Tag Archives: Qualcomm

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.

Tech cos use patents to turn up the volume on smarter hearing devices

Aging baby boomers, exposed to a lifetime of loud music, are more demanding than past generations about the quality of what and how they hear.

Don’t expect them to sit by idly watching Mick Jagger mouth the words to Satisfaction.

A group of leading technology companies familiar with consumer lifestyle preferences are helping to reshape the emerging hearables industry. A cross between a tiny wearable and smart prosthetic, it would be unfair to call these devices hearing aids. They are tiny, but powerful, information processors which, 13892-32c56cdb6fd37fccfbd10d1ffb425f54if properly programmed to individual users’ needs, can do far more than merely amplify speech.

Some will be able to offer simultaneous foreign language translations and are fully customizable with a phone app.

360 Million Hearing-Impaired 

Companies vying for leadership in the field include Samsung, Apple, Qualcomm and Google, as well as those already in the business – the so-called ‘big six’, each with decades of practical experience.

For the whole story see “Turning up the volume on hearables,” in the Intangible Investor in IAM magazine’s November issue. Subscribers can find my fully linked report here.

A Google search for hearing-aid–related patents by Apple, Samsung, and Qualcomm showed zero patents 20 years ago but 816 in 2015— slightly more than half of the total patent activities by the Big Six in the same period.

For the “Complete Guide to Hearing Technology in 2016” go here.  For “New Patent Applications: The Sound of Hearables to Come,” go here.

Sound Play

Apple has teamed up with Starkey Hearing Technologies to provide support for the company’s advanced Halo 2 smart device; Daymond John – founder and CEO of fashion brand FUBU, star of reality TV series screen-shot-2016-02-12-at-9-29-50-pm-e1455334928779Shark Tank.”  He told CNN that the technology has changed his life (see video here.)

Google is working on commercializing a high-end in-ear computer, according to press reports based on patent filings. The technology is reportedly part of its secretive new wearable tech initiative, known as Project Aura.

If hearables reach their market potential, vision, memory and other human-assist devices will not be far behind. Forgot what you stated for entertainment on last year’s tax returns? An assistant far smarter than today’s Alexa, Siri or Cortana (Microsoft), and swifter than Google, will be able to find what you need.

Yesterday’s iPod is looking like today’s iHear and tomorrow’s iKnow.

Image source: wearable.com; anewdomain.net

Post-election “Patent Law & Policy” conference to be held in Washington

Many businesses are wondering what the patent terrain will look like after the U.S. elections in November.

Will further reforms will be forthcoming, or will there be a move toward stronger patents and greater certainty?

On November 15, the Tuesday following election day, at Washington DC’s Reagan Conference Center, those attending the 2016 Patent Law and Policy will be in a better position to find out.

Capitol Building in Washington DC USASpeakers assembled for this year’s IAM Patent Law and Policy conference will include senior government officials, members of the judiciary, corporate patent leaders, private practitioners and investors, who will discuss how court decisions and legislation are affecting US patent values and strategies.

The keynote speaker is US Patent and Trademark Office Director Michelle Lee. Other speakers include the chief judge of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, David Ruschke, ex-USPTO Director David Kappos, and former Federal Circuit Chief Judge Paul Michel.

Also participating as speakers or panelists will be senior representatives from companies closely involved in the ongoing patent reform debate, including: GoogleQualcomm, Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb and IBM. Lead counsel in two of the pivotal Supreme Court patent cases of the last decade, KSR v Teleflex and Cuozzo v Lee. Also present will be as several high-profile patent investors.

IP CloseUp readers are able to receive $100 off the $895 fee if they use the discount code PLAP100 (offer valid until October 7 2016).

For the complete program and speakers, go here. For registration go here.

Image source: ipo.org; ipwatchdog.com

 

 

A record number of major holders were granted far fewer US patents

Many significant tech companies experienced dramatic declines in US patent grants, fueling speculation about the reasons why. 

While total patent grants were virtually flat, according to USPTO data, down just 53 patents from 326,032 to 325,979, and utility patent grants and applications were up, many top US holders received significantly fewer US patent grants in 2015. Patent reform and uncertainty are the most likely reasons why.

