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03 May’18

IP Monetization: Realizing Hidden Value in Time of Decline

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Management teams of high-tech companies often overlook the additional shareholder value to be realized by developing strong IP portfolios, and are therefore ill-equipped to extract that value in times of decline in their companies’ life cycle.

The Business Life Cycle of high-tech companies has been a path well-traveled, and the management teams of most high-tech companies are guilty of missing an important fork in the road off that beaten path. Traditionally, the “Business Life Cycle” consists of 4 stages; Startup, Growth, Maturity, & Decline. Many companies fall under one of these broad categories, and furthermore, many management teams make key business decisions based on what the definition of their current stage tells them. The narrow focus of management seeking to move their company along the traditional Business Life Cycle results all-too-often in their untimely arrival to the Decline stage. We at Foresight believe that by implementing the right Intellectual Property (IP) strategies early in the Life Cycle, companies can extend their life cycle and generate additional shareholder value while managing to stave-off heading into a stage of Decline.

Management teams of a business in the Startup stage are focused on product development, developing sales strategies, and doing everything they can to stay afloat. Those fortunate enough to cross the chasm into the Growth phase begin solidifying their internal operations, investing heavily in client relations and new business development, and establishing their position in the market. After several years, the Maturity stage sets in, growth slows, and the business becomes far more predictable. It is at this point that many companies see themselves down one of two paths. The first is the path of reinvestment, under which the company essentially restarts its life cycle with a new product line or new target market or a new acquisition. The second path is one on which a company simply accepts its imminent decline and grinds to a halt. For companies on this path of Decline, management must recognize that there is another fork in the road.

Specifically, in the high-tech industries, it may be time to introduce a stage of the life cycle in between Maturity & Decline. That stage is IP Monetization. Too many high-tech firms live out their days in the Decline stage, winding down the business, losing key customers, and ultimately watching their remaining shareholder value dissipate. At the end, the company’s IP assets – which were once the foundation for years of cashflow –  are liquidated at an auction or through an asset “fire sale”, often at a steep discount. In these cases, the company’s shareholders are missing out on a potential return on investment on the assets that they financed, a return that could have been achieved through the execution of an IP monetization strategy.

Two notable examples of IP Monetization execution are companies such as BlackBerry and TiVo. These companies have successfully extended their life cycles, post-Maturity stage, and have found success in the IP Monetization stage of their corporate life cycle. Shareholder value has been retained as these companies pursue an IP licensing strategy for the technology that once made their operating business a success. For competitors that outlasted the company, or emerging players who are introducing next generation embodiments that leverage the technical innovations of Mature company offerings, the IP assets of post-Maturity stage companies are of extreme value. IP Monetization allows companies such as BlackBerry and TiVo to do 2 things: 1) extract value from their IP portfolio from competitors who may have been infringing during the peak of their competition, or 2) share in the profits of the next iteration of the company’s core technology as next generation companies seek to innovate on the platform of the existing technology. Look no further than TiVo’s recent financial performance for the huge potential to be realized in the IP Monetization stage of business. The company’s revenue grew 57% from 2015-2017, with over 95% of 2017 revenue attributed to “licensing, services and software.”

The key to introducing this new stage of the Business Life Cycle is educating entrepreneurs and managers on the importance of a solid IP strategy early on. Having an understanding of the value of intellectual property outside of a company’s current operating business will ensure that the shareholders who funded the creation of the IP portfolio are able to realize returns on its full value. However, to achieve the full value potential, management must develop a strategy early in the life of the company and endeavor to develop a forward-looking IP portfolio rather than taking the easy road of constructing a portfolio to narrowly protect its product (known as a “defensive” approach). Following a narrow defensive approach to IP management reinforces the traditional Business Life Cycle. It’s time for high-tech companies and their shareholders to take the fork towards IP Monetization and plan for it when they create their IP portfolio and strategy.

Full article here
26 Apr’18

Oil States Energy v. Green’s Energy: Implications for the Patent Market

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World IP Day 2018 coincides with a highly anticipated, landmark decision by the US Supreme Court in the case of OIL STATES ENERGY SERVICES, LLC v. GREENE’S ENERGY GROUP, LLC, ET AL. which relates to the process known as inter partes review (IPR).

