Tag Archives: trademarks

‘Innocent’ IP theft is widely accepted and dangerously viral – Why?

So widespread is IP abuse that it no longer is regarded as a crime by many of the people committing it or authorities entrusted to preventing it. 

What has happened to change law-abiding citizens and honest businesses into serial patent, copyright and trademark infringers?

Start with geometric increases in information and speed. Putting enormous computing (and copying) power in the hands of billions of people and tens of thousands of businesses has made access seamless. What’s theirs often feels like mine, even when it is not.

26069006_sA heightened sense of entitlement is another factor. People want their Rolex or Gucci bag, or latest Adele song, and they want it now, for a fraction of the actual cost if not for free. (The same could be said of the latest mobile phone chip.)

Many businesses believe that even if they did not invent a particular product feature, they definitely could have, and why should they pay for it if no one is forcing them to. Besides, someone has to identify infringement and prove it in court. Good luck with that.

Unusual Bond

Consumers and companies have an unusual bond: they know that they can freely infringe without much fear of retribution. And you know what, they think — “everyone seems to be doing it lately.”

A third but not final reason is suspicion of IP rights and owners. Patents, copyrights, trademarks all are government-issued, lawyer-administered and business-owned rights. The average person will never own an IP right and believes that benefiting from them is for the privileged or wealthy. They are only partially right. No one – not the lawmakers, not federal agencies, not the police, the schools or businesses or community leaders – has done a very good job of explaining what’s in IP for them?

Fueling the Rise in IP Abuse

“When theft is no crime” in the March IAM magazine, the Intangible Investor looks at the rise in IP abuse and what is fueling it. IAM subscribers can go here for the full article.

Free riding comes in many shapes and sizes. It is economically a threat and constantly growing. It has become so much a part of American fabric that millions of people, businesses and community leaders are not even aware that it is taking place. IP theft may seem like a victimless crime, but data shows it is not.

The Department of Commerce’s 2016 update, Intellectual Property and the US Economyreports that IP-intensive industries supported 45.5 million jobs and contributed $6.6 trillion in value added, equivalent to free-riding-final-2-768x34638.2% of US gross domestic product. These impressive results for IP holders are far from guaranteed if IP protections can be easily ignored. On the down side counterfeits, patent infringement music file sharing are way up.

Re-writing the Rules

Whether they acknowledge it or not, some companies and individuals are attempting to rewrite the property rule-book, or, at least, ignore it as long as they can. The impact may not be that readily apparent at first, but it will eventually be widely felt: by musicians, authors, inventors, investors, small businesses, consumers and companies selling products from automobile brake parts to pharmaceuticals and luxury goods – along with their employees. 

Lack of awareness plays a role in ignoring IP rights, but there may be something deeper and more insidious going on: distrust of authority and frustration with government and laws. Some of this anger has been orchestrated by anti-patent lobbyists.

Routine acceptance of IP theft also reflects the growing antipathy towards so-called ‘elites’, which led to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. Why IP holders don’t deserve exclusivity and land owners do is rooted in how the culture views IP rights and holders, as much as the difficulty accepting their value.

People need to be reminded that with IP rights, not every restriction is an obstacle.

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I will be announcing a non-profit organization in a few weeks dedicated to addressing the lack of IP awareness and increasing hostility to rights. Watch IP CloseUp for more information.

Image source: digitalguardian.com; theCenterforIPUnderstanding

 

New measure of success challenges traditional brand valuations

Measures of a brand’s power can differ dramatically, depending on performance criteria.

A new success index believes that in an increasingly connected world, traditional measures of brand equity are outdated. Criteria like social media strength can be overlooked and under-rated.

The D100, a new brand index from a division of a global advertising agency, believes that some strong brands are less meaningful, while others are not receiving the recognition they deserve.

IPG Mediabrands, the media holding arm of Interpublic Group (NYSE:IPG), in partnership with Jonah Berger, Associate Professor, The Wharton School at The University of Pennsylvania and New York Times best-selling author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, has launched the inaugural D100, ranking the 100 most dynamic companies in the world using new world metrics.

USA

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The D100 marks the first time that brand success is measured with “new world” metrics, specifically:

  • AGILITY: the degree to which brands adapt to changing market conditions.
  • RESPONSIVENESS: the degree to which a brand listens and responds to customer needs and feedback.
  • INNOVATION: the degree to which brands leverage new technology and creates innovative products and services
  • SOCIABILITY: How large and engaged a brand’s audience is on social media.

