics and MIT.

EOP analyzed the lives of more than one million inventors in the United States to understand the factors that determine who becomes an inventor in America.

“If women, minorities, and children from low-income families invent at the same as high-income white men,” the study concluded, “the innovation rate in America would quadruple.”

Patent Grants vs. Patent Success

Dramatic differences in patent grants do not account for lack of patent success.

The report did not examine reasons for the failure of  “advantaged” inventors – those from better socio-economic background – to establish businesses, generate licenses and otherwise contribute successfully to innovation and technology. This may more likely be a result of weakened IP laws under the American Invents Act and a general lack of support for inventors, including those associated with corporate research departments and research institutions.

The study concluded that children who excelled in math were far more likely to become inventors but that being a math standout was not enough. Only the top students who also came from high-income families had a decent chance of becoming an inventor.

Low-income students who are among the very best math students – those who score in the top 5% of all third graders – are no more likely to become inventors than below-average math students from affluent families.

While minority inventors certainly should be nurtured, the high failure rate of innovators who had the benefit of and privilege raises serious questions about whether financial support and role-models are the only resources bright people from minority groups need to succeed.

The full Intangible Investor, “Minority Inventors ‘Lost,'” in the March IAM magazine, go here

Study documents for the Equal Opportunity Project – including an executive summary, slides and a paper – can be found here

For the summary slides alone, from which the above images were generated, go here.

Image source: equality-of-opportunity.org

IP “literacy” matters – Ideas Matter promotes IP understanding for all

A basic literacy about IP rights is everyone’s responsibility. 

While at times complex, patents, copyrights, and trademarks can be widely understood if people are clear about their purpose and who they benefit.

Putting IP rights in perspective is serious business – especially given that knowledge-focused economies place an increasingly high premium on innovation, authorship, and brand.

Ideas Matter, a London-based consortium of IP holders and innovative businesses believes it is necessary to provide audiences more information about why IP rights are important and how it affects people. Recently, it teamed with the Center for IP Understanding at the IP Awareness Summitt in Chicago, to produce a video about the need for everyone to know more about IP rights.

“I think the economies of the world have realized that the market is controlled by innovation and invention,” said Judge Randall Rader (ret.), Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. “That requires research, that requires development of new ideas and resources, and, of course, those investments need protection.  That’s where the intellectual property system pays benefits.”

Ideas Matter released a video of interviews with IP experts and holders conducted at the IP Awareness Summit in Chicago. IPAS 2017 was held by the Center for IP Awareness (CIPU) in conjunction with Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology.

For background about the video and Ideas Matter, go here. Twitter: @IP_IdeasMatter.

To view the five-minute video, go here or click on the image above.

Image source: ideasmatter.com

44% of top U.S. patentees for 2017 are U.S. companies; 50% are Asian

Many companies received more U.S. patents in 2017; IBM, the perennial leader, was number one for the 25th year. However, there were some notable declines in patent grants.

Canon, Qualcomm and Google were down 10%, 9% and 13% respectively. It is difficult to determine if it is as a result of poor company performance or a shift toward higher quality. Toshiba 20%, Philips 15% and Brother Industries 24%. The grant results were provided by IFI Claims. They also were reported in Law 360. Facebook at number 50 was up 49%, but on a much lower base; Toyota was up 36%, an indication that the automobile companies may be positioning themselves in autonomous vehicles and batteries for electric cars.

(Click on image for the entire list or go to IFI Claims at the link above.)

What does it mean?

Interpreting this data is not simple. Clearly, more is not necessarily better, and some patent recipients, like IBM, up 12% in 2017, frequently do not hold their grants to term. (Samsung, the largest U.S. patent holder, is a much larger active holder than IBM.)

But being able to afford patents and obtaining them with a purpose is typically a positive among information technology companies. Only 22 of the top 50 U.S. patent recipients are U.S. companies, down from a decade or more ago. Fifteen are Japanese, five Korean and four Chinese. (One is from Taiwan.) European businesses accounted for four companies on the 2017 list – the same as the number as China without Taiwan, and one fewer than Korea.

Image source: Law360.com; IFI Claims

IP CloseUp visits up 26% in 2017; page views up 31%; readers drawn from 134 nations and territories

IP CloseUp, the blog of IP perspective, research, and people, grew in 2017 to more than 56,000 views and 44,000 visits, up 26% and 31% respectively from 2016.

Now in its seventh year, IPCU was read in 134 nations and territories in 2017. The top ten readers were the U.S., Canada, India, UK, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, South Korea, Taiwan, and France.  They were followed by the Netherlands, Japan, and China.

