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
In November, 2010, I wrote a blog post where I talked about a client who was sued for false marking, even though they had months before the suit changed the packaging of their product. We subsequently obtained a good result with our litigation strategy, and I think others may benefit from this experience. Moreover, I think it is important for we lawyers to share strategies for the overall benefit of our respective clients. This is not done enough: we legal experts all-too-frequently provide sagely advice from the comfort of our own siloed client experiences. For the past 3 years as a blogger, I have been working to build a more public dialogue on IP strategy, and did not want to let this opportunity go by to let others know of a successful strategy in dealing with a false marking litigation. (I feel comfortable sharing my experiences with this litigation,
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.
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
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
As legal service fees continue to rise five percent or more year after year, corporate IP managers, such as Chief IP Counsel and the like, continually face pressures from their management teams to reduce outside counsel legal expenses. The current economic downturn has also resulted in corporate legal budgets being slashed, thus increasing the pressure on corporate IP managers to reduce outside counsel costs, even while IP asset value is becoming more important to C-level management. As a result, the need for corporate IP managers to achieve outside counsel fee relief while at the same time maintaining IP legal service quality is more acute than ever today. Today, there are a number of commonly accepted methods to achieve outside IP counsel fee relief including fixed (or "capped") fee arrangements and a percentage reduction per total hours billed, as well as electronic billing systems set up to automatically audit law firm bills.
A possible upside to the recent economic downturn is that many previously accepted business models are being revealed as in need of substantial reinvention or even total elimination. The billable hour/leverage law firm model for legal services is one of these increasingly maligned business models, and is now appearing to be in danger of ending up in the dustbin of history. Specifically, even those who benefit handsomely from the billable hour, such as the Cravath firm's many $ 800 per hour lawyers, now realize the fundamental irrationality of charging a client for time spent instead of value provided. This alone should signal that change is in the air. Notwithstanding the growing conversation about the need for alternative legal service billing methods, I fear that the majority of IP law firms will either try to ignore the desire for change or will respond by offering
While a majority of companies consider the cost of obtaining patent protection an essential element of the product and technology development process, few of these same organizations favor the prospect of asserting their patent rights against potential infringers. Moreover, no company relishes the prospect of being a defendant in a patent lawsuit. That most do not readily welcome patent litigation is not surprising given that the average cost of large case (i.e., over $25 MM at stake) patent litigation through trial in 2007 was about $5MM per party in 2007. For disposition of smaller cases, the total amount per party was about $1MM in 2004 dollars. Why does it cost so much for a patent owner to assert her patent rights against an alleged infringer? Put simply, patent litigation at its core is an adversarial undertaking in which lawyers typically define the meaning of a successful outcome. In this context,
Analysts say that the current economic downturn will likely last at least until early 2010. While this no doubt seems like almost an eternity for the average consumer, for business strategic planning purposes, this date is just around the corner. Indeed, business managers at many companies are likely conducting “short term” strategic planning efforts targeted for introduction in mid-2010. This might account for the recent uptick in job postings for experienced corporate intellectual property attorneys. I see this increase in job opportunities as signifying that smart corporate leaders are realizing that sustainable business success requires companies to not only introduce innovative products and technology offerings, but also that they strategically protect such innovations. As a result, I believe that more companies will seek to hire strategic in-house IP counsel, which is good news for us IP types. Of course, the traditional model of hiring an in-house IP counsel results in
This week, I am intrigued by what appears to be a recent convergence of reporting and blogging about the state of innovation in the US. There is an obvious concern by those who keep track of such matters that, in the current economic climate, government and business will "take a hatchet" to R & D and innovation budgets in an attempt to reduce overall costs. Such cutting is, of course, a rational short term solution to address today's problems. Government and corporate leaders taking the long view will nonetheless understand that, when it comes to R & D and innovation spending, it is much better to apply the proverbial "scapel" to one's budget. Moreover, as discussed by Tom Donahue (President and Chairman of the US Chamber of Commerce) recently on The Huffington Post (h/t Front End of Innovation), intellectual property protection is a critical component of successful