Inter Partes Review Process

The IPR process, as introduced by the America Invents Act of 2011, allows any person (other than the patent owner) to file a petition with the USPTO with request for cancellation of one or more claims of a previously issued patent on the grounds that the claim fails the novelty or non-obviousness standards for patentability. Before the USPTO Director can institute an IPR, the Director must determine that there is a reasonable likelihood that the petitioner would prevail with respect to at least one of the claims challenged. Once instituted, the PTAB examines the patent’s validity. The petitioner has the burden of proving unpatentability by a preponderance of the evidence. If there is no agreement between the patent owner and the petitioner to settle the case, the PTAB must issue a written final decision no later than a year after it notices the institution of inter partes review. If the Board’s decision becomes final, the Director must issue and publish a certificate. The certificate cancels patent claims finally determined to be unpatentable, confirms patent claims determined to be patentable, and incorporates into the patent any new or amended claim determined to be patentable. If a party is dissatisfied with the Board’s decision, they can seek judicial review in the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. When reviewing the Board’s decision, the Federal Circuit assess the Board’s compliance with governing legal standards de novo (i.e., without reference to any legal conclusions made by the PTAB) and its underlying factual determinations for substantial evidence.

Oil States Case Overview

Oil States Energy Services and Greene’s Energy Group are both oilfield services companies. Oil States obtained a patent in 2001 relating to an apparatus and method for protecting wellhead equipment used in hydraulic fracturing and in 2012 sued Greene’s Energy for infringing the patent. Greene responded by challenging the patent’s validity and also petitioned the USPTO to institute inter partes review. The USPTO found that Greene had established a reasonable likelihood that the two challenged claims were unpatentable and, thus, instituted inter partes review. Both proceedings progressed in parallel with the District Court ruling in favor of Oil States and then the USPTO issuing a final written decision concluding that the claims were unpatentable. Oil States sought review in the Federal Circuit challenging the Board’s decision as well as challenging the constitutionality of inter partes review.  The Federal Court affirmed the Board’s decision in favor of Greene that the claims were unpatentable.  Oil States, in challenging the constitutionality of inter partes review, argued before the Supreme Court that actions to revoke a patent must be tried in an Article III court before a jury.  Oil States wanted the Court to recognize patent rights as the private property of the patentee which would bring it into the domain of Article III Courts.  Article III vests the judicial power of the United States in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. Consequently, Congress cannot confer the Government’s judicial power on entities outside Article III. When determining whether a proceeding involves an exercise of Article III judicial power, the Court’s precedents have distinguished between public rights and private rights. Those precedents have given Congress significant latitude to assign adjudication of public rights to entities other than Article III Courts.

Supreme Court Oil States’ Decision

The Supreme Court held that the determination to grant a patent is a matter involving public rights and need not be adjudicated in Article III court.  By issuing patents, the USPTO takes from the public rights of immense value, and bestows them upon the patentee. Specifically, patents are public franchises that the government grants to the inventors of new and useful improvements. The franchise gives the patent owner the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States. Additionally, granting patents is one of the constitutional functions that can be carried out by the executive or legislative departments without judicial determination. When the USPTO adjudicates the patentability of inventions, it is exercising the executive power. Inter partes review involves the same basic matter as the grant of a patent, and it therefore falls on the public rights side of the line. Like the initial review, the Board’s inter partes review protects the public’s paramount interest in seeing that patent monopolies are kept within their legitimate scope.

Foresight’s Commentary on the Oil States decision

The Oil States makes clear the power of Congress to provide the USPTO with broad post-issuance authority. In other words, the status quo remains in the US patent market. From a patent valuation perspective, IPRs have already negatively impacted the value of patents due the uncertainty coupled to these proceedings. The Oil States decision reinforces the constitutionality of IPR proceedings and may further complicate the processes by which patent owners monetize their assets and would add Oil States to the list of cases such as Alice and Mayo that reinforce the uncertainty in the market regarding the patentability of cutting edge inventions.

While the Supreme Court’s Oil States decision has been largely anticipated by the IP community, one should review it in conjunction with Andrei Iancu’s recent public statements, which might arguably be the more interesting development this week. Director Iancu’s statement that “human-made algorithms that are cooked up, invented as a result of human ingenuity are different from discoveries and mathematical representations of those discoveries” might signal an effort by the Director to push for changes in validity considerations that would include these algorithms that can be distinguished from mathematical representations of discoveries. This statement may signal the emergence of a market for patents claiming algorithms, a market that currently resides behind NDAs and trade secret protection.

** Foresight’s commentary to Oil States, along with the commentary of other industry leaders, was published by IPWatchdog.

Full article here
16 Jan’18

Insights from WIPO’s “World IP Indicators 2017” Report: Key Patenting Trends Around the Globe

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The World IP Organization (WIPO) has recently published its annual report titled: “World Intellectual Property Indicators 2017”, covering world IP filing activity for 2016.  The report is a comprehensive coverage of global patent and trademark filing trends, comparing and ranking the world’s leading regional patent and trademark offices (“IP Offices”) by their level of activity in the various categories.