Notable declines in patents received include Microsoft, off 17.2%, Sony, down 23.8% and AT&T, which dropped 31.3% after increasing 14.4% in 2014. The immediate result has been a noticeable drop in US patent grants received in 2015 by information technology companies, both domestic and foreign based. Japanese companies led the foreign declines.

Businesses of foreign origin were issued a record of 52.8% in 2015 US patents. US company patent applications abroad was likely up.

Digesting the Declines

Fifteen of the top 26 US patent recipients (58%) were granted fewer patents by the USPTO in 2015 than in 2014.  Even IBM, a leading patent recipient for more than two decades, was down by 0.5%. (See IPO top 300.)

Bucking the trend with net increases among top ten patent recipients include Qualcomm, Google GE , Intel and Samsung Display. Biggest percent increases among the top 300 were from NXP Semiconductor (147.9%), Amazon Technologies (53.3%) and Ford Global Technologies (49.1%).

These are in contrast to 2014, when top US-based patent recipients were all up (see 2014-2013 chart below).

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Litigation Down, Too

It is too early to be certain about why the issuance declines among major IT holders are occurring, but if it is in keeping with the recently announced 30.7% drop in patent litigation for the first half of 2016 (see IAM story), a pattern may be emerging.

What this means for some major technology companies is that patent quantity is no longer king. The arms race may be abating, somewhat. It also indicates that US patents mean less today to many companies than in the past, and paying to secure and enforce all but the best few may no longer makes sense. (I will try to cross-check this with US company foreign filing in a future IP CloseUp.)

Decreases in IT company patent filings can be interpreted in several ways.

The Intellectual Property Owners Association (ipo.org) list of top 300 US patent recipients for 2015, published recently, illustrates a downward trend, with some exceptions noted above. It is difficult to tell whether NXP, Amazon and Ford are playing catch up or see an opportunity that others do not. Also, is it that semiconductors, e-commerce and financial transactions, and automotive are inherently more innovative and potentially combative.

“A combination of factors”

Clearly there are many IP rights in portfolios that should never have been issued, and would be invalidated under further review. Also, patents are less reliable than ever, so why bother? It may be that some companies want to rely on fewer, better quality patents, for freedom of action, but it also may be that they see less value in obtaining them or in identifying new inventions.

“It is a combination of factors,” one veteran patent attorney and analyst told IP CloseUp. “Businesses are seeking better patent quality, and chartoftheday_4260_top_10_patent_recipients_n
USPTO examinations are getting somewhat tougher. Also, there is 
pressure on software patents from the courts, frequent PTAB invalidity rulings, and a general anti-patent environment. Weaker corporate balance sheets also have led to cost cutting.”

The America Invents Act and PTAB reviews have made it much more difficult to license patents, and have diminished their defensive value, too. Patents role in some businesses’ corporate strategy and ROI is under scrutiny.

Interestingly, despite the 2015 drop in patents to top holders, corporate patent buying activity was relatively high. Rock bottom prices may have made portfolio purchases attractive to some.

Patent-dubious Google, which has been an active buyer through various programs (e.g. experimental Patent Purchase Program), as well as a more active filer, experienced a 10.9% increase in patents received in 2015. In 2014, it was up by 31.6%.

Image source: patentdocs.com; aulainip.com; statista.com

 

 

 

Google’s patent giveaway is not really about saving startups from predators

The Patent Starter Program announced last week by Google may be less about how the company can help protect young companies from patent “trolls” than re-thinking how patents are most effectively used.

 A provocative article running on the Fortune blog by Jeff John Roberts, Google’s new patent plan: how it will and won’t help startups,” suggests that Google is packaging incentives to discourage companies from enforcing patents or selling them to businesses that do.

Roberts believes that the Patent Starter Program could create big long-term ripples in how the tech industry views and deploys patents, and leverages brand recognition. It is an indication of Google’s growing sophistication in the IP space, and shows its willingness to participate in patent transactions (buy and release, similar to Allied Security Trust) if they can help to achieve the tech leader’s business goals.

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“The real significance of the Google Patent Starter Program,” writes Roberts,”is instead more subtle, and should be seen against the backdrop of other moves wpid-google-inc-offers-to-sell-patents-to-startups-as-company-fights-patent-trolGoogle is undertaking to change the economic incentives that have made patents such a problem for the tech sector in the first place.”

