According to the Financial Times, the European Commission has charged Google’s Motorola Mobility unit with abusive enforcement of technology essential to the rest of the smartphone industry.
The charge was made because Motorola sought and enforced an injunction against Apple in Germany over a wireless patent that is an industry standard.
Laura Gaze, Director, IP Solutions: Industry standards are developed under the premise that the technology will be licensed in a fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory manner, but the Commission claims Motorola broke that agreement when they tried to enforce this injunction. Joanquin Alumnia, the EU’s competition commissioner, has been tough on this issue; last December, he charged Samsung for the misuse of “standard essential patents.” On the Motorola issue, he said:
“Companies should spend their time innovating and competing on the merits of the products they offer – not misusing their intellectual property rights to hold up competitors to the detriment of innovation and consumer choice.”
So as the next chapter of the smartphone patent wars unfolds, will the Commission’s charges deter Motorola? Or, has Motorola gained the upper hand simply with the threat of an injunction, which the Commission fears could harm competition and give a distinctive edge in licensing negotiations to patent holders? This is one to watch.
Non-Practicing Entities are taking a big toll on technology companies, according to a study from the Santa Clara University School of Law.
The study, which underscores the increasing difficulty of dealing with patent claims, finds that 90% of technology companies have been financially impacted or distracted from their core business by non practicing entities (NPEs). Eighty percent said their customers have received NPE demands for using a product accused on violating an existing patent, and 40% of firms said their products had changed as a result.
Laura Gaze, Director, IP Solutions: This isn’t the first time companies have been disrupted by NPEs. We’ve seen that these entities have the power not only to distract firms, but to defeat them in court. As we discussed this past March, Congress contemplated legislation to put a stop to abusive activities by these so-called “patent trolls,” but earlier this month, the directive came from the Senate. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) has introduced laws targeting these entities. And with 8% of companies saying that dealing with NPEs has actually caused them to put a freeze on their hiring processes, it could be just in the nick of time.
Microsoft has released ‘Patent Tracker‘, an exhaustive online database of the company’s patent portfolio.
Patent Tracker can be accessed either as a file that Excel can manage, or via an online database. Users can sort by patent number, title, country filed, and owner of the IP (either Microsoft or a subsidiary). The aim is to help the public, and even its rivals, better search its library of patents. Explaining the strategy behind the new database, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith wrote in a blog post:
“[…] transparency regarding patent ownership is an important part of a well-functioning patent system. One of the fundamental objectives of the patent system is to provide notice regarding inventions – not only the nature of what has been invented but who owns the patent.
AllThingsD’s Ina Fried noted, Microsoft is “among the biggest applicants for–and recipients of–U.S. patents.” Thus the tool will contain a wealth of information for those looking.
Laura Gaze, Director, IP Solutions: In a world where countless valuable resources have been spent on companies waging IP war, complete transparency might be the greatest patent strategy of all. By releasing Patent Tracker, Microsoft has taken a step to de-clutter the patent process, all while putting their proprietary research front and center. In one move, Microsoft has not only created a showcase for its own innovation, but has taken away any excuse for infringing on any of its IP.
According to the New York Times, the Supreme Court will hear a case on whether human genes can be patented.
The case, which has already been heard in other countries, moved in front of the Court on Monday. It involves patents held by Myriad Genetics on two human genes, which, when mutated, give a woman a high risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer.
Back in February, we discussed how an Australian court had heard this case, and ruled to uphold the patents on the genetic material related to cancer.
Laura Gaze, Director, IP Solutions: When news of this case first broke, some groups (such as cancer support groups) said it could stifle new breast cancer research and treatment by limiting the number of researchers who can access the material, and that rhetoric has not died down. But, according to the Times, Myriad has a huge stake in the game:
“Myriad and its allies in the biotechnology industry counter that a ruling that invalidates gene patents would upend three decades of patenting practice and undermine billions of dollars of investments to develop not only genetic tests but also biotech drugs, DNA-based vaccines and genetically modified crops.”
Without question, this will be one of the most intriguing cases the Court hears while they’re in session.
Inventors raced to file patents ahead of a change in the US patent system, according to the Wall Street Journal. The report says patent applications reached annual highs just before the recently-enacted Leahy-Smith America Invents Act took place.
Many believe America Invents (which took hold March 16th) will make it more difficult and expensive to protect a patent. Under the act, the US will observe “first-to-file” laws, meaning the first inventor to file for a patent will win the protection. The US Patent Office had previously observed “first-to-invent” laws, which allowed inventors to prove they had the idea first, even if someone filed an idea before them.
As a result, 12,670 patents applications were filed during the week ending March 2nd: the highest weekly total of the year.
