Tag Archives: Technology

Expanded ‘IP CloseUp 30’ stock index features four new categories

Publicly traded patent licensing companies have significantly under-performed market indexes. Only a few of the original listed stocks remain. 

The IP CloseUp 30, a feature of this blog first published in 2013, was designed to provide IP investors a real-time snapshot of public patent licensing company performance and news.

Loss of patent certainty and value have made licensing less interesting to current equity investors. For that reason, the IP CloseUp 30 is evolving. It will be known as the IP CloseUp 50, and include several new categories of publicly traded, IP-focused businesses, including those that engage in brand and content licensing and defensive strategies.

The IP CloseUp 30 index is build on a Yahoo! Finance screen of earnings and other financial information —  stock price and market capitalization, as well as real-time news developments. It gives IP investors a efficient way to track relative performance of selected companies. For those observers more dubious about the sector, but who are interested in keeping tabs on certain patent holders, it provides a method of tracking potential threats.

Evolving Universe

When I coined the acronym, PIPCO, six years ago, it referred to an expanding sector of public companies whose primary source of revenue was patent licensing and, by default, litigation. At the time patent values and damages were much higher and many respectable non-practicing entities (NPEs) held promise. Yet to be felt were the full impact of the America Invents Act, passed in 2012, and the effects of several major court decisions affecting injunctive relief and patent eligibility.

Leading Brands Category

The IP CloseUp 50 is an alternative method for investors to track the influence if not impact of intellectual property. It introduces a larger context for considering IP performance. Patent monetization remains a viable business model for some owners, but perhaps for most businesses, less so as a public one with the pressure to provide investors with quarterly results.

The IPCU 50 is far from definitive and will require that companies be added and removed as market and IP conditions warrant. PIPCOs were never intended to be just about patent licensing. When damages awards for mobile telephony (Motorola, Nortel, et al.) and other technologies commanded hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars, it was only natural for licensing companies to become a source or investor fascination. But even at their most active these PIPCOs rarely generated much daily volume or market capitalization.

Enter PIPCO 2.0

If investors have learned one thing over the past decade about public IP companies it is that they are not synonymous with patent licensing. It is true that performance measures like licensing, settlements and public awards are easier to follow than return on risk mitigation or brand equity. Licensing and litigation are simply more graphic, especially if big tech companies are paying out.

Think of the IPCU 50 as IP CloseUp 2.0. It represents the next iteration of IP investment perspective – companies better equipped to adapt and survive because of their nature of their IP assets and their size. It includes patent, trademark and content-focused operating businesses where licensing may play a role in performance. The index will still consider leading patent licensing companies, but scale back the number. (For now, the index will not consider trade secrets directly.)

To be sure, the IPCU 50 is a work in progress, destined to be refined, but, nonetheless, provocative and worthy of periodic scrutiny.

The new IP CloseUp 50 categories:

  • Patents – Technology
  • Patents – Pharmaceuticals
  • Trademarks – Leading Brands
  • Media & Content Owners (Copyright)
  • Primarily Patent Licensing

Fuller Grasp

Using IP rights to mitigate risk and maintain market share is not new. Nor is brand or content licensing. In principle, using IP rights defensively does not necessarily diminish their significance. It is true that specific tech patents typically mean more to small businesses and individuals than to established players who can rely on other resources like brand equity and their ability to raise capital, and are unlikely to enforce infringed patents. A fuller grasp of what different types of IP mean to various businesses can quickly turn a seller into a buyer (and vice versa).

With some 85% or more of S&P 500 company value tied up in intangibles assets such as IP rights, shareholders need to be better informed about the use of and return on IP (call it, ROIP) and their role in performance. Questions investors should be asking, even if senior management and equity analysts are reluctant to:

  • Which are the most IP-rich businesses?
  • What rights do they own?
  • How are they being used?
  • What is the relationship of their IP to performance and shareholder value?

