Intellectual Asset Management IPBC Global 2018: The State of Patents
Intellectual Asset Management (IAM) IPBC Global, June 10-12 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, hosted more than 650 attendees from all over the world. Eric Podlogar, IP Strategy and Valuation Market Lead, attended the conference.
The Future Looks Bright for Patent Holders
The event started out with the welcoming reception, which may have a good indication that the event was sold-out. As people broke into their discussion groups, it was clear that there were more people than the room could comfortably hold. Considering there are so many IP-related events throughout the year, it seemed as though the people were charged and the mood was elevated. The topics were germane to IP and the discussion was lively.
The keynote that followed set an optimistic tone for patent holders. USPTO Director Andrei Iancu made very clear that the USPTO will be adopting a pro-patent stance going forward. Striking at the limitation imposed by Section 101: Subject Matter Eligibility, Director Iancu implored that the hurdle should not be so high as to prevent the other sections of the patent law (102-Novelty, 103-Obviousness, and 112-Description) from being exercised.
Iancu proffered that the explanation of what is eligible under Section 101 is unclear and therefore difficult to apply. This often translates to patents that are easily rejected. Patent systems need to be predictable and reliable in order for the effort of innovation to be fully realized, and clarification is necessary to help understand what is eligible and what is not.
These bold statements are perhaps the strongest evidence yet that the pendulum is swinging back to center, from favoring patent users to instead favoring patent holders’ rights. Ultimately, this may translate into more patent transactions and foster a more liquid IP market.
Where Does The US Stand in the Global Patent Market?
As a bookend to the keynote, two groups debated whether the U.S. remains a driving force of the global patent market. Broadly speaking, other territories such as China and Germany have advantages that are beginning to outstrip the benefits offered by the U.S. patent system due to recent case law and legislation.
Dan McCurdy, Provenance Asset Group’s CEO, captured eloquently that the issues the U.S. is currently facing are caused by industry. It is likely that the fractured conditions in the IP market will continue since each of the various factions (whether high tech, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, or others) cannot agree on potential solutions.
All parties do seem to agree that given the current partisan environment, any congressional action towards a resolution is unlikely. Until there is some agreement (either in industry or in the legislative bodies) the status quo will continue, and the size and influence of other territories will expand at the expense of the United States. It is still unclear which, if any, other territories will emerge to become a venue option for IP.
Strategies Amidst a Patent Litigation Lull
Comparatively speaking, things are quiet right now with respect to patents. In general, larger companies are in a holding pattern, under the assumption that patent conflict and any associated patent wars are over. This lull in litigation has caused a lull in patent transactions, perhaps leading to a false sense of security. Larger companies are generally in a holding pattern, operating under the assumption that patent conflict and any associated patent wars are over.
However, many still believe that it is dangerous to disengage from patent transactions. Some fear that patent wars will reinitiate within the next year or two, spreading into 5G, IoT, and other newer technologies. Companies that continue acquiring patents at lower prices will be better positioned for these potential increases in patent activity.
To prepare for such a situation, businesses are pursuing various internal measures. Susan Siegel, Chief Innovation Officer at GE, described how her company was going to “reignite innovation tendencies” by sharing its technologies with partners and others.
Due to dramatic reductions in patent litigation, RPX, a defensive patent aggregator that pays to remove patent threats from the market, has been in a defensive mode of its own. RPX was recently acquired by hedge fund owner HGGC, LLC, renewing hope that an infusion of cash coupled with the potential strengthening of the IP rights of patent holders will enable RPX to pivot from hard times.
In contrast, AON’s new Intellectual Property Solutions group is bullish on the IP market, citing a shift in the global economy towards intangible assets. They have invested heavily to offer services in developing IP strategies, determining IP valuation, and managing IP risk.
IPBC Global Key Takeaway
There are many players that are actively exploring IP either as a complement to their legacy offerings or as a complete paradigm shift. The market is larger now: More players, more IP, more assets. These ingredients may serve as an indication that tectonic movements are impending in the IP space. Transparency in IP data, as is those offered by ktMINE, will serve as an important tool to help navigate these changes.