Tag Archives: patents

Tech pioneer Nolan Bushnell to keynote IPO annual meeting in SF

This year’s Intellectual Property Owners Association annual meeting will feature a presentation by the founder of Atari Computer and Chuck E Cheese’s Pizza Time Theater, Nolan Bushnell.

Another keynote will be presented by John Cabeca, Director of the Silicon Valley USPTO. More than forty service providers, law firms and IP holders will be exhibiting at the three-day even from September 17-19 at San Francisco’s Marriott Marquis.

Mr. Bushnell, an American electrical engineer and businessman, has started more than 20 companies and is a video game pioneer.

He established Atari, Inc. and the Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre chain. Mr. Bushnell has been inducted into the Video Game Hall of Fame and the Consumer Electronics Association Hall of Fame, received the Nation’s Restaurant News “Innovator of the Year” award, and was named one of Newsweeks “50 Men Who Changed America.”

2017 IPO meeting highlights include:

  • Monday Patent General Session: Alice and the 101 Wonderland

The law on § 101 following the U.S. Supreme Court’s seminal Alice ruling has been a murky morass to navigate.

With district court, PTAB, and Federal Circuit decisions that are all over the map, and calls for the abolishment of § 101, IPO recently introduced a legislative proposal to address the lack of predictability in § 101.

Panelists will discuss these issues, whether the current state of § 101 is promoting or inhibiting innovation, and what if anything should be done going forward.

  • Two Corporate Panels at 11am on Monday
  1. Patent Session: In-House Best Practices: Strategies for Adapting to a Rapidly Changing Environment
  2. Strategic Partnering with In-House Trademark Counsel
    ___________

For the full program, go here. To register, here.

Image source: ipo.org

 

“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

New certificate program in IAM for non-IP professionals is being offered by the Illinois Institute of Technology

Lawyers are no longer the only people interested in intellectual property rights.

IP underlies practically everything that developed nations invent, author or manufacture. Professionals who are under increasing pressure to understand, help manage and maximize return of patents, copyrights and trade secrets include people like bankers, engineers, paralegals, marketing professionals, administrators, as well as those responsible for financial oversight.

Now, they can get the valuable skills they need to help businesses compete in an ideas-based economy.

Illinois Institute of Technology has announced that it is offering the Intellectual Asset Management (IAM) online certificate program to help to equip a wide-range of professionals to handle key aspects of the IP value life-cycle, including how to acquire Intellectual Property (IP), maximize value, and engage in patent analytics important for success.

Earned Credits

The IAM program’s three courses, which can be completed in twelve weeks, are derived from the IP Management and Markets (IPMM) master’s degree program offered through IIT in conjunction with Chicago-Kent College of Law. While the IAM certificate is an end in itself, those wishing to go on to the IPMM master’s degree program will receive twelve earned credits towards it. For student perspectives about the IPMM program, go here.

The faculty for the IAM program includes Mickie A. Piatt, Program Director, Associate Professor of Law and Deputy Director of the Program in Intellectual Property Law, at Chicago-Kent College of Law. Professor Piatt is a leading IP educator.

Jackie Leimer, who teaches Acquiring IP, was formerly Associate General Counsel, Global Intellectual Property for Kraft Foods, where she managed all aspects of the company’s trademarks and patents, including clearance, dispute resolution and portfolio management (65,000 registrations and 3000 patent families).

Professor Anthony Trippe is the instructor for “Patent Analytics and Landscape Reports for Decision Making.” This course is the first-of-its-kind in patent analysis, and is part of the IP Management and Markets Masters Degree program at IIT. Professor Trippe is an IAM 300 leading IP strategist.

Speed of Change

“The U.S. and other economies are increasingly innovation-based and content-driven,” said Professor Piatt. “Keeping up with the speed of change in intellectual property rights is a best practice not just for lawyers, but for anyone in business, management, finance and other disciplines. It is fundamental to maximizing return on investment. The online IAM program is designed to facilitate understanding of IP dynamics, and how best to participate in the upside of IP rights.”

Graduate degrees and certificate programs for non-lawyers have become increasingly popular. Outside of the U.S., they are being offered in such places as Singapore, Tokyo, Strasbourg, France, Sweden, and London. Some leading U.S. universities are now getting involved.

