Restoring Sanity to the Patent Landscape

Summarizing IIPC’s recent Capitol Hill Conference IPWatchdog’s Steve Brachmann and Gene Quinn highlight a consensus assertion by its numerous panelist experts. In simple terms they repeatedly asserted that patents are property and were intended in our Constitution to be legally recognized as such. Patents are not privileges granted by sovereign whim as they were in England. That John Locke’s property ownership theory influenced the drafters of our Constitution is universally accepted by constitutional scholars and historians.The Patent Act reflected it. Yet this historic differential between patent property and privilege has been watered down by PTAB and the Federal Circuit (CAFC) in recent decisions holding that patents are simply “public rights”. As such patent holders are not entitled to the basic protections set forth in the Bill of Rights. SCOTUS has declined cert in earlier appeals from Federal Circuit public rights decisions. It is again considering a cert petition in a dispute involving the applicability of Art. III and Art. VII to PTAB’s proceedings.(Oil States Energy Services) Below are excerpts from a typically thorough Watchdog post highlighting the misleading big tech troll narrative’s pernicious influence on patent property rights.

“Although many of the industry insiders at the event held similar opinions on the current state of the U.S. patent system, bringing their message to a mainstream audience has been difficult. Much of this has to do with the “patent troll” narrative that has been forwarded by the efficient infringement lobby. As Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) pointed out at a recent Senate judiciary hearing on intellectual property as a driver of innovation, “whoever came up with that phrase [patent troll] should get a special bonus” because it has created a massive mischaracterization of patent owners asserting their rights.”

Continue reading Restoring Sanity to the Patent Landscape

Efficient Infringement Works

Patent reform veterans agree that its proponents’ penetration of DC policy maker “top of mind” with its misleading patent troll narrative is what led SCOTUS and Congress down the primrose path to the twin disasters of eBay and AIA and everything that has followed both. Inundated with Amicus brief and anti-patent administration input, the Courts accepted Justice Kennedy’s uninformed musings in his concurrent opinion where legislating from the bench he effectively erased patents’ presumption of validity while for certain patent holders he replaced patent exclusivity with compulsory licensing. The term’s congressional use, (which the FTC described later as “unhelpful”) enabled busy salons to say “no” to a conjured bogeyman by saying “yes” to comprehensive patent litigation reform too few had understood. The tactic switched the “burden of persuasion” from patent reform’s proponents (where passing any bill belongs) to the bills’ opponents. And when it comes to arcane patent litigation that is a massive burden. C’mon man! There is no “elevator pitch” to explain why anyone running for the next election should not say “yes “to cash-laden Silicon Valley mega techs on a complicated bill the public doesn’t care about. Better to say “no” to predatory trolls. Pro-patent advocates were back-footed long before they climbed Capitol Hill.

“Efficient infringement” is economically explained in a short essay by economist Adam Mossoff. Below are its closing paragraphs. Efficient infringement may never be as effective as the patent troll meme, but it is short, it efficiently describes an economic practice that is far more prevalent than the occasional abuses of the few patent trolls that remain, and it is readily described even on the shortened elevator rides available on the Hill. Most important it is real and succinctly explains why big tech wants patent litigation revision that adversely affects ALL patent holders and not just abusers.  Efficient infringement is economically sound even though it is unlawful and morally reprehensible. Its use is an insurance policy against lesser-resourced patent holder assertion. It is time Congress and the courts said “no” to efficient infringement!

Continue reading Efficient Infringement Works

Experts Explain Troll Narrative Impact

Below is an excellent Steve Brachmann summary of the recent IIPCC conference’s patent experts’ views on the insidious patent troll narrative infecting our nation’s Capitol. Unless this virus is effectively countered by repeated reference to “efficient infringement,” it will continue to bolster in our self-inflicted institutional beat-down of US patents. Tomorrow I will forward a scholarly article authored by economists. For now however here are the comments of the experts. Below is an excerpt.