 

Work in Progress

To be meaningful the IP CloseUp 50 must change to reflect IP value and investor need. The businesses were initially selected by an informal panel of experts. We will do our best to accommodate requests to add or delete companies. The index is designed to render performance of IP-rich companies somewhat more transparent and easier to follow.

The IP CloseUp 50 looks at top public IP holders primarily by:

 

  • Size, type and quality of IP portfolio and assets
  • Enterprise market value (typically >$500M)
  • Innovation reputation

For further explanation of the five sections and criteria for inclusion, visit the IP CloseUp 50 landing page, here. Consider bookmarking it or placing it on your home screen or desktop.

 

Image source: yahoo! finance; ipcloseup.com

Bridging the Gap Between IP Awareness and Understanding – A response to IBM’s Chief Patent Counsel

by Professor Ruth Soetendorp

In a recent article, Manny Schecter, Chief Patent Counsel at IBM and President of the IPO Education Foundation, was right to point out that increased IP awareness does not necessarily reflect people’s genuine IP understanding or their IP literacy[1].  But what does that matter, and to whom?

The ‘general public’ is a complex mix of IP illiterati including people whose IP curiosity will probably never reach beyond a vague awareness of wrongdoing for enjoying illicit downloads or counterfeit designer brands.  For them, the education system is beginning to wake up to the importance of including IP references in school citizenship classes.  They may never be concerned about how IP fuels our innovation economy or facilitates creative thinking, but they need to be protected from the potential criminality to which their lack of IP knowledge could lead.

Different, but no less lacking in IP knowledge, is the segment of the public whose IP awareness, however vague, has resonated with them. They may be entrepreneurs who realize IP’s relevance to their commercial success.  They are the group to whom international and national IP institutions (USPTO, UKIPO, EUIPO, WIPO etc) are keen to make available the short catchy sound bites that may capture attention but fall short on vital information.  These resources will never compensate for a lack of a deeper IP understanding.  They can trigger an expectation that IP problems will have a right answer, that should be easy to reach.

The public doesn’t need more catchy phrases about what IP rights are. Instead, IP institutions should be braver about telling the public that IP is difficult.  They need to encourage a more critical approach by the general public to the IP they encounter, prompting them to think about the relevant questions that could be posed to colleagues, professional advisers or online resources capable of providing relevant information.

Prime Target

College students are a prime target for IP education that will encourage them to respect and question the legal regimes that will shape their careers and enable them to graduate as more enlightened members of society.  For them, patents will be important, alongside trademarks, copyrights and design rights.  For all, the rules relating to confidentiality and trade secrets have a crucial significance.  Faculties are encouraged to allocate time to convey IP education. There is clear evidence that it would be well received.  Research that supports this strategy was undertaken by the Intellectual Property Awareness Network[2] with the UK National Union of Students into student and academic attitudes to IP education[3] and IP policies in Higher Education institutes[4].

A recent approach I have used with participants from the UK’s Arts and Creative industries sector on the Boosting Resilience Arts Council England project[5], involves using an Intellectual Property Management Decision Tree. The Tree is a graphic representation designed to provide a framework to assist discussion by the general public of an IP issue.  Around the roots are listed the intellectual property concepts that may be relevant to the issue.  Using the Tree helps if an educator is familiar with the concepts.  But if they are unfamiliar the trunk holds addresses of online resources that will provide basic explanatory material.  Most important, the branches hold five key questions to be answered when faced with an IP problem.  When used by Boosting Resilience workshop participants (senior managers of UK Arts and Creative industries enterprises) feedback suggested the Tree had proved a useful device to stimulate small group discussion of IP problems.

No Easy Answers

Encouraging questions about IP matters challenges assumptions and establishes that there are no easy and few definitive answers.  This, in turn, builds confidence to seek out the best advice when faced with IP challenges – to draw upon the best resources.  The public may well never fully understand IP rights or how they achieve their intended purpose. That should not deter IP enthusiasts from their responsibility to help the public tackle the big IP questions that are intrinsic to their lives and future.

