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.
The public patent skirmishes between and among ICT tech titans are fought with weaponized patents stored and deployed to protect and promote market share in a fiercely competitive global consumer arena where its incumbents’ shelf-life is short. The press covers them because they involve the planet’s largest firms whose digital platforms have enslaved us all with necessary if non-understandable, dependency. Apple v. Samsung, Google v. EU, etc. are now the stuff of daily headlines. For ordinary folks, these billion-dollar battles about obscure technology describe and define today’s patent landscape. In this exponentially evolving global competition delayed market, timing compresses profits and threatens continued incumbency. Getting to consumer shelves first is more important than getting there lawfully. But this is not the only patent war raging at present. Enter efficient infringement.
These same squabbling incumbents also are at war on a second front — their decade-old version of patent reform. This war has been fought in publicly remote Capitol Hill jungles hidden beneath a canopy of public apathy. In this separate war, the battling consumer market digital platforms are allied. Their common cause is protecting their product pricing share from the power of patented component suppliers. In this war, their concerted objective is not global consumer market share. It is about how much of their final product sales price they get to keep versus how much they must share with their component suppliers. By weakening patents through congressional and SCOTUS revisions, they weaken component bargaining power while deploying their efficient infringer business model. Their common objective is to enhance their leverage. With the now public Apple-Qualcomm dispute, this formerly hidden second front has spilled into the open. And the press is covering it. Pro-patent advocates need to understand it.
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 .