Tag Archives: patents

Et tu, TechCo? Some potential patent licensees should be outed for abusive behavior

What is the appropriate response to a legitimate request for patent licensing?

If you are an information technology company comfortable taking full advantage of confusion in the patent system, and unfettered by business ethics, it may be tossing the offer in the garbage can — just because you can.

Can a business simply ignore a reasonable licensing offer or does it have an obligation, ethical or otherwise, to take seriously a reasonable request to consider a license to an invention it requires or may already be using?

For an executive at one inventor-owned business, Personalized Media Communications, being totally ignored when a legitimate request to discuss a patent license is presented is an abusive practice and a threat to innovation that must be stopped.

The Real Issue

“Too often, this abusive behavior is conflated with ownership models to deflect attention from the real problems,” said Aaric Eisenstein, VP Licensing Strategy. “PR efforts targeting ‘trolls’ have warped stories of threats to mom & pop businesses to cast large companies as the equally helpless victims of these ruthless predators… the real issue is abusive behavior, and that’s what needs to be targeted…

“The responsibility for ending abuse rests not only with the Patent Office and the federal courts but also with the stakeholders in the patent system themselves. The stakeholders cannot simply complain and lobby for one-sided solutions. They must work together to improve the system upon which they all depend.

“The responsibility for ending abuse rests not only with the Patent Office and the federal courts but also with the stakeholders in the patent system themselves.”

“Following these rules eliminates both problems: skimpy-to-ridiculous notice packages and throwing legitimate packages in the trash.  It doesn’t matter whether the companies are large or small or whether they’re direct operating competitors or have completely different ownership models. The critical point is that these standards are targeted to prohibit abusive behavior per se

“The US patent system was the envy of the world for generations.  It can be again if we’re honest about its shortcomings and address them in direct and balanced ways.”

The TROL Act in the House of Representatives reintroduced legislation with apparent bi-partisan support that would give the Federal Trade Commission and the state attorneys general authority to issue civil penalties up to $5 million for sending misleading or bad faith letters demanding patent licenses.

There is no indication that penalties will also be instituted for bad faith on the part of businesses that ignore legitimate offers to license good patents, forcing owners to file suit.

Eisenstein is grateful to USPTO Director Andrei Iancu for having “reminded patent system stakeholders what US inventors have given the world and the right way to enhance the system.”

For the full article, go here.

Image source: seapine.com

Costs to establish clear patent ownership are soaring – Here’s why

It has never been easy for American innovators hoping to generate a return on their inventions, but new hurdles have made it impossible to license even the best patents.

Despite increased availability of capital and access to data, IT patents today have a much more difficult time proving themselves than a decade or a century ago. The vast majority of the public, stakeholders if indirectly, are not aware of the situation or its impact.

With the enactment of the American Invents Act (AIA) in 2012 and several supreme court decisions setting an ambiguously higher bar for patent certainty, licensing began to resemble scaling a high peak, with enough challenges even the most innovative business or inventor.

Two such obstacles are the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and inter partes reviews, created to validate patents already issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Until the AIA came along, USTPO-issued patents had enjoyed a “presumption of validity,” the standard since 1952.

Second Look

In theory, a “second look” for issued patents is not a bad idea. Examinations are not always as thorough as they could be. If it were fairly applied, these re-examinations would kill any dubious patents that should not have been issued by time-constrained examiners, and affirm those that deserve to be. This would make it easier for owners to license without resorting to costly litigation. In practice, however, is not the case.

Patents that the PTAB chooses not to review, and even those whose reviews are instituted and claims affirmed, still, are rarely seen as licenseable, and are subject to subsequent IPRs and/or protracted litigation. New and even more onerous obstacles to patent certainty have added to the time and cost of resolving disputes. How much time and cost?

 

Steep Climb

The illustration on this page, courtesy of Brody Berman Associates, IP communication specialists, is an illustration of the just how difficult patent licensing has become. That is not to say that every licensor must go through all of the steps, all of the time, but many do, especially those who believe the infringement warrants significant damages or a potential licensor believes the royalty costs outweigh the expensive legal ones. Many accused infringers have the capital and constitution to withstand a protracted dispute, which can last five years or more.