At a high level, it seems like many of the trends observed in 2015 continue into 2016: the global number of filings and grants keeps trending up; China continues to dominate in terms of annual filings and grants (breaking another record of 1.3 million filings this year); and the top 10 filing companies worldwide are all Asia-based multinationals.

Patent Filing Trends

A record number of 3 million patent applications were filed worldwide in 2016, up 8.3% from 2015, as seen in the figure below:

Source: World IP Indicators 2017, WIPO

Driving the strong growth in global filings was an exceptional number of filings in China. The State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China (SIPO) received 1.3 million patent applications in 2016 – more than the combined total for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO; 605,571), the Japan Patent Office (JPO; 318,381), the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO; 208,830) and the European Patent Office (EPO; 159,358). Together, these top five offices accounted for 84% of the world total in 2016.

Below is a summary table showing the activity in the top 10 IP Offices in 2016:

Source: World IP Indicators 2017, WIPO

When it comes to understanding China’s continued explosive growth in new patent applications – over 1.3 million filed in 2016, an increase from the 1.1 million in 2015 (the first year the 1 million filings barrier has been exceeded in any country) — the circumstances surrounding the increase in Chinese patent filings are unique and should have come as no surprise to anyone following the Chinese government’s five-year plan of 2011. As explained in an article published in Nov. 2016 in the EE Times by Foresight’s president, Efrat Kasznik, over the last 50 years the Chinese Communist Party implemented a series of five-year plans which guided China’s rapid economic growth.  The 2011 five-year plan’s themes of sustainable growth included some specific targets for patent filing per capita.  The increased filing activity over the last five years is the direct result of a calculated government effort, enabled by an unprecedented allocation of legislative and administrative resources to support China’s State IP Office. Thus, the sharp rise in Chinese patent filings between 2010 and 2016 is very unique to China’s political circumstances, and is not necessarily correlated with the natural progression of innovation.

When reviewing filing trends by country, one of the most critical observations is the ratio of resident to non-resident filings.  A higher ratio of non-resident filings in any given country, is usually an indication not only of the size of that market for the underlying innovations, but also of the strength of the IP enforcement regime in that country.  Here, the trends from 2015 are repeating in 2016: as explained by Ms. Kasznik in her article, ratio in China is about 90% resident filers to 10% non-resident filers, a reflection of the relatively weak enforcement regime in China.  Conversely, the USPTO and the European Patent Office exhibit a ratio of resident to non-resident filings of about 50/50, attesting to the strength of IP enforcement regimes in those regions.

Patent Grants Trends

In 2016, an estimated 1.35 million patents were granted worldwide, up 8.9% on 2015.

Source: World IP Indicators 2017, WIPO

SIPO granted 404,208 patents in 2016, followed by the USPTO (303,049), the JPO (203,087), KIPO (108,875) and the EPO (95,956). The top five IP offices issued more than 1.1 million combined, accounting for 83% of the world total.

Not surprisingly, the number of new grants is trending upwards over time along with the number of new filings.  The WIPO report also includes statistics related to the operational efficiency of IP offices, such as: the number of examiners, application pendency times, and patent examination outcomes.  The workload of IP offices as measured by the number of incoming patent applications has increased over time, but so has their examination capacity to process those applications. The WIPO data show there has been no significant increase in application-to examiner ratios, and for a number of IP offices, growth in numbers of examiners has outstripped the increase in applications.

Another interesting metric reported is the number of patents in force in 2016: the estimated number of patents in force worldwide rose from 7.8 million in 2009 to 11.8 million in 2016. The USPTO leads with 2.8 million patents in force in 2016, followed by the JPO (2 million), SIPO (1.8 million) and KIPO (1 million). These four IP offices account for 63% of all patents in force worldwide.

Filing by Company

The top 10 patent applicants worldwide are Asia-based multinationals: Canon Inc. (Japan) was the top applicant for the period from 2011 to 2014, with 30,476 patent families worldwide, followed by Samsung Electronics (Korea) with 26,609 patent families, and Japanese companies Panasonic (22,899), Toshiba (22,627) and Toyota (22,190). Robert Bosch of Germany (16,582) was the highest-ranking non-Asian company at number 12.

Only 9 countries of origin comprise the top 100 list of applicant companies for the period from 2011 to 2014: Japan (40), China (26), Korea (15), U.S. (9), Germany (6) and one each from France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Taiwan.