For more information about the Intellectual Asset Management program, including how to register for the Fall classes, which start on September 10, go here. Early application is August 11.

Image source: iam.iit.edu

 

BofA, JPMChase & Morgan Stanley are top banks for patent loans

Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley are the currently leaders in patent-based lending, according to a recent update of a 2015 study.

Relecura, Inc., a California patent research and analysis company, reports that Bank of American had 60,093 transactions for a total market share of 16.87%. JP Morgan Chase had 45,304 transactions for a 12.72% market share. Morgan Stanley, which was number 11 on the 2015 list, came in at third in 2017 with 24,244 loans and 6.80% of all transactions.

The total number of transactions between 2011 to 2016 were 947,907, consisting of 356,287 applications.

Long History

There is along history of IP-backed bank financing. Businesses of all sizes and types have used it to raise money using patents, copyrights and trademarks as collateral. Distressed businesses tend to use it the most, perhaps when other sources of capital dry up.

In 2015, the key companies securing loans using patents include General Motors, Avago (now Broadcom Limited), Alcatel Lucent and Kodak.

JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Wilmington Trust, and Deutsche Bank were the top banks doing IP backed financing deals. GE Capital also was an active lender.

Several governments have been major IP lenders, including the China Development Bank, which in 2014 pledged the equivalent of $1.3 billion USD agains a portfolio of 134 patent and 34 trademarks. Korea and Singapore have also been active IP lenders.

Most Active Borrowers

Key sectors doing the borrowing include software and hardware companies. Other active sectors employing IP backed financing include digital data processing, digital communication, IT methods for management, telecommunication, semiconductors, and television & video transmission.

An excellent infographic summary of bank lending on patents can be found, here.

For the full May 2015 presentation, go here.

Image source: Relecura, Inc.

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

Up to $600 billion in U.S. IP is stolen annually by foreigners, says report

An IP Commission study finds that foreign sources, especially China, are responsible for the bulk U.S. theft.

Counterfeit goods, pirated software, and theft of trade secrets together represent a “systematic threat” to the US economy of between $225 billion and $600 billion annually, according to the findings of a 2017 research report from the bi-partisan IP Commission, The Theft of American Intellectual Property: Reassessments of the Challenge and United States Policy.

The massive theft of American IP—from companies and universities across the country, from U.S. labs to defense contractors, from banks to software companies—threatens the nation’s security, says the report.

The research, and update of a 2013 report, is the work of the bi-partisan IP Commission and was published by the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) NBR conducts advanced independent research on strategic, political, economic and other issues affecting U.S. relations with Asia, including China and Russia.

The Intangible Investor in June’s IAM features a full perspective on the report, “Foreign sources responsible for most IP theft.” Subscribers can find a copy here.

Pioneering Research

Kudos to the IP Commission for establishing a beachhead in the global war to combat IP theft and cyber crime. Its pioneering research provides American and other lawmakers, businesses, investors and the public, with data about IP infringement that are cannot be ignored.

However, the report falls short. Identifying and stopping infringement, including cyber-espionage, should not be restricted to sources outside of the U.S.  The IP Commission’s research zeros in on foreign counterfeit, trade secret and copyright violations. It does not account for increasing domestic patent infringement and copyright abuses, which have profoundly affected the software, recording and other industries, and impacted U.S. jobs.

To be fair, this IP Commission’s focus is foreign IP threats, and it is a daunting task to estimate the financial impact of domestic invention theft on U.S. businesses – not just what gets reported in the press about settlements and licenses.

But speaking to a range of IP attorneys and holders, it becomes clear that much IP abuse comes from domestic IT businesses, Internet providers, streaming services, individuals and others that know they are unlikely to be caught infringing rights or will have to pay for a license. By the IP Commissions own admission, IP theft is less benign than it might appear.

The theft of American IP is not just the ‘greatest transfer of wealth in human history,’ as General Keith Alexander put it; IP theft undercuts the primary competitive advantage of American business—the capacity for innovation.