Defendants who take their time engage in what is known as “efficient” infringement. For a patent holder to prove patentability, validity, infringement and damages is frequently too costly and time-consuming a climb, so why bother? For many IT patent holders, licensing without litigation is no longer an option.

From Edison to Alexander Graham Bell to Nicola Tesla, market leaders have been reluctant to accept new ways of solving old problems if it may hurt their bottom line. An expensive challenge with many impediments along the way is one way of mitigating a threat. Patents that are held by businesses and individuals but are not used (enforced) are seen as less threatening to established businesses. To them, the best patents are seen but not heard.

An overly arduous path to patent certainty not only tilts the playing field, it dissuades competition and dims the future.

Image source: Brody Berman Associates, Inc.

 

Patent “abuse” stories is the subject of a website and forthcoming book

From Michelangelo to Edison and Bell, inventor success stories are well-known.

But patent and inventor abuse stories – such as inventor Robert Kearns’ and his intermittent windshield wiper, famously infringed by almost every auto manufacturer and well-captured in the feature film, “Flash of Genius” – are less well-known.

An organization supported by a GoFundMe campaign is looking to change that. Protect American Innovation has been collecting patent abuse stories since July and has thus far gathered 16 examples of dramatic abuse. Some of the examples cite videos.

Protect American Innovation, which is described on its website as a “coalition of businesses, innovators and inventors, to spread the word about patent abuse and to push for effective change in the U.S. Patent System,” supports the Stronger Patents Act, which hopes to correct the over-reaction and weakening of the patent system caused by the American Invents Act. The Bill is currently in the House Judiciary  Committee.

For PAI patent abuse stories, go here. They help to explode the myth of the abusive “patent troll.” Those interested in the website may also want to know about a book being written by IP consultant David Wanetic about patent and inventor abuse.

Incisive Op-Ed

Also on the PAI website is “The Time to Revive the American Patent System is Now!”, an incisive op-ed written by Chief Judge or the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (ret.), Paul R. Michel. It succinctly restates that the U.S. is losing its innovation edge and how a balanced patent system can help to fix it. Judge Michel’s piece can be read here.

“… to overcome the massive PR campaign of the FANGs, featuring largely fictional or exaggerated tales of patent ‘trolls’ abusing the system with baseless law suits, leaders in Congress need stories to illustrate the harms of the AIA reviews and Supreme Court cases.”

For the Save the Inventor video feed with more than 100 videos, go here.

Image source: savetheinventor.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iancu and Schecter, too

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

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

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

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

To register, go here.

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

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

Image source: bloomberg.com; TEDMED

Too sexy to be taken seriously: movie star’s invention story is a lesson for both men and women

In the 1930s she was called “the most beautiful woman in the world,” but screen star Hedy Lamarr was obsessed with how things worked.

An Austrian émigré in Hollywood, Lamar, intellectually curious and highly patriotic, and who was raised Jewish, wanted to do something to help her adopted country defeat the Nazis. This prompted her to develop a complex, secret communications system that would later serve as the basis for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, wireless phones, GPS, and other developments.

Problem was it took the Navy 20 years to take her and her co-inventor seriously. Both were high school dropouts and of Austrian and German extraction at a time of heightened suspicion and spying. This fascinating story is explained in greater detail in The Intangible Investor in the November IAM magazine, “Torpedo invention laid the foundation for Wi-Fi and more.” Subscribers can find it here starting October 1.

What drove Lamarr to invent is a focus of this fascinating and well-received documentary, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (96% rated on Rotten Tomatoes). It is available on Netflix and on DVD from many public libraries. Even those familiar with the story will find the film worth watching. It illustrates that some of the best inventions derive from the most unlikely sources and can seem implausible.

For more on Lamarr’s background, go hereFor her patent, 2,292,387, “Secret Communications System,” go here.

“Bombshell” estimates that Larmarr’s invention, had it been widely adopted, would have been worth $30 billion.

