Tag Archives: intellectual property

Short-term thinking about intellectual capital weakens the U.S.’ ability to compete

A well-known economist and entrepreneur, whose work has been cited more than 120,000 times as tracked by Google Scholar, says that businesses and managers who fail to properly acknowledge the contribution of intellectual capital, including IP rights like patents and trade secrets, are dangerously short-sighted. 

David Teece, Director of the Tusher Center for the Management of Intellectual Capital, at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, says “We are at a critical junction in the evolution of our society and the economy. If we continue to protect and reward just the production of tangible goods (objects), while short-changing intangibles (ideas, inventions, creative-works, know-how, relationships, etc.), we will be out of step with technological progress and the march of civilization.

“Economies will eventually stutter if the creation of intangibles is compromised through poorly designed and weakly enforced intellectual property rules.”

Brief and Keynote

These remarks were part of a brief he wrote for the Tusher Center, which can be found here. He delivered more detailed remarks as the keynote at the first IP Awareness Summit in Chicago in November. The title of his talk was “IP Rights Erosion: A Growing Threat to U.S. Economic Leadership.” For the complete Intangible Investor column, “Short-changing intangibles – is risky business,” in the January IAM magazine, out this week, go here.

Dr. Teece believes that improving awareness of and attitudes towards intangible assets ought be part of industrial and innovation policy debates. “Nations that rely on creativity,” he says, “must be vigilante in maintaining systems that permit innovation, authorship and creativity to thrive.”

For the outline of Dr. Teece’s talk, go “IP Rights Erosion: A Growing Threat to U.S. Economic Leadership.”

Image source: berkeley.edu; understandingip.org

 

Update: 62 weird but strangely useful facts about bitcoin

$100 invested in bitcoin in July 2010 is worth about $6M today. For many, it is still unclear if blockchain is a viable alternative currency, an investment or a scheme that has made some people rich.

One Bitcoin today currently equals $7,416.88, up from under $500 over a year ago.

With those multiples you can see why patent and other IP holders are highly interested in the future not only of bitcoin, but other blockchain based crypto-currencies and transaction platforms. If bitcoin, which started it all, is far from perfect, blockchain, the technology that provides its basic infrastructure, can be seen as bitcoin 2.0.

The number of cryptocurrency and blockchain-related patent applications being submitted and published in the US has nearly doubled in 2017, reports Coin Desk.

Data from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database indicates that there were 390 patent applications related broadly to blockchain technology published between January and July of this year.

“Overall, this represents a 90% increase compared to the same period in 2016, when 204 applications were sent to the USPTO,” said the publication.

The dataset includes combined keyword search results using terms such as “bitcoin,” “ethereum,” “blockchain” and “distributed ledger,” among others.

Bank of America has been among the most active filers. Three new submissions, initially filed with the USPTO early last year, add to a total of 20 blockchain and cryptocurre

ncy-related patent applications filed by the bank since 2014.

Diversity of Perspective

Not everyone agrees that bitcoin should be greeted with unbridled enthusiasm.

“Right now these crypto things are kind of a novelty,” JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon told a CNBC-TVreporter in New Delhi. “People think they’re kind of neat. But the bigger they get, the more governments are going to close them down…”

“It’s creating something out of nothing that to me is worth nothing,” he said. “It will end badly.”

Dimon was concerned that with bitcoin, ethereum and various initial coin offerings (ICOs), there are now cryptocurrencies everywhere. Several nations have even banned bitcoin.

Early Adopters

Despite Dimon’s comments, 69% of banks that participated in an Infosys survey reported that they were experimenting with permissioned or private blockchains, and some governments and an increasing number of companies, including Dell, Microsoft and Expedia accept bitcoin as payment.  The FBI, states the image below developed by a gambling site bitcoinplay.net the developed the image, owns 1.5% of all bitcoins.

Below is an infographic that updates an earlier IPCU post. It’s called “62 Insane Facts About Bitcoin.”