Inspiration and a Challenge

The IP Commission’s timely report is a challenge to IP holders, and lawmakers alike who are concerned about innovation and commerce. It is a call to examine the source, type, and level of domestic IP rights theft, including patents, on SMEs, inventors, and universities, and how they affect the economy now and are likely to in the future.

The full 24-page update, The Theft of American Intellectual Property: Reassessments of the Challenge of the United States Policy, is well worth reading. Visit  www.ipcommission.org.

The original 2013 report, Report of the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, is also available and useful for comparison. 

Image source: ipcommission.org; linkedin.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

Fixing the patent system/ promoting jobs is focus of Capitol Hill event

An increasing number of experts say the U.S. has lost its edge in the battle to secure and defend meaningful patents that stimulate competition.

It is with making U.S. patents important again that “Promoting Innovation, Investment and Job Growth by Fixing America’s Patent System” is being held on Monday May 8 at the United States Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.

The invitation-only event hosted by the U.S. Chapter of the International IP Commercialization Counsel (IIPCC), will feature an all-star list of presenters from business, government and law.

Speakers Include

Dr. Carl J. Schramm, University Professor, Syracuse University; Former President of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship; Board Member IIPCC; David Kappos, Partner, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP; Former Under-Secretary of Commerce and Director of the USPTO; Q. Todd Dickinson, Senior Partner, Polsinelli, PC; Former Under-Secretary of Commerce and Director of the USPTO; Judge Randall Rader, Former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; Board Member IIPCC;  Judge Paul Michel, Former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; Charles Henry Giancarlo, Former CTO and Chief Development Officer Cisco Systems and former Managing Director Silver Lake Partners; Phil Johnson, Former Senior VP, Intellectual Property Strategy & Policy, Johnson & Johnson; Marshall Phelps, Vice-Chairman, Center for IP Understanding; former VP IP for Microsoft, IBM, Bob Pavey, Partner Emeritus, Morgenthaler Ventures; former Chairman of the National Venture Capital Association;

Manny W. Schecter, Chief Patent Counsel, IBM Corporation; Laurie C. Self, VP and Counsel, Governmental Affairs, Qualcomm; Bill Elkington, Chair & President Elect, LES USA and Canada; Senior Director, IP Management, Rockwell Collins; Orin Herskowitz, SVP of IP & Tech Transfer, Columbia University; Executive Director of Columbia Technology Ventures; Teaches ‘IP for Entrepreneurs’ in Columbia’s Engineering School; Professor Adam Mossoff, Director, Center for Protection of Intellectual Property, George Mason; Professor Jeffrey A Lefstin, Associate Academic Dean and Professor of Law, UC Hastings; Robert B. Aronoff,  U.S. Executive Director, International IP Commercialization Council; Managing Partner, Pluritas; Damon Matteo, CEO, Fulcrum Strategy; Robert P. Taylor, President, RPT Legal Strategies; Venture Advisor, New Enterprise Associates, Bruce Berman, Chairman, Center for IP Understanding; Publisher, IP CloseUp; Principal, Brody Berman Associates; Elvir Causevic, Managing Director, Houlihan Lokey Tech+IP Advisory, Art Monk, VP IP Transactions, TechInsights; Rob Sterne, Founding Director at Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox

Opening Panel

IP CloseUp publisher and editor, and Center for Intellectual Property Understanding Chairman, Bruce Berman, is moderating the opening panel at 2:00 pm: The business impact of IP uncertainty and negative attitudes. Panelists include:

  • Manny W. Schecter (IBM)
  • Phil Johnson (J&J)
  • Marshall Phelps (Center for IP Understanding)
  • Laurie Self (Qualcomm)
  • Bob Pavey (Morgenthaler Ventures)

“Our patent system may no longer be providing the protection and incentives necessary to entice investors and entrepreneurs to assume the enormous risks that inhere in the creation of many new technologies and new companies,” said Rob Aronoff, IIPCC U.S. Chapter Chair.

“In recent years patent reform initiative have resulted in significant unintended consequences, including a decline in the reliability of patents is contributing to a waning of entrepreneurial energy and a decline in the risk tolerance of American investors and entrepreneurs.

