The Apple vs. Samsung Verdict Actually Demonstrates that Patents Do Promote Product Innovation

In the time that the Apple vs. Samsung patent fight has been underway, we have been inundated with an untold number of articles on how Apple is stifling innovation in the SmartPhone world.  (Haven’t seen these:  just do a Google search for “Apple stif . . .” you don’t have to type any more than this–the search auto-completes itself.) I often take a contrarian view from that stated by most “expert” commentators–be they members of the press or actual patent professionals, and the Apple v. Samsung verdict is no exception:  I think the result actually demonstrates that the patent system is working just fine in this instance, thank you very much.  But how can this be when Samsung got hit with more than a BILLION US DOLLAR jury verdict last week?!?  Doesn’t the fact that Samsung could not make a product without infringing Apple’s multitude of patents mean that Samsung is effectively prevented from competing with Apple in the Smartphone market? Not necessarily, as is shown by this great post from The Verge entitled:  “How Android has evolved while steering clear of Apple’s designs”.  What is most interesting to me about this article is how we see that while making 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 →

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 →

My Gift to You: Free (or almost free) Patent Searching and Analysis Tools

Happy Holidays everyone!  I woke up this morning to the Christmas sunrise over Miami Beach on Christmas morning.  Having grown up in this town–where Christmas means a trip to the beach, not the joy of new ice skates–I am feeling a whole lot of holiday spirit.  This made me realize that I have been meaning to respond to some inquiries folks have made about patent searching tools that I use in my daily IP Strategy work.   Since most of these are free (or almost) free, consider this your holiday gift from me! I hear it now:  “Free?  Did she say free?  But, such and such company wants to charge me $1500 a month, which is a much better deal than my lawyers charge me for monitoring patents in my business space on an ongoing basis.  And, this consultant offered to do a whitespace analysis that would solve all my innovation issues for $20K, which seemed like a deal, given how much time he said it would save my team so that we could get our new product lines to market so much faster.” Certainly, in the last few years, there have been countless business models that have sprung up to Continue Reading →

Business Can’t Hide from False Patent Marking Lawsuits: Here’s How to Predict If You Might be Sued

The take home message:  If your company sells a product that bears a patent number, you need to read this post in its entirety. Much has been written in recent months about false marking lawsuits, most of these in the form of “urgent legal alerts” by law firms that calmly deconstruct the appellate court rulings (this one is illustrative).  At the end of the day, these articles likely do not look very “urgent” to business people like yourself because most business people do not engage themselves with patent law generally, let alone something as arcane as false marking.  So, even though the subject excites us a patent experts, we really cannot expect you to get excited about something that does not seem to affect your ability to conduct business today. However, if your business is a likely target of a false marking lawsuit it will cost you big bucks almost immediately.  These surprise costs could very well derail your ability to turn a profit in the near future, and could even put some struggling companies out of business.  But what if I told you that getting sued for false marking is a highly predictable event?  You might even be able Continue Reading →

We’re Measuring the Wrong Things: Inventiveness and Patents Do Not Equal Innovation

Few things infuriate me more than supposed experts who make statements along the lines of “patents are critical to innovation.”  I have avoided stating my views widely in this forum because I didn’t want to get into a contest of one upmanship with my patent lawyer peers.  However, in the last couple of weeks, several pieces of information have hit my radar screen that make this seem like the right time to go public with my views. Let my position be very clear:  we create a false dichotomy when saying “innovation is not possible without patents.”  The issue is much more complex and nuanced than this:  in a particular instance, patents may be critical to innovation, but they might also be only slightly important or–likely in the majority of situations–they might be wholly irrelevant to innovation.  (I talk more about this in this recent interview in Innovation Management Magazine.) Unfortunately, where you stand also depends on where you sit, and sitting behind a desk writing or examining patents may color your belief that patents are the cure for America’s innovation ills.  (The cynic would likely note that relying on a patent practitioner or the Commissioner of the US Patent Office Continue Reading →