__________________________________________________________________

Ruth Soetendorp is a pioneer in promoting IP education for non-lawyers, across all disciplines. Professor Soetendorp has published research with EUIPO, UKIPO, IPAN and the National Union of Students, and has worked with WIPO, EPO and the EC to bring IP education to the international community. She is currently Professor Emerita and Associate Director of the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management at Bournemouth University and a Visiting Academic at Cass Business School, City University of London.

[1] https://www.ipwatchdog.com/2019/02/03/closing-gap-intellectual-property-awareness-understanding/id=105866/

[2] wwww.ipaware.org

[3] https://www.nus.org.uk/PageFiles/12238/2012_NUS_IPO_IPAN_Student_Attitudes_to_Intellectectual_Property.pdf

[4] http://ipaware.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/IPAN_NUS_University_IP_Policy_16aug16.pdf

[5] https://www.boostingresilience.net/

Image source: epmagazine.com; boostingresilience.net

U.S. patent litigation awards are highest since 2014; two cases accounted for 64% of the total damages; half were under $10M

$1.4 billion dollars was awarded last year in patent damages, the most since 2014.

Two cases were responsible for about two-thirds of that amount or $900 million, according the Lex Machina 2018 Litigation Report, leaving less than $500 million among 16 cases.

The biggest year for patent damages in the past decade was 2012, the heyday of patent value, which saw just under $4 billion awarded.

Sources told IP CloseUp the top 20 awards typically represent only a fraction of the actual infringed value of patents in a given year, and it is not clear how much of which of the awards have been paid.

Reasonable Royalties

Even though 2018 saw around the same quantity of cases awarding damages as in the previous five years, there was a greater total amount of damages awarded. The large increase in damages from the previous years is attributable to large jury awards of reasonable royalty damages.

Particularly, in Virtnex Inc. v. Apple the jury awarded plaintiff over $500 million in damages and in Kaist IP v. Samsung the jury awarded $400 million in damages.

Excluding these two cases, the total amount of damages awarded in 2018 was approximately $498 million. Looking at jury awards, Samsung was involved in three significant jury cases that awarded damages in 2018.

While ANDA cases did not yield jury awards in 2018, several healthcare/pharma/life sciences research companies were involved in significant jury trials, including Boston Scientific and Ariosa Diagnostics, as well as medical device producers such as Hologic and Minerva Surgical.

Half Under $10M

Among the top patent awards under $100 million, six were over $10M and nine or 50% of those reported were under. No data was provided on the number or amount of settlements or the cost to obtain them.

For the full report, go here. 

Image source: Lex Machina

 

FAANGs dominate value and valuation says a new book by an intellectual property expert

Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google, referred to at the Big Four, plus Netflix, “dominate society, technology and IP value and valuation,” according to a new book by a well-known expert in the field.

In the concluding chapter of his recently published IP Valuation for the Future (ABA Books), Wes Anson suggests that several large tech companies, for better or worse, wield a disproportionate amount of influence over IP rights.

“These numbers tell you about the social impact and control that the Big Four [FAAGs] have over not only the stock market and technology, but over the development of IP, social media, new apps, and new forms of (online and offline) technology, in turn, exerting IP domination and concentration.”

The numbers Anson is referring to include Facebook’s monthly users, 2.1 billion; the 65 million households served by Amazon every month; the five top social media apps owned by Facebook; and the 92% of Internet search controlled by Google.

Anson, who is the author of several books on IP value, says that the size of the FAAGs, plus Netflix, make it virtually impossible to accurately calculate all of their IP as a whole. Moreover, the long shadow cast by these businesses also makes it more difficult to value IP owned by others, as well.

Where IP is Headed

“This is where the ‘smallest unit of value’ comes into play and where, I believe, the valuation exercise for IP, particularly when it is held by [businesses the size of] Apple or Google/Alphabet or Facebook, is being challenged. It’s the concept of SVU.”

Anson concludes with “we find ourselves with an increase in value of almost all IP groups, with the possible exception of patents. We also find ourselves under the Cloud with the Big Four Companies, plus Netflix, increasing their dominance in content, media, connectivity and communications…

“I hope that this book conveys that this is a time of great change in the world of IP and a time in even greater change of IP evaluation and valuation.”