Profound Implications

“This shift has profound implications for the long-term U.S. economy, as China, Korea, Germany and other countries expand the role that patents play in their economies with ambitious plans to displace American dominance of technology in the years to come. This program will explore the direct and essential role that strong and enforceable ‘good patents’ play in allowing investors and entrepreneurs to justify the high levels of risk that drive innovation.”

Conference sponsors include Houlihan Lokey, TechInsights, Qualcomm and Pluritas.

Partners include IAM Magazine, the Licensing Executives Society, the Center for IP Understanding, USIJ Alliance for Startups & Inventors for Jobs and IP CloseUp.

For more information, go here.

Those interested in attending can request and invitation, availability permitting, by emailing rob.aronoff@iipcc.org.

Image source: iipcc.org; west-windsor-plainsboro.k12.nj.edu

 

 

PTAB fairness data is misleading, say more patent holders

Not all patent owners agree the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) is a fairer forum for vetting patent quality today.

While some believe that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) board is no longer the “death squad” that it was described as by the former Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, most patents subject to multiple inter partes reviews are, with an uncanny frequency, either invalidated or severely weakened. Few, emerge as clear winners.

The USPTO established the PTAB, an administrative law body, as part of the America Invents Act in 2012 to eliminate issued patents that should not have been granted because prior art way overlooked. IPRs are said to be a patent office “second look,” but while patent office re-examinations (an earlier review process superseded by IPRs) eliminated many patents that should not have seen the light of day, they also strengthened some, making them easier to license. To date, IPRs effectively have been a one-way street, eliminating many patents that should not have been issued but ineffective at identifying good ones.

An article that appeared last week, “How IPR Gang Tackling Distorts PTAB Statistics,” takes the recently reported data to task for misleading about the ultimate effect of multiple IPR filings on a single patent.

“If you use the PTAB published statistics, they’ll tell you that the institution rate was 50% – because only 1 of 2 petitions was granted. That’s true, as far as it goes. But from the patent owner’s perspective, they used to have 10 claims, and now they have 0.  That’s a 100% kill rate!”

“Assume 10 petitions and one institution,” wrote Peter Harter in IP Watchdog. “A 10% institution rate seems terribly biased towards [in favor of] the patent owner. But if all 10 claims get killed, that’s still a 100% kill rate – pretty good for challengers. When both sides think the deck is egregiously stacked against them, it’s easy to see why there’s no middle ground for compromise and improvement. And the way the PTAB is reporting statistics is to blame.”

An article that appeared recently in Law 360, “Inter Partes Reviews Becoming Friendlier to Patent Owners,” argues that holders whose patents are subjected to IPRs today have a better chance of survival than in the past.

“The PTAB also now institutes inter partes reviews less frequently,” writes Law 360. “Looking at all institution decisions made by the PTAB, the board decided to institute trials more than 85 percent of the time in the first year after inter partes reviews became available (2013) according to data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, but only 68 percent of the time in its 2016 fiscal year.”

Statistically Valid

The decline in the institution rate may be statistically valid, but some patent holders argue that it does not tell the whole story. The statistics do not explain that some of the worst, most easily invalidated patents came before the PTAB in the first year of its existence, so the institution rate was destined to go down as it became clearer the weakest patents had been terminated.

Results from a November-December 2016 Bloomberg Law and AIPLA research study asserts that “progress has been made in patent owner attitudes towards IPRs.” However, it really depends on which patent owners you ask: those that have large portfolios that they rarely enforce or those with a small number of quality patents that they wish to license.

Brad D. Pendersen, former chair of AIPLA’s IPR Committee and co-author Bloomberg Law-AIPLA’s Patents After the AIA: Evolving Law and Practice (2016) believes that there is an opportunity for patent holders subject to IPRs to strengthen their patents, despite evidence to the contrary.

“Given the potential gold-plated downstream advantages (in litigation and/or settlement) of surviving an IPR (either at the Decision or Institute stage, at the Final Written Decision stage), and given that one-third of patents survive at the Decision to Institute Stage, it is surprising – but not completely unexpected – that some portion of patent owners are starting to look more favorably on the IPR process.”

