If you blinked you missed it, but President Obama gave a flyby to patent-related legislation in his State of the Union speech this week. It was in a sentence that (to our ear) sounds like it was appended to a paragraph about innovation:
“We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot surrender. Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones. That’s why Congress should undo the damage done by last year’s cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery – whether it’s vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria, or paper-thin material that’s stronger than steel. And let’s pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly, needless litigation.”
The rub, of course, is legislating to address “costly, needless litigation” without needlessly raising the cost of all patent litigation and harming innovation in the process. We’ve already made our view plain on this issue; that any changes need to be “crafted in a way that preserves an independent judiciary and are not overly burdensome for all patent owners.” We’ll keep following the patent legislation as it works its way through the Senate and provide our thoughts in this blog.
Something that also struck us about the quoted Obama paragraph is the phrase, “the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones.” We don’t think Google needed a plug during the SOTU, but there is it. Why the sentence didn’t generally address two important technologies, as in “search engines and smartphones,” or call out leading American offerings in those fields, as in “Google and the iPhone,” we can only guess.
At Conversant, we license quality patents. In recent years our acquisitions team has assessed more than 600 patent portfolios comprising more than 130,000 patents. Yet after due diligence we have passed on all but a handful of these opportunities because they didn’t survive our comprehensive and rigorous analysis of infringement, validity, substantive patent prosecution issues, and return on investment. Consequently our portfolio of patents under management contains quality patents from some of the world’s strongest innovators.
That’s why we had to smile when we saw this recent list compiled by CNN, featuring some of the most absurd and obscure patents ever to be filed to the USPTO. They remind us that a patent, in order to have any value, needs to actually be usable by a target market. I doubt there will be much licensing revenue from a patent titled “WEARABLE DEVICE FOR FEEDING AND OBSERVING BIRDS”. After all, 2014 is the year of wearable technology, but I don’t think this quite fits the bill.
Intellectual Asset Management Magazine has published its list of the Top 10 Intellectual Property Personalities of 2013. It’s important to note that the “personalities” are indeed a diverse (and prestigious!) cross-section of individuals, companies and even concepts (sovereign patent funds).
Yes, Conversant made the list. And we’re in good company. IAM also recognized Rep. Bob Goodlatte, author of recent patent legislation, incoming USPTO Deputy Director Michelle Lee, and John Veschi, CEO of our Ottawa neighbor Rockstar.
We’re pleased to see our recently-published Patent Licensing Principles spurring much-needed discussion about how the IP industry should be operating. What this recognition leaves us wondering, though, is what’s next for 2014? There’s no doubt that there is a wave of public attention and debate cresting over the IP industry. The question is: where are we headed? Will 2014 be a breakout year for our industry – and if so, what will be the major themes and trends emerging from the public debates around our business?
Share your thoughts in the comments below – let’s have a conversation about 2014.