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.
Before the long weekend ahead we want to call your attention to two hurdles ahead as Congress considers the Coons-Cotton STRONGER Patents Act and SCOTUS considers PTAB’s constitutionality in Oil States.
When our Founders expressly established patent rights in the Constitution they underlined the document’s unique establishment of a new and different sovereignty for the US. It was to be vested by the people in a Constitution not by a deity in a king. Patent property rights were expressly defined and vested in the inventor whose labor produced it and were no longer subject to a royal grant or withdrawal pursuant to the king’s sovereign whim. Like the Constitution itself, patent property rights were based upon the property theories of John Locke. Congress was given the power to codify them but Congress could not completely cancel, replace, or repeal them by completely denying their exclusivity. In short Congress could set a time limit but could not do so in a way that allowed for no time at all to securely exercise the rights conferred.
By characterizing these constitutionally-established rights as “public rights” for their entire term anti patent advocates aver that Congress can amend their term. But even if that was the Founders’ intent because of the words “secure …for a limited time” Congress cannot eliminate them entirely. Nor can Congress create an administrative agency like PTAB by which PTO’s administrative examination powers enables PTAB to nullify those rights all the way to and through the end of a patent’s term. PTAB’s nullification powers up to and through the final nanosecond of a patent’s entire term is contrary to the express words of the Constitution.” Secure for Limited Times” cannot mean for no time at all. This matters because unless parent rights are property rights in which ownership can become settled for a limited time such patents cannot support investment in commercialization. Gene Quinn provides further chapter and verse in a link below.
In another recent IPW post pro-patent all-star Paul Morinville, describes Google-bro Issa’s recent smarmy dismissal of Professor Adam Mossoff’s property rights testimony and explanation of what is now referred to as the China syndrome as the Asian powerhouse strengthens its patent system while weaken ours. Apparently preferring re-election support from Google and friends, Issa (who just won a close election in a recount) stands firmly on both sides of the property issue. In Paul’s description of a recent hearing, Issa first champions patent property rights but later mocks Professor Mossoff’s refutations of proponents’ support of patents as public rights. As Judiciary Chairman Goodlatte’s anti-patent poodle, Issa can be expected to block (or even adversely amend) much-needed pro-patent progress in the House during this unusual session. If Senator Coons’ STRONGER Patents Act clears the Senate, Issa will do what its takes to sabotage its passage in the House.
Both obstacles are not insurmountable but they are formidable. Please take a moment to read Gene Quinn’s take on choosing a “patent as property” PTO Director and Paul’s post describing Google tub-thumper Issa’s oily duplicity on the issue and the China Syndrome. They both are linked below. Continue reading “Secure for Limited Times” Can Not Mean No Security Ever
Below is an excerpt from an outstanding Kevin Madigan essay summarizing the problems plaguing development investment in what was once our gold-standard US patent system. Madigan explains why development investment needed to commercialize US inventions and life science discoveries is now heading overseas. Madigan’s description of the situation is spot-on. His description of this alarming situation is spot-on, and his links are reliable and helpful. Lincoln’s famed reference to the investor’s “fuel of interest” supporting the inventor’s “fire of genius” poetically describes the commercialization process. More prosaically, after Congress appropriates its R&D funding, commercialization is where that federal funding rubber meets the road. This essay is about real statistics, sound reasoning and reliable links to opinions of patent policy experts. It demonstrates the economic importance of the Oil States case pending at SCOTUS and passage of the Coons/Cotton STRONGER Patents Act.
“Venture capital investment in the United States has declined steadily for years, as investors abandon an uncertain domestic climate for more reliable opportunities in foreign countries. In a report on the current state of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, the National Venture Capital Association emphasizes the extreme decline in the US share of global venture capital in the last twenty years, highlighting a drop from 83% of global share in 1996 to just 54% in 2015. At a time of decreasing investment, the US should be working to improve its innovation ecosystem, providing stable and effective property rights to inventors so that VCs can once again feel confident that investments in startups’ R&D—secured by patent rights—won’t just be stolen by established and better-financed infringers. Unfortunately, its doing just the opposite. Over the past decade, the US has continued to gut its patent system of the protections and incentives that attracted investment and made it the world leader in cutting-edge innovation in the first place.” Continue reading Investment Moving Overseas
There is much to report today. We will cover it as efficiently as possible.