IP Valuation for the Future can be obtained through the American Bar Association.

For complimentary access to Chapter 14, “The Future of Intellectual Property Valuation,” go here.  

Image source: IP Valuation for the Future (ABA Books)

Convergence is creating new value; IPBC Europe in Paris to explore

The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) presents new challenges and opportunities for European companies.

4IR is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres collectively referred to as cyber-physical systems.

Traditional ways of creating value from intellectual property are becoming unsustainable and a more integrated approach to the management of assets is necessary. A good example is 5G, which is at the forefront of 4IR. (5G performance targets high data rate, reduced latency, energy saving, cost reduction, higher system capacity, and massive device connectivity.)

Golden Opportunity

The Intellectual Property Business Congress Europe, in Paris for 2019, will help IP executives to look beyond patents, trademarks and copyrights to ensure they are factoring trade secrets and proprietary data rights into their strategy.

Europe has a golden opportunity to lead the field in devising new IP strategies for the 4IR age, as well as defining the regulatory and policy environment. IPBC Europe will take place in Paris at the Les Salons Hoche, March 27-28.

Keynotes speakers are EPO Chief Economist Yann Meniere, Ericsson IPR and Licensing VP Mathias Hellman and 2018 Inventor of the Year, Stefano Sorrentino.

For the program, go here.

For the full list of speakers, go here.

IP CloseUp readers use code IPCU200 to receive a 200 Euro discount. 

To register, please visit this link.

Image source: avantex-paris.fr.messefrankfurt.com; events.ipbc.com

 

42% drop in writer income attributed to growth of new media, changing attitudes

Value associated with small content generators and copyright owners appear to be on a similar downward trajectory as independent inventors and patent holders. 

Decline in small book publishing and freelance opportunities for writers has resulted in a 42% decline in income for writers between 2017 and 2009.

The most comprehensive survey of writing-related income of U.S. authors ever conducted, recently published by the Author’s Guild, cites median pay for full-time writers as $20,300 in 2017; $6,080 for part-timers.

The findings included responses from more than 5,000 published book authors, across genres and including both traditional and self-published writers.

Fewer Opportunities

The decline in free-lance journalism and pay has meant less opportunity for authors who write for a living. Many of the best paying publications have dropped their rates or have folded. Content and copyright are increasingly the province of large providers like Conde Nast, whose own fortunes have been declining.

“The decline in earnings is also largely because of Amazon’s lion’s share of the self-publishing, e-book and resale market,” reported The New York Times. Amazon charges commissions and marketing fees for premium positioning, something smaller publishers cannot afford.

The Times quoted a source as saying the “The people who are able to practice the trade of authoring are people who have other sources of income.” This, the article said, creates barriers to entry and limits the types of stories that reach a wide audience.

Devaluation Crisis

“There is also a devaluation of writing in which it is often viewed as a hobby as opposed to a vocation.”

The Authors Guild calls the decline a ” crisis of epic proportions, especially for literary writers.”

SMEs and independent inventors take note: devaluation of creative output has not been limited to authored works.

What and how much audiences are willing to pay for intellectual property rights like patents have declined, as cheap or free-access has grown.

Some see it not only as an attitude towards authors, but as a strategy on the part of some content providers to cut costs and limit competition.

Amazon controls approximately 85% of the self-published market and so most self-published authors have no options other than to accept Amazon’s non-negotiable terms.

“Amazon,” says the Authors Guild, “but also Google, Facebook and every other company getting into the content business, devalue what we produce to lower their costs for content distribution, and then take an unfair share of the profits from what remains for delivering that reduced product.”

Among AG recommendations: “Publishers and self-published authors should be able to negotiate collectively with Amazon, Google and Facebook to equalize the bargaining power.”

For a summary of the Authors Guild survey findings and recommendations, go here.

For the full survey, go to the bottom of the page, here.