The pressure to adhere to the patent troll rhetoric was difficult for people to grasp if they don’t live within Silicon Valley, Causevic noted. He noted a conference which he was invited to speak at which changed its title from “Have We Gone Too Far in Weakening Our Patent System?” to “Where Are We in Eradicating Weak Patents?”, a radical shift in focus. “The pressure is very personal,” Causevic said, citing a paper he had worked on which found that company directors were often pressured against telling shareholders to monetize their patents as it could hurt their chances at employment with an anti-patent tech firm later on. As Taylor would add, this pressure affects the “tens of thousands of little companies started by entrepreneurs” in that region which live under a cultural overhang created by the large Silicon Valley entities. Continue reading Experts Explain Troll Narrative Impact

Fundamental Incongruities of PTAB Operations Affect the Integrity of the Patent System

This article appeared first on ipwatchdog.com

The first 100 days of the Trump Administration have now come and gone. So far, they have not revealed much more than the obvious fact that there is a significant disconnect between President Trump’s 4-year re-election objectives and the 2-year re-election timetable of House Republicans. Retaining their seats is job one for both. The President believes that will require Republicans to enact legislation on the issues central to the President’s campaign and the party Platform; issues Republicans have been complaining about over the past eight years.

The mismatched re-election priorities of Republicans can be expected to continue roiling Capitol Hill throughout the remainder of 2017 and likely into 2018. With healthcare and tax reform likely to take up much of the summer oxygen in Washington, DC, and into the fall of 2017 when insurance premium hikes will be announced again, what, if any, signature Republican issues will be addressed remains in significant doubt.

With small ball policy left far behind by both inter-party and intra-party politics, what will the current state of Congressional legislative enactment capacity mean for patent reform? An argument could be made that so much energy will be placed elsewhere that matters of peripheral importance in the greater scheme – like patent reform – will receive no attention. But intellectual property generally and patent policy more specifically tends to be an apolitical issue where ideologues on both sides of the aisle can reach agreement. Without knowing how the cards will fall, and given that those who perpetually seek patent reform are once again working the halls of the Capitol, prudence suggests that those with a pro-patent vision remain ever vigilant.

Last week IPWatchdog.com explained why eBay, Mayo and the creation of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board to hear post-grant challenges to patents were the three most significant legal causes of today’s patent crisis.  The common thread that led to each “event” was a brilliant anti-patent strategy that converted policy maker apathy towards patents and our nation’s innovation ecosystem into a belief that simply stopping a few bad actors by passing comprehensive patent litigation reform would solve any ills.

The patent troll narrative has worked well. Indeed, at a recent hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) quipped: “Whoever came up with that phrase should get a special bonus because they manage to mischaracterize anyone who goes to court to assert patent rights as a troll…”

The beauty of the patent troll narrative was it took little time to absorb and instantly painted a pejorative picture in the minds-eye of the listener. It became easy to repeat. Its bumper-sticker simplicity led to widespread usage, which ultimately (and quickly) became accepted as fact without much, if any, critical thought. Most important, the strategy by-passed the arcane complexity of its convoluted subject matter by shifting the burden of Congressional persuasion to its victimized and under-resourced opponents. Politically outmatched from the start – inventors and innovators had, up until this point in our history, always been held in high esteem were overwhelmed. That suddenly changed with the patent troll narrative and inventors became persona non grata, even viewed as evil and villainous. Indeed patent reform’s innate obscurity was its most important ally. Few knew more than the patent troll narrative, so as it was often repeated people unfamiliar with patents on even the most basic level became horrified by the myth the narrative painted.

Over the next 100 days, patent reform’s obscurity may become the enemy of patent reform instead of its ally. After all, if the public isn’t interested in patent reform why should President Trump spend time on the issue? Moreover its proud parent, “efficient infringement,” has now become the enemy of Trump’s conservative, property-devoted base. Patents are property rights as has been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court for over 100 years and as stated explicitly in the Patent Act. Nevertheless, the patent troll narrative has returned to Capitol Hill. Even with more pro-property right, security-conscious, conservative allies than in previous cycles patent reform opponents, who 500 days ago rallied loudly enough to make HR 9 too controversial for pre-campaign enactment, must rise again.