It is not clear that most patent owners who license would agree with the “gold-plated” reasoning. If it were true, there would be even fewer patent suits and more owners seeking IPRs of good patents. In fact, it is a bit of a mystery what happens to patents that pass PTAB muster. A significant number appears to move on to district court litigation, and there is little data analyzing if they have greater value or fare any better licensing than patents that are less successful running the IPR gauntlet.

Leading IPR Target

Finjan is an example of an IP holder that engages in licensing whose patents are frequently subject to IPRs. The company has fared surprising well in defending itself at the PTAB, but that success does not seem to have translated into significant shareholder success for the cybersecurity company which also frequently out-licenses its patents.

On March 15, 16 and 17, as reported in The Patent Investor, Finjan won three more IPR rulings, involving Palo Alto Networks. Shares of Finjan (FNJN) currently sell at just $1.54. The company has a micro market capitalization of $35M, $18M on 2016 revenues. Its shares are up significantly over 12 months vs. for the S&P 500 Index, but the company, which lost $12.6M in 2015, showed its first profit in 2016, $350K or .02 per share. Finjan has executed a difficult IP strategy. If successful IPRs have gold-plated its patents, the value has yet to shine through.

Finjan was the fourth most IPR’d patent holder in 2016 and the third most in 2015. It is the most successful company in successfully defending against IPR petitions. Of 47 total IPRs against Finjan patents to date, 32 have been denied institution.

With that track record at the PTAB, one would think Finjan would have a field day licensing its patents, but the IPRs continue to come, and it still must win hard-fought victories in district court litigation. In September, a California jury found that cybersecurity firm Sophos infringed all eight patents asserted in a lawsuit brought by Finjan over software that identifies new computer viruses, awarding the company $15 million in damages.

“We have a portfolio of patents that has been proven durable in light of the increasing number of administrative pathways to challenge validity largely due to two factors,” says Finjan CEO, Phil Hartstein.  “First, our patents were developed jointly and alongside product development of technology that was disruptive to a market.  Second, we do not deviate from the intrinsic record of the assets themselves and vigorously defend our patent rights on the merits.”

Coordinated Challenges

Editor and patent attorney Gene Quinn of IP Watchdog believes that Finjan and other businesses that attempt to out-license their patents are frequently subject to repeated, coordinated attacks.

“At least several patent owners, including Finjan, are routinely subject to serial, harassing IPR challenges,” writes Quinn. “The Patent Office doing something about harassing IPR challenges is long overdue. If the Director is not going to exercise the discretion vested in that Office by the America Invents Act (AIA) hopefully more panels of the Board will take it upon themselves to do just that.

“Patent owner harassment needs to stop. Patent owners shouldn’t have to be subjected to many dozens of IPR challenges before someone recognizes there is coordinated harassment – perhaps even collusion – against certain patent owners who have the audacity to want to be paid for blatant, ongoing, willful infringement.”

23 IPRs Filed on a Single Patent

Zond makes plasma generators, the kind used in manufacturing semiconductors. Pulsed DC plasma generators for magnetron discharge were first introduced in the late 1990s to reduce arcing during for the purpose of improving the quality of thin-film materials. A big breakthrough came in September 2002, when Zond applied for what it describes as a “revolutionary” pulsed technology approach.

Zond is a Massachusetts-based company that wholly owns Zpulser LLC, which commercializes its patent technology by making and selling high-power plasma generators. The patent at issue relates to methods for generating magnetically enhanced plasma.

Over the last three years, Zond’s patents have challenged an average of 12.5 times in IPRs and as many as 23 times.  The patent research firm, Patexia, writes that it is difficult for holders of good patents to survive multiple IPR challenges. In the case of Zond, it has made licensing pretty much impossible.

A study last year, reported in Law 360, showed that Zond’s patents have been challenged in AIA reviews more than those of any other patent owner, including largest patent licensing company, Intellectual Ventures, which owns more than 70,000 patents and took second place on the list.

Zond’s large number of infringement suits, reports Law 360, spurred many companies to band together to challenge the patents in AIA reviews. In addition to Fujitsu and Gillette, petitioners have included Toshiba Corp., Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd.

Were potential licensees and defendants in patent suits lining up against Zond’s patents because they were bad and its case without merit, or did they want to destroy some potentially good patents that would have cost them to license?

