Tuesday, November 8, 2016

China’s Patent-Lawsuit Profile Grows - Troll Tolls Too - WSJ

China’s Patent-Lawsuit Profile Grows - WSJ:

China as a focal point of Intellectual Property, in the patent office and in the courts.

This law suit by WiLAN is interesting to see how the "assertion" of patents can move and shift.

Here's a little background on WiLAN from Wikipedia.

As you can see the company originally developed stuff so it would not be categorized as a Non-Practicing Entity (NPE), or Patent Troll in the ungracious term that is sometimes more appropriate for NPEs. WiLAN seems to be moving more steadily into the troll category.

Now with a war chest of some 3,000 patents+pendings, WiLAN is a strong international force.

In 2013 Daniel Fisher describes the Texas case where WiLAN had its core patents to the suit invalidated in "how to bag a patent troll". The stock (on the Toronto exchange) fell 33% to $3.25. In 2014, Apple won again in California.

Apple has won several law suits against WiLAN including a 2016 verdict. Look at the 6mo & 10yr stock chart on Yahoo, where it dropped from $3.40 to $2.30 in a few days at the end of July 2016. It now trades at $1.80.

The Investor profile is not so good, even with the Samsung licensing deal last year.

WiLAN continues to build its patent portfolio.

One of the things that a Patent Troll never wants to do, is actually go to court. Patents can be invalidated, remedies can be diminished, and the golden goose can give up the ghost.

Gotta love the trading symbol that starts with WIN (WIN.to).

There are several things that WiLAN could do to make it a much more legitimate player, and less of a troll. But those involve capital investments in R&D to invent, manufacturing to produce, sales and marketing to sell. That's a different business model. As long as investors are happy with investing in trolls, the trolls will rein supreme within their little serfdom of bridges.

'via Blog this'

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Toll of the Patent Troll

The Wall Street Journal has a great article about Patent Trolls and the Toll the cost on an innocent economy. Here's the excellent WSJ Article: America’s Biggest Filer of Patent Suits Wants You to Know It Invented Shipping Notification, By RUTH SIMON and  LORETTA CHAO, Updated Oct. 27, 2016 1:11 p.m. ET.
Small(er) companies are targeted by a non-practicing entity (NPE), sometimes ungraciously referred to as a Patent Troll. IPZine previously discussed Patent Trolls in their various forms. Efforts to kill the trolls, or at least send them back under the bridge have moved forward with mixed success. In the US, the court costs have been paid by both parties historically, so winning in court, might still be losing. It might be better to simply pay the fees that would go to lawyers and be 100% certain of the outcome. A court ruling in 2014 has shifted this court cost dilemma. (See Wikipedia article on Patent Trolls.)
Imagine a portfolio of patents related to predictive arrival. That is, when will a product, person or thing arrive. The patent portfolio has 60 some patents with about half still active. That affects almost every business concept from shipping, manufacturing, service and more. It certainly hits on most of the activities that occur on the internet as well. Airlines, shippers, buses, and school buses -- government and private -- have fallen prey to the transit NPE.
So a small(er) business, attempting to do business, gets suddenly clobbered by legal notices and maybe even law suits. WHAT!!!??? The company probably has no patent attorney, so they scramble to find one. The patent attorney advises, at say $500 per hour, on the options and the potential costs. Litigation will cost $250,000, unless you lose; then it gets expensive!.
So, what's a small firm to do? This fight is like taking a pocket knife to a gun fight. Might be better to pay some fee, say $25,000-$50,000 and possibly a licensing fee (say a small % of sales), then to risk the bankrupting if the business. 
All agreements are confidential, so it is hard to see who paid what licensing fees, and how much. The big shippers of FedEx and UPS have, apparently, full licensing for them and their clients. So a small company that uses their services, and only their services (of shipping and notification), might be in the clear. 
The big NPE in this Simon & Chao article is Shipping & Transit LLC. About 10 years ago, the company tried to do a product for buses and shipping (Bus Stop and ArrivalStar). But neither worked out. So now Shipping and Transit sit around suing companies. 
Not a single law suit has gone the distance. Consequently, none of the patents have been really tested. This is interesting since many of the patent claims are rather obvious and arrival/queuing goes back 50-100 years. 
It seems like some type of a class action suit would be possible and force the issue against the NPE. The secret to the success of the Patent Troll, however, is to pick off the prey a few small targets at a time. Then, those victims who survive, are signed into an iron-clad agreement that cannot be breached under penalty of death. The airlines, FedEx and UPS are not talking, but what an interesting conversation that would be. 
The Jones gang of Shipping & Transit, way back in the day (circa Y2K) of ArrivalStar were ruthless. Doesn’t seem like much has changed… 
Keywords: NPE, Patent Troll, licensing, PLA, patent licensing agreement, economic development, 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Readying a Patent Portfolio for Sale

In years gone by, companies with extensive patent portfolios were loathe to sell these assets, strongly preferring to license them.  These Patent Licensing Agreements (PLA) came in several flavors, most had some form of royalty payments for the licensor and the fundamental was that ownership of the patents remained with the original owner, i.e., the company granted the patent(s).
While not totally different today, much has changed in the disposition of thousands of US patents.  Patents are now sold in much greater numbers than in decades past.  Some of the reasons for this are:
·         Corporate decision to shut down or sell of an operating division
·         Near term need to financially rescue another part of the corporation
·         Shift in corporate direction/strategy
·         Pay a court imposed penalty
Patent sales are now so commonplace that online IP reporter sites like www.IAM.comrecently devoted a webinarto the patent selling process.  This process, as one can see, includes seven steps.  The assumption here is that the seller completed a validity check to the extent possible on each patent offered for sale. 
It is noteworthy under Step 6 that the biggest buyers of patents review around 1,000 seller packages per year.  This clearly puts the onus on the seller to develop a first class patent package.  It also suggests that this is a buyers’ market putting more of a burden on the seller to find ways to get the most value for its assets.

Keywords: patent, patent portfolio, licensing, PLA, Patent Licensing Agreement, commercialization.