Expect big tech and its leftist bed-fellows to exert more effort to “de-propertize” patents on Capitol Hill and in the courts. Expect to hear that every patent holder who protects her lawfully established exclusivity by responding to efficient infringement in courts to be called “ambulance chasers.” Expect proponents of reform to mischaracterize patent reform as a step towards tort reform, which is nearly comical given that the tortfeasor in the equation is the party that is trampling on the property rights of patent holders through infringement, which is many times purposeful and willful. Expect lobbyists for Main Street retailers to again be flattered by attention from big shot Silicon Valley lobbyists and support their latest version of the anti-patent, anti-property right patent troll narrative. Expect new academic junk science and more speculation by professorial patent policy “experts.” Expect the USPTO to praise the PTAB’s star-chambered repression of so-called “bad patents.” Expect efficient infringement to continue while the courts and Congress are asked to dither over patent trolls.

We must explain the truth to those who understandably drank the patent troll Kool-Aid and believed that Silicon Valley’s tears for Main Street retailers were real. Efficient infringement’s cheaper, faster, better economics compel its continued deployment. The patent troll narrative has distracted Congress and the courts from seeing how it protects incumbency for our nation’s most dominant big caps by diluting investability in new technology that might one day unseat them. The patent troll narrative’s flaw is that the repressive litigation it supports applies not to a few remaining patent abusers but to ALL patent holders, especially startups who produce the most jobs.

The efficient infringement narrative is no more complicated than the troll narrative. The patent troll narrative just reached the Hill first, which means the story of efficient infringers trampling patent property rights, though perfectly true, has a tougher road given it must not only gain its own traction but it has to undo the damage caused by the misleading patent troll narrative.

To be re-elected Congress may need to focus on less obscure issues this year than patent reform. But if party leaders choose to consider patent reform the bill will be driven by the patent troll narrative, not its content. Pro-patent Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) has wisely reminded us that Congress likes to learn through stories. Patent reform’s proponents will again bypass content explanations by repeating the patent troll narrative. Pro-patent opponents can respond with their own efficient infringement narrative. Let proponents then explain the contents of any bill in simple, easy to understand terms. Let us work to put a face on efficient infringement, which has ruined so many inventors who have seen Silicon Valley giants make so many millions of dollars infringing patents after taking technology originally invented by individuals and small start-up businesses who never had a chance.

 

Patent Decline’s Top Causes and US Chamber’s Plea for Increasing its Strength

In his World Property Day post, IPWatchdog’s Gene Quinn predicts continued but not permanent decline for US patents after naming its three top contributors. His typically insightful prose pulls no punches and IMHO correctly identifies the decline’s legal culprits and their consequences. But in IMHO he fails to give due credit is to the influence of the ubiquitous Patent Troll narrative created first at Intel then brilliantly injected into the minds of congressional, SCOTUS and PTO lawmakers. Propagated by unsubstantiated law journalists’ speculations, bogus economist projections, misleading falsities to a lazy, uninformed press, occasional anecdotes and the over-anxious suspension of disbelief accorded to the Silicon Valley vanguard of the Information Age, its self-serving shiny object distraction penetrated DC policy top of mind. Its “litigation crisis” theme delivered it to sympathetic Judiciary Committee salons, an under-informed Supreme Court and a politically pliable PTO. Fueled by Amici blather Justice Kennedy’s injection of trolls into eBay blessed it. PTAB was presumably established to curb trolls. Mayo’s expedient nullifications based on expanded eligibility grounds reflect the story’s so-called “bad patents” allegedly wielded by patent trolls. The patent troll narrative was conjured to protect the efficient infringement that compelled the cut-throat competitive smartphone markets. Indeed, efficient infringement inevitably helped create them. The troll story masked efficient infringement and perpetuated because it has worked so well and will be needed still. Mega-tech wars among big tech peers may someday shift to cars and IoT. But big tech’s need to push down patented component costs and infringe their patents will remain. The troll narrative was an early avatar of alternative facts and fake news. It will be hard to extinguish. But until the troll story is snuffed out by targeted legislation and thoroughly debunked by public disbelief, today’s decline in patents will continue. Yesterday offering “the other half of the story” the US Chamber of Commerce issued a statement strongly supporting our economic need for strong patents saying:

“Over the past decade, a growing number of academic and industry researchers have been exploring the relationship between patent protections and innovations, particularly as it relates to technology startups. What they continue to find is that patents and other intellectual property protections are absolutely vital to supporting innovation; in fact, many of the technologies and innovations we take for granted today would never have come to bear without patents.”

