In our last column (Why Bother?), I was commiserating about the poor state of the patent system worldwide (especially in the US) and explaining why, although we shouldn’t lose hope that the pendulum can swing back, it begs the question as to when patents are the appropriate legal protection for innovations, as opposed to trade secrets. I also offered a guide for making that very decision on a case-by-case basis, which I use when advising clients.
When re-reading that column this week, it dawned on me that I always assume weak patent rights are bad for the economy in general, as a lack of protection necessarily leads to innovators being disincentivized from investing in improving upon the current state of the art. When no one is innovating, everyone becomes an implementer and technology stagnates over time. In other words, I am rooting for the inventors even though many of them are terrible business people and rarely succeed in bringing novel products to market, whereas large implementers are often terrible at bringing true innovations to market, but do a great job at integrating other people’s technology in their products (usually without asking), which the consumer eventually benefits from even if there is a high price to pay in the long term.
So, to offer a balanced view of the world, I asked Chat GPT (yes, it is my turn!) to make the case in 250 words for why we should have a strong patent system. I then asked it to make the exact opposite case and tell me who benefits most from weak patent rights. The answers are quite interesting and not necessarily what I expected. See for yourself below…
I also discuss the historic launch on June 1st of the Unitary Patent System which, depending on whom you believe, was 70 years or 40 years in the making (does it really matter at that point?) and the fact that most patent owners are opting out of its application when it comes to their own patents. Flop or just initial kinks?
Finally, I touch on the latest chapter in the Blackberry patent portfolio sale and the litigation that was just filed by the previous party that was initially poised to acquire the assets.
As usual, as I focus on the macro picture in this newsletter, I want to remind everyone that we track everything that is going on in this world and for those who need their regular dose of news, once again you can follow me on either LinkedIn or Twitter where I post almost daily about some of the most newsworthy events.
Tangible IP News
Our VP of Brokerage Erika Warner and I will be meeting a few clients next Monday and Tuesday in San Diego while the IPBC Global conference is taking place. As a result, for those attending the conference who would like to meet with either or both of us, please email us at email@example.com and we can make arrangements to meet you at the hotel conference. We are NOT attending the conference itself, so don’t look for us during the networking breaks…
A few weeks ago, we announced the successful sale of 10 of 17 patents on offer in the digital content storage, distribution & protection technology area and the fact that there are still 7 high quality assets (with EoU) available for sale or licensing for a limited time. We reported that we had closed another round of voluntary licenses with Fortune 500 companies related to a patent portfolio originating this time from the Korea-based Sungkyunkwan University and related to the semiconductor industry and which is now available for sale.
We are pleased to announce that Tangible IP has been retained once again by AST as their exclusive broker for the IP3 2022 patent portfolio which will be available soon for either sale or license. These assets were acquired for a reported sum of over US $3 million. More on this in the coming weeks.
Similarly, if you’d like to be added to our distribution list in the future so that you are the first to receive new opportunities, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured Portfolio For Sale
Given our audience, we felt it prudent to start sharing a few particularly interesting portfolios available for sale. This issue, we will focus on the four remaining LOTS of the prestigious Korean University (SKKU) that recently hit the market. Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) is a world-class institution of higher education and a private comprehensive research university in South Korea ranked as one of the top 100 universities worldwide in the 2023 QS World University rankings, with very high marks for its research. The technologies of the portfolio include the following:
- Semiconductor (Flip Chip)
- IoT & Smart Home
- Facial Recognition
- Auto & Mobility
Evidence of use is available for each lot. Please reach out to Erika Warner our VP, Brokerage Services at email@example.com for more information.
Call for high quality portfolios!
We are always open to reviewing high quality portfolios. Some of the areas of most interest to our buying network right now include:
- Automotive (ADAS and other safety related technologies)
Medical Device technology – particularly wearables and IOT health monitoring
- Patents applicable to RFID tags, RFID Antennas, RFID readers and Near Field Communication (NFC) devices.
- SEPs (Declared or not) relevant to any of the following: 3GPP, 802.11, LTE, 5G
You can review our criteria here but if you own a patent portfolio with at least two issued US patents and have knowledge of others using your technology (infringement), we are happy to review for potential brokerage. We will also look at larger portfolios where evidence of use is uncertain.
Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any assets that may match these requests.
Is the UPC Already a Flop?
When I wrote my 5 predictions for this year in February, the last one read as follows:
- Most people will opt out of the UPC. I’ve commented several times on the ever-changing date for the official start of the long-awaited Unified Patent Court in Europe. For sure it is coming this year to a theater near you! But the devil you know is sometimes better than the one you don’t and I suspect that many large patent owners who assert their assets in Europe will take their time and observe how things unfold before embracing this new tribunal.”
Well, it may be time to check this one off even with six months to go…
The UPC finally became a reality on June 1st after a gestation so long that would make a pregnant elephant mother jealous. Given all the hype that surrounded its creation and perceived benefits, one would have expected patent owners to flock toward it. This is not exactly what happened, with reportedly over 400,000 European patents having been opted out. For context, the European Patent Office granted just over 81,000 patents in 2022… This is the equivalent of ALL issued patents in Europe in the past 5 years being removed from application to the UPC. According to the available data, a lot of the ones opting out are pharmaceutical companies who likely desire to keep their options open to sue and seek an injunction in as many jurisdictions as possible, without the risk of one bad decision affecting their rights elsewhere. As a reminder, the UPC invalidates a patent, it does so for all 17 participating countries.
Also, while there is an obvious economic incentive for patent owners to use the UPC to save on litigation costs instead of replicating the same suit in many countries, oftentimes large operating companies prefer an opposite strategy (i.e., forcing the other side to spend as much money as possible confers leverage by itself).
Add to this that the UPC jurisprudence is essentially a white canvas and many actors would likely prefer to see how it handles a few cases before jumping on the bandwagon. Therefore, this slow start should not be seen in our opinion as a direct rejection of the UPC system, but rather as a cautious approach from the industry and also a reflection that tactical considerations may trump what seems like an apparent benefit to the outside world. Yet, if these numbers do not improve in the next 6-9 months, then one may wonder what the fuss was all about for so many decades.
Guess Who Filed the First Litigation Around the Newly Sold Blackberry Portfolio?
We have tracked quite closely the whole Blackberry patent sale saga in the past couple of years and you can read our previous columns for background. As we know, the deal finally closed and the assets were sold to Malikie Innovations of Dublin. Now, the previous purchaser who failed to consummate the deal, US-based Catapult IP, has launched a lawsuit in the Eastern District of Virginia alleging that BlackBerry breached its agreement as it was ready to close the sale, is asking for the case to go to arbitration and that the sale to Malikie to be rescinded, nothing less! This is yet another bonus chapter in a long series of embarrassing twists regarding the sale of the portfolio by Blackberry’s management. One wonders though why Catapult is suing the buyer, which it has no contractual relationship with whatsoever, instead of Blackberry itself who terminated the agreement once Catapult failed to raise the financing that the sale was conditional upon, and whose breach is alleged. It will be interesting to see if Malikie brings BB to the fold as a party. Seems like the logical next step, as well as possibly countersuing Catapult for interfering with a business opportunity.
Meanwhile, this may bring a cloud of uncertainty about the rights that Malikie acquired and the third parties it will approach in the near future to entertain licensing discussions will likely take advantage of this latest chapter to buy time and ask Malikie to get a court or arbitrator to confirm its ownership first before they entertain taking a license. Once again, “what a mess”!
Chat GPT, What Do You Think of Patent Rights?
As per my comments above, I wanted to step back from my personal pro-patentee bias and therefore asked Chat GPT to give me the two sides of the coin, unfiltered. Not surprisingly the chatbot, which analyses and then regurgitates what it finds on the internet (up to 2021 at least), picked up on some of the narrative that pundits on both sides have been pushing for years. Chat GPT would make a great politician, as it can apparently speak from both sides of its “mouth” with authority… Still, it is important to understand the permanent tension between proponents of strong patent rights and their opponents that might be educated (or lobbied to) and this provides a window to how they would. I left the original text below unchanged and you will likely have the same results if you ask similar questions. So here we go:
A. The Importance and Benefits of a Strong Patent System
Introduction: A robust patent system plays a pivotal role in fostering innovation and driving economic growth. By granting exclusive rights to inventors and innovators, patents incentivize the creation and dissemination of new ideas and technologies. This essay explores the significance of a strong patent system and the benefits it offers to individuals, businesses, and society as a whole.