 

 

Full article here
19 Dec’17

Year in IP: 3 Outstanding IP Deals of 2017

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The past year has seen some exciting developments in the IP marketplace, as well as in the technology markets where the underlying innovation is created. As a way to recap the 2017 “Year in IP,” we wanted to highlight three deals that uniquely reflect this year’s trends and the factors impacting the market (listed below in no particular order). These IP deals were not necessarily selected for their size, but for their indicative nature of a set of circumstances that exist in the current markets that made these deals possible, and even necessary, for the parties involved.

  1. Transfer of Allergan’s Patents to the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe

    In September 2017, pharmaceutical giant Allergan executed a deal with the Saint Regis Mohawk Indian Tribe to transfer ownership of all Allergan patents related to the eye drug Restasis to the Tribe. The St. Regis Tribe received $13.75 million upfront for the deal, and is eligible to receive up to $15 million in annual royalties. The deal takes advantage of the Tribe’s sovereign immunity status which essentially shields the patents from challenges with the USPTO’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) known as Inter Partes Reviews (or IPRs).  This deal comes at a critical time, just as Restasis starts to face generic competitors.  For more coverage of this deal, please read here.

    We selected this deal because it represents the forces of change in the IP marketplace, and how IP holders find ways to circumvent changes in patent law in ways that the legislator never imagined possible.  Love it or hate it, this deal is interesting and thought provoking, and has been one of the most polarizing events in terms of reactions from various stakeholders in the IP marketplace.  Several lawmakers frowned upon the move, and have since introduced bills to make similar IP transfers illegal.  It should be noted that public universities also enjoy sovereign immunity status.  Earlier this year, the PTAB dismissed IPR challenges against the University of Florida based upon its claim of sovereign immunity.

  2. AT&T’s Patent Sale to Uber

    This ground-breaking deal represents a major acquisition of 87 issued patents and 5 patent applications by Uber from AT&T in 2017 (for an undisclosed amount). The AT&T patent acquisition gives Uber a portfolio of patents having priority dates pre-dating Uber’s formation in 2009, as well as most of the ridesharing industry in general. The IP covers various technologies related to messaging, call handling, routing network traffic, VoIP, and billing. Five of the AT&T patents are specifically related to ridesharing.  This deal has recently been named the LES USA-Canada’s High-Tech Sector’s Deal of Distinction for 2017, and received an award at the LES Annual Meeting in Chicago.  For more coverage of this deal, please read here.

    We selected this deal because it represents a trend of multi-billion dollar startups (also known as “Unicorns”) buying patents to “backfill” their portfolios and enhance their IP position (the term “Backfill” is reserved for buying patents with priority dates pre-dating the inception of the company).  We predicted this trend in late 2015, when we published a study on the IP holdings of Unicorns, titled: “The Naked Truth: Why 30% of Unicorns Have No patents”.  One of the most important findings in our study was the documentation of an “IP Gap”: the IP holding distribution within the group of Unicorns was not correlated with the value distribution. We further observed that this “IP Gap” varies greatly by industry, with some industries, like Consumer Internet (the industry where Uber has been classified) completely out of balance.  We predicted that: “this gap could serve as an opportunity for increasing the liquidity of some IP assets in the marketplace, as some of these companies will no doubt show up as buyers as their exit event approaches, as they try to enter new markets, as they encounter incumbent patent lawsuits, or any such event that forces them to strengthen their IP position.

  3. OnStream’s Patent Sale in Japan

    In February 2017, our client, OnStream Media Corporation (OTCMKTS: ONSM), entered into a Patent Purchase Agreement with a group of buyers in Japan, for the sale of 2 U.S. Patents and related U.S. Patent Applications, including all rights, title and interest in those patent assets. In accordance with the Agreement, the total purchase price is a minimum of $40 million and a maximum of $80 million. The patents address live streaming of audio and/or video from multiple devices to a storage location, such as the Internet or cloud, and the ability to access and retrieve the audio and/or video from multiple devices, whereby the content is not stored on the device.  The patents had been acquired by OnStream through the acquisition of Auction Video in 2007, and the company kept prosecuting and maintaining the assets over the years.

    We selected this deal because it was entered into by one of our IP strategy clients, following a monetization plan that we devised for them.  It shows that if you understand the IP marketplace and where buyers are, patents can still be sold and monetized with sizable returns.  The deal represents a trend that we are seeing in the patent marketplace over the last few of years of foreign buyers interested in US patents as a way to obtain freedom to operate in the US, or just to get a foot in the door in the lucrative US enforcement market.  Japan is one of the latest countries to come onboard the patent monetization scene, following in the footsteps of other Asian countries, like China and Korea.  This is a very complex deal that is still unfolding, and we hope our client is successful in realizing the full potential of these assets.

Have you come across an exceptional IP deal in 2017? Let us know! We are happy to include your IP deal in our future newsletters.

Full article here
 
 

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