An organization’s overall IP strategy should support business strategies and help increase the value of the company. IP strategy will be different depending on the business and market. Value is not always about how much money can be generated by patents. Companies may want to motivate employees; attract customers, attract business partners or investors; protect existing products and the ability to improve them in the future; block or intimidate the competition; license to improve market penetration, generate income or gain access to third-party technology; improve their return on investment, or generate income or savings through joint-ventures, mergers and acquisitions, or investing in start-ups, among other strategic IP goals. Truly valuable patents are rare. Studies show that fewer than 5% of patents in a typical technology patent portfolio are valuable. Finding these rare valuable patents in a large patent portfolio is a challenging task.
Today’s pace of innovation and competitive intensity demand greater protection of new ideas and inventions. Yet intellectual property (IP) management is not a high business priority for many companies. Organizations that fail to recognize IP as a strategic asset put their competitive advantage and profit margins at risk. Companies can circumvent these potentially adverse impacts by maximizing the value of their creativity. Prioritizing and protecting IP assets helps organizations stay in front of competitors and drive greater growth.
A well-developed patent portfolio offers you the ability to defend your R&D investments against competitors, creates freedom to move into new markets, deters corporate asserters and can eliminate licensing fees. How do you produce such a portfolio? Start by identifying potential threats, then balancing reasonable patent portfolio investment with revenue retention, and finally calculating your risks. This post presents an approach for modelling the value of a strategic patent portfolio for companies in the high-tech market (eg, cloud computing, semiconductors, mobile and networking). The biotech and chemical models are similar, but require modification for their specific patent risk challenges.
Patent buying is an effective way to solve a patent deficiency challenge. In many technology areas (e.g. high-tech, solar, automotive), you can buy patents on the open market that can substantially improve your patent position. With over $7B worth of patents brought to market in the past five years, the opportunities to purchase patents far exceeds any one company’s needs. By adopting a few best practices, you can design and execute a successful patent buying program for your company.
For hoarders, once an item comes into their possession, such individuals develop an unreasonable emotional attachment to it. As these possessions, many of which are viewed by others as worthless, continue to accumulate, they become both a health and safety hazard to the hoarders and those about them until some concerned party, typically a family member or a governmental authority, intervenes. Much the same problem is found in some managers of patent portfolios.
Patent licensing is becoming increasingly challenging and it requires thorough preparation on the licensor’s part to convince a potential licensee that a license is both required and inevitable and to persuade them into serious negotiations. The steps involved will vary based on whether your patents are already being infringed upon or if they protect a new technology that can extend market value or penetration. In this article, the focus is on the research and preparation for the licensing of patents that may already be in use.
One thing is certain in these tumultuous times, the business of patents has changed. The days of bulk buying at $10,000 per patent have ended; public IP companies are under legislative and shareholder pressure; and, IPR’s have significantly impacted the value of weak patents. These are just some of the examples of significant business changes. So what is a patent owner to do when they want to monetize their patents? There are only three options for patent owners: they can license their patents, they can sell their patents or they can do nothing.
Although the job of developing the patent portfolio never ends, once the assets begin to reach a critical mass it becomes equally important to tactically manage the portfolio. Because if not managed properly, a patent portfolio will not only fail to generate revenue, it will also drain the company coffers. With this in mind it is essential to know thy portfolio, prune thy portfolio and monetize thy portfolio. When many think of patent monetization, patent sales and licensing (in and out of court) are what come to mind, but there have been a slew of anti-patent court decisions that patent owners need to consider before monetizing. Crisis is often said to spawn opportunity and the patent world is no different. Uncertainty in the litigation arena has spawned new, non-litigation offerings to innovators desirous of leveraging the value of their patents.
To compete in our new innovation ecosystem — no matter big or small — there are a handful of competencies that an organization should master when it comes to their patent operations. At the risk of over generalizing, these are (1) sound portfolio development, (2) sound portfolio management, (3) building the right team and (4) smart patent deal-making. Although it is nearly impossible to condense actionable wisdom into a multi-part series on the subject, what follows is my attempt to do just that.
In a survey by IQPC (International Quality and Productivity Center) 52% of corporate respondents cited failure to align business strategy with IP coverage as one of the key risks to their company’s IP assets. It’s especially shocking when you know that the “top patents,” patents that are valuable because they have a commercial value (or will in the near future) are limited to 15% of a company’s patent portfolio.
To a large extent the meaning of the term depends on your viewpoint, but for a patent owner patent quality is all about value. Indeed, from the patent owner’s perspective it is virtually impossible to divorce patent quality from patent value. This should hardly be surprising. A patent that is guaranteed to have only valid patent claims but which is extraordinarily narrow may be a quality patent in the eyes of some, but commercially useful it will not be. Thus, from the standpoint of a patent owner patent quality must necessarily be a function of value.
They use early IPOs as an alternative to traditional venture funding. But one of the things that the investors place a huge importance on is a very sophisticated, robust patent operation. So whereas it used to be you’d have a new company and it could take years even to get some sort of sophistication, we’re now doing it on day one. And the results have been great to see. Over the last few months we have filed close to a hundred patent applications for these entities. We’re able to do that because we have been able to negotiate favorable deals with the law firms we use and we can pass that on to the clients. So our goal is to really be creating companies and crafting their portfolios from day one. Essentially, my partner and I work to insource a very sophisticated patent operation for a company that ordinarily wouldn’t have had that capability.
David Morland, a partner with 3LP Advisors, moderated the first panel. He lead off the segment by pointing out that in the United States patents are being both applied for and issued in record numbers year after year. He also started the substance of the program today by pointing out that the people who own patents in the United States do not seem to believe that the asset class has been devalued. “Maintenance fee payment rates have raised, particularly with respect to the twelve-year payment, which suggests that those who own the assets do not think they are diminishing in value,” Morland explained.
A practicing entity may want to obtain one or more patents is for potential counter assertion against a competitor that is about to or has already sued the entity. In such a case, the scope of the search and the required due diligence may be very particularized to the competitor’s business, and are likely to require a higher level of analysis which is more particularized to a specific group of products or services. Similarly, an organization may desire to acquire, early-on, patents and applications that may be asserted down the road to avoid future litigation. This type of program seeks to acquire for a smaller value today, what may be asserted against the entity for a larger demand in the future. The diligence in such a circumstance should be focused on the risk of sale to an entity that is likely to assert the patent in the future.