TV talk show hosts and newscasters often appreciatively refer to their repeat guests as “friends of the show.” As it turns out Bayh-Dole has put on an impressive economic show over recent years. Now there are fresh numbers to prove it. I am sure readers would agree that the 36 yearlong B-D show’s indispensable and longest serving “friend of the show” is Joe Allen. In his IPWatchdog article today (see below), Joe lays out the recent new statistics you and your congressional delegation need to see. B-D was enacted with bi-partisan sponsorship and support. Because its public-private inventor/investor partnership commercialization dynamic is mainstream Republican in nature, its continued bi-partisan support is assured but only if R&D funding continues and otherwise uninvestable but needed basic research can be converted through private investment into jobs and economic development. His excellent article explains why congressional proposals to reduce R&D funding of basic research while weakening patent strength contradict common sense.
Three other notable links also are significant.
The excerpt below draws on a recent Techcrunch article confirming that China’s recent ascendency has made it a patent “powerhouse.”
“China is not only taking the spotlight in strong defense of global markets and free trade, filling a vacuum left by retreating Western capitalist democracies, China is quickly becoming a (if not the) global leader in intellectual property protection and enforcement. And there too, just as Western democracies (especially the United States) have grown increasingly skeptical of the value of intellectual property and have weakened protection and enforcement, China has been steadily advancing its own intellectual property system and the protected assets of its companies and citizens.”
The third significant piece is a recent Reuters article recounting the continuing conflict between SCOTUS and the CAFC which to no one’s surprise is adding increased uncertainty to patents’ predictable reliability. The fourth is another excellent IPWatchdog post that pointedly pins the efficient infringement tail driving all this court and congressional chaos on Apple’s donkey.
Today the barons of big tech meet at the White House with President Trump whose understanding of their work and how that work bears on our present global economic leadership and security in this new digital information age is doubtful. But at least he appears to be uncontrollable. For more than a decade tech titans have been dominating our Congress, federal agencies and Supreme Court by spreading their poisonous anti-patent troll narrative among DC patent policy makers. We were reminded of this last week when the “patent troll narrative” (now lingua franca in all Capitol Hill patent discussions) surfaced in a House Judiciary Subcommittee meeting held to examine the impact of on the patent landscape of the Heartland venue decision. Rep. Issa oiled his way through various iterations of the stale troll narrative. He even sniffed about a recent patent suit against Apple. Pro-patent interests had one friendly witness in the person of Adam Mossoff, but the rest were members of the anti-patent chorus led by anti-patent apparatchik Colleen Chien.
Like certain Justices, House members Nadler, Goodlatte and Issa seem shamelessly transfixed by the troll narrative’s trope that our patent system is being destroyed from within by the abusive conduct of patent trolls, when in fact they are destroying it themselves. We hope the same narrative will not be replayed at the White House today. But it is very much alive in key congressional circles. It is equally clear from House Committee bloviating they want to keep it alive in case an opportunity arises enabling them to revive their tech-dictated Innovation Act. They are telling us that any bill that mentions patents will become a House vehicle for their Innovation Act “modular adjustments.” Big Tech’s congressional tub thumpers have waited for years to tack them on as amendments.
What is becoming scary, however, is that we are in the early stages of two tectonic world developments—the new Information Age and the rise of China as a superpower. Our patent system is being destroyed by the troll narrative and its impact on patent policy makers who are themselves destroying it. China is strengthening its patent system with the same dispatch deployed to stake its claim to the South China Sea and fill the Far East trade vacuum ceded by US PP abandonment. We are headed towards a dual superpower world in an evolving digital age. If our patent system cannot cope with the economic and defense demands needed to maintain leadership, China’s patent system will. If our Congress cannot understand what lies ahead, we have to hope our President does.
As everyone not pinned under a rock or away on an exotic vacation knows by now, SCOTUS has agreed to decide whether PTAB has the constitutional authority to nullify patent rights in a mini-trial process (principally AIA’s IPR). The precise question before the Oil States Court is:
“Whether inter partes review – an adversarial process used by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to analyze the validity of existing patents violates the Constitution by extinguishing private property rights through a non-Article III forum without a jury.”
Having rejected cert in earlier appeals raising the same issue (including MCM v HP ) experienced observers are speculating and theorizing about the SCOTUS reasons for agreeing over the objections of the Solicitor General to hear it. In a timely letter to Commerce Secretary Wilber Ross, the Licensing Executive Society ( LES) which is ably led by Brian P. O’ Shuaghnnesy advised the Secretary regarding its recommended qualifications appointment of a new PTO Director.The letter enumerated some of the many problems affecting our US patent system including a strong argument for patents as “property.” A few excerpts from the letter are below. We recommend reading it in its entirety.