Lamarr and her co inventor, George Autheil, a respected American avant-garde composer and concert pianist who spent a decade in Paris associating with James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway, posthumously made it into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

“If you do good,” Lamarr said, “people will accuse you of selfish motives – do good anyway.”

Image source: washingtonpost.com 

 

IPCU readers can save $200 on IP Dealmakers Forum Nov 6-8 in NY

Patent monetization is alive and improving.

Look no further than the 5th annual IP Dealmakers Forum, which will attract the top players in IP licensing, sales and litigation funding to the Alexandria Center overlooking NYC’s East River, November 6-8.

IP CloseUp readers can save $200 off of registration by using discount code IPDF18_CIPU.

Panels include:

  • IP Market Roundup: Light at the end of the Tunnel
  • In Patents We Trust: Government Updates & Outlook
  • Leveraging Data to Identify Valuable Patents
  • SEP, FRAND & Getting Ready for 5G
  • IP Investors Roundtable: Opportunities In and Around IP
  • What Matters Now: Navigating the New Deal Landscape
  • Corporate Governance & Activist Investing in IP

One-to-one meeting and networking sessions will be held throughout the conference.

A partial list of speakers includes:

  • Erich Andersen, Corporate VP & Chief IP Counsel, Microsoft
  • John Lindgren, CEO, IPVALUE
  • Todd Dickinson, Former Director, USPTO
  • Fred Fabricant, Head of IP Litigation, Brown Rudnick 
  • Paul Michel (ret.), former Chief Judge of CAFC
  • Hans Sauer, Deputy General Counsel for IP, BIO

For the full IPDF agenda, go here.

To register, go here.

CLE credit is available.

Images source: ipdealmakersforum.com

12-fold increase in China’s U.S. trademark apps; many are said to be fraudulent and improperly filed

Cash subsidies are among the incentives fueling a dramatic rise in U.S. trademark applications by Chinese filers. Thousands are said to be  improperly filed and unlikely to be granted. 

In a national effort to increase IP ownership China is paying companies and individuals, some of them prisoners, as much as the equivalent of $800 to register a trademark in the U.S.

“The U.S officials say many China filings show a pattern of suspicious claims about the goods in question and the qualifications of the attorneys handling them,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

China may be attempting to “disrupt” the U.S. system by flooding it with huge numbers of applications, making it potentially more difficult for business to obtain the marks they desire, especially those that may be associated with products that are sold in e-commerce.

Mark Cohen, UC Berkeley law professor and former USPTO expert on China told IP CloseUp that he did not believe there is a concerted effort to undermine the U.S. trademark system.

“China is metrics-driven, numbers-oriented society,” said Cohen, who is fluent in Chinese. “It wants to achieve government-established goals and will resort to incentives to achieve them. This planned approach can lead to the kind of spikes we have been seeing in trademark applications. The ultimate impact is unclear.”

In addition to paying cash incentives, China has been known, says Professor Cohen, to award tenure, defer income taxes and reduce sentences of prisoners who obtain marks. Similar motivations have been known to exist in the patent space, where China is a leading U.S. filer and number two globally. If the pattern continues, it will soon be number one in both trademarks and patents.

Numbers Game

This rapid rise does not necessarily lead to high quality IP rights or to appropriate use of them. But IP does apparently amount to something of a numbers came to China.

Cohen believes that many of the filers are small businesses selling online goods such as phone chargers and cheap clothing. Whether they are every in a position to enforce their marks, if infringed, remains to be seen.

Representing a number of Chinese trademark filers are foreign attorneys who are not licensed to practice in the U.S., which violates application rules.

These payments by the Chinese government amount to nearly $800 per US trademark registration that is obtained (a potential profit per trademark of $525 after filing fees), reports trademark attorney Josh Groben.

Full-time Job

“Given that the median monthly income for a Chinese citizen is around $1,000,” says Groben, “the government payments make it possible for someone in China to have a full-time income by registering just two US trademarks per month.”

The U.S. received more than 50,000 applications from China in the year through September 2017, accounting for 8.5% of all trademark filings.