 

Image source: bitcoinplay.net; bitcoin.com

Financial Times article slams US patent syst for business model bias

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tech Titans

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perception of patents & other IP rights is being taken more seriously

Do IP users – both businesses and individuals – view rights like patents and copyrights as potential assets that benefit commerce and society? Or, do they see them as nuisances to be ignored and, in some cases, disdained?

How IP rights are perceived, by whom, and why its starting to receive the critical attention it deserves.

Perception, which is known to affect value in all asset classes, is on the rise. Stakeholders are realizing that even sophisticated audiences are clueless about what IP rights generate, and for whom and that the growing hostility towards them has profound implications.

In the October IAM (out today), The Intangible Investor explores, “The premium on perception,” which highlights recent studies on IP perception. IAM readers can find a copy here.

Recent Studies

Several recent studies that look at how various audiences regard IP rights have set the stage for further research and analysis. They include:

European Citizens and Intellectual Property: Perception, Awareness and Behavior, a research report from the EUIPO, surveyed 26,000 EU citizens in 2013 and then again in a 2016 follow-up, published this year. Its findings show that while 97% of Europeans regard IP rights favorably, 41% of youths 15-24 believe that it is sometimes ok to buy counterfeits and many say they do, especially when cost is an issue.

Gregory N. Mandel, Dean of the Temple University Law School, questions the accuracy with which audiences see the IP system. In two seminal papers, he considers whether a system that is widely misunderstood can be effective. Professor Mandel and his team conducted research experiments with some 1,700 subjects. He has been researching IP and perception for over a decade with some startling results. The Public Perception of Intellectual Property was published in 2015, and What is IP for? Experiments in Lay and Expert Perceptions was this year.

The IP Strategy Report -2Q 2017 from Aistemos, and IP consultancy, edited by Professor Jeremy Phillips, provides additional useful data points regarding IP and perception. In a report published earlier this year that examined how patent disputes are covered by the technology, business and general media, the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU) found that technology media are more subjective than other business or general press when it comes to reporting about patent infringement. The report, Patterns in Media Coverage of Patent Disputes, examined 127 articles published in 2016.

 Refusal to recognize the integrity of IP rights is growing. Whether or not this is simply a failure to communicate or a function of self-interest is unclear.

Perhaps the most compelling evidence about U.S. need for IP education was co-written by a Canadian researcher, Dan Breznitz.  What the US should be doing to protect Intellectual Property? appeared in the Harvard Business Review.

Failure to Communicate?

For some audiences, refusal to recognize the integrity of IP rights is growing. Whether or not this is simply a failure to communicate or a function of self-interest is unclear. What is clear is the need to quantify changes in attitude, what motivates them and their impact.

IP professionals have done an exceedingly poor job of explaining patents and other rights, to stakeholders, including their own boards of directors and investors. Perhaps they are fearful of setting the stage for future accountability, perhaps they think no one will care?

Recent attempts to track and understand attitudes toward IP are an important step in the right direction. More work needs to be done. An IP system which the participants do not understand or whose values they do not respect is no IP system at all.

Image source: euipo

 

 

U of Chicago-Booth Business School article is ‘junk’ IP science

An ill-founded attack on U.S. IP rights appearing yesterday in the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business publication, “Pro-Market,” is a sobering reminder that there those who believe that IP rights should be eliminated and are willing to resort to propaganda to make it happen. 

The article, “Intellectual Property Laws: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing,” is a wakeup call to millions of Americans who believe in innovation, authorship and free-enterprise. It must be read to be believed.

Intellectual Property Laws: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing by ink Lindsey and Steven M. Teles of the libertarian Niskanen Center, is a bold challenge to prove that IP has meaning in a digital world, and whether most rights can simply be ignored.

Authors Lindsey and Teles cite the much-debunked 2012 Bessen-Meurer research that claims $29 billion in costs to companies as a result of patent litigation.

“In other words,” state the authors, “outside the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, American public companies would apparently be better off if the patent system didn’t exist.”