LES Letter Excerpts:
“Above all, LES recommends appointing a Director dedicated to protecting intellectual property, generally, and patents in particular, as the private property right our nation’s founders envisioned.The founders saw great value in rewarding individuals who toil to bring forth from commonly accessible resources useful products and processes by granting to those individuals an enforceable property right. They recognized that such a property right would, in the fullness of time, work a substantial benefit to the public by encouraging innovation and disclosure.We must honor that philosophy.It contributed substantially to America’s rapid ascendancy from agrarian economy to industrial powerhouse and can be traced to America’s first patent act of 1792.In affording that private property right, we reward and empower the archetypal American innovator, the individual daring to risk all to bring forth the next big thing, and thereby challenge market incumbents who benefit from stasis and the status quo.”
“Commercial development of innovation, and new business formation, demands the prompt and predictable grant of durable property rights, and a reasonable expectation of the enjoyment of quiet title upon issuance. Financing of new enterprises, and the growth of existing ones demands intellectual assets that stand up to challenge, regardless how hose assets are derived or commercialized. American innovators deserve strong, predictable, enforceable intellectual property rights, and that starts at the USPTO. Regrettably, recent changes, both legislative and precedential, have chipped away at US patent rights. Meanwhile, patents issued by other countries are increasingly perceived to be more predictable and enforceable, and thus to have greater value. Investment, and ultimately innovation, will migrate to those environments.” Continue reading New PTO Director and Returning Patent Property Rights
Patent Reform was intended to be in full effect before anyone noticed that like AIA it was based on false assertions by anti-patent academics including: a non-existent litigation crisis; a tax on innovation; alleged patent holder valuation inflation; alleged patent holder valuation inflation and; the so-called, diversionary, “patent troll narrative” which, for a while, completely captured congressional attention but now shares the top-of-mind limelight with “efficient infringement.
Unfortunately, this story’s destructive thrall appears still to have captivated SCOTUS and captured PTO. Congressional delay, however, gave us room to convince enough members that at least there were two sides to the story. That same delay has now given responsible parties in academia time to respond to the barrage of faux studies demonstrating a “need” to address waning (and otherwise explicitly addressable) troll abuses with the comprehensive litigation reform the efficient infringer lobby sought. Each of their promulgated academic “fake views” has now been refuted.
Actual and readily available facts debunk the so-called “volume crisis” in patent litigation. The “tax on innovation” most prominently promulgated was a thoroughly discredited “study” authored by Bessen and Meurer. (It is also attacked in this article but still quoted by duped anti-patent apparatchiks who have not yet realized how foolishly gullible they sound.) This past year USC economist Jonathan Barnett has been circulating a draft law review article before its final publication in the Berkeley Law Journal scheduled later this year and entitled “Has the Academy Led Patent Law Astray.” Barnett’s thoughtful analysis will be released this Fall in final form. In it, he conclusively demonstrates that previous patent reformer academic assertions about “royalty-stacking,” “patent hold-ups” and “patent thickets” were entirely speculative when released and since have been proven by empirical data to be completely false. Nevertheless, they still are contributing to the “depropertization” of patents. Here is an advance citation to what can only be referred to as “must reading”
Now we have a new and definitive debunking of the misleading “patent troll” narrative entitled, “Patents at Issue: The Data Behind The Patent Troll Debate” by Ashtor, Mazzeo and Zyontz. Like the detailed Barnett article, it is a “must read” for pro-patent advocates. It also discusses the counterproductive remedial implications of applying “liability theory” instead of “property theory” to patent ownership. Liability theory maneuvering led to the notorious Justice Kennedy anti-injunction concurrence in eBay.
Here is a quotation from the article’s “Background” explanation:
“The core questions in the “patent troll” debate include issues of whether and to what extent patent assertion practices take a toll on innovation, whether PAEs are asserting low-quality patents and seeking quick settlement payoffs, whether startups suffer more harm through patent assertions than the benefits they gain from patent market liquidity, and whether high litigation costs are shifting the economics of patent assertion to favor PAEs. These questions implicate the underlying tension between “patent monetization” and “patent assertion.” Which types of patent monetization practices are legitimate, and which types exceed the intended scope of the patent grant? Does “after-market” patent value extracted by PAEs deserve the same status as the patent value derived by practicing entities? More generally, should PAEs be entitled to property rule protection for their patent rights – should they have the right to exclude infringers – or should liability rules apply? In this paper, we seek to inform the policy debate about “patent trolls” and modern patent assertion practices by studying some of the key questions concretely, through empirical analysis of patent infringement award data.”