“Perhaps the search giant is actually tempted to follow the example of older companies like Microsoft and Qualcomm which, as their capacity for product innovation fades, have turned to their patent portfolios as a new revenue stream.”

Google lawyer Kurt Brasch said that was not the case and that the goal of the purchase program was in part to create more realistic expectations about the actual value of patents in the secondary market.

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The new starter program obliges the startups who receive Google patents to sign up for the LOT network, “a condition that’s easy to accept,” says Fortune, “since Google will pick up the first two years of the membership tab.”

Image source: techno-stream.net

Higher R&D does not necessarily result in more or better patents

It is unclear that companies with the most significant increases in R&D spending are securing more, better quality or valuable patents. 

A random study of the R&D spending and U.S. patent granted three years following of 12 leading technology companies conducted by Brody Berman Associates shows that costly corporate research spending does not necessarily result in more patents or those with greater impact.

Cisco’s annual R&D spend, for example, increased 11.3% from 2010 to 2013, to just under $6 billion, yet the number of patents granted to it over that period was down 21% to about 900.

Google’s R&D increased 110% to $8B annually over that same period, but its patents granted were up 573%. According to Envision IP the majority were in US classes 455, 709, 370, 715 and the much observed 705. (See chart below.)

USPTPOclassificaUntitled

Granted there are many reasons why one company receives more patents than another: Is the business building its portfolio or merely maintaining it?  Does it do business in a mature or maturing sector? Is it planning to use the patents defensively or to monetize them through out-licensing?

2010 2013 R&D JPEG 1

2010 2013 Patents Granted JPEG 2

 

Microsoft’s R&D was up to about $10.5B in 2013 from 2010, but its patents received were down 14%. Is MSFT investing in fewer, better quality patents, or was the decrease merely the luck of the draw? Everyone except Cisco spent more on R&D, but not everyone necessarily received more patents for doing so. Qualcomm’s R&D was up 96% and its patent grants were up 220%. IBM’s $6B+ R&D, a 3% increase, resulted in 16% more patents. Were these of lesser quality than Microsoft’s. It would be interesting to compare.

Intel conducted the most expensive R&D of the group, nosing out MSFT for the spending lead. For its some $10.6B in 2013, a 60% increase over its 2010 budget, it received 12% fewer U.S. patents, or about 1,700. One would hope they are better patents. “The number of reverse citations for Intel increased from an average of 25 in 2010 to 30 in 2013,” says Maulin Shah of Envision IP.

“A higher number of reverse citations may indicate the relative validity of a patent – the more art that is cited on the patent and during prosecution lessens the pool of available prior art that may be used to challenge the validity of the patent based on prior art grounds later.

The trend suggests that a business, no matter how solvent, cannot necessarily “buy” valuable patents or generate meaningful innovation by spending more on R&D. A lower yield per R&D dollar spent may mean better quality patents, but, then again, it may not. More research needs to be done on R&D and how best to measure return on it.

Patents remain a “numbers” game, more focused on quantity than quality, but these R&D/delayed grant figures indicate that the trend is far from universal among large technology companies.

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“The cost for IP varies per industry sector,” a revered former head of IP business and strategy told me recently, “but also within a sector it depends on whether a company is a technology leader, fast-follower or in catch-up mode.

“Cost is further determined by the patent efficiency (number of patents filed per million dollar investment in R&D), which relates also to patent quality. If you analyze this you will see some significant differences in numbers (and patent quality), and also in patent cost. Some followers or late entrants have a high patent efficiency (high number of patent filings per million investment in R&D) just to create large numbers (quantity over quality).”

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“With technology leaders there is mostly a kind of non-linear relationship between the number of patent filings and R&D budget (decrease in patent efficiency with increasing R&D budget).

“It generally also holds that companies with less than average R&D budgets in their sector of industry (followers, new entrants) will have higher third-party IP costs, whereas companies with higher than average R&D budgets (technology leaders)  will generally have higher benefits from their own IP.”