The authors conclude: “The copyright and patent laws we have today therefore look more like intellectual monopoly than intellectual property. They do not simply give people their rightful due; on the contrary, they lavish special privileges on copyright and patent holders to the detriment of everyone else. Therefore, it is entirely appropriate to strip IP protection of its sheep’s clothing and to see it for the wolf it is, a major source of economic stagnation and a tool for unjust enrichment.”

The Niskanen Center, which Lindsey and Teles are associated, generated almost $2 million in 2015 revenues. The organization’s website does not indicate the sources nor does there their 990 annual statement.

Pro-Market is the blog of the Stigler Center at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. The article is adapted from their upcoming book “The Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth, and Increase Inequality” (Oxford University Press).

The article, “Intellectual Property Laws: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing,” can be read here.

Image source: promarket.org

Apple is seeking to cut license royalties paid to record labels

While the share of revenue from streaming paid to record labels and recording artists is rising, Apple Inc., among the fairest licensees in on-line music, is now seeking to reduce record labels’ share of revenue from streaming.

Bloomberg reports that the record labels’ deal with Apple were expected to expire at the end of June, though they are likely to be extended if the parties can’t agree on new terms, according to the people who asked not to be identified.

“Part of negotiations is to revise the iPhone maker’s overall relationship with the music industry.”

The negotiations would bring number two Apple closer to the rate industry streaming leader Spotify Ltd. pays labels, and allow both sides to adjust to the new realities of the music industry. Streaming services have been a source of renewed hope following a decade of decline in the digital age.

Patent holders may believe there is an element of deja vu taking place in music content. Once rock solid copyrights are now subject to renegotiation and diminished revenue because of lost leverage due to lower valuations and easier access. A key will be finding what will make copyrights more relevant again, and creating more competition among streaming services for content.

More Optimistic

Record labels are now more optimistic about the future health of their industry, which grew 5.9 percent last year worldwide thanks to paid streaming services Spotify and Apple Music. They recently negotiated a new deal with Spotify further lowering their take from the service, provided Spotify’s growth continues.

“Apple initially overpaid to placate the labels,” says Bloomberg, “who were concerned Apple Music would cripple or cannibalize iTunes, a major source of revenue.”

For the full Bloomberg article, go here.

Sales vs. Streams 

Though online sales of music have plummeted over the past few years, they still account for 24 percent of sales in the U.S., according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Vinyl record sales also are up but they are still limited to a specialty audience, while CD sale are way down.

According to Billboard, streaming led the U.S. music industry to its first back-to-back yearly growth this millennium and in the first half of 2016 was the single ­highest source of revenue in the U.S. recorded-music industry, ­bringing in $1.61 billion. All three major labels — Universal, Sony and Warner — posted streaming-driven double-digit percent boosts in earnings throughout the year.

The Trichordist, a publication devoted to “Artists for an Ethical and Sustainable Internet,” reports that Spotify was paying .00521 back in 2014, two years later the aggregate net average per play has dropped to .00437 a reduction of 16%.

                     Apple Music generates 7% of all streams and 13% of revenue

YouTube now has their licensed, subscription service (formerly YouTube Red) represented in these numbers as opposed to the Artist Channel and Content ID numbers we used last time. Just looking at the new YouTube subscription service numbers isolated here, they generate over 21% of all licensed audio streams, but less than 4% of revenue! By comparison Apple Music generates 7% of all streams and 13% of revenue.

Apple sits in the sweet spot, generating the second largest amount of streaming revenue with a per stream rate .00735, nearly double what Spotify is paying. But, Spotify has a near monopoly on streaming market share dominating 63% of all streams and 69% of all streaming revenue.

The top 10 streamers account for 99% of all streaming revenue.

New Technology, New Values

IP rights holders, including those with patents and trademarks, need to think through where they fit in the current digital scheme of things, and how much should be expected in a world that finds not paying for others’ intellectual property increasingly acceptable.

For patent holders, the streaming/copyright battle could be the proverbial canary in the mine.

