This morning’s edition of the Wall Street Journal carried a front-page article describing how the once mighty and untouchable online-advertising operation at Google has begun to struggle thanks to increased competition. With a disappointing revenue report that shows Google ad revenue slowing, and an inability or refusal to answer questions yesterday on the earnings call, Alphabet stock is currently heading for its worst trading day. Google accounts for over 99.5% of Alphabet revenue, so a slowdown in advertising revenue should be and is alarming. Online advertising revenue is where Google, and therefore Alphabet, derives its revenue.
However, in intellectual property circles, it would be easy question whether Google has lived up to the goal of not doing, or being, evil… Google’s efforts to devalue patent rights is foundational to the company given its long-running penchant for copying the technologies of others for its own business success. Google’s entire targeted advertising operation, which provides upwards of 90 percent of the companies revenues, relies on technologies invented by B.E. Technology in the early 2000s. After B.E. Tech filed a patent infringement suit against Google in 2012, Google filed for inter partes review (IPR) proceedings at the PTAB to challenge those patents.
Congresswoman Lofgren seems quick to forget that she was one of the original co-sponsors of the Innovation Act when it was introduced into the House back in February 2015. Had the Innovation Act passed, it would have required patents challenged in IPR proceedings to be construed in the exact same manner that a district court would have required in a civil action to invalidate the patent. So, it seems Lofgren was for the Phillips standard and eliminating BRI before she was against it.
The European Commission has recently proposed new tax rules that would significantly alter the tax regime faced by technology companies operating in the European Union, including American tech giants like Google and Facebook. The proposal from European authorities would tax tech company revenues in the country where those revenues are generated rather than where the companies are regionally located; supporters of the proposal note that this would keep tech companies from reducing tax payments by locating regional headquarters in European nations with lower tax levels.
There are many lessons to be drawn from the Waymo v. Uber litigation. This is perhaps the most important. Lawsuits are about history, while business is about the future… Most trade secret litigation is fueled by emotional reactions to perceived wrongs. Plaintiffs feel betrayed and abandoned, and defendants feel blamed and misunderstood. Each side wants to fight in order to validate its perspective. So the lawsuit begins with great energy. But over time, new facts emerge, and the parties begin to reconsider the cost/benefit analysis of continuing the struggle.
Earlier today Alphabet subsidiary Waymo settled with Uber in the midst of a trade secret infringement trial. This lawsuit originated when Waymo brought suit against Uber in 2017, alleging that a former Waymo engineer Anthony Levandowski, who was hired by Uber to lead Uber’s self-driving car project, took with him thousands of confidential documents… The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a separate, criminal investigation into the alleged theft of trade secrets. Levandowski has claimed a Fifth Amendment privilege and has not spoken about the events leading to this dispute.
Looking at the results of multi-year studies conducted by Google into its own employment practices, including hiring standards and team productivity, Davidson noted Google’s own findings that a hard skills from a STEM education were not as important as softer skills such as curiosity, empathy and emotional intelligence… On January 18th, NBC News THINK published a thought piece penned by Google CEO Sundar Pichai in which Pichai argues that the traditional stance on education, whereby students would graduate from academic institutions with the assumption that they had learned lifelong career skills, is no longer tenable given the rapid changes posed by technology. Pichai argued in favor of moving away from “code and intensive degrees” towards a more “lightweight, focused model” featuring apprenticeship and certification programs, some of which can be completed in less than one year.
Somewhere near the end of 2011, I responded to an ad that was left on Craigslist. A website called IPWatchdog.com was looking for a writer to contribute content on Apple’s patenting activities… Over the past five years, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be an inventor in today’s patent system. I’ve learned that, unless you have the deep wallets to create advocacy groups which beat the drums for further patent reforms in service to the efficient infringer lobby, you tend to get railroaded by the system… In short, I’ve learned that the United States of today is not the same country where the famed garage inventor can become a business success thanks to hard work and ingenuity. Today, the true beneficiaries of innovation seem to be those well-entrenched interests who can copy without great fear of reprisal, leaving the actual inventors without any true ability to commercialize and profit from their intellectual property.