Amazon’s Groceries, Mega-Cap Convergence and IPR

C’mon man! Amazon has metastasized into groceries! Here’s what’s happening: the Mega-caps are converging.

Your Google IoT control device realizes you have just closed Windows on your Mac. After checking with your fridge, she tells your Apple watch to order-out a home-delivered meal for a pre-planned dinner with a Facebook friend you mutually calendared in Microsoft’s cloud to coincide with his visit to your area. Ranked lists of meals you each have “liked” on Facebook are separately crossed-checked in Microsoft’s cloud are sent to each other’s devices. When the excellent match is found, it orders both your meals from Amazon, prepays with Apple Pay, and schedules delivery to your door by a drone one hour after your friend arrives in his self-driving Google car. During dinner, your IoT devices are busy receiving Amazon and Apple offers for discounts on a movie to be aired during the next 5 hours. Meanwhile, Google offers your friend a self-driving automobile pick-up ten minutes after dessert. You get the idea. You can sense the future of our world is just over the horizon. The mega-caps will one day control the entire consumer landscape. Their anti-patent onslaught is a symptom.

Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft are now America’s five largest firms by market cap. Their market power is already overpowering. Their incumbency is threatened only by each other. Their combined profit last year was $93 bn. While they were controlling Congress during the last decade, they swallowed whole 519 smaller firms. They undoubtedly smothered countless others by efficiently infringing their patented IP or by attrition if any dared to sue. Working with SCOTUS and Congress as allies they are preserving market monopsony by crushing or absorbing disruptive technology and pushing patent reform to beef up profits by beating down product component costs. But their DC alliance is uneasy. They are swirling into the converging vortex of multiple diverse product control within the marketplace. When they meet, some cannot survive. Thus, each must soon decide when and how to kill or capture the others while today’s business-friendly administration is in power.

Meanwhile as reported in today’s WSJ “Once-Flush Startups Struggle to Stay Alive.” Venture capital for US startups has declined by 30 % in 2016. In the two preceding years, 5000 U S tech startup firms raised about $75 bn., with 294 of them obtaining at least $50 mil. But since three-fourths of those have neither been acquired nor raised and capital.

These investment facts that matter. They tell us IPR is harming early stage investment. They are neither “patent/troll” narratives conjured to stampede an under-informed Congress nor are they AMICI blather intended to mislead SCOTUS into worrying about patent trolls instead of their political and market power. What matters is the growing scarcity if capital for disruptive early stage innovation for those who need it most. Only so-called “unicorns ” can afford to risk a fight with the reigning five. Time is running out. Director Lee’s recently announced review of IPR “records” and PTO’s dialogue with IPR “users” in her misdirected search for IPR “fairness etc.” will not reveal this reality. Investment trends are real, and they are relevant to patent policy. PTAB’s contribution to our economy is not worth its cost. Congress should declare IPR’s victory over “bad patents” and repeal it.

Our Patent System Needs More Than An IPR Fix

Under Secretary of Commerce, Michelle Lee has begun an initiative to further shape and improve PTAB  Her Senior Advisor at the PTO will be “coordinating this effort.  Because her tenure is ending soon her post grant “effort’s” timing has caused some to wonder whether she plans to fix AIA’s second windows or to preserve them. Whatever her unspoken motives, if any, an official in-depth review of PTAB’s past performance is warranted. But is the PTO looking in the right places?

