Software Patent Apocalypse?

The data coming out of the district courts and the USPTO make it fairly apparent that the “Software Patent Apocalypse” may be here, at least for the foreseeable future. This result has been widely predicted since the US Supreme Court decided Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International earlier in 2014, but facts now are coming out to demonstrate that the next few years will be tough for those who seek to obtain patent protection for inventions that fall into the realm of software. We saw initial data from the district courts a couple of months ago when Timothy Lee of Vox.com presented data showing that a number of software patents had been found invalid as failing to claim patentable subject matter (a “Section 101 rejection” to us patent types) under the Alice rationale in the few months after the decision. Lee’s take: [T]he courts are sending a pretty clear message: you can’t take a commonplace human activity, do it with a computer, and call that a patentable invention. Traditionally, patents making it to district court have not usually been open to attack on subject matter grounds. It was therefore somewhat surprising that after all the time and effort spent by the parties to get Continue Reading →

Free and Low Cost Patent Search and Analysis Tools: Who Needs Expensive Name Brand Products?

(NOTE:  At the end of this post is a detailed spreadsheet that lists the free and low cost tools that I use regularly in my IP strategy practice.  At the request of a group of IP strategy professionals with whom I network, I will be giving a presentation on these tools at a local event.  I thought that readers of this blog would also appreciate learning about how these tools can add high value at a low to minimal cost.) In private conversations, some of my corporate peers inform me that they pay $1000′s per year (or even per quarter for larger companies) for access to “name brand” patent search tools that nonetheless  do not contain accurate and up to date information.  For example, a client tells me that one of these expensive tools fails to update USPTO records on a portfolio her company is monitoring and that the PAIR data is more than 1 year out of date.  This limits the effectiveness of the expensive database by requiring her IP support staff to check each individual record on a regular basis to update the data.  Of course, this limitation defeats the purpose of spending the big bucks to engage Continue Reading →

Why the IP Law Firm Business Model is Broken And What I Am Doing About It

As a former IP law firm shareholder and senior corporate lawyer, I know all too well the expense required to start and maintain an IP law practice.  Not only are IP lawyers of all levels of experience paid handsomely, but so are the highly skilled paralegals, docket clerks and administrative professionals traditionally required create the infrastructure needed to handle the myriad of details involved in an IP law practice.  Of course, this expensive infrastructure must be sustaining, so while a lawyer serves today’s clients, her eye must also be on finding the next client because payroll and rent obligations don’t take a holiday when clients do. This “feed the beast” nature of the IP law practice model was a primary reason that I decided several years ago that I would not again work in the traditional practice of law.  How could I?  The standard legal service framework required me to build and maintain a business model where the product offered is obtaining patents for clients.  However, over the years I discovered that often the client does not need the very product that sustains the IP law firm business model.  What I perceived as an inherent conflict between my business interests 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 →

How to Improve your Innovation ROI with Early Stage Patent Expertise: In Depth Management Article

This article, How to Improve your Innovation ROI with Early Stage Patent Expertise,  was published in late 2010 as a pay for download article in Innovation Management Magazine.  It later became free for download, and I can share it with readers in this link.  I hope those responsible for creating value from IP in their organizations can find the insights in this article helpful.  Here is a synopsis: Innovation teams are often removed organizationally from a company’s patent matters. This can mean that corporate innovation processes move forward with little or no consideration of whether competitors can legally “knock off” the resulting consumer offering. Companies may then not attain expected ROI because competitors can legally copy the innovation—be it a product, technology or otherwise—without incurring legal liability. It may not always be necessary to protect innovation efforts with patents, such as where a product has a short shelf-life or where the company may desire to maintain trade secret protection for the technology. However, for innovation endeavors where go-forward financial models assume exclusivity, companies often require patent protection. Also, the absence of patent insights at an early stage frequently means that innovations are not properly scoped for potential infringement risk until significant Continue Reading →

A Startup Company’s Experiences with Open Innovation-Part 1: Dealing with a Large Company Having Small Innovation Goals

For the past several months, I have been at the helm of Evgentech, a startup company with game-changing battery charging methodology.  Our technology was developed by young men who did not come from a traditional engineering background and, even then, their discovery was a serendipitous result of the co-founders’ recognition of a new principle stemming from investigations initially directed toward something wholly different from battery charging.  Put simply, Evgentech’s technology would not have been found if anyone–outsider or not–would have been looking for it.  We are now bringing to market the first truly new battery charging paradigm in over 100 years.  To put things in perspective, with Evgentech’s technology, you will be able to charge your batteries in a fraction of the time possible with existing battery charging methodologies, which means you can charge your iPhone to “full” in as little as 20 minutes, as compared to the about 3-5 hours it takes today.  Moreover, our technology is scalable to large format batteries, as well as a wide range of battery chemistries. Not surprisingly, when companies with footprints in battery power find out about us, they are interested in finding out more.  We have recently begun preliminary discussions with a number Continue Reading →