Contrarian Viewpoint: Patents Likely Matter Little to US Innovation and Job Creation

Many experts insist that innovation cannot succeed without patents, and that the delays in the US Patent Office stifle innovation.  This viewpoint is like to become more widely believed by the public as US Patent Office Director Stephen Kappos sees a way to improve the dismal operations of the Patent Office by equating patents as job creation tools, which necessarily requires patents to be asserted as critical for innovation to occur. I believe it is highly misleading, and even harmful in many cases, to say that patents are the end-all be-all to innovation.  I also think that fixing the Patent Office–which will invariably mean that more people will see value in obtaining patents to support their business idea–should be viewed more as a job creation engine for patent attorneys and those who support them (including Patent Office employees), as opposed to creating jobs that can help improve the dismal employment figures the US is experiencing today. No doubt, it is true that patents are necessary to create value from many innovations, and that jobs can then result when the patent owner is able to build a business around the idea (assuming the company and its employees are actually present in Continue Reading →

Innovation is Sprouting in US Patent Office: A Plea for Flexibility from Patent Practitioners and Interested Parties to Allow the Necessary Changes

Anyone who has practiced IP law for a few years can attest to the transformations happening in the US Patent Office over the last year.  In my opinion, Director Kappos is more than a breathe of fresh air over his predecessors, he actually knows what he is doing!  Also, regardless of what one may think of President Obama’s other policies and actions, one cannot question that his leadership is resulting in real attempts at innovation in the arguably previously moribund Patent Office. As a experienced patent practitioner, the last several years have been very demoralizing.  I actually made the decision to stop working as a patent prosecutor because, quite simply, I became weary trying to educate junior examiners about the deeply nuanced intricacies of patent law.  Worse was trying to explain to clients why their patent application covering an important commercial innovation could not get approved in the Kafkaesque environment of the circa 2000′s US Patent Office or why their competitors were seemingly able to get ridiculously broad patents covering the prior art. From my vantage point as a 15+ year patent professional, it is clear that the absence of experienced leadership in the Patent Office in recent years served Continue Reading →

Patent Applicants: Get Your Attorney on the Phone to the Examiner–NOW!!!

A couple of couple of weeks ago, I wrote a detailed post about how the US Patent Office seems to be in a deal-making mood.   Today, Dennis Crouch of Patently-O posted data that demonstrates that in the last  weeks, the Patent Office has issued more patents than in any 2 week period in history!   We don’t know how long this will last.  I highly recommend that anyone who has been waiting for a patent to issue get the patent examiner on the phone as soon as possible to see how the case can be passed to allowance.   Not all patent applications will be allowable, of course, but many will be, as shown by the actual data and anecodotal information from patent bloggers like Dennis Crouch and myself.  CARPE DIEM! Tweet This Buzz This Delicious Digg This Reddit Stumble This

Guest Poster David Boundy: A Detailed Examination of What the Proposed First to File Legislation Means to Business

(Editorial Note:  Last week, I posted my thoughts on the proposed changes to the US patent laws from a first to invent to a first to file system.  In response to my post, I received an exceedingly detailed and substantive comment from David Boundy, Vice President, Ass’t Gen’l Counsel, Intellectual Property at Cantor, Fitzgerald.  (David wanted me to say that this post his personal view, and does not reflect the views of Cantor, Fitzgerald.)  David’s viewpoint on what the proposed legislation will mean to business deserves a forum, and he has graciously allowed me to post his comment in total on the IP Asset Maximizer Blog.  Anyone who works with business to generate patent assets should be concerned about the proposed changes.) About guest poster David Boundy:   David Boundy has spent over a decade on Wall Street, first in several of New York’s most prominent law firms, now as in-house counsel at one of Wall Street’s largest investment banks.   In several years of his career, David as one single lawyer moved more money around based on patents than the entire federal judiciary combined.   David believes that litigation costs and damages should be irrelevant to the current patent reform debate; what matters Continue Reading →