Continue reading Our Patent System Needs More Than An IPR Fix

The Chicken or the Egg

The old question which came first, (one of life’s most perplexing riddles) is often asked about “efficient infringement” (E I) and “patent trolls ” the conjoined twins invented by ICT bigs to degrade our patent system. Inspired by Samuel Butler’s famous species preservation observation that, ” Hens are the egg’s way of making another egg”, we think it important to explain that chronologically EI was first in line. Thematically originating with the mythic tale of “Billy Goat Gruff”, the term “patent troll” was invented at Intel by Peter Detkin (who ironically now helps Nathan Myhrvold run Intellectual Ventures.) “Patent Trolls” have long and ably served; as a device to distract the IP community from EI, as a symbolic cookie easily snarfed by academic street walkers and a lazy press, as a goad for SCOTUS patent property dilution and as “shiny object” by which to engineer enactment “bait-and-switch” AIA in an apathetic Congress. Even though EI literally created them, Patent Trolls have consistently preceded E I in whatever passes for” top of mind” awareness on Capitol Hill. Having recently been labeled “unhelpful” by the FTC, the term reappeared in a recent anti-patent op-ed in “The Hill”. So, although the troll meme has grown tired, it still is being kept alive. Its more obscure E I twin lives-on as well. Indeed, E I is now more prevalent as ICT biggies get bigger, patents become less reliable and costlier, and early stage innovation retreats to secondary market’s cheaper “bird-in-the-hand” monetization. Until courts see it for what it is, EI will continue creating market demand for assertion specialists among up-stream patent holders. Demand legislation could finish off obvious abuse by bad actors. The more pressing issue is how can EI be stopped? Continue reading The Chicken or the Egg

Personal Property? Not so much!

In a recent post at IPWatchdog’s Gene Quinn questioned PTAB’s strange allowance of serial challenges to patents even after rejecting other challenges to them. Suggesting a more efficient solution he said

“One and done challenges to patents are a fiscally conservative and responsible approach to government, and the only legitimate way to treat what the Patent Act tells us is supposed to be a property right – by at some point settling title of the patent at least insofar as challenges at the United States Patent and Trademark Office are concerned.”  Within his post, Gene says ” a patent is not a property right like any other.”

Sadly, as the saying goes, “Truer word were never spoken!”

The status of patents as personal “property” has been shrinking for a decade, a trend that must be reversed if TTO’s expect commercialization to survive the trend’s shrinkage of investment capital. The Patent Act’s Sec 261 states that:

“Subject to the provisions of this title, patents shall have the attributes of personal property.”

Really? If you own a car, somewhere in your files is a “Certificate of Title” proving that you own it. Whatever your job, driving habits, use or non-use they have no bearing on your attributes of auto ownership. Under the law, all owners are treated equally. Produce a valid Certificate and you can trade it in. If stolen, it must be returned. Continue reading Personal Property? Not so much!

“Landslide Lee” Is Lurking

If the Patent Reform saga has a “Darth Vader villain”, it is able attorney Mark Lemley . Earlier this week, 3000 miles away from his Silicon Valley death star, he realized he was at an “away game” when pro-patent hero former Chief Judge Paul Michel assumed the podium at the Leadership 2017 policy conference at Washington DC’s Newseum and in his keynote speech said,

“Several years ago, it would have been little exaggeration to say that we are facing a challenge. Today we are facing a crisis.”

In another post IPWatchdog’s Gene Quinn reviews the pro-patent positions of other conference speakers whose views reflect the work of pro patent home state universities. Gene reiterates the truth about “efficient infringement” and the need to reestablish patent rights as property not liability rights or post-eBay “public rights” to recover judicially-awarded monetary damages after risky and expensive infringement proceedings that at best result in compulsory licensing.

Sadly while we’re watching a patent system train-wreck in USA, China’s innovation bullet train, freshly loaded with US recruited researchers and hungry venture capitalists is speeding towards a reliable patent system in a huge market. Meanwhile US House Judiciary tub-thumper for ICT mega-techs, “Landslide Lee” Issa is promising to add “modular” HR 9 amendments to the next relevant vehicle bill that comes his way this session. Issa heard from angry inventors during a re-election he barely won in a ballot recount. But he won. He is angry. And he needs to hear more. Our own ‘Darth Vader Lemley” as Gene diplomatically points out, was out-manned on the Leadership DC dais this week. But unless we continue working to save commercialization for federal grant agencies and ourselves, when an opportune bill reaches Issa’s subcommittee desk this session “Landslide Lee” will not be similarly out-manned. See Inconvenient Truth: America no longer fuels the fire of creative genius with the patent system .