Image source: fairhaven.com; authorsguild.org

U.S. patent grants down the most since 2009; China is only nation up

U.S. patent grants were down 3.5% in 2018 over 2017, only the second decline in the past decade, but the largest. 

All nations experienced a decline in grants, except China, which was up 12%.

The reasons for the declines are unclear. They range from

  • Over-patenting in prior years
  • Uncertainty of newly issued patents
  • Lower return on patents
  • Insufficient R&D
  • Growth of businesses in which patents are difficult to secure, e.g. software, algorithms and business methods

According to this year’s report from patent analytics firm IFI Claims:

  • The USPTO issued 308,853 Utility Grant patents in 2018. This represents a 3.5% decline from 2017’s record year.
  • US companies received 46% of these patents. Asian companies received 31% and European companies received 15%.
  • Chinese companies represent only 4% of 2018 US Grants, but their total of 12,589 US patents is an increase of 12% over 2017.

2017 was the 26th year that IBM received the most U.S. patent grants, 9,100.

Google, Samsung and Sony were down 14%, 16% and 21% respectively. Ford Global Technologies and Huawei were both up 14%.

Samsung: Still Largest U.S. Holder

The world’s largest “active” U.S. patent holders and their subsidiaries convey a somewhat different picture. Samsung is first, according the IFI Claims Ultimate Owner ranking, with 61,608 and IBM is third with 34,376. (Canon is second just ahead of IBM.)

The reasons for the significant difference is unclear. They likely have to do with owners’ perceived need to maintain patents they may not use and whether the patents are being used to out-license for revenue or defensively to mitigate risk and maintain market share.

Image source: IFI Claims Patent Service   

Patent litigation is down 41% since 2015; IPRs are lowest since 2014

Patent disputes are significantly lower since they peaked at 5,874 in 2015.

Litigation tumbled 41% to 3,491 cases in 2018, and was down 14% from the prior year.

While litigation is never good, it is not always bad. Not everyone agrees that the drop in patent suits is a positive sign.

Some see it as an indication that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) is doing its job, eliminating patents that should never have been issued.

Others who are patent owners told IP CloseUp that litigation has become “so costly and arduous, that it no longer pays for many infringed holders to bother.” They also point to the inconsistency of PTAB decisions and multiple opportunities for it and the courts to invalidate patents.

The litigation data was reported this week by Patexia. For the full update, go here.

Additionally, Inter Partes Review (IPR) petitions were down 7% from last year and are at the lowest level since 2014.

Delaware is now the preferred venue for litigation, with 697 cases. Eastern District of Texas, once the top dog for patent disputes, was down to 504 cases in 2018.

Image source: Patexia

 

IP CloseUp surpassed 200,000 views in 2018

In 2018, IP CloseUp broke though the 200,000 view level, generating a total of 207,868 on 373 posts since it was first published. 

Among the most popular posts for 2017:

By far the most read post on IPCU is Kearns’ son still fuming over wiper blade fight”. Since 2014 it has generated 77,844 visits.

In 2018 IP CloseUp was read in more than 100 countries. Since 2015 IPCU has generated 154,653 views.

IP CloseUp has been rated by Feedspot among the top-fifty IP blogs. It began publication as IP Insider in 2011.

To receive IP CloseUp weekly follow @IPCloseUp, connect to LinkedIn via publisher Bruce Berman or by subscribing at the right of this page under the Franklin Pierce tile.

 

Image source: ipcloseup.com

How Spotify can survive the size of Apple, Amazon, Google & YouTube

The streaming genie is out of the bottle. There is no going to back to CD sales or downloading as the primary model for music revenue. For industry leader Spotify, whose stock has dropped from a high of $196 in July to $120, more challenges lay ahead. 

Streaming may be acceptable to celebrity artists with CD sales and negotiating leverage, and who play concerts, but not for more mainstream musicians who have difficulty securing a record deal and receive pennies per stream.

