Hey “Patent Experts”: How Do You Like Groupon’s Patent Now? *Crickets*

Yesterday’s announcement of the firing of Groupon’s CEO and the hope for a rebirth of the company’s business model brought to mind a post that I wrote a couple of years ago railing against the self-interested opinions of “patent experts” on why Google offered $6 Billion for Groupon in late 2010.  Re-reading the post in the rear-view mirror, it is more clear than ever that Google made the offer for the precise reason I set out below in December 2010: Google, and other acquirers, buy business models, not patents.  As we strategy-focused IP people have been saying for years, a patent is worthless unless it covers a viable business model–either yours or one you want to own.  Google is interested in Groupon because it offers them an established business model in an area that fits into their long term business strategy.  Are the patents nice to have? Of course, but if Groupon didn’t have the patents, Google would still want to own them, and likely for a price in the same neighborhood as it bid.  At the end of the day, the Google’s offer for Groupon was a “build vs. buy” decision:  Google ran the numbers and believed that it would make more money buying Groupon than by building something Continue Reading →

Google Changes the Game Again–This Time for Patent Owners and Those Who Serve Them

Patrick Anderson of the great Gametime IP blog reported the details of Google’s new prior art searching tool*.   This is such important news, I thought it important to repeat it in a separate post.  Patrick provides detailed instructions for how to use the Google patent searching tool, and I will not repeat that information here.  This post provides commentary on why I think this is a very good development for the patent world.   Google’s original announcement on its blog is here.  It does not appear coincidental that Google is upgrading its patent searching capabilities:  in this press release from June 2010 we are informed of the partnership between Google and the USPTO to increase the amount of US patent information available to the public. When used correctly, Google’s tool can help “democratize” the patent analysis process by putting more power in the hands of those who are not part of the closed “guild” of patent professionals.  For example, before spending money on a search (and the opinion that most patent professionals will insist on writing to put context to the search), an inventor can herself get a feel for not just the patentability of her invention, but also Continue Reading →

Want to Know More about IP Strategy? A Selection of Posts for In-House and Outside Counsel

This week, I am speaking at the Midwest IP Institute.  I will be participating in a “fire side chat” with my good friend, Edna Vassilovski of Stoel, Rives LLP. Our session is entitled “How Patent Prosecutors and In-House Counsel Can Provide Work Product Better Aligned with Client’s Business Needs.”  Specific topics we will discuss include: How clients’ views of IP and intangible assets are changing and ways both inside and outside counsel can stay relevant to clients today; What you can do to help clients obtain meaningful patents at reduced cost; How to really understand clients’ business goals and how to help make those happen; and How to help clients monetize their patents I am really looking forward to sharing my passion for IP business strategy with in-house lawyers and outside counsel, especially since I will be doing this with someone like Edna who I think has a great grasp on client service from a business perspective.  In preparation for this talk, and for the benefit of those attending the the session who would like to learn more about my perspective, I thought it made sense to revive some previous blog posts from the past couple of years where I Continue Reading →

Much Ado About Patent Marking: Why It is So Hard for Corporations to Get It Right and Why False Marking Lawsuits Might be a Good Thing Overall

It is fairly rare for patents to make hit the radar screen of mainstream news outlets but, recently, there has been much space allotted to the issue of patent mis-marking and lawsuits being brought by third parties for “violation” of the law requiring that products cannot be marked with an incorrect patent number.  Indeed, the usually substance-free local paper in my mother’s Southwest Florida community reported about the flood of patent mis-marking lawsuits.  And, it is no wonder that the undoubtedly arcane issue of patent marking has reached the status of “news” in a small-town paper given the huge number of cases currently pending in the federal courts.  It seems as if patent marking litigation may be the new business model for trial lawyers who are looking for a new “gravy train” to extract substantial legal fees from corporations whose activities violate the letter (but not necessarily the spirit) of the law. First, an explanation:  U.S. patent law expressly dictates that products should be marked with the number of patent(s) with claims that cover that same product.  If one does not mark the product, the patentee cannot obtain damages for infringement that occurs either prior to its giving “actual notice” Continue Reading →

How to Improve the Performance of M&A: Determine Whether the Target Really Provides Durable Competitive Advantage

Recently, I was asked to speak to a Georgia Tech MBA class about IP Strategy–specifically about the inter-play of IP in M&A.  A significant portion of my talk addressed how poorly existing due diligence and IP metric methodologies traditionally perform to predict the financial success of M&A transactions.  There is no question that improvements are needed in this regard.  For example, in 2006, Inc.com reported that 60-70 % of acquisitions fail and more than 90 % of acquired businesses lose value. These somewhat dismal results leave no doubt that acquiring companies need better sources of information to properly vet and select acquisition targets. Having been involved in M&A transactions as a legal and business advisor over the years, I have developed unique insights on the the due diligence and IP metric processes from both sides of deals.  In these deals, the highest (and presumably most expensive) advice of investment bankers and M&A attorneys directed the deal flow.  Significantly, however, much like a real estate transaction, these advisors took their money at the close of the deal and left my client with the property.  These advisors had no incentive to ensure the house was in good shape after they walked away Continue Reading →