“Our findings reveal a number of important facts about PAEs and their patent assertion practices, some of which are directly contrary to popular positions in the “patent troll” debate. Rather, in some respects this data paints a very different picture of PAEs, showing them in some cases to assert patents and conduct litigation in ways that are highly similar to other patent– holders enforcing their rights. From the perspective of decided cases, it is very difficult to distinguish the “trolls” from any other patent plaintiff……
“On the whole, our findings suggest that the realities of PAE assertion practices are complex, and it is difficult to identify clear signs of abuse or misuse of their patents relative to other plaintiffs. Rather, the similarities we observe between PAEs and practicing entities highlight the risk that attempts to limit PAE’s enforcement rights or restrict the remedies available to them could inadvertently impact all patent-holders and cause adverse effects on the ability of practicing entities to enforce and otherwise monetize their patents. These results counsel caution in designing policies aimed at PAEs and patent assertion practices.
“Moreover, these results further indicate that modern patent assertion practices may yield unique efficiencies and benefits relative to traditional enforcement actions by practicing firms. We need to understand the relationship between modern patent assertion, patent monetization and patent value in its variety of forms before we can identify which practices “promote progress” and which prevent it. True “patent trolls” are difficult to find, and all patent rights are at issue in the hunt to apprehend them.”
An important feature of the rule of law is the economic support imparted by its predictability, a growth-supporting quality enabling the economically necessary use of contracts, deeds, debt, trusts, currency and licensing. Without it, long range planning and investment are impossible, variously timed delivery differences would cancel trades, and mutually beneficial transactions would necessarily be crammed into the immediate present. The absence of a predictable rule of law thus severely hamstrings economic progress. Patent law depends heavily on its special rule of law. It is expressly created in our Constitution to authorize Congress to provide future investment reliability for a “limited times.” What does limited mean? It doesn’t say how much time but it certainly means some. But if AIA’s IPR can nullify a patent throughout its term all the way to expiry, metaphysically there is no “limited” time. If laws and court decisions continue to nullify effective patents retroactively, the express constitutional provision for prospectively “limited times” is distorted. If patent rights are property rights instead of public privileges, Article I agency-appointed PTAB tribunals cannot be constitutionally enabled to cancel them without reference to the protections in Article III and the Bill of Rights.
A wise man once warned me that standing by themselves, arrogance or ignorance was to be pitied, not condemned but combined in positions of power, they are extremely dangerous. So it is with patents. Our nation’s patent system finds itself caught between apathetic ignorance and under-informed assertiveness. On the one hand, there is the proud apathy of congressional ignorance that resulted in AIA’s PTAB. On the other, there is the under-informed assertiveness of SCOTUS that still uses the term “patent monopoly” in Impression Products v. Lexmark while erasing decades of established patent law by retroactively altering the impact of conditional sales that conformed to existing law when made. Such retroactive conduct scorns patents’ special “limited time” rule of law, by enacting retroactive nullifications unforeseeable during past compliance by legal practitioners as well as practitioners of grant patents. Retroactive patent nullification decisions have become commonplace in the courts and Congress. From AIA’s IPR to Lexmark’s recent nullifications of then complying conditional sales, such conduct not only cancels past established economic process, but it also deters future investment of innovative time and developmental financial support in our nation’s innovation ecosystem. It harms our economic future. The on-going self-inflicted collapse of the patents’ rule of law has become a counter-productive “cruel of law.” Worse, stopping this relentless DC march to economic madness may itself be madness. Can we halt them? Continue reading Cruel of Law
A Saturday New York Times editorial called to our mind an old saying: “If a turtle is perched on a fence post you know it didn’t get there by itself.”
With Congress now in recess and, when it returns, still entangled in health care, tax reform and Russia-gate, how is it that a high-priced, big tech PR firm would be trying to breathe life into patent litigation reform to justify its monthly retainer? No problem, just call in a favor and get a NYT editorial praising SCOTUS for its latest weakening of US patents. The editorial praised the recent SCOTUS decisions in TC Heartland v Kraft Foods and Impression Products v Lexmark under the headline, “Protecting Consumers in Patent Cases.” It was planted, we suspect, (like the turtle) on the Editorial Board’s patent troll narrative Kool-Aid cabinet shelf.
The Court in both decisions overturned years of patent law precedent on defendant venue in Heartland while in Lexmark it effectively held that any sale whatever or wherever of a patented product, including sales in other countries where our patent laws have no effect, cancels its US patent protection. One major problem is that when applied to existing arrangements such decisions have a retroactive impact. So if drug maker XYZ has made a discounted sale to the Gates Foundation of a patented anti-pandemic therapy for use in Africa, (even with a routine boilerplate restriction on further resales or other gray market activity) the US patent protecting the product is now automatically nullified. The Impression Products decision and the Court’s reasoning are explained in an IPWatchdog twin posts last week where experts comment on its “known unknowns.” As usual, however, the problem is the decision’s “unknown unknowns.” It appears to us that new uncertainties may further adversely affect investment in university life science research. It definitely will disrupt today’s biopharma innovation ecosystem.