For IPRs the devil certainly is in the details, as Patexia’s Pedram Sameni points out in a case study, “Can Patents Survive Multiple IPR Challenges?”

“Some have been suggesting that solely relying on the denial rates reported by the patent office is not enough to conclude that patents are surviving the IPR challenge,” writes Sameni. “Many have called PTAB, the patent death squad. Our study shows that in some cases, patents are challenged many times.

“The reality is that it only takes one successful IPR to completely kill all the claims of one patent. Therefore, the case-level status is not the best indication of PTAB performance and patent survival rate. While as IPR’s Final Written Decision usually means that some of the claims were invalidated, it does not necessarily mean that all claims were canceled.”

Not the Full Story

If claims still exist, they could be threats. And potential licensees/defendants will go to lengths to “kill” a patent to avoid paying a license or being dragged into court, including teaming on multiple petitions. Repeat IPRs are an efficient way to make a potential infringement suit or royalty payment disappear for multiple parties.

“The statistics that show that the PTAB is becoming fairer for patent holders do not tell the full story,” a prominent NPE told IP CloseUp. “IPRs are frequently unfair fights between several, well-funded petitioners and a single patent owner who has to run the gauntlet, repeatedly.  Surviving an IPR doesn’t mean anything if subsequent challenges can be filed at any time, especially in coordinated fashion.”

Once a patent is challenged multiple times with different prior arts, it is highly unlikely that any of its claims will survive – no matter how good it is.

“The PTAB may not be a death squad, but challenged patents are put in a kind of headlock that can render them useless. Where are the patents that emerge from IPRs generally intact or whose petitions against them for review are not instituted? They should be eminently licensable, but they are nowhere to be found. The ‘normalization’ statistics that are being cited to show that the PTAB is becoming a fairer forum for patent holders are highly misleading.”

Lack of Uniformity

Another patent licensing business, one whose petitioned patents have survived multiple IPRs, still believes that the lack of uniformity among the many PTAB panels and administrative law judges is a major factor in the continued unfairness that has effectively destroyed patent licensing for many companies and independent inventors.

“It’s difficult to predict how the PTAB will rule,” says the executive, a lawyer. “The first year or two that patents were subjected to IPRs there was a lot of low-hanging – really, rotting –  fruit. Those petitions were almost universally instituted, and many bad patents were appropriately eliminated.”

“But anyone can file and IPR and they can keep filing them. Reliable patents don’t seem to emerge from the process, only ‘bad’ ones, which are eventually neutralized. Few patent holders have the time or money to repeatedly defend themselves in IPRs. This has made otherwise licensable patents pretty much worthless and daily infringement, at least to some, an acceptable way of doing business.”

Image source: patentlyO.com; patentacademyonline.com; 

Three notable IP events coming up in NY, SF and Bangalore

IP event season is upon us and at least three conferences are worth noting. 

The first takes place this week in New York, March 21-22, the 9th annual Corporate IP Counsel Forum. The USPTO Keynote will be given by Mary Boney Denison, Commissioner for Trademarks and Mark Powell, Deputy Commissioner for International Patent Cooperation.

The featured session will be “Reconsidering Patent-Eligibility under Section 101.” Speaker faculty can be found here and the conference agenda here. I understand that there are only a few seats left.

IP CloseUp readers can save $200 by using registration code IPCNYC.

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The World IP Forum will take place this year April 26-28 at the Shangri-La Hotel in Bengaluru (Bangalore), India.  The theme for the conference is “Harnessing the Power of Intellectual Property.” The fourth edition of this three-day conference will focus on recent developments in intellectual property and its syncing with business objectives. Past participants have include Judge Randall Rader and former USPTO Commissioner Q. Todd Dickinson.

For more information about the World IP Forum, go here.

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On May 18 San Francisco’s Golden Gate Club (at the Presidio) will be the site for IAM’s IP Software Summit.  The Summit is the first event to provide a platform for professionals from the software industry to discuss open innovation, open source and proprietary systems, collaboration, the scope of patent protection, and monetization.

The list of speakers can be found here and the full agenda here.

