Clause 8 Podcast: Bruce Berman on Telling a Patent Story

Bruce Berman, the PR guru of the IP world, is the CEO of Brody Berman Associates, a communications firm that helps tell patent stories. Berman has implemented marketing and business development programs on behalf of more than 200 IP portfolios and businesses. And, in 2016, he founded the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding, an independent nonprofit that raises awareness of the use and impact of intellectual property on individuals and businesses. He is also the host of the Understanding IP Matters podcast. In the latest episode of the Clause 8 Podcast, Berman delves into the who, what, when and how of telling IP stories to help promote causes in the patent world.

Key Takeaways from this Episode

  •  Working with media outlets to tell accurate patent stories

“I worked with Morgan Finnegan for about 12 years. They learned how to use me well; you know, whether you are representing a plaintiff or defendant, you’re going to have to deal with some level of media awareness. So, you wanted to make sure it was accurate, that your client was depicted accurately, or the case was, and I think that was their big motivation.”

“There are a lot of frustrations that the media often does not get it right. Sometimes it has to do with ignorance, a lack of information, but often it has to do with agenda. And I don’t think readers are attuned to that. Sometimes a limited audience makes the decision.”

  • Storytelling to increase public understanding of patents

“NPEs are not well understood. There’s a spectrum of NPEs and I’ve worked with clients who don’t want to throw other NPEs under the bus. However, they’re very successful, have hundreds of millions in licensing deals, and they’re all inventor-owned patents. So why are they being called trolls? Because they don’t practice? That’s a big issue for a lot of NPEs.”

  • Using media to strategically showcase your patent portfolio

“I had a Fortune 100 client who was diminishing their number of patents–they had a lower number of patent grants received from the U.S., significantly [lower], and over a number of years. How were they going to show they’re no less innovative, and no less profitable with regard to innovation, despite the fact that number of patents [had] gone down? That was a good question and we worked with them on that for a couple of years. It’s not about quantity. It’s about the meaning behind them. And I think that’s why you do need that parallel strategy about how your technology ties into what you’re getting patents for.”

  • Highlighting the value of your patents for your company

“Lou Gerstner, who came in as CEO and knew nothing about IP, and not much about technology, really, put little flags in IBM’s laptop at the time, the ThinkPad. And those were all the areas that they didn’t have patents. So, they had to license in, and they licensed in, because they had patents to cross license. They had leverage to do that, they didn’t have to pay for that, and they were able to put out ThinkPad at a profitable price because of that. So, it’s kind of a dramatic way of showing what you don’t have and that you need to bargain for what you don’t have, otherwise, you’re gonna have to pay for it.”

  • The popularity of the “patent troll” meme

“It’s an image and a term that resonates. And in addition, it’s been promoted quietly by powers that be that see the perpetuation of that notion as being useful to them. Tech would like to belittle patents – some tech companies, not all – because they’re a threat to them. [The idea is] patent trolls wield patents, so patents are bad. It’s a scenario that benefits them indirectly. But just when you think they’ve gone away, that the patent troll meme is kind of fading, you see it in obscure places, like comedy; Adam Carolla,  John Oliver talking about patent trolls. How do these guys even know about patent trolls? But they they’re talking about them front and center? Of course, belittling patent trolls. I don’t think it’s a totally an accident. I really don’t. I’m not an investigative journalist. It’s not my job. But it’s very odd that the meme has really not gone away.”

  • How COVID was used opportunistically to sow misinformation regarding patents

“Another narrative with patents we saw during the COVID pandemic is that somehow patents are an impediment. They’re an impediment to innovation. Instead of patents being a positive thing, where, without them, this innovation wouldn’t be available in the first place, they’re actually an impediment for that. In Brussels, during the COVID vaccine build up, there was even a billboard that said patents kill. That that’s how this has been portrayed.”



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