With more than 87 million current subscribers and 191 million active users, Spotify appears to be well-positioned for success. Whether or not you believe that Spotify has gone from music industry slayer to savior depends on you ask and when you look.

The service survived the wrath of Taylor Swift and has settled a class action suit brought by musicians, including Cracker frontman David Lowery, publisher of The Trichordist, for $41 million. (More on how Swift is improving fellow artists streaming compensation in a future IP CloseUp.)

But if Spotify is going to bring the music industry forward it will need to show more than the ability to add subscribers. It must be able to work collaboratively with all recording artists, despite the adverse economics of the music business, and to become profitable in the not too distant future. 

Cash Out

Spotify (NYSE: SPOT) went public in March 2018 with a much-publicized offering that did not raise capital, but enabled some insiders, including investors like Sony Music and Warner Music Group, to take cash out and for the market to broadly value its model. The company’s offering price was $132 and had traded as high as $196.28 in July, but Spotify shares are down to about $120 (as of December 17), below its IPO price, an indication that its shares may not have been as accurately priced as initially believed, or that they can expect to struggle in a bear market.

To go public, Spotify executed an unusual move called a direct listing, forgoing investment-banking underwriters and opting not to raise any money for itself at this time. In the process, Spotify showed confidence in its future and saved tens of millions of dollars in fees while still giving its employees and early investors the chance to cash out at least some of their holdings without diluting the share price.

It’s not clear that streaming – and Spotify agreeing to pay higher royalties to some for their content – will save the music industry or earn the company a profit.

The Main Stream

Spotify was the first company to make streaming mainstream, a simple alternative to both the murky Torrent digital music piracy sites and the more expensive downloads model popularized by Apple’s iTunes.

The brainchild of Swedes Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon, Spotify launched as a desktop application in October 2008 and quickly gained millions of users across Europe before spreading to the US.

Spotify represents hope for the patent community, where serial infringers use others’ inventions with much the same impunity that streaming services employ content

“A good example of a tech B-lister is Spotify, which appears to be winning its battle with its biggest suppliers but lives in perpetual danger of being steamrolled by a tech giant,” reported The New York Times.

Perhaps the clearest indication of the Spotify’s awkward status came from Randall Stephenson, the chief executive of AT&T. “Mr. Stephenson has been fighting to acquire Time Warner since November 2016 in an attempt to cobble together some combination of content libraries, mobile networks and advertising tech that is big enough to survive a battle with the Googles and Amazons of the world.”

This is a defining moment for Spotify and big tech. If content it to survive meaningfully, IP rights need businesses, executives and shareholders to step up and look beyond quarterly earnings.

When a $200 billion business like AT&T is jockeying for leverage against Netflix, Google, Apple, and others, how is a university start-up, independent inventor or musician going to compete?
Not easily. 

Yet to be Determined

Despite its subscriber base and public offering, Spotify is far from a financial success. Some believe that to do so it must turn against artists and song writers. That will do little more than make its competitors, especially Apple, look good. Microsoft is among the few players who are big and smart enough to acquire the streaming giant at the right price.

Like AT&T, Spotify’s ability to compete depends on how it fares against much larger, more powerful companies, some with only a passing regard for IP rights.

Leading technology businesses set the tone for how licensing is conducted and how creators are treated, and so far – as far as copyrights and patents are concerned – it has not been a very harmonious one.

Image source: spotify.com; statista.com; economist.com

“Know-go” – negative know-how that can be protected as a trade secret is among IP’s most overlooked assets

Thomas Edison famously said: “I have not failed. I have just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.”

After hundreds of experiments with different materials for a long-lasting light bulb filament, Edison, as much as businessman as an innovator, zeroed in on carbonized thread.

“At that point,” says James Pooley, author of SECRETS: Managing Information Assets in the Age of Cyberespionage, “Edison had two trade secrets: first, the identity of the best material. And, second, the identity of the materials he had tried.”

Negative Know-How

A business’ lack of success, a matter of specialized know-how more aptly called “know-go,” is protected under trade secret law because it is valuable not only to it but to a competitor who wishes to catch-up without spending as much time and money.