Global

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Counter-Intuitive 

There are some notable disconnects within the D100, whose ranking can be viewed nationally or globally. For example, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, has a dynamic score of 59.89, ranking it 20 globally. Its USA score is just 94. Fitbit is 15 globally, with a 62.75 D rating, and just 62 in the USA.

BMW is ranked 7 globally, 16 in the USA and a lowly 99 in Germany.

Each one of these surprises raises questions about methodology and value.

Germany

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It is interesting to compare the D100 top 10 with InterBrand’s and Forbes’. They are somewhat similar with a few surprises. Those rankings focus more on value. When we get farther down the list we begin to see more significant disruption. Rather than focus on corporate brand, the D100 metrics places more emphasis on brand names associated with specific products.

A branded product may have greater performance value at a given point in time than say an established corporate brand, which may have a high financial valuation.

InterBrand

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To see the global D100, as well as some national rankings, go here. (Tap on the upper right of the screen to pull down the menu.)

UK-based InterBrand’s ranking valuation-oriented brand rankings can be seen here.

Forbes’ top 100 brand values can be found here.

Forbes Top 100

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1,200+ Brands Examined

To construct the D100, over 10,000 consumers were surveyed across four global regions in five major markets including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, China, and India. Consumers were asked questions on both global brands and market specific brands; in total over 1,200 brands were examined.

Image source: various websites associated with indices

Leading Brands Increasingly have the Most Valuable Patents

Patent portfolios associated with strong positive reputation appear to enjoy better performance, or so it seems.

It is no coincidence that many of the world’s best known and most valuable brands have other IP traits in common: Their reputation for quality, innovation, and consistency not only facilitates product sales and shareholder interest, but to enhance the value of their patents, trade secrets and authored content.

At the same time known expertise in securing and managing intellectual property rights and handling patent disputes (e.g. Microsoft (5), IBM (3), Intel (8) and Philips (41)) can add value to overall brand reputation. Good patents held by high-profile brands often appear to be worth more.

It is clear that the reputation of high-value brands for quality and reliability can help to a good patent portfolio to perform even better.

Interbrand’s “best brands” survey for 2012 includes many of the usual world-class names. Note how many of these brand giants are also patent powerhouses in their own right. Nine of the top ten have significant portfolios, and at least five out of the top ten very large ones. For 2012’s top 36 brands see the chart below. For the 100 best with an explanation of each, click here.

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In an article for Managing Intellectual Property that I wrote in 1998 with Dr. James E. Woods, an economist, we suggested that associating patents and patent strategy with positive reputation frequently results in enhanced value both for the patents and trademark. A well-known business brand that does not hold least some relevant patents and a strategy to generate return on them, is likely leaving value on the table.

Smart companies are learning how to use brand equity and reputation to leverage their reputation for innovation and importance of their invention rights. Perceived value plays a significant role in intellectual asset management, and a strong brand can make a good patent portfolio even better. Valuable IP rights, notably trademarks and patents, feed off of each other.

Intel Inside® was part of an aggressive advertising campaign launched by Intel (8) in 1991 to stimulate demand for its (patented) Pentium® processor. Whether there was a qualitative difference between it and comparable devices was unclear. Heavy branding in 130 countries via a five note, tone-based, jingle, served to provide the Pentium with margins up to three times higher than its competitors’. Without it the patent on the Pentium would have meant far less.

Functionally, Intel’s PC processor was not that different form AMD’s less costly one, but its venerable branding from an aggressive retail advertising campaign, paved the way to ubiquity. It’s no accident that a semiconductor maker is the eighth most valuable brand in the world, ahead of BMW (12) and Tiffany (70). Does anyone outside of a small circle of techies, lawyers and investors know who Micron is?

Of the Interbrand’s top ten, the only company that I am aware of that is without a respected patent portfolio is McDonald’s (7). Coincidence or intelligence?

Businesses with extensive patent holdings and reputation for generating return on innovation, benefit from branding their IP success. Nortel and Hitachi  are a examples of patent-rich businesses whose IP success and value may have been somewhat undervalued because of their clear brand identify. IP without brand recognition, I believe, leaves money on the table for well-known companies that fail to take advantage of leveraging their intangible assets.

Consumer products companies Disney (13), Nestle (57), L’Oreal (42), and Gillette (16), all have significant numbers of meaningful patents. (Global cosmetics maker L’Oreal, for example, has received 500 to 700 patents per year for the past decade, or about 6,000 patents.) Iconic eBay (36) has very few patents and seem to be uncertain what to do with those they hold. Google (4), until its purchase of Motorola (unrated), and rival Facebook (69) were in a similar boat. Both have yet to leverage their IP rights and strategy in context of their name recognition. Recently, AOL did leverage its reputation for early Internet success with a billion dollar sale to Microsoft. How these transactions are perceived publicly has become increasingly important.