Image source: fortune.com

10th Intl Legal Alliance Summit in NY, June 15, will confer IP awards

The International Legal Alliance Summit & Awards will celebrate its tenth anniversary in New York on June 15, 2017 with approximately 500 in-house counsel and law firms from around the world.

Attendees will discuss such hot topics in domestic, cross-border and M&A intellectual property issues as IP strategies, patent eligibility and IP portfolio management. They will also be present to see honors awarded to the best legal departments and law firms in their respective fields.

Organized by Paris-based Leaders League, the interactive one-day program provided participants with networking opportunities by way of one-to-one meetings, expert-lead roundtables, and seated lunch and dinner and cocktail receptions.

The General Counsel Awards recognized the best legal, tax and intellectual property in-house departments, while the Law Firm Awards Ceremony in the evening will celebrate the best performing independent law firms. For nine years, the International Legal Alliance Summit & Awards has supported the players of the legal industry in the search of expertise, networking and achievement.

Fifty legal department from large international companies will run for the victory during the networking lunch and 150 law firms from more than 25 countries during the gala dinner.

Corporate IP Counsel

Speakers include senior counsel and IP executives from IBM, Philips, Microsoft, Mondelez, Caterpillar, Samsung, Canon, L’Oreal, Total, Lufthansa, MetLife, UBS, Open Invention Network and The Clearing House associations of banks. For the full list of speakers, go here.

The International Legal Alliance Summit & Awards is pleased to present its 10th edition of the Expert Insights conferences. Over 70 outstanding international speakers debated on the latest issues the industry is facing and highlighted the new challenges to overcome with their experiences, knowledge and analysis

Traditional conferences, say the producers, leave to chance finding the best networking opportunities. By using the internet platform, attendees can schedule one-on-one meetings of their choice.

The Expert Insights Conferences are the opportunity to benefit from 60+ experts of the legal industry. The ILA Summit will feature 14 panel discussions

For the 2017 program, go here;

To register, go here.

Image source: www.ilasummit.com

New book: tech elites’ disregard for privacy & IP must be managed

Can Internet monopolies – adept at providing at providing information – be prevented from violating the rights of individuals, businesses and IP holders, and impeding innovation?

They can if they are regulated like utilities, says Jonathan Taplin in his new book, Move Fast and Break Things.

In 2009, Mark Zuckerberg told Business Insider publisher and former Wall Street analyst Henry Bloget, “Move fast and break things is Facebook’s prime directive to developers. Unless you are breaking stuff,” Zuckerberg said, “you are not moving fast enough.”

Eight years later, this Facebook mantra has taken on a darker meaning. A new book by Hollywood producer and former USC Annenberg Innovation Lab director, Taplin (Mean Streets, The Last Waltz), offers a portrait of technology giants without restraints, routinely violating the rights of creatives, consumers and innovators, and propping up their own shares at the expense of investing in the future.

Subtitled How Facebook, Google and Amazon Cornered Culture and Under-mined Democracy, Move Fast and Break Things dissects the inordinate power of a handful of the popular companies and their founders, and what it means for culture, innovation, and personal freedom.

What Taplin does best is connect the dots by distinguishing between true break-through ideas and the ability to provide and mine data, especially personal information, for profit and dominate markets. The confluence of vision, ego, and wealth is for Taplin a dangerous mix that needs to be carefully watched if not closely monitored. Copyright and patent holders need to be especially wary.

Don’t Ask Permission

“The co-founder of YouTube, Chad Hurley, was a PayPal alumnus, schooled in Peter Thiel’s philosophy,” writes Taplin. “He built his company on the same ‘don’t ask permission’ ethic the Larry Page had embraced… ‘Who will stop me?’ [A phrase which can be found in Ayn Rand’s controversial novel, The Fountainhead.] This became the center tenet of Internet disrupters, from Thiel’s PayPal right up to Travis Kalanick’s Uber.”

Taplin writes that Google, who championed the tagline for its corporate code of conduct, “Do no evil,” controls 88% of online searches and search advertising, while Facebook has 77% market share in social media and Amazon a 70% share of e-book sales. He does not consider Apple a monopoly because its main hardware business has many competitors.