Know-how, sometimes known as show-how, is the “secret sauce” that can give an otherwise mundane invention meaning. But the value of negative experience — of what not to do; of repeated failures and near successes — should not be under estimated.

The Intangible Investor in the December IAM magazine looks at “Failure – IP’s most underrated asset.” The full piece can be found here.

Costly Mistakes

A popular television series, “What Not to Wear,” has run for 345 episodes over ten years. The show advises women and men about how to spare themselves the cost, time and embarrassment of fashion faux pas. The value, the show’s loyal followers reason, is not only in identifying the right clothes choices, but in avoiding the more costly mistakes.

Information, data or experience that spares businesses time, cost and potential embarrassment is an asset, often an invaluable one, especially to large, risk-adverse businesses where R&D is at a premium.

Know-go is also attractive to potential acquirers who need to know how far towards a solution a target may have progressed.

Closely related to the concept of negative information is the idea that you can be guilty of trade secret theft (“indirect misappropriation”) even though your product looks very different, or significant investments have been made in your own research.

“Intangible assets of this nature that serve to avoid failure,” says Pooley, former Deputy Director of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), “can be more valuable than knowledge that enables success.”

Image source: rundlesafety.co.za; wikipedia.org;

A responsive patent system requires time and participation: a response to Jay Walker’s IPAS 2018 speech

GUEST COLUMN:

At the IP Awareness Summit held at the Columbia University on November 29 Jay Walker, entrepreneur, prolific inventor, TEDMED curator and founder of Priceline.com, spoke about a “broken” patent system and need for a Constitutional Convention to fix it. In the following response to Walker’s speech, Brenda Pomerance takes a different view. 

 

Improving the Patent System:

Independent Inventors Need Apply

By Brenda Pomerance

At the IP Awareness Summit held by the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding on November 29, 2018 at the Columbia School of Journalism, Jay Walker gave a keynote presentation asserting that the Patent System was irreparably broken for individual inventors lacking “deep pockets.” He based his position on five problems, and called for an entirely redesigned Patent System.

In fact, two of these problems are features, not problems. The existing Patent System can be tweaked to provide individuals with a fairer playing field for the other three problems.

First, clarity: Walker says that patent claims are impossible for him to understand.

Lack of clarity, for laypersons, is due to the need for a claim to only distinguish from the prior art, not to explain how to make an invention and to distinguish that invention from the prior art.  Walker can eliminate his clarity problem by telling his patent attorney to write claims that are essentially a production specification for the invention, but the scope of these claims will be much narrower than is needed. Examiners will love these production specification claims and prosecution will be faster.

Also, the Patent System enables a claim to encompass something that the inventor did not specifically think of when the patent application was filed, if claims are suitably written and there was no discussion of this issue in the prosecution history, but an inventor can relinquish this flexibility via clearer claims that are limited to exactly what the inventor invented.

Second, reliability: Walker says that because so many patents are invalidated, a patent is not a reliable property.

Walker can hugely improve validity by telling his patent attorney to write claims that will survive most litigation challenges (a very high standard), rather than claims that an examiner will allow (a lower standard). But, the inventor will have to (a) do the comprehensive prior art search that litigation defendants do (costing up to $100,000 for the search), then (b) figure out why it would not be obvious-to-try to combine this prior art to arrive at the invention, and finally (c) explain non-obviousness in the disclosure, which requires a detailed in-context understanding of each piece of prior art and vastly more care expended on the background section of a patent application.

An excellent prior art search along with an explanation distinguishing the claims from the prior art will speed up prosecution, but will substantially increase the cost of patent application preparation, possibly making it too costly for shallow pocket individuals.

Third and Fourth, cost and time: Walker says that it is too expensive and takes too long to enforce a patent.