Eight tech companies owning a collective 115,000 patents announced the establishment of the High Tech Inventors Alliance (HTIA), an organization they claim is “dedicated to supporting balanced patent policy.” According to coverage by Congressional blog TheHill, the formation of the HTIA is intended to further debate on Capitol Hill over patent reform… The members of the alliance are your typical “Who’s Who” of the efficient infringer lobby… Every member of the HTIA, including Adobe, Cisco, Oracle and Salesforce.com all lobbied on issues related to the Innovation Act.
In a joint stipulation and order entered three claims of patent infringement were dropped in the intellectual property case being fought between San Francisco, CA-based transportation company Uber Technologies and Waymo, one of the subsidiaries of Google-owner Alphabet Inc. The order is one of the most recent filings in a case which has seen hundreds of documents filed since the case began this February. The case is filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (N.D. Cal.).
Plano, TX-based security tech provider Uniloc USA recently filed a pair of patent infringement suits in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (E.D. Tex.) in which Uniloc asserts a series of patents directed at conference call and voice over Internet (VoIP) technologies. The defendants, Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Internet services subsidiary Google and e-commerce giant Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), are the latest targets in a series of suits Uniloc has filed in the past year… Past Uniloc suits involving the above patents have been filed against Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB), Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO), BlackBerry Corporation (NASDAQ:BBRY), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Snapchat, now Snap Inc. (NYSE:SNAP). Uniloc’s suit against Google is the fourth suit involving patents in the litigation campaign and the third filed against Google since the beginning of March.
Waymo’s suit includes counts of infringement for each of the four patents asserted in the case. The suit also includes counts for violations of the Defend Trade Secrets Act and state claims for violations of the California Uniform Trade Secret Act. Waymo is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions, damages for patent infringement including trebled damages for infringement of the ‘922, ‘464 and ‘273 patents and punitive damages among other forms of relief.
Another covered business method review is overturned by the Federal Circuit because the Patent Trial and Appeal Board instituted a CBM on a patent that was not a CBM patent. China leads the world not only in stealing digital images protected by copyright but also in terms of trademark applications filed. The Catholic Church starts to take action in protecting its own intellectual property. Also, Alphabet’s self-driving car subsidiary files a lawsuit including patent and trade secret claims against ride sharing giant Uber.
Although the patent space surrounding VR headsets still looks very open, it’s interesting to note that Nintendo has an early lead over other top tech firms which have reportedly been working on their own virtual reality technologies. Fourth place in the VR headset space is Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) which owns nine IP assets in the sector. This total seems low given Microsoft’s work on developing its HoloLens mixed reality platform. Trailing closely behind in fifth place is Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) with seven IP assets in the sector. Again, given research and development conducted by Alphabet’s Google subsidiary for its Google Glass head-mounted device, it’s interesting to see that the company hasn’t invested heavily in the virtual reality headset space. Following further behind in seventh place is Japanese electronics conglomerate Sony Corp. (NYSE:SNE). Tied in eleventh place are Intel Corp. (NASDAQ:INTC) of Santa Clara, CA, and the Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) of Burbank, CA.
In terms of sheer numbers, in the CB Insights study, which curiously did not include patent giant and American research juggernaut IBM, Microsoft ranks supreme among this collection of five major tech firms. The Redmond, WA-based hardware and software developer has applied for a total of 16,840 patents over the seven years of the study. In second place is Google with 14,596 patent applications over the same time period. Although exact numbers for the other three firms weren’t publicly released by CB Insights, these two firms are followed by Apple (13,420 patent applications), Amazon (5,186) and Facebook (2,508), respectively. Collectively, these five companies have been pushing towards a total of 10,000 patent applications filed per year. This trend marks a sharp rise in patent application filing activities among the Big 5, which filed 3,565 patent applications collectively in 2009.