“The tech elites jealous guarding of its own monopoly platforms,” says Taplin, “is built upon a blatant disregard for the artist’s intellectual property.”

“More people than ever are listening to music, reading books, and watching movies, but the revenue flowing to the creators of that content is decreasing while the revenue flowing to the big four platforms is increasing. Each of these platforms presents a different challenge for creators. Google and YouTube are ad-supported ‘free-riders’ driven by a permission-less philosophy.”

Permission-less free-riding, or “efficient infringement” in has also come to dominate other parts of the IP workplace, rendering simple patent licenses more arduous than ever.

Consent Decree

How does Taplin propose we prevent Internet monopolies from violating the rights of individuals, businesses and IP holders, and impeding innovation? You regulate them like utilities.

It would be very difficult for many people and businesses to live without Amazon, Google, YouTube and Facebook, but it is becoming impossible for many who produce intellectual property to live with them.

This is not something that their founders and shareholders want to hear, but it may be inevitable. Europe is more apt to regulate BigTech than the U.S. – and it is not mere jealousy. If Google, for example, is indeed a monopoly, Taplin, a former tour manager for Bob Dylan, asks, would a consent decree like the one that the government made Bell Labs enter into in 1956 work? He believes it would.

Easy Ride is Over

The Guardian, the British daily, said “Move Fast and Break Things is a timely and useful book because it provides an antidote to the self-serving narrative energetically cultivated by the digital monopolies. They have had an easy ride for too long and democracies will, sooner or later, have to rein them in.”

It would be very difficult for many people and businesses to live without Amazon, Google, YouTube and Facebook, but it is becoming virtually impossible for many who produce intellectual property to live with them.

My full review of Jonathan Taplin’s new book can be found here, on IP Watchdog.

For more information or to buy Move Fast and Break Things, go here.

For a free preview chapter (via Google), go here.

Image source: jontaplin.com

 

97% of Europeans regard IP rights favorably; 41% ages 15-24 believe it is sometimes OK to buy counterfeits

When it comes to intellectual property rights Europeans are highly respectful, except among the young, where buying counterfeits has gown.

That is the primary take-away of an extensive European Community survey of attitudes toward IP rights delivered recently. The findings show that 97% of Europeans believe that IP should be respected, and that inventors, creators, and performing artists need to be paid for their work.

In contrast to the overall positive regard for IP rights, however, 41 per cent of young Europeans, ages 15 to 24, said they believed it was acceptable to buy counterfeits if the original product was too expensive. 15% of those surveyed in that age group said that they had intentionally purchased a counterfeit product in the past 12 months, 9% higher than in a similar 2013 study conducted by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).

“European Citizens and Intellectual Property: Perception, Awareness and Behavior,” a 205-page research report, updates the first EUIPO provides further evidence of how IP rights are regarded by EU citizens at a time when encouraging innovation and creativity is increasingly the focus of economic policy.

“In line with the 2013 results, people do not always act in line with their stated position,” said EUIPO Executive Director, Antonio Campinos, in summarizing the findings. “The key 15-24 age group seems to have become less convinced that fake goods are damaging and is buying more counterfeit goods, mainly for price reasons.”

Significant Sample

“European Citizens and Intellectual Property” surveyed people across all 28 EU Member States about their perceptions of intellectual property survey. It consolidates results of more than 26,000 interviews and confirms the global picture assessed in the EUIPO’s 2013 research.

“Even during a period of economic crisis when household budgets have come under pressure,” the report concluded, “the vast majority of respondents agree that it is important that inventors, creators, and performing artists can protect their rights and be paid for their work.”

Eighty-three percent said they prefer to access digital content through legal or authorized services whenever there is an affordable option available, and 71 percent of those admitting to using illegal sources say they would stop, if they could access affordable alternative options.

Confusion is growing about what constitutes a legal source. In 2016, 24 percent of respondents, five percentage points more than in 2013, wondered if an online source was legal, rising to 41 percent among young people.

Half of the Europeans queried believe that strict protection of IP rights may, in fact, curb innovation, and more than half feel that IP principles are not adapted to the Internet.

Neither the 2017 survey and previous study focused on counterfeits and copyrighted content, or examine attitudes towards patents or trade secrets.

An executive summary for “European Citizens and Intellectual Property” can be found here.

For the full 2017 EUIPO IP perception study, go here.

Image source: euipo.europa.eu

Patent transactions are flat; U.S. asking prices firm at $250K per

The number of patent sales in the 4Q 2016 remained about the same, but the median asking price of sellers of U.S. patents was higher than in recent quarters.

According to data compiled by Richardson Oliver Law Group, a Silicon Valley firm that tracks patent transactions, five of the ten most active sellers were Asian companies, and the most active buyers were led by a variety of operating companies, defensive aggregators, and NPEs. In general, corporate buyers were more active than NPEs.

The median asking price of U.S. patents in the 4Q was $250K; all patents, $150K (see graph below).

As a trend, operating companies represent a higher percentage of overall patent purchases when looking at a five-year sample. The sale of software assets lagged hardware, but not by much, 180 to 234, for some an encouraging trend.  

“Buyers are becoming more comfortable with software risk and understanding what may and may not be ineligible under Alice,” said Kent Richardson, Managing Partner of ROL. 

Sales are flat, which Richardson believes can be interpreted as a sign of relative health, given how badly the case law has gone against patent owners. “Arguably, there should be fewer deals on the market and fewer sales. We won’t know for sure for another 12 months, but it looks like sales rates are climbing back to where they were a couple of years ago.”

Cloud-related inventions are more likely to be technically challenging in terms of patentability, compared with, say, user interface patents. Infrastructure inventions are much more likely to pass an Alice test.

“As a test, we are defaulting to ‘Would it be patentable to the Europeans?’,” concludes Richardson. “It’s not a perfect measure, but it works.”

Available Assets Down, Packages Up

The number of patent assets available in the market dropped 13.2 percent to 2,478 new assets in the fourth quarter from the previous quarter.

The number of patent packages listed rose 3.5 percent to 147 from the third quarter. (This could mean that fewer, better quality patents are being offered for sale.) However, 2,855 assets listed in the third quarter were offered in a smaller number of patent packages.

The median asking price per new asset (U.S. and global) listed by patent brokers was $150,000 in the fourth quarter. That reflected increases of 38 percent from the previous quarter and 80 percent from the fourth quarter of 2015.

Brokers matched buyers and sellers for 28 deals on packages of related patents during the quarter, according to ROL data. Those deals totaled 637 assets, comprising 395 granted or pending U.S. patents, while the remaining amount represented granted or pending foreign patents.

By comparison, 565 assets were sold in 35 brokered patent deals during the third quarter of 2016. In the fourth quarter of 2015, 554 assets sold in 33 patent packages.

For information about Richardson Oliver Law Group, go here.

Image source: RichardsonOliverLaw; Bloomberg/BNA

Inventor Kearns’ fight with Ford & other auto cos is 2016’s most read IP CloseUp post; 20,000+ visitors

An article summarizing inventor Robert Kearns’ epic battle against the automobile industry is this year’s most read IP CloseUp post with more than 21,000 visits.

The post summarizes the twelve-year patent suit mounted by Kearns, the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper, against Ford and much of the automobile industry in the 1980s and 1990s, for stealing his invention.

“Kearns’ Son Still Fuming Over Wiper Blade Fight” generated 21,374 visits thus far in 2016, up from 6,928 in 2015. Total visits are over 30,000, which makes it the most read of almost 300 IPCU posts.

What about this story resonates with readers?

It could have something to do with the 2008 movie, Flash of Genius, that memorialized Kearns’ battle and depicted how it contributed to his mental breakdown and loss of his family.

Bittersweet Victory

Flash of Genius, starring Greg Kinnear as Robert Kearns and Alan Alda, as Gregory Lawson, his ambiguous attorney, opened to mixed but generally positive reviews (59% Tomato Meter; 55% Audience Score). It had a $20 million budget but grossed just $4.8 million at the box office. (Alda, of M*A*S*H fame, BTW, is a champion of understanding science 51yeitvgpaland innovation, and founded the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.)

The movie has many fans. I suspect that when it it is streamed or runs on a movie channel curious viewers run to Google hopeful of learning more about the enigmatic Kearns and his dispute with auto giants. It pitted him as David to their Goliath. (Thanksgiving weekend alone, which is prime movie-watching time, there were more than 1,500 visits to the post on IPCU.)

Even though Kearns eventually won significant awards, $10.2 million from Ford, and a total of $30 million from Chrysler, it is easy to believe that the struggle, which cost him his family and affected his sanity, may not have been worth it.

Apparently, no one thought so except Kearns, a college professor, former cryptographer in WWII and officer at a U.S. agency that was the forerunner of the CIA. (See the link to his obituary on the original IP CloseUp post, above.)

High Search Ranking

The Kearns’ post’s popularity probably also has something to do with its high Google search ranking under Kearns’ iconic name. It’s the second item after a rather tepid Wikipedia entry.

Supporters of the film include Peter Travers, long-time film critic for Rolling Stone. He gave it three out of four stars, saying “Kinnear takes the star spot in Flash of Genius and rides it to glory… Kearns wasn’t a movie hero. His halting courtroom delivery lacked Hollywood histrionics. Kinnear plays him with blunt honesty, sagging under the weight of stress but maintaining a bulldog tenacity that would win the day. Was the battle worth it? Kearns’ conflict is readable in Kinnear’s every word and gesture. His performance is worth cheering”.

Stephen Holden of The New York Times called the film “a meticulously constructed mechanism, one that wants to convey the same mixture of idealism, obsession and paranoia found in whistle-blower movies like Silkwood and The Insider,” thought it “has the tone and texture of a well-made but forgettable television movie”.

Lead actor Greg Kinnear, who in the lead role is more likable than Kearns was, won the Boston Film Festival Best Actor Award for his portrayal.

kearns-familyThe Kearns story strikes a chord deep in everyone. It is a quintessentially American tale of the forward-thinking little guy against diverse array of nay-sayers, his family included. Kearns’ sincerity as an engineer who craved recognition for his work more than his financial security is not lost on audiences, who see Flash of Genius, weaknesses aside, as an emotional and somewhat cautionary tale that is difficult to forget.

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Whether it was ego, anger, greed, or a combination, that ultimately motivated Kearns to go as far as he did for as long, the inventor’s greatest accomplishment may not be the valuable device he created, which no doubt helped save lives, but his perseverance and drive to prove that it was stolen from him.

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Whether or not Kearns was selfish or unbalanced, patent holders have benefited from his trail-blazing determination and refusal to take settlement money when he needed it most.

Stacked Deck

The environment for inventors and innovative small businesses today who wish to license their rights is not much different from when Kearns fought his epic battles. In fact, the obstacles may be worse.

With “efficient” patent infringement the preferred strategy of many the leading technology companies today, and higher validity and patentability hurdles established by the Patent Trial and Appeal board and the courts, the deck continues to be stacked against IP holders – even those with the capital, time and patent quality to succeed.

[Note: A company that employs “efficient” infringement believes that it is highly unlikely it will be caught using an invention it is not entitled to, and if it does, it is unlikely that it will have to pay much. For them, choosing not to take a license unless forced to by the courts is in their view a prudent business decision, ethics aside.]

Flash of Genius is available from Amazon, iTunes and other sources, to stream, rent or buy. Recently, it became available to Netflix subscribers for free. The official movie trailer can be seen here.

For those interested in the topic of Kearns and independent inventing, the long and thoughtful 1993 New Yorker magazine article by John Seabrook on which the movie is based is not to be missed. It is available for free by going here.

To read the original Kearns post on IP CloseUp, go here.

Image source: allesantiago.wordpress.com; amazon.com

 

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