So, less than 24 hours after I wrote that “sometimes the day is not complete without a column … about how our patent system is malfunctioning and not performing its goal of ‘promoting innovation,’” we have this insipid entry from the Wall Street Journal and Andy Kessler. The piece is a fairly predictable diatribe, but I really don’t feel like subjecting myself to News Corp spam just to set Mr. Kessler straight. According to Kessler, “Clearly we’d be better off having Microsoft, Apple and Google spending $1 billion on developing new products rather than buying up patents.”
Patents are big news these days, and sometimes the day is not complete without a column from a tech magazine, or an op-ed by some corporate mouthpiece about how our patent system is malfunctioning and not performing its goal of “promoting innovation.” As evidence of this supposed lack of innovation promotion, these inane articles nearly uniformly point to patent lawsuits, or, for authors wholly incapable of rational thought, to a claimed escalation in patent lawsuits. Indeed, mainstream pieces, like Intellectual Ventures VP Ken Lustig’s Forbes article, No, the Patent System Is Not Broken, that set the record straight on the facts and policy greatly contributes to the debate, but are few and far between.
Steven Gibson is “a licensed attorney and a partner with Dickinson Wright PLLC,” or so claims the opening footnote in a recent document filed by Gibson with the Nevada District Court. Yet by his own admission, this part-owner in a major law firm–dating back to 1878 and home to over 300 lawyers–is not able to: (1) represent a company he owns in court, (2) order a copy of a transcript , and (3) (please sit down) find a law library that provides copies of cases with page numbers!
ICAP lists The Stapleton Group as seller of three of the 52 lots currently listed for public auction. Lot numbers AUC050, 051 and 052 all feature patents sharing a common inventor, Lawrence Kates and many were prosecuted by the firm Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear, LLP. A quick check of USPTO Assignment records reveals that Knobbe Martens filed a UCC-1 lien against a large number of Kates’ patents back in 2009. Finally, The Stapleton Group’s website explains that it provides “asset management, bankruptcy, receivership, work out and forensic accounting services.” Stapleton may have been hired by Knobbe to “manage” the Kates patents, or may have simply bought the lien outright in hopes of cashing in on sale day.
Over at PaidContent.org, an article went up yesterday about The Facebook Fight attempting to explain to us mere mortals How Yahoo Could Win, Lose Or Draw. The article is chock full of useful, and completely made up, information including “odds” on the various outcomes.
Granted, the author admits the posted odds are both speculative and “unofficial,” which leaves one wondering: In what way could odds on winning or losing a patent case be official? While this may have been a clever attempt at making a boring story about patents into an interesting one, the fact that there are real statistics from which to draw illustrates the author’s ignorance and lack of interest in actually reporting facts. So where did the author go wrong? For starters:
This past September, Canadian patent licensing company MOSAID acquired 400 patent families from Nokia through a purchase of Core Wireless S.a.r.l. The purchase netted MOSAID 2000 total patents, of which more than 1200 are reportedly “standards essential” for 2G, 3G and 4G wireless standards. MOSAID claims that “it made no upfront payments to acquire the Core Wireless portfolio” and will retain one third of licensing revenue generated. Meanwhile, Microsoft already “secured a license to the Nokia patents now acquired by MOSAID” and retains “a passive economic interest in the revenue generated from the licensing of those patents to third parties.”
A patentee takes great risks. They deserve protection.
Those are the words of Joe Atler, inventor of certain CGI techniques (US Patent 6,720,962) and self-made champion of his own cause. After getting the proverbial ‘run-around’ from Disney executives, Alter sued back in October, without a lawyer or law firm to back him up. Alter now claims, and court records confirm, that he and Disney agreed to a settlement.
I fought this case pro-se [no attorney] because I was pissed off. It was a real learning experience, but it’s empowering to know that you can, in fact, do it.
Publicly traded Acacia Research (NASDAQ: ACTG) invests shareholder money into patent assets, playing a key role in the technology creation life-cycle: making sure the original creators of the technology get paid for their work. Recently, Acacia invested a sizable portion of its cash ($160 MM) into a company called ADAPTIX, garnering a small but potent patent portfolio of 4G handset and infrastructure technology.
Intellectual Ventures made a name for itself by (originally) negotiating patent licenses outside of litigation. However, when those prospects started to run dry, IV launched a warning shot–which later appeared a bit underwhelming for a mass aggregator holding tens of thousands of patents. This opening blow was followed by a series of targeted rifle shots, like their ITC enforcement action against Hynix and Elpida. What these lawsuits collectively lacked was shock-and-awe, like Jay Walker’s bold protestation against widespread, uncompensated use of his company’s IP. Until now, that is.
Few patent owners are more reviled by the tech community than Eolas, the company formed by Michael Doyle, inventor of US Patent 5,838,906. The patent–filed in 1994, and reexamined by the patent office not once, but twice–purportedly reads on technologies like web browsers, that parse and format “hypermedia” documents. Back in 2003, with attorneys from Robins Kaplan–one of the few majors willing to fight for inventors and small companies like Eolas–a Chicago jury agreed that Microsoft infringed the ’906 Patent, awarding $500 M in damages.