Guest Blogger: How Patent Vulnerability Impacts Valuation by David Wanetick of IncreMental Advantage

(This week, David Wanetick, Managing Director of IncreMental Advantage provides readers if the IP Asset Maximizer Blog with an excellent overview of the various factors that he believes affect patent valuation.  Please let me know if you would like to be a Guest Blogger.) How Patent Vulnerability Impacts Valuation by David Wanetick of IncreMental Advantage As I often tell business leaders who attend my course on Valuing Early-Stage Technologies, valuing patents isn’t rocket science. It is much more difficult. Or to paraphrase Winston Churchill, valuing patents is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Measuring even a well-delineated permanent entity is much more difficult than may be imagined. As Neil deGrasse Tyson (a renowned astrophysicist) and Benoit Mandelbrot (the father of fractal geometry) have discussed, no one really knows what the circumference of the coastline of the United Kingdom is. The tides will cause varying degrees of erosion on the coastline depending on the hour of measurement while the cumulative affect of choosing which rock formations to measure around will have a dramatic impact on the final assessment of circumference. Patent valuation is infinitely more difficult to determine than the measurements of a given land mass due to Continue Reading →

Seeking to Sell Your Patent to a Big Company? Think About These Negotation Tips

Over the past year of so, I have become friends with Victoria Pynchon, an accomplished California litigator and ADR expert.  She is a great source of information for people seeking advice in the area of ADR and negotiation, whether IP or otherwise.  Victoria has just posted some information that I think will be of great use to any entrepreneur or start up that is seeking to sell their patent(s) to a larger entity.  Except for very rare circumstances, these IP owners will be at a significant disadvantage in comparison to the company to which it seeks to sell.  This post, entitled “More on Bargaining from a Position of Weakness” should be the first step before any small IP owner approaches the possible purchaser to help them understand how to succeed in the typically highly uneven bargaining process. Specifically, people or companies with IP to sell today are hoping to succeed in a market where there are a whole lot more sellers than there are buyers.  (More on this here.)  These IP owners are invariably negotiating from a position of weakness, which makes the advice set out in the Victoria Pynchon’s blog post not only relevant, but also critical for anyone seeking Continue Reading →

For Inventor of 21 Patents, Patent Troll Litigation Not Very Lucrative

  Recently, I wrote a post on why I think that patent litigation is not a viable business model for inventors.  Given a realistic deconstruction of the costs and possible damage awards, I concluded that, in most situations, it is not realistic for an inventor to presume that she will “hit the jackpot” by suing infringers and extracting settlement or damage awards.  I obtained some pushback from this post, mostly from patent litigation lawyers, who contend that I am wrong in my view that patent litigation does not pay for inventors.  Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I respect the views of others, however, no one who objects to my (somewhat) negative view of patent litigation as a business model, has provided me with numbers to discount my economic analysis of patent litigation.  This recent post from The Prior Art blog entitled “Revealed! How Much Money a “Patent Troll” Makes” provides some insight into usually confidential inventor returns when dealing with a patent licensing program.  The underlying patents related to GPS technology and were asserted against several prominent technology companies.  The post gives a rare look into the numbers involved obtained in sending “patent licensing letters” to technology companies.  In Continue Reading →

The Coming Explosion of the Patent Monetization Market: Brought to You by Open Innovation and What Needs to Happen in Order to Speed Up the Process

This week, I got a call out of the blue from a very senior business development person at a Fortune 10 technology company “wanting to know more” about patent licensing and monetization.  This was a bit strange:  his company has literally dozens of patent professionals on staff, files 100′s of patents a year and, as I found out, has 35 or so business people working on patent  licensing and monetization efforts for the organization.  So, why would he (let’s call him “Bob”) need to talk to me these topics?  Certainly, there is a veritable army of highly-paid smart people to answer IP and patent questions at his beck and call, and I was interested in finding out what Bob sought to find out from me that he could not get from his own people. I was not surprised to find out that Bob did not want to learn more about buying and selling technology on behalf of his company.  Rather, Bob’s interest was personal:  he wanted to find out more about patent licensing and monetization because he believes that patent marketplaces are the wave of the future and he wants to participate in what he sees as wide-open business opportunity.  He couldn’t talk about his Continue Reading →

A Patent Reality Check: Litigation Not a Viable Revenue Source for Most Inventors

The ability of an intrepid inventor to strike it rich from a great idea seems to be embedded in the DNA of many Americans.  Perhaps this view emanates from the presence of patents in the US Constitution, which could create a feeling that US citizens have an “inalienable right” to use patent protection to their advantage.  Alternatively, people may perceive the occasional media reports of successful inventors and substantial patent litigation awards as a signal that patents can serve as a path to wealth for those with great ideas (certainly, this is the Hollywood view).  In truth, however, getting rich merely from a patent is a rare occurrence–maybe not as low a probability as winning the lottery, but the odds are incredibly long that any person can make money from a patented idea alone.  Think about it: if all it took was a patent to make someone wealthy, there would be a heck of a lot more rich people in this country given the huge numbers of patents that are granted by the US Patent Office every year. There are many reasons why the idea getting rich from patenting an idea is overstated, several of which I have discussed before on this Continue Reading →