Image source: Brody Berman Associates, Inc.; Envision IP, LLC

Patent Pricing: One Part Market Value; Two Parts Perceived Need

Google’s recent sale of Motorola Mobility’s handset business to China’s Lenovo is an illustration of

how what appeared to have been an over zealous acquisition in 2012 is starting to make more sense. It is a reminder that the eventual cost of the purchase and return to Google is not necessarily visible on the balance sheet or its P&L. Extracting value from patents can be measured in many ways.

Lenovo is now the world’s largest PC maker and fourth largest mobile phone company. In the deal Google gets to keep most of the patents, provide licences to Lenovo (thus establishing their market value), empowers yet another Android handset maker in its battle with rivals Apple and Microsoft, and receives a bunch of cash and stock to mitigate the original cost of the Motorola Mobility purchase. It also gets to retain what could be an undervalued crown jewel – Motorola’s Advanced Research and Projects.

“Beauty is in the eye of the holder,” in the April IAM magazine, I consider the difficulty determining value when buying or selling patents, or their holders. It also kodak_valuations1touches upon overly zealous valuations, such as those of JP

 

Morgan in ParkerVision’s (PRKR) win over Qualcomm, and in Kodak’s eventual sale to a consortium led by Apple, Facebook, Google and Samsung for just $525 million. (Projections by some interested parties were as high as $4.5 billion.).

“Just because some patent holders see their assets in a brighter light,” the Intangible Investor piece observes, “does not mean that stakeholders must be blinded by the glare.”

Buyers and investors alike should be aware of not only who is valuing a particular IP portfolio for sale or estimating return on a dispute, but also what is their relationship to the selling party.

Image source: envisionip.com

 

IP CloseUp 30 Index is Updated

Exclusion of two prominent patent holders will make the IP CloseUp® 30 index of publicly held IP companies (PIPCOs) more relevant.

ARM (ARM.L) and Qualcomm (QCOM), while strong, patent licensing companies with excellent IP portfolios, have been removed from the IPCU 30 because their large market cap, $14 billion  and $131 billion, respectively, dwarfs the others in the index and can cause a weighting issue. Most of the companies in the index are public patent licensing companies that are much smaller. Modest settlements and licenses, or even a good day in court, can move their shares dramatically.

In contrast, a recent trial loss by Qualcomm to ParkerVision (PRKR) for $173 million, the largest patent award of 2013, caused barely a ripple at the San Diego-based chip maker, which has $45 billion in assets on its balance sheet. (Ironically, PRKR shares were down significantly because of pumped-up expectations leading up to the decision.)

We also removed RWS Group (RWS.L), or Inovia, which is primarily a patent filing company, and barely trades, with an average ipcu30-blurb2-21of just 3,287 shares trading hands daily.

Measures of Performance

It is our hope that a wider range of IP-centric companies will eventually be included in the index, including those that do not out-license but nonetheless generate good returns on their patent portfolio and enhance overall performance. (Maintaining market share and profit margins ought to count somewhere other than on the bottom line.)

For now companies that will be included fall in the range of approximately $1 billion market value or lower. These are the IP businesses that — for better or worse —  will tend to be hyper sensitive to their patent licensing and enforcement activity, to the extent that it is understood by investors.

Removal of the three companies will make performance comparisons easier. Suggestions for additions or changes to the index are welcomed. We are planing a more quantitive look at some of the companies in the index in the 2Q.

Patent Properties, formerly GlobalOptions Group, Inc. (GLOI), can now be found under the symbol PPRO. It’s CEO, Jay Walker, previously founded Priceline.com.  

ParkerVision v. Qualcomm: A Field Day for the Shorts?

ParkerVision v. Qualcomm is a unique patent dispute…

pitting two public IP licensing companies (PIPCOs) with decidedly different business models against each other. The case underscores an a weakness in the public IP licensing model. It can be addressed by providing better information about how the patent system works and managing shareholder expectations.

Qualcomm (QCOM), a certified tech giant that licenses chips used in practically every smart phone sold, and derives billions in profit from patent licensing. ParkerVision (PRKR) is a relative David vs.  giants,  with excellent rights but  more than $20 million in annual losses. It hast has never turned a profit.

Nose Dive

ParkerVision shares were down as much as 60% yesterday on almost 30 times its average daily volume because a Florida Central District Court in Orlando ruled that Qualcomm did not infringe willfully and that the damages award was “only” $173 million, about half of what was expected.