The most active month in 2017 was January, with 20,357 views. IPCU averaged a post a week and generated 52 posts for the year. Posts typically include links that make further research and exploration easier.

Since its inception in 2011, there have been more than 120,000 visits to IP CloseUp and 176,000 page views.

The most read post this year was about Robert Kearns, inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper, who was forced to sue U.S. and other automobile companies in the 1980s for patent infringement. The Kearns post generated 17,548 visits in January. A subsequent Kearns post published in 2016 can be found here.

IP CloseUp coverage includes patents, as well as copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets. Subscriptions are free. IPCU can also be followed on Twitter @ipcloseup.

Image source: http://www.ipcloseup.com

Topsy turvy: InterDigital posts 66% drop in 3Q net; Acacia up $158.4M

Public IP company stalwart, InterDigital, with PIPCO-leading performance over the past five years, was hit by a significant drop in its net earnings in the 3Q. Its performance was in stark contrast to the oft-beleaguered Acacia, which posted a quarterly net profit of $158.4 million.

For Acacia Research Corporation (ACTG), the motivation was a one-time gain as a result of an unrealized return on its investment in Veritone Inc. (VERI), the artificial intelligence company that went public earlier this year.

InterDigital (IDCC) posted a 66% drop in 3Q net, as its income from patent royalties fell to $34.7M from $103.5M. “The decline in patent licensing was mainly because of a plunge in past patent royalties,” reported The Patent Investor.

Earning for PA-based IDCC actually came in better than expected. CEO Bill Merritt emphasized the company’s continued efforts to manage for the long-term, saying “the strong visibility over our revenues and future cash flows, given our high fixed-fee revenue contribution and long-term agreements, put us once again in a position to return value to shareholders with last month’s announcement of our third dividend increase in the past four years.”

Four Million Shares

Acacia’s $50 million in loans to Veritone converted in the AI firm’s May 2017 IPO into 4.12 million shares of Veritone. That included 1,969,186 shares and a warrant to acquire 2,150,335 shares that converted into stock with the IPO. Acacia also has 1,120,432 Veritone stock purchase warrants with a strike price of $13.26. The company said its cash and short-term investments totaled $158.6 million, as of September 30, 2017.

Acacia appears to have generated a better return from its well-placed loan than it has from its recent patent licensing initiatives. That may be its smartest patent monetization play yet. InterDigital is down approximately $15 per share YTD; Acacia about $.50.

For a performance comparison of InterDigital, Acacia and other PIPCOs, visit the IP CloseUp 30™, here.

Image source: truebluetribune.com 


Global focus+ at IP Dealmakers Forum; IPCU reader’s save $200

Attendees to this year’s IP Dealmakers Forum can expect an expanded international perspective to the timely content and networking. This year’s keynote is Dr Lulin Gao, Founding Commissioner of the Chinese State IP Office. 

IPDF, now in its fourth year, emphasizes quality of content and attendees. Last year IPDF hosted more than 200 one-on-one private meetings.

“We are honored to have Dr. Gao as our keynote speaker this year,” noted Wendy Chou, Co-Founder of IP Dealmakers Forum.”He provides a timely and rare opportunity to gain insight into how China’s IP system really operates — straight from the source.“

Dr. Gao will present current data from the courts, providing attendees with valuable access to information that is not readily available.

Often referred to as the founding father of the modern Chinese IP system, Dr. Gao was the first Commissioner of China’s State IP Office, the longest standing Commissioner of the Chinese Patent Office, and a senior advisor to the WIPO. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards for his contributions in IP.

Last year, almost two-thirds of IP Dealmakers Forum attendees were investors and significant IP owners. I attend IPDF regularly. The Apella event space at the Alexandria Center, over the East River in NY, just south of United Nations headquarters, is a unique and conducive environment for an IP transaction summit of this nature.

Program & Discount

For the IP Dealmakers Forum 2017 program and panelists, go here.

IP CloseUp readers to here to receive a $200 discount off the registration fee.


Image source: 

Experts at IPAS 2017 will explore growing disregard for IP rights

At a time when the value of IP rights under attack by businesses, individuals and the courts, the first IP Awareness Summit will examine the reasons and possible responses.

The Intellectual Property Awareness Summit, which will take place in Chicago on November 6, is the first conference to address the role of IP understanding – and the lack of it – in innovation, ideas and value creation.

IPAS 2017 (subtitle: Enhancing value through understanding) will examine what are acceptable behaviors on the part of IP holders and users, and consider the rapid rise in Internet IP theft and “efficient” patent infringement, as well as distinguish between legitimate and abusive licensing.

