We are seeing more negative press coverage of today’s digital dominance of our giant networked platforms who employ their free user-generated information to sell ads. Their natural monopolies do not trigger traditional anti-trust regulatory response because the anti-trust law is premised on concerns about consumer rent-seeking based on monopoly supported pricing power. In most circumstances, the consumer service and product pricing offered by these digital mega-techs is cheaper. But the anti-trust tide may be turning.The EU recently fined Alphabet (Google) for using its search dominance to boost sales of its other services. Newspapers are suing Facebook and Google over unlicensed use of their content. Even if these natural monopolies do not violate traditional anti-trust law, their leverage to benefit themselves in other areas even includes Congress and the US Supreme Court. One of their methods is to solicit academic support for their lobbying objectives.They have done so with arcane patent reform by academically validating their phony troll narrative. A long, well-researched Wall Street Journal article this week examined Alphabet’s (Google’s) practice of richly rewarding academic researchers whose “views” on policy just happen to support its DC lobbying agenda.
We are not “Shocked”! Tobacco did it for years. Why not the ICT op-cos? Selling DC policy makers their troll narrative to legally protect efficient infringement through comprehensive patent litigation revision is no less challenging than selling cancer. Here’s how ICT incumbent academic manipulation works. Academic “talent scouts” identify and recruit academic “experts” whose “views” happen to coincide with Google’s objectives. At the right price, they often do. Some cooperating anti-patent academics receive up to $400,000 as a “gift” with no obligation to create their Google supporting pieces.
Pro-patent advocates familiar with big tech shenanigans on Capitol Hill have been plagued for years by congressional testimony and Amicus briefs citing phony patent troll crisis assertions supplied by funded academic “legal” analysis and “economic” studies. In the patent policy arena, such blather is especially useful because of congressional apathy and SCOTUS antipathy to patents. Both venues provide fertile ground in which to plant phony academic commentary. Google is not the only producer of such customized research but because it also excels at positioning its friends in high policy places it must be closely watched.
Earlier this week at a Central Regional Conference AUTM workshop moderated by self-described long time reader Jeff Myers of MSU I gave a presentation on patent advocacy. Our advocacy workshop was adjacent to a legal workshop about recent patent weakening policies that cannot be alleviated without strong AUTM leadership and individual AUTM member advocacy. While there I had the pleasure of meeting another self-described reader, AUTM’s incoming President Mary Albertson. She attended my presentation where, in her own words, she confirmed that she would be no anti-patent pushover for the infringer lobby. Mary directs the TTO at Stanford, which happens to be in the center of big tech incumbency. She knows her subject.
I will admit that after ex-Googler Michelle Lee’s sojourn at the PTO when I first learned of Ms. Albertson’s AUTM approaching the presidency I wondered if Google may have penetrated AUTM. WELL, IT HASN’T! Mary Albertson will fight hard to restore patent reliability. Accepting AUTM’s advocacy leadership must have taken courage. He up close familiarity with these digital platforms (and Google in particular) will add special credibility to her pro-patent message in the trying times ahead. But as I said at my advocacy workshop, even Stanford’s Mary Albertson cannot restore by herself our damaged innovation ecosystem and patents’ keystone role in TTO commercialization. She will need strong, responsive and active support from each of AUTM’s members. We whole-heartedly have offered ours. We urge each of you to do the same.