Laura Gaze, Director, IP Solutions: Many firms had March 16th circled on their calendar for a long time, and for good reason. The “first-to-file” law will undoubtedly have an impact on the patent landscape, specifically in relation to technology patents. Large companies who boast expansive R&D teams and vast patent portfolios could be the beneficiaries, with smaller inventors finding it harder to stay ahead of the curve. So in that spirit: will Leahy-Smith escalate matters between rival companies? Will this spur round 2 of the patent wars?
Ultimately, this could be a game changer. With companies rushing to innovate, it could produce some outstanding product, and the ultimate winner could be the end user.
Today, we are releasing our annual analysis of global patent trends in the fourth-annual State of Innovation report. Utilizing the Thomson Reuters Derwent World Patents Index® (DWPISM) database, the study tracks patent activity (granted patents and published applications, both examined and unexamined) across 12 key technology areas.
Following are the report’s key findings:
- Medical Device Patent Volume Rises: In 2012, medical device technology grew by 15.7 percent, which represents the largest increase in patent activity across all areas.
- Food, Tobacco, & Beverage Fermentation Innovation Subsectors Spike: The Food, Tobacco & Beverage Fermentation areas saw substantial increases. Tobacco-related innovation rose 58 percent, and sugar-related inventions spiked 56 percent.
- Computers Thrive, while Scanners Falter: For the fourth straight year, the area with the largest overall volume was Computers & Peripherals, with 232,549 filings in 2012. Within this area, the Computers subcategory inched ahead 3 percent (to a total of 201,608 filings), however some additional tech took a hit; scanners experienced a sharp 34 percent decline.
To view the full 2012 State of Innovation report, click here.
According to Tech Crunch, Apple has been granted a social networking patent.
The report explains that the patent isn’t specific to Apple’s own social networks, but instead could be integrated into iOS and made accessible to other apps:
“Apple isn’t likely to go all-out on a social networking product of its own: it seems to have accepted that the best way to make the iOS platform social is through third-party service integration. But tools like the one described in this patent could help others who are doing social on the platform maximize their own products.”
Tech Crunch says that the app would help to keep contacts up-to-date, manage friend requests across multiple platforms, and help combat troublesome cyber spam.
The Apple Insider notes that Apple’s most recent attempt at social networking, the music-centric Ping first introduced in 2010, fell flat after the service failed to gain traction.
This week, we announced that English-translated patent records from Vietnam and Thailand, as well as Malaysian full-text patents are available on Thomson Innovation®.
Thomson Innovation® is the world’s leading patent intelligence and collaboration platform, and is powered by the Derwent World Patents Index® (DWPISM). Currently, it is the only patent research platform that allows users to research Asian patent data (in English) alongside global patents, scientific literature, and business and news information. The goal of these additions is to allow IP professionals to better understand the state of prior art in Southeast Asia, make more informed filing decisions, and identify potential partners.
This is the first of three planned content sets to be added to Thomson Innovation® for 2013. Thomson Reuters is slated to include other emerging markets in Southeast Asia as the year progresses.
For more information on Thomson Innovation visit: http://thomsoninnovation.com
Today, we’re proud to announce the 50th anniversary of Derwent World Patents Index® (DWPISM) – our flagship, proprietary database. This will not only mark the start of a yearlong celebration, but will also introduce our 50th data source in DWPI: Indonesia.
The Thomson Reuters DWPI database originated in 1963 and has enabled professionals to easily research and understand the world’s innovations through editorially curated, abstracted and indexed patent documents. Today, DWPI covers more than 23 million inventions (basic records/patent families) detailed in over 50 million patent documents and is used by more than 40 patent offices worldwide. An expertly trained staff of several hundred editors applies over 5,000 rules to normalize, standardize, correct and enhance patent records resulting in approximately 6,000 corrections each week.
To learn more about the Derwent World Patents Index, click here.
For more details on the 50th anniversary celebration, click here.
According to Reuters, Congress is considering a bill to stop abusive patent lawsuits.
Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) sponsored the bill, which would ensure a company bringing a frivolous patent lawsuit would pay all the costs and attorney fees associated with the case. The goal of the legislation is to stop non-practicing entities (NPEs) or “patent trolls” from abusing patent law.
“Patent trolls drained an estimated $29 billion from American innovators and companies in 2011,” said DeFazio in a statement. “They pad their pockets by buying patents on products they didn’t create and then suing companies from every industry for infringement.”
Laura Gaze, Director, IP Solutions: As we’ve seen, even when it seems like NPEs are abusing their power, it can be hard to defeat them in court. So, for American innovators, this is a story to keep a very close watch on. Google says suits from NPEs have quadruped since 2005, shining a light on how important a resolution to this issue is. If Congress can make headway on some legislation, it could significantly change the landscape of the patent industry.