IPAS 2017 is being held by the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU) an independent non-profit, and Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology.

IP owners – including patent, copyright and trademark holders – organizations, executives, investors and inventors from several countries will be attending. For information about the program, panelists and partners, go here

For a post about the need for broader and better non-legal IP education on the IAM blog written by Manny Schecter, Chief Patent Counsel of IBM and a CIPU board member, go here.

For more information about the Center for IP Understanding, started in 2017, go here.

Conference attendance is by invitation. Persons who would like to request an invitation can write to registration@understandingip.org.

Image source: IPAS2017

“Turn and face the strange” – Patent values fall to earth; PIPCOs, too

Changes, or should we say “ch-ch-changes,” channeling David Bowie, who reinvented himself repeatedly, have decimated the performance of most publicly held patent licensing companies.

Public IP licensing companies (PIPCOs) are changing their names and restructuring in an attempt to reframe themselves. The move appears part of an effort to shed the past, given that many of these businesses have significantly under-performed the S&P 500 Index.

With patent values at historic lows, a fresh perspective is welcome. But can PIPCOs turn the corner and successfully adapt to changing times (and valuations) in the patent space? Only some are likely to succeed.

A fuller discussion of public IP companies, “PIPCOs adapt to ch-changing times,” can be found in my “Intangible Investor” column in the September IAM magazine, out today. Subscribers can find the piece here. It includes companies that have changed their name or issued reverse splits of their stock. or otherwise reinvented themselves as operating companies with product sales.

A Closer Look

A closer look at the IP CloseUp 30 reveals several significant developments. One trend which financial analysts tend to question is rebranding; another is a reverse split, where a $0.50 stock can suddenly become a $4 one when investors are provided with fewer shares at a higher price.

To casual observers, it can appear that performance has taken off, when in fact the weak stock price is merely being obscured by a diminished public float. Many PIPCOs were formed by a merging a private enterprise into a public shell, which while not disreputable, often comes with baggage.

While one can appreciate different patent strategies – the need to monetize good assets through different business models – the perils of public ownership are ill-suited for the majority of companies whose primary focus is licensing.

Still, there are public and private patent licensing company successes, including Finjan, which has successfully fended off multiple IPRs, Network-1, inventor-owned PMC (Personalized Media Communications), which continues to license, and colleges like Northwestern and NYU, which have scored big on pharmaceutical licensing.  

Stanford University’s patent licensing take in shares of Google are said to be worth more than $300 million.

Image source: wikipedia.org

Passage of STRONGER Patent Act is likely to spur innovation and jobs

A bi-partisan bill introduced by Senators Coons, Cotton and others is one of the most important pieces of legislation for American competitiveness and innovation to come along in recent memory.

So why has it gotten almost no coverage from the leading business, technology and general news media? It may have to do with perspective, as well as how the media and its constituents wish readers to regard more certain patents, which are potentially more expensive to license.

Washington Examiner, IP Watchdog and a few others, who are generally pro-strong patents, provided extensive coverage. Others did not cover the STRONGER Patent Act at all.

The Hill ran the following headline: “Senate Dem Offers Patent Reform Bill.” It’s actually a bi-partisan effort, between Chris Coons (D-Del), and Tom Cotton (R-Ark), Dick Durbin (D-Ill), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hwi), and is supported by conservative members of the House, as well as business groups, like the Innovation Alliance, the Chamber of Commerce, inventors and others.

From 1st to 10th Place

The U.S. patent system is now ranked tenth worldwide by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a tie with Hungary. Until this year, it had always been ranked first.

Mostly, the business, technology and general news media have been silent on the best thing to come out of Washington in support of U.S. competition and jobs in a decade. Conservative groups are supporting the bill. Internet and some large tech companies who favor weaker, less challenging patents are not likely to support the bill in its current form, and may try to oppose it.

“This bill is totally worth getting behind,” a Washington observer told IP CloseUp. “Reforming the PTAB and restoring injunctions, what’s not to like? Frankly, just the injunction issue alone gives Coons great leverage over all other legislation.”

Key points in the STRONGER Patent Act in its current form include:

  • Restore injunctive relief for infringed inventions
  • Reform unfair Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) reviews
  • Allow the USPTO to retain its fees for faster, higher quality examinations
  • Protect consumers and small businesses from patent abuse

This STRONGER bill is a more robust version of the Coons-proposed STRONG Patents Act that was introduced in 2015.

The Washington Examiner article can be found here. The IP Watchdog piece by Brian Pomper of the Innovation Alliance, hereFor the Hill article go here.