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Apple (2), second only to “low tech” Coca-Cola (1), which supports it renowned trade secret with numerous patents, also has not done enough to leverage its highly valuable brand in context of its small patent portfolio. Spending a fortune to defeat Samsung (9) in a very public suit helped to enhance its perceived patent value and validate its strategy.

Large public companies with complex assets have the ability to leverage them in innovative ways: Patents certainly can benefit from the glow provided by a top brand, even those that are essentially geared to consumer products, like P&G’s (41,000 global patents).

At the same time, even the most highly regarded trademarks (brands) can enhance their importance though association with other valuable intangibles, such as patents. Branding patents is a win-win; so are brands with patents.

Illustration source: BrandMagazine.com

Digital Downloading Embodies a Growing Culture of IP Piracy

Attitude Toward Content Theft Fuels Free-Riding on Others’ Inventions & Counterfeits of Branded Products

The ease of downloading copyrighted content on a computer or smart phone is at the core of an explosion of IP abuse that also impacts branded goods and patented inventions.

Record labels, film studios and publishing houses are among those most directly affected by copyright infringement on the Internet. But musicians, authors, luxury brands and inventors, and thousands of industry jobs and businesses, also are among those feeling the impact of a rapidly growing culture of free-riders. More than 50 pirate political parties and groups in the U.S. and Europe are a symptom of a much greater disease.

Theft of IP rights has not only become acceptable in some circles, it has become fashionable. It feeds off of the ease of digital file sharing and knock-offs, and affects struggling artists and inventors, as well as businesses of all sizes.

The Court of Public Opinion

In the court of public opinion copyrights and brands have fared poorly. Theft of digitally rendered content and counterfeits is easily achieved and difficult to stop. Patents have not done much better. A cultural disdain for IP rights has emerged, facilitated in part by businesses that stand to profit from free content, look-alike goods and others’ inventions, and end users who don’t give a damn.

“He’s No Robin Hood,” my Intangible Investor column appearing in the current (November) IAM, looks at the broader implications of the acceptance of file sharing. Some excerpts from the article:

“File sharing promotes a culture of piracy that makes it more acceptable to steal branded goods and inventions, as well as content. Big daddy Kim Dotcom is sticking it to all IP holders.    

“Exhibit A for the legitimization of IP theft is Kim Dotcom Schmitz. Dotcom has slyly built himself into a modern folk hero, replete with a mellow “gangsta” style and outsider reputation. (He is a champion gamer and car racer.)

“This larger-than-life, medallion-wearing bad boy looks like he is deserving of a modest scolding and a heath club membership, not 20 years behind bars. That’s what he and his supporters would like you to believe. In fact, his illegal businesses has generated more than 66 million illegal subscribers and has helped to make file sharing acceptable and dismantle the recording industry.”

“Megaupload and the twilight of copyright” by Roger Parloff in Fortune is an extremely timely article that helps to put file sharing into criminal perspective. It illustrates how in the space of twenty years we went from a society where copyright served the needs of emerging artists and authors, as well as businesses, to one where IP is perceived to impede technological innovation and freedom of expression.

This article truly is a must read for anyone interested new ideas or IP rights. It also serves as a wake-up call for patent holders who expect their rights to be upheld.  

Illustration source: techwireasia.com; fortune.com 

USPTO Chief Lists Challenges at Columbia Gathering

Kappos: Make Patents More Relevant

United States Patent and Trademark Office Commissioner David Kappos said last week at a Columbia University Technology Ventures gathering that the USPTO is getting more involved in facilitating the use of IP rights for humanitarian and other social issues.

Kappos spoke for about 45 minutes as part of a monthly discussion of issues open to business, law, engineering students and faculty, as well as other members of the college community. Kappos suggested that IP rights can have a greater role in jobs creation and quality of life issues. He said the Office’s Fast Track Examination Procedure and  Green Technology Pilot Program have facilitated examinations for patent applications covering timely inventions. He cautioned about the need for these priorities to be granted fairly.

Commissioner Kappos also discussed highly critical issues such as patent examination backlogs, pendency and the need “to at least maintain the current level of patent quality” as well as improve it.

For the full video of Commissioner Kappos presentation at Columbia and audience questions, click on the image above.


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