Tag Archives: IP strategy

Startup mentored by Brody/Berman and Center for IP Understanding (CIPU) is LES Business Plan Winner

Takachar, a small business working with farmers in Kenya to develop an inexpensive, ecologic method for turning biomass (waste) into fuel, is the Global Winner of the 2017 Licensing Executives Society (LES) Business Plan Competition.

The company, led by Kevin S. Kung, an MIT doctoral student, was mentored in the Business Plan Competition by Bruce Berman, CEO of Brody Berman Associates and President of the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU), an independent, non-profit.

Takachar’s unique IP strategy provides farmers free open-source technology, followed by patents licensed to the company exclusively by MIT, trade secrets and trademarks. The goal is to provide affordable franchises in Africa, India and other parts of the world, where economical sources of fuel are crucial to the success of small farms and disposing biomass is a challenge.

The Global LES Business Plan winner receives a $5,000 cash award and in-kind IP support. For more information about Takachar, go here.

Second Global Winner

Berman also mentored the 2016 LES Business Plan global winner, Fruiti-Cycle Project, an Ugandan start-up that provides affordable, portable refrigeration for delivering produce to market faster and with less spoilage. For more information about Fruti-Cycle, go here.

“It is a privilege to work with innovative and ambitious young people, like Kevin and Nelson,” said Berman, who has 25 years of IP consulting experience. “They have the right combination of vision, technical skill and tenacity to turn original ideas into businesses that provide timely products and solutions. Takachar and Fruiti-Cycle Project are good examples of utilizing integrated IP rights strategies in diverse parts of the world.”

Takachar Strategy

Image source: Takachar

Brody/Berman-mentored Fruti-Cycle wins LES business competition

Fruiti-Cycle Project, an Ungandan start-up that has developed an affordable bio-gas powered, refrigerated tricycle that speeds to market delivery of fruits and vegetables, has won the Global Prize at the 2016 LES business plan competition. 

The business plan and presentations were mentored by Bruce Berman of Brody Berman Associates in the U.S., who helped to develop the IP strategy, which incorporates patents, trademarks and trade secrets. There also is the potential for franchise licensing.

The Fruti-Cycle is a biogas powered tricycle, with a 300kg carrying capacity refrigerated courier for conveniently and safely transporting fresh fruits and vegetable to the market. It is targeted at the 70% of small-scale farmers in developing world. The Fruti-Cycle Project team is led by Nelson Mandela of Makerere University, in Kampala, Uganda.

8680c43c-0c59-11e6-b472-0670855d2669Fruti-Cycle costs half the price of competitor Bajaj’s tricycle and easier to run. According to its designers it will earn revenue through direct sales ($800) +licensing fee ($8/month). With $50,000 initial cost, it provides a 15.6% return on investment in the second year.

With subsidies from the government, partnerships with local farmers’ organizations and international organizations, Fruiti-Cycle will obtain a sustainable competitive advantage to create cheaper better model to supply the local market and scale to international market within five years.

More about the Fruti-Cycle Project, team and business plan, can be found here.

For additional information, go here.

Competition sponsors included Article One Partners, Relecura, Traklight and Knobbe Martens law firm. The Global Prize includes a cash award.

Image source: tffchallenge.com

LES members have until Monday to vote on business plan competition

The LES Foundation International Business Plan Competition Members’ Choice award will conclude on Monday, April 25. LES members who have not voted still can.

Competitor videos can be viewed and rated here by using the star system (5 stars being best).

Votes are logged as soon as you click on the stars – five stars being the highest. You may return to the page and change your vote, if you wish. It is not necessary to give a rating to all of the teams.

The online voting has been extended to Monday, April 25th at Midnight PDT. The winner will be announced during the LES 2016 PanAm Meeting.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Your intrepid IP CloseUp reporter, Bruce Berman, had the privilege of mentoring two of the finalists, Guardian Sensors from Austin, TX and Fruiti-Cycle Project from Uganda.

Both businesses are led by bright young entrepreneurs with good, IP-influenced business plans. Please take a moment and vote!



Image source: lesusacanada.org


Judge Koh Throws Out Damages Award in Apple v. Samsung

Apple’s high-profile and short-lived win against Samsung may turn into the licensing agreement that it should have been in the first place.

On Friday Judge Lucy Koh halved the $1.05 billion award that a San Jose, CA jury provided Apple for Samsung’s infringement of 14 of its patents. Judge Koh also ordered the damages portion of the case be retried, while allowing the infringement decision to stand.

In her decision Judge Koh said that “the Court has identified an impermissible legal theory on which the jury based its award.” Apple is headquartered in nearby Cupertino.

Until now, Apple had appeared to have won a significant victory in the case, even though it failed to win an injunction that would have shut down sales of Samsung’s popular Android phones. The N-CA district court’s ruling is a reminder that Apple’s infringed patents, while worthy, have a lot less damages value than they at first appeared to.

The court’s decision looks to be part of a larger pattern of vacating mega jury awards, such as J&J Centocor (J&J) v. Abbott, $1.7 billion and Lucent v. Microsoft, $1.5 billion. These cases, and many on the list of top all-time patent damages awards, have either been overturned or dramatically reduced.

Why Bother?

Why bother to file a patent suit in the first place if winning a really big damages award frequently amounts to little more than an initial or Pyrrhic PR victory? Perhaps that’s the message the courts want to send — don’t bother. For kungfu-apple-samsung_616Apple the initial positive media coverage may be a sufficient spoil to justify the time and cost. Its limited win sends a message: “If competitors infringe our patents we will pursue them. Money is no object.” It also implies that while Apple may not have as many patents as other tech giants, such as Samsung, Sony or IBM, theirs are strong rights and it will vigorously will defend them. (Microsoft pursued a similar strategy in the 2000’s after a series of costly patent losses and settlements.)

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Back in September I had suggested in IP CloseUp after Apple and Samsung was decided that the result amounts to little more than posturing between the two dominant electronics players hoping to convey the existence of a competitive landscape.  The fact is that after these two companies there effectively is no smartphone landscape, and, let’t not beat around the bush, they would not mind keeping it that way. It’s not unlike organized crime families taking out each other’s capos in a turf war. Does it really matter who wins?

The retrying of damages may result in a local jury finding somewhat higher award than Judge Koh currently suggests, or possibly a lower one. The risk of a new and potentially embarrassingly low revised damages award may encourage Apple to finally agree to a license with Samsung before the retrial concludes, which it might have done in the first place. Although having done so too quietly may have been regarded as collusive by others who wish to participate in the smartphone sales, like Nokia and RIM.

The Joke’s on Who?

The public spectacle of Apple v. Samsung is a bit laughable. It makes the two companies appear to be enemies when they may, in fact, be helping each other carve up the smartphone space.  IP CloseUp readers already know, Samsung is Apple’s largest parts supplier.

“Samsung turns out to be a particularly important supplier,” wrote The Economist. “It provides some of the phone’s most important components: the flash memory that holds the phone’s apps, music and operating software; the working memory, or DRAM; and the applications processor that makes the whole thing work. Together these account for 26% of the component cost of an iPhone.”

Last year Apple spend $3.9 billion on Samsung custom chips alone, according to IC Insights data.

I guess you could say that innovative IP strategies often are the most effective ones.

Image source: ijailbreak.com; webpronews.com

New Patent Litigation Survey Confirms NPE Growth

What’s Fueling Higher Awards?

Damages awards for NPEs (non-practicing patent owning entities) are on average triple those of practicing entities, according to handy 2010 Patent Litigation Study from PwC, recently made available.

For some reason the report does not acknowledge that the higher quality and increased value of patents asserted by NPEs may be influencing damages award size, as well as NPE’s growing determination to prevail.

Better access to capital and enhanced patent analysis are the other factors affecting NPE commitment.

“Patent litigation continues to be used as a protection and monetization path for patent holders,” said Chris Barry, PriceWaterhouseCoopers Advisory Partner for Forensic Services. “IP will continue to play an important role in the economy, and represents an important competitive advantage for companies to realize value.”

Another key finding: NPEs have been successful in patent litigation 31 percent of the time overall versus 40 percent for practicing entities, due to the relative lack of success for NPEs at summary judgment.

Interestingly, both have about a two-thirds win rate at trial. Win rates increase when the alleged infringer is a plaintiff and asserts a declaratory judgment action against an NPE.

If a defendant does not win a summary judgment, and the NPE is prepared to go to trial, it (the defendant), the survey indicates, stands a good chance of losing. Many still choose to battle on.

NPEs are now involved in almost 20 percent of decisions since 1995.

The report titled, The Continued Evolution of Patent Law (click here), does not explain that an increasing number of practicing entities (large operating companies, e.g. Bosch, 3Com, Philips) have been selling infringed patents to NPEs so they can monetize them without having to go up against competitors, customers and/or suppliers in a law suit and can be spared the time and cost of enforcement.

Some are selling them outright and others are doing so with a retained interest whose value depends upon the outcome of the enforcement.

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Operating companies increasingly have refused to discuss patent licensing with potential licensers and threaten to bring declaratory judgment actions against those who suggest they may be infringers, forcing many NPEs to sue first and negotiate potential licenses later.

Illustration source: PwC

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