It is difficult to know how aggressively legitimate Chinese trademark holders will enforce their rights against infringers. In the U.S. complete failure to enforce will lead to a weakening of an owner’s marks, loss of distinctiveness over time and potential forfeiture of certain available remedies.

Image source: creekmorelaw.com; lexology.com

LES annual meeting to be held in Boston October 14-17

The birthplace of innovation, Boston, is the site for the 2018 Licensing Executives Society meeting.

The opening session, “Advancing Innovation Through a Renewal of Trust,” will feature Andrei Iancu, USPTO Director, Bill Elkington, Senior Director – IP Management, Rockwell Collins and Walter Copan, National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Director and Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology.

Other sessions include:

  • Funding Startups – The Boston Perspective
  • Increasing ROI for Government-Funded Research
  • Advanced Telecommunications Licensing, 4G, 5G and LTE for Automobiles
  • US or Them – Who is Going to Set Standards for Licensing
  • Patenting Machine Learning
  • 2018 Tax Consequences: Coordination of IP Monetization and Tax Planning
  • Life Sciences Partnering Performance and Reputation Survey Results
  • Maximizing IP Value and Minimizing Risk in M&A Transactions

For the full 2018 LES annual meeting agenda, go here. For the speaker biographies, please visit http://www.lesmeetings.org/am18/speakers/

To register, go here.

Image source: lesmeetings.org 

IP CloseUp is named a “top 50” intellectual property blog

IP CloseUp has been named by Feedspot as a top-50 intellectual property blog.

Feedspot, a news aggregator, named the top 100 IP blogs in which IP CloseUp was number 48.  IPCU beat out quality competition, including many law firm publications and those from leading IP services providers.

Criteria for inclusion on the list includes number of searchers and followers, as well as content.

“It’s an honor to be recognized as a leader in IP news and analysis, especially in the company of such publications as IP Watchdog, IAM and IP Law 360,” said Bruce Berman publisher and editor of IP CloseUp. “IPCU’s mission is to spot relevant trends early with the help of our network of IP and industry contacts.”

IP CloseUp, which first appeared in 2010, covers original and thinly reported IP developments, events, people and transactions, via weekly posts. IPCU also makes available interesting videos and reviews new books. It’s coverage of automotive inventor Robert Kearns, who was depicted in the film, “Flash of Genius,” has generated more than 75,000 visits.

For the complete top-100 list, go here

Image source: feedspot.com

 

Rich values for IP services providers defy investor expectations

Prices for companies that support and sell IP services and analytical software remain surprisingly strong, even as patent licensing and sales continue to decline.

Their success appears to be fueled by the very problems facing patents: lower values and lack of certainty.

IP tools providers are the proverbial sellers of picks and shovels; the “miners” take the primary risk. Most are satisfied with the steady cash flow, while their clients make the big bets in R&D and litigation. Uncertainty makes investing even more dangerous and the information premium more valuable.

                                    __________________________________________

For the full IP services deal story, “Defying the monestisation market” in the September IAM magazinego here. In this issue the Intangible Investor explores recent IP service firms transactions and their prices.
                                         ______________________________________

Examples of IP services successes include CPA Global’s 2017 acquisition by private equity firm Leonard Green & Partner’s for 2.4 billion pounds ($3.1B USD). Cinven had acquired the firm in 2012 from Intermediate Capital Group for around £950 million ($1.3 billion), backed
by $555 million of debt financing.

In 2015, CPA Global – with approximately $12 million in revenues and no profit – acquired Innography for an undisclosed amount. An industry-insider told IP CloseUp it was likely between $80 and $90 million, or about seven times revenue. Innography, with a strong reputation, had raised $14 million in venture capital.

AI Driven

Thomson Reuters sold its IP and Science business in 2016 to Onex and Baring and Private Equity Asia for $3.55 billion. The company is now Clarivate Analytics.

Among the newer and more interesting entries in the IP services space is ClearAccessIP, a Palo Alto, CA-based firm “that indexes patents, looks for vulnerabilities in a corporation’s patent strategy, and finds opportunities in a patent collection for further value.”