It’s Time for Your R & D Team to Stop Inventing and Start Innovating

In a recent post on his 15 Inno blog, Open Innovation guru Stefan Lindegaard presented the ostensibly nonsensical hypothesis:  R & D leaders are often a “threat” to innovation.  Stefan’s post resulted from an interaction he had with a senior R & D person at a mid-sized tech company, who apparently adhered to the outdated notion that he and his scientists and engineers know more about the company’s business than anyone else could possibly even try to know.  As a result, this R & D leader believes that they cannot maximize (or even create) value for their organization by looking outside the confines of their existing R & D infrastructure to solve the company’s pressing business problems. Reading this, R & D professionals might likely think:  “What’s this guy smoking?  How can R & D be a threat to innovation?!  We’re the reason this company has any innovation at all.  We’re scientists!  Inventors!  Innovators!”  But, unless their companies are consistently experiencing year over year growth coming solely from sales of innovative new products and technology or cost reductions resulting from process innovations, such protestations prove Stefan’s point:  many R & D leaders kill their organization’s ability to innovate due to Continue Reading →

False Marking Lawsuits are Real Problem for Business and Make Little Sense When Applied to Expired Patents

The threat of false marking lawsuits has garnered much attention in the IP business press in the last couple of years.  Companies of all sizes have been hit with qui tam actions (that is, suits brought by an individual or company on behalf of the US government to right wrongs done to the government, not the individual) where the basis of the action is the mis-marking of a product with an incorrect or expired patent number.  Like a gold rush, these lawsuits have resulted in a number of legal entrepreneurs seeking out products that are incorrectly marked–usually by identification of expired patents, which is an easy thing to find–and their bringing suit against the offending companies.  Indeed, there were over 500 false marking lawsuits filed in 2010, making this cause of action seem almost like a way for un- or under-employed patent lawyers to generate income after the rash of layoffs and firm closings in the last few years. For patent lawyers representing corporations, false marking cases may seem like a pain for clients, but something which nonetheless leads to business if a suit is brought against his client.  But, in reality, the uncertainty raised by the current rash of Continue Reading →

Clients Save Money and Get Better Patents When Attorneys Use This Solution

As a “recovering patent lawyer,” I now realize that I wasted a whole lot of my clients’ money over the years because of the inherent inefficiencies that have been built into patent practice.  In this regard, I wrote about the money wasted by old fashioned patent filing systems in this post a while back, a fact which I think dictates that clients insist that their lawyers adopt electronic filing systems.  I have also written about the money wasted as a result of the inability of many clients to judge the value provided by their patent lawyers, which I believe is a result of information asymmetry. Another waste of money comes from the time needed to review patent filings during the drafting process.  The highly technical nature of patent application and claim drafting requires detailed review of an application on multiple occasions prior to filing.  Each review requires the time of the drafting attorney, who is often backed up by an attorney with an even higher billing rate, and the client pays for this time.   What the attorney is looking for in these reviews typically involves “fly specking” the application for insertions or omissions that could affect the scope and validity Continue Reading →

Open Innovation Insights: 5 Biggest IP Legal Mistakes Small Companies Make When Working with Large Companies

Open Innovation guru Stefan Lindegaard recently asked me what the biggest IP legal mistakes small companies make when they are working with large companies.   This is a subject very near and dear to my heart, as I am currently “moonlighting” as GC of a start up energy company that is moving toward licensing our technology into large companies.  Also, as a senior IP lawyer at a multi-national consumer products company, I was on the other side of such deals on more occasions than I can count.  Prior to that, I was a law firm partner representing large and small corporations in patents and licensing issues, and in doing so, I now realize that I killed more deals than I ever facilitated, a situation that is more typical of law firm lawyers than it should be, unfortunately. In view of this multi-faceted experience, I present this list of the 5 most common mistakes companies make when working with large companies in Open Innovation. 1.  Thinking you have all the answers for the large company’s problems: As a small company, you often have only have a single idea or technology and you quite properly focus your attention in this direction.  This can Continue Reading →