Speakers include senior IP executives from Cisco, Qualcomm, Mozilla, SAP, Open Invention Network, Google, Uber, LinkedIn, Ericsson and IBM.

Pre-IPO Snap, with $25B valuation, paid $9M for 245 IBM patents

A soft market for patent licensing has not stopped the right patent portfolio from commanding a respectable price from the right buyer – at the right time.   

Snap, the corporate parent of Snapchat, reported recently in its S-1 pre-IPO filing that it had acquired a strategic patent portfolio from IBM, according to PatentVue, the data-focused IP blog.

In a well-researched post, PatentVue reports that approximately 245 of Snap’s 328 issued patents have been purchased from IBM.

“While the terms of its patent acquisition from IBM were not made ibmpublic,” says Maulin Shah, Managing Partner of Envision IP, “and with no mention of this patent transfer in the S-1, it appears that Snap may have paid roughly $9-10 million for the 245 patents and 207 pending US patent applications from IBM.

Excluding the patent applications, this means roughly $36-40k per patent.

Twitter acquired 945 patents from IBM in 2014 for a reported $36 million, in an effort to settle patent infringement claims brought against it by the technology giant. This comes out to approximately $38k per patent, again, excluding patent applications.

Similar Strategies

“Snap and Twitter’s patenting strategy at this point appear to be very similar,” concludes Shah, “with the vast majority of both portfolios predominately made up of acquired patents from IBM.”

The current IAM magazine features an article, “Big Blue’s new groove,” which examines IBM’s evolving patent strategy, and lists 34 patent and portfolio sales Big Blue has made between 2014 and 2016. Buyers include LinkedIn, Hulu, snap-ipo-riskRed Hat, Global Foundries and Lenovo. IAM subscribers can find the article here.

Snap, Snapchat’s parent, expects to raise approximately $3 billion from an initial public offering this spring. Despite a $25 billion valuation, Snap lost $514 million last year.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others all sought patent portfolios before they went public, in part to justify their valuation, and perhaps because they had the cash to justify the instant leverage provided by a meaningful portfolio.

Today, patents’ more abstract M&A or financial transaction value can be more meaningful that its direct licensing or revenue-generating value.

The PatentVue post, can be found here. The blog’s original coverage of Snap’s mobile messaging patent acquisition, here.

Image source: computerweekly.com; techcrunch.com

Trade in counterfeit & pirated goods is $.5 trillion – 2.5% of all imports

“Fakes,” or counterfeit products, are a growing menace that deplete resources, threaten jobs and endanger lives. 

A report compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says that imports of counterfeit and pirated goods are worth nearly half a trillion dollars a year, or around 2.5% of global imports. That is about the entire GDP of Austria, or of Ireland and the Czech Republic combined.

The U.S., Italian and French brands have been the hardest hit, and “many of the proceeds going to organised crime.” The 2016 report was co-authored by the EU’s Intellectual Property Office. China also is in the top 12 (see graph below).

Five-percent are Fakes

Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods: Mapping the Economic Impact puts the value of imported fake goods worldwide at $461 billion in 2013, compared with total imports in world trade of $17.9 trillion.

Up to 5% of goods imported into the European Union are fakes, the report stated. Most originate in middle-income or emerging countries, with China the top producer.

“Transit points include economies with very weak governance and having a strong presence of organized crime or even terrorist networks (e.g. Afghanistan or Syria).”

nationshit

“Given the fundamental economic importance of IP, counterfeiting and piracy must be directly targeted as a threat to sustainable IP-based business models,” concludes the OECD report.

China may be making great strides in domestic patent protection (see China is Poised to Overtake the U.S. as the Leading Patent System) with low injunction hurdles and high respect for foreign-held rights, but as of 2013, it was responsible for almost two-thirds of global counterfeits, based on the percent of seizures documented.

Missing: Content and Invention Theft

Ironically, the Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods: Mapping the Economic Impact, does not mention content sharing or copying, copyright violations, as a global threat.

It also does not address the economic impact of products being falsely sold as original that are infringing other businesses’ patents.

fakeoriginators

For those interested, the 2017 OECD Global Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum will be held this year in Paris, March 30-31. For more information go here.

 

Image source: OECD report

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