“Coons wants to get ahead of Goodlatte in the House and Grassley in the Senate,” the IP CloseUp contact said. “He would like to seize the momentum from TC Heartland (driving more patent litigation to Delaware) and encourage Republicans to join the cause. During last year’s campaign, Trump voiced pro-patent sentiments, a change from Obama.  Cotton is on board, and I hear that Kennedy [Louisiana] and others are interested and willing to go against Grassley.”

For a one-page summary of the bill, go here.

For a section-by-section review, here. 

For more on the subject of media coverage of patents, see the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding report, “Patterns in Media Coverage of Patent Disputes,” here.

Image source: cpip.gmu.edu; ipwatchdog.com

Gene-editing break-through: can a collision of science, ethics and (patent) ownership be avoided?

The USPTO decided in February that the rightful intellectual property owner of CRISPR in eukaryotes, a time-saving tool that makes it cheaper and easier to edit gene sequences, should be Feng Zhang, Ph.D., and The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, not Jennifer Doudna, Ph.D., and the University of California, Berkley, who had conducted the earlier research.

However, Doudna and her team, which included Emmanuelle Charpentier, now with Max Planck Institute in Berlin, are on track to obtain a European patent for CRISPR. They recently filed an appeal against the USPTO’s decision, setting the stage for a showdown.

CRISPR will allow an organism’s DNA to become “almost as editable as a simple piece of text.” Using CRISPR, scientists will have the capacity to alter, insert and delete genes in plants, animals and, even in humans.

The implications are very big indeed, both in terms of science and profits, and, especially, ethics. Universities and businesses stand to generate potentially billions of dollars. Medical research will never be the same.

[For a good description of how CRISPR-Cas9 works, go here. ]

The battle lines are being drawn to determine the rightful owner of aspects of the development: Berkeley and Dr. Charpentier vs. Broad Institute/MIT and Harvard. It could mean an eventual pay-out of billions of dollars.


In 2012, Cal biochemistry and molecular biology professor Jennifer Doudna and microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier, now of the Max Planck Institute, changed the world. They invented CRISPR-Cas9 (as opposed to eukaryotes, which is any organism with a nucleus enclosed in membranes), a gene editing tool that uses a protein found in Streptococcus bacteria to chop up and rearrange viral DNA with precision.

“The implications of the technology were immediately apparent, astonishing, and perhaps just a wee bit scary.” 

“The implications of the technology were immediately apparent, astonishing, and perhaps just a wee bit scary,” reports California Magazine. “Ultimately, CRISPR applications might be developed to wipe out genetic diseases, produce bespoke bacteria that could pump out everything from hormones to biofuels, and engineer exotic animal chimeras.”

It is one thing to use an editor to eliminate genetic mutations, such as those found in sickle-cell anemia, writes the Wall Street Journal, however, “it is quite another thing to edit the germ line—that is, to make changes that would be passed on to future offspring.

“Would it be permissible, Ms. Doudna asks, to lower an unborn child’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease? If so, would it also be permissible to edit for greater intelligence or athleticism or even, say, for a particular hair color? While all such uses would ultimately require regulatory and institutional review, it is the notion of building a social consensus that is particularly fraught.”

The three main researchers involved in these patent cases have developed their own companies that focus on CRISPR: Doudna developed Intellia Therapeutics, Zhang developed Editas Medicine and Charpentier, now at a Director at Max Planck’s Infection Biology, developed CRISPR Therapeutics. So, both universities and businesses stand to benefit.

These university-based cases often result in sharing through cross-licensing. Remicade, for example, a highly successful biologic for treating auto-immune responses like Crohn’s disease which has generated over a $1 billion so far, has multiple university participants, but is primarily owned by NYU.

Who Benefits?

Yet another question that is raised: Is it right for highly endowed universities like Harvard to get richer as a result of government-funded research? Almost 70% of university research is provided by the U.S. government. Harvard’s 2016 endowment was $36.4 billion.

With the potential impact on society so great, patents may play much more than a financial role. They depending who controls them, they may turn out to be the lynch-pin for ethical application of advanced gene-editing.

In the most interesting chapters of her new book, “A Crack in Creation,” Ms. Doudna wrestles with her ambivalence about the tool she has helped create. She concludes that she no longer feels comfortable operating inside her “familiar scientific bubble”: She must take on a role as a public citizen and address not just the power of gene editing but the ethics of it. At stake, she believes, is “nothing less than the future of our world.”

Image source: bloomberg.com; rsb.org.uk

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