PRKR was up 75% on October 17, trading as high at $7.38 when the validity of its patents were upheld by the court last week.  PRKR had sought damages of $432 million and a wilfulness verdict, which  would have possibly tripled the award.

The market speculation regarding the damages that  PRKR could have won led to extreme volatility. Trading in PRKR shares was halted Wednesday afternoon pending the outcome of the court’s damages ruling. Ironically, a few other public licensing companies halted trading, too, in anticipation of the decision.

Costly Confusion

The audience that benefits most from confusion are the short sellers, who sometimes bid stocks up then bet they will dive, without concern for the RenderImagefundamentals, or, for that matter, the facts.  As long as the shorts are a step ahead of other investors’ timing they usually wind up winning.  Investment bankers also may benefit from higher market capitalization because it increases the prospect of underwriting secondary or debt offerings.

One significant patent holder told me that a  JP Morgan had pegged the potential damages award with a willfulness finding as high as $2 billion. Flame fanning of this nature merely preys on those already confused about patents and the patent system, and is a blow to PIPCO credibility and long-term acceptance and reliability.

While the damages award is the largest patent jury verdict so far in 2013, and ninth-largest of all U.S. jury awards according to data compiled by Bloomberg, it’s less than half the $432 million ParkerVision was seeking.

That the market saw this otherwise resounding and well-deserved win in court as a something  less than a significant success suggests a failure many to manage expectations.  It can only serve to undermine confidence in IP-centric stocks.

ParkerVision, founded in 1989 designs, develops, and markets proprietary radio frequency (RF) technologies and products for use in semiconductor circuits for wireless communication products in the United States.

The court ruled that Qualcomm infringed on four patents of ParkerVision’s related to radio-frequency receivers and the conversion of electromagnetic signals in wireless devices and improperly used them in Qualcomm’s semiconductor chips.

Back in February, after a positive Markman ruling against Qualcomm, ParkerVision’s stock price rose 73%, from $2.43 to $4.21. PRKR’s market cap was around $300 million for most of 2013 and was recently as high as about $700 million. IP investors will recall a spike in InterDigital’s (IDCC) shares after Google bought Motorola for $12.5 billion, temporarily increasing its value by over $1 billion.

Both PRKR and QCOM (and IDCC) are in the IP CloseUp® 30.

Illustration source: parkervision.com

Reputation Counts for Patent Portfolios, Holders


Patent “Brands” are Serious Business –

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IP pros and stakeholders share an embarrassing secret: both are generally in the dark when it comes to how patents generate value and impact performance.

Owners of patent portfolios are discovering that reputation pays — especially when it comes to making performance understandable. The right IP message enables diverse audiences, such as shareholders, customers and employees, to have a handle on results without the excess baggage associated with legal rights.

While companies can and do conduct their IP business in the dark with little consequence, results that are conveyed strategically over time can turn a solid reputation into an iconic brand.

“An Image is Worth 10,000 Words,” my latest the Intangible Investor column in IAM magazine, takes a looks the role of brand equity in patent performance.

Patent Holder Survey

A global 500 IT company recently retained my firm, Brody Berman Associates, to explore which patent holders are seen as the leading players — the leading IP brands.  The client wanted to learn on what the responding IP executives based their conclusions. The client also was interested to discover (anonymously) how it ranked. The findings of the relatively small sample, while hardly definitive, shed light on how IP opinions are formed.

Businesses like IBM, Microsoft, Qualcomm and Philips were more highly regarded by survey respondents not only because IP rights play a role in their success, but because they remind various audiences they do so.

The survey take-away: A lack of information about a company’s patent performance relative to its industry is at best confusing and at worst damaging. The professionals’ take on a business’ patents and strategy, while often accurate, tended to be based more on impression than fact.

What constitutes a good IP reputation? It is really no different from what goes into any positive business profile: clarity, credibility, consistency — words that are more easily spoken than embodied.

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For patent holders with good results (i.e. discernible IP “wins”), a modest level of transparency can pay impressive dividends.  Building a brand may not be for every patent holder, but it is for those with the patience and confidence to explain what they’ve achieved and why.

For more see the May-June the Intangible Investor.

Illustration source: http://www.flickr.com


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