Founded by Nicole Shanahan, a young patent attorney who served as a researcher for IP scholar Colleen Chien at Santa Clara University College of Law. Professor Chien is a member of the Clear Access IP Advisory Board, along with former AIPLA president Wayne Sobon.

“I am essentially trying to build and democratize a marketplace platform because not all patent holders and sellers can afford the large transaction firms,” she says. “I’m also solving a very old problem and putting docket management in the cloud.”

An extensive interview with Shanahan appears in Software Engineering Daily. The audio can be found here; the written transcript, here.

Ms. Shanahan, it seems fair to inform readers, has been living with Sergey Brin, founder of Google and President of its parent company, Alphabet, Inc., which, historically, has been dubious about strong patents.

New Wave

IP services and software providers, especially those using the latest algorithms, may represent a new wave for beleaguered IP holders and their law firms seeking to manage patent risk. The computing strength and analytics capability they offer may be just what some IP holders and margin-conscious law firms need to compete, or these companies may simply be repackaging the outsourcing mantra for the AI age.

These relationship-driven, technology-focused service providers are likely to grow in value as global patent applications and portfolios increase and uncertainty lingers. An improved outlook for patent licensing will make them even more attractive.

Image source: softwareengineeringdaily.com; clarivate.com; cpaglobal.com 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the full article, go here.

Better Incentives Needed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image source: cjnotebook.com; wsj.com

 

Can the U.S. compete with China without a focused innovation policy?

More nations today have an innovation policy than do not – that is except for the U.S. 

The U.S. not only has no centralized innovation and intellectual property policy, it has no real strategy for making IP rights more meaningful and American businesses more competitive in the wake of initiatives from China.

Some believe it is not the job of policymakers to tinker with free-markets or favor certain industries. Well, that may have worked in the past, but with China committed to dominating global innovation – and with unlimited capital – the U.S. must reexamine its strategies.

What it is not supposed to do is assume that it is business as usual.

The United States has a tendency to repeat past mistakes, such as in the case of so-called “Japan, Inc.,” which devastated the auto and electronics industries with more advanced products. It is currently contending with China, which has approximately ten times the population of Japan and has quadrupled its investment in technology over the past decade.

“US innovation policy: Time for a makeover,” a fresh take on dealing with competition in the Intangible Investor, can be found in the July IAM magazine, out this week, here.

Innovation policy in the United States is mostly a series of suggested strategies and directives from several government agencies and industry organisations primarily designed to address foreign IP infringement (i.e., theft). It is often tied to science and economic policy, and is typically reactive – not proactive.

“Better innovation policy not only permits established industries to compete,” says the Intangible Investor, “it facilitates success for the next generation of inventors, authors, designers and software developers. It also helps to supply context for a confused and wary public susceptible to false media narratives – intellectual property is not the enemy, nor are rights holders and lawyers.”

Enforcement is Not Policy

Trump’s anger about China IP violations, justified or not, does not constitute an innovation policy. Innovation policy is not just about enforcement or supporting the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum for the next generation of inventors. It is about understanding the current economic and political context and responding as a nation.

“The FAANGs, and others, who dominate the competition and monetize their customers’ information, often without permission, realize they are increasingly symbols of bad business behavior,” Bruce Berman wrote recently in IP Watchdog. “The heat they feel from regulators in Europe and the U.S. will continue to rise.

“IP infringement will come to be seen as an increasingly important part of their bad behavior. The timing is perfect for them to step back and step up and show the leadership they heretofore have ignored regarding IP rights. Movement toward a responsible IP middle ground – a less entrenched position that recognizes others’ rights and actively conveys a greater willingness to share successes, not only defend them, will help to inform a meaningful IP policy.”

Quick-Reading Guide

For further background on U.S. innovation policy, read a timely and insightful perspective on U.S. innovation policy from James Goh, a young Wharton student from Singapore, “Primer: Innovation Policy in the United States.” 

For a linked quick-reading list about innovation and IP policy from the Center for IP Understanding, go to page 4.

Image source: q3research.com; breakinggap.com

 

 

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