IP Market Updates
February 3, 2017
A belated Happy 2017 to all! This is our first newsletter in a month and it already feels like we live in a different world than the one we left in 2016 when I last wrote this column. Wherever one might live on this planet, one couldn’t completely escape the daily barrage of news that the new US administration has brought in and which saw its own counter reaction worldwide.
One thing that all incoming administrations do is usually to replace agency directors, and USPTO’s Michelle Lee was no exception. As she was expected, Mrs. Lee - who has had a rather controversial tenure under the Obama administration- tendered her resignation a few weeks ago, as did most other agency leaders. Ten days ago however, rumors started circulating that she might stay on, to everyone surprise- and to many observers’ chagrin- as her potential successors were well known and respected in the overall IP community and were thought to be bringing to the PTO a much-needed balance and pro-patent bias that has been sorely missing these past years.
Fast forward to today and the suspense continues; we still do not know who the USPTO director is and no one will either confirm or infirm anything. One of those who would like to replace Mrs. Lee is former US Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Randall Rader, who wrote earlier today that he remains interested in replacing Mrs. Lee and that he could “make patents great again”! I wonder where he got that idea ...
Meanwhile, the PTO website shows the director’s job as being “vacant”, which could actually not be a bad thing considering what happened under Mrs. Lee’s watch. And this may be a coincidence, but the USPTO just announced yesterday that it would support some changes in the Patent Act to better clarify the threshold for eligible subject matter, since the US Courts have created their own version of an “American carnage” by eviscerating so many inventions through a test for patentability that many consider unfair to inventors. If adopted by Congress, such revisions would hopefully restore some confidence that it is still worth pursuing innovation. Unfortunately, the only signals we have seen from the new Congress is Senator Godlatte, the perennial troll hunter, reiterate his calls for patent reform to curb the ever elusive “abusive litigation” that he seems to find everywhere he looks.
Elsewhere, the Brits are too busy planning for their Brexit to really give too much attention to how they will implement -if they ever do- the upcoming European Unitary Patent & Courts. To be continued… Going further East, China is leaving everyone in the dust by continuing to demonstrate leadership in its eagerness to replicate what was until recently the best patent system in the world. They just announced recently the potential creation of an IP Appeal division that would mirror the US Federal Circuit. Apple, didn’t wait for this announcement though to prove once again that the US is rapidly losing its spot at the worldwide IP arbiter; it recently sued Qualcomm in China, in parallel to an antitrust claim filed in the US, alleging that Qualcomm’s licensing practices are discriminatory and unreasonable (i.e. they are asking for too much money). Many have difficulties imagining Apple as the victim being bullied. But it gets better; Hawaii-based NPE GPNE (which stands for “Garage Pioneers of New Electronics”, of all names), recently sued Apple in China for patent infringement, after losing their case on the same patent in the US. So we now have not only Chinese Dragons, but Chinese Trolls too…
The patent market continues to be tight and both Microsoft and Erikson, two bellwethers in the IP licensing world, have reported a lowering of their licensing revenues in 2016. However, some continue to see the strategic value of having deep IP expertise and we saw the recent announcement that investment bank Houlihan Lokey had acquired Silicon Valley IP advisory & brokerage boutique firm Blackstone IP.
On our end, we are off to a great 2017 with one deal closed a few weeks ago, a second one in closing and numerous consulting projects underway. Let’s hope this reflects a new normal where IP is again valued as it ought to be.
Below is news of interest and other related topics.
IN THE NEWS
The Craziest Patents by Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google and Microsoft
People and companies patent some of the craziest ideas, either to make sure no one else can create them first or to make some money later by ... (more)
Trump's patent policy should put America first, not the patent lobby
One question is whether Michelle Lee will stay on as director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a subject about which everyone from Rep. (more)
Pfizer set to lose 'billions of dollars' as drug patents expire
The 2017 forecast included an expected $2.4 billion hit due to recent and expected competition from generic drugs and cheaper biosimilars as patents ... (more)
Conservative Ideology Will Rebuild the Patent System
Both of these dimensions intersect in the patent system. President Trump himself remains silent on his views on patent rights. As of this writing, he has ... (more)
Resolving Patent Disputes: Are Regulators Right to Recommend Arbitration?
Standard essential patents have received a lot of attention in recent years – from industry participants such as Apple, Ericsson, Huawei, Motorola, ... (more)
A Loss of Confidence in the Patent System
Lost hope It is the one-year anniversary of a provisional patent application that I filed. Today is the last day that I can file my patent application and ... (more)
Patent Strategy: Advanced Patent Claim Drafting for Inventors
Blueprint for success In an earlier article on patent claim drafting I discussed what you must do before you ever think about writing patent claims. (more)
Qualcomm is again under attack for living large off its patent portfolio
Qualcomm owns thousands of patents on technology deemed “essential” to build phones compatible with wireless standards. All the cases revolve ... (more)
Water Balloons, Weapons of Mass Destruction and the PTAB
He filed a provisional patent application on February 2014. Things went quickly at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and his first patent ... (more)
Use the US Patent System to Innovate (While Avoiding Willful Infringement)
Michigan Tech's Free Inactive Patent Search. Users can type in keywords in the webpage on a desktop or smartphone. The database of inactive ... (more)
Apple's legal war over Qualcomm patents expands into China
Los Angeles Times
Apple Inc. has taken its legal attack on Qualcomm Inc.'s patent licensing business global, filing two complaints in Chinese courts challenging the way ... (more)
The Disintegration of the American Patent System
American flag torn The American patent system represents a delicate balance. On the one hand, the patent system provides an incentive to invest in ... (more)
Apple Settles out of Court with 'E-Watch' over Alleged Camera Patent Infringements
E-Watch alleged that Apple — and other manufacturers — was infringing on its patents via smartphones and other devices, such as the iPhone 4s. (more)
Original “patent troll” law firm is shutting down
The Chicago law firm that became synonymous with "patent troll"-type litigation is shutting down, following the death of founding partner Raymond ... (more)