Encouraging Innovation: A strong patent system encourages innovation by providing inventors and innovators with legal protection and recognition for their novel ideas. Patents promote research and development, as individuals and organizations are more likely to invest time, resources, and effort into developing new technologies when they have the assurance of exclusivity. This leads to advancements in various fields, ranging from healthcare and energy to information technology and manufacturing.
Economic Growth and Job Creation: An effective patent system fosters economic growth by creating a favorable environment for businesses. Patents enable inventors and entrepreneurs to secure investments, establish start-ups, and commercialize their inventions. This, in turn, drives job creation, as new companies emerge and existing ones expand. Patents also attract foreign investment and encourage technology transfer, stimulating economic activity and competitiveness on a global scale.
Knowledge Sharing and Technological Progress: Contrary to the belief that patents hinder innovation, they actually promote knowledge sharing. Patents require inventors to disclose their inventions in detail, contributing to the overall body of knowledge. This disclosure fosters collaboration, enabling researchers and inventors to build upon existing ideas, refine technologies, and develop innovative solutions to societal challenges. Ultimately, this continuous cycle of knowledge sharing and technological progress benefits society as a whole.
Conclusion: A strong patent system is vital for encouraging innovation, driving economic growth, and fostering technological progress. By granting exclusive rights, patents incentivize inventors and innovators to create and share their ideas, leading to advancements that improve our lives and address societal needs. As we continue to embrace innovation in an ever-evolving world, nurturing a robust patent system remains essential for a prosperous and sustainable future.
B. The Importance of Weakening Patent Rights and Its Beneficiaries
Introduction: Weakening patent rights can have significant benefits for innovation, competition, and society as a whole. By limiting the scope and duration of patents, we can foster a more inclusive and dynamic environment that encourages collaboration, promotes affordable access to essential goods and services, and drives technological progress. This essay explores the importance of weakening patent rights and the key beneficiaries of such a shift.
Enhancing Competition and Consumer Choice: Weakening patent rights can break monopolistic tendencies, encouraging competition in the marketplace. By reducing the exclusivity granted to patent holders, other innovators and businesses can freely develop alternative solutions and products. Increased competition leads to lower prices, improved quality, and expanded choices for consumers. It also promotes innovation by incentivizing inventors to create new and improved technologies to stay ahead of competitors.
Encouraging Collaboration and Open Innovation: Weakening patent rights fosters collaboration among researchers, scientists, and inventors. When patent barriers are lowered, knowledge sharing and cooperative efforts become more prevalent. This promotes the exchange of ideas, enables faster problem-solving, and accelerates technological advancements. By allowing multiple parties to build upon existing inventions without fear of infringement, we can unlock the full potential of collective innovation.
Improving Access to Essential Goods and Services: A less stringent patent system facilitates wider access to essential goods and services, particularly in critical areas such as healthcare and technology. Weakening patent rights can pave the way for generic drugs, affordable medical treatments, and life-saving technologies to reach more people, especially in developing countries. It promotes equitable access, reduces healthcare disparities, and improves the overall well-being of individuals and communities.
Beneficiaries: The primary beneficiaries of weakened patent rights are consumers, who benefit from increased competition, lower prices, and greater access to essential goods and services. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) also gain, as reduced patent barriers enable them to enter the market and compete on a level playing field. Furthermore, the broader society profits from the accelerated pace of innovation, improved collaboration, and the democratization of knowledge.
Conclusion: Weakening patent rights can lead to a more vibrant and inclusive innovation ecosystem. By enhancing competition, encouraging collaboration, and improving access to essential goods and services, we can create a society that prioritizes the collective benefit over exclusive privileges. Consumers, SMEs, and society as a whole stand to gain from a patent system that strikes a balance between protecting inventors’ rights and promoting broader societal progress.