Here are some tweaks to address enforcement cost and time problems:

(A) Require that all prior-art based challenges to a patent be presented in an IPR Request that is filed within nine months (not one year, to reduce gamesmanship of multiple IPR filings) of the lawsuit’s filing, unless plaintiff consents to addressing prior art invalidation in litigation, with a prohibition on staying the lawsuit for the IPR until the IPR Request is granted, and an automatic lawsuit stay after the IPR Request is granted unless the parties agree to concurrent litigation.  During litigation, this would leave mainly inequitable conduct available to invalidate a patent during litigation unless and until defendant negotiates for prior art, perhaps via accelerated discovery or payment.  It requires that the PTAB consider as prior art more than merely printed publications.

(B) If PTAB denies the IPR Request (the current PTAB denial rate is 40%), the patent is presumed valid over prior art against the challenger in all Patent Office and court proceedings.   This will speed up enforcement against defendants who make only small changes but keep infringing to force patent owner to file new lawsuits.

(C) If all claims, asserted in litigation at the time of IPR Request filing, are invalidated in an IPR based on a prior art rejection (references and motivation to combine) that the patent owner was notified of by the patent challenger at least three months prior to the filing of the IPR Request, then the patent owner has to pay the challenger’s attorney fees for preparing and filing (but not prosecuting) the IPR Request.  This encourages defendants to quickly share their most relevant invalidity arguments, and punishes plaintiffs who ignore relevant prior art and waste defendants’ resources in an IPR, but the punishment is limited by not including prosecution costs so as not to be too scary for good faith plaintiffs.

(D) After an IPR Request has been disposed of via denial or an IPR, a deep pocket defendant must begin paying half of the monthly cost of litigation attorney fees for a shallow pocket plaintiff based on redacted attorney invoices.   If the judge or jury finds the defendant is not liable for any infringement damages, then the plaintiff must repay the attorney fee payments.

(E) For a patent that has survived IPR, via IPR Request denial or an IPR, and that a defendant has been shown to infringe, restore the presumption of irreparable damage for patent infringement that was destroyed by eBay v. MercExchange, 547 U.S. 388 (2006), leading to an injunction absent exceptional circumstances, regardless of whether patent owner licenses or practices the patent.

(F) Provide a rebuttable presumption that the patented technology is frequently used by all accused products and services of an infringer, and require that damages be based on how often a technology is actually used to provide a product or service, so that rarely used features have relatively small damages awards, while frequently used features can have large damage awards.   The incentive of rebuttal should encourage defendants to provide discovery, instead of the current gamesmanship of withholding discovery.

(G) For a prevailing shallow pocket individual plaintiff, a deep pocket defendant must pay 200% of the plaintiff’s attorney fees absent exceptional circumstances.  This penalizes deep pocket litigants for litigation gamesmanship.

Fifth, price discovery: Walker says that it is difficult to predict what infringement damages will be.

The pre-litigation part of this difficulty is because parties like to keep confidential the cost of licenses and settlements; but confidentiality should be their right.

The litigation part of this difficulty is because defendants are extraordinarily reluctant to provide discovery on what portion of their business infringes and the revenue associated with doing so; D-G above, especially F, will reduce such reluctance.

Conclusion

I agree with Walker that, at present, the enforcement part of the Patent System is hostile towards under-funded individual inventors.  However, the Patent System is still quite viable and can evolve to be friendlier towards individuals. Independent inventors are a fabulous source of ideas and patents reflect the diligence to make the fruits of their ideas available in commerce, which benefits all of us.

_____________________

The audio file for Jay Walker’s speech can be found at https://www.ipawarenesssummit.com/recorded-speakers

Brenda Pomerance has almost 30 years of experience in prosecution of approximately 2,000 patents, including Appeal, Ex-parte Re-examination, Reissue, Inter Partes Review and Interference. Clients have included Research in Motion (now Blackberry), MIT, AT&T, Lucent, IBM, Sony and Canon. Ms. Pomerance has represented clients in licensing, in several patent infringement lawsuits and in a software copyright infringement lawsuit. She is a solo patent attorney in the Law Office of Brenda Pomerance in New York City. b.pomerance@verizon.net

Image source: canadaipblog.com

%d bloggers like this: