Thursday, July 21, 2005

THE NEW PATENT GOLD RUSH: While in the late 90's to early 2000's a lot of people were interested in simply getting patents to establish a portfolio, now it seems people are back to obtaining patents, except they appear to be more focused on what they can actually do with the patent once they obtain it. Also, some of the broadest patents obtained during the original "boom" days were collecting dust since "the bust," and more and more companies are keen on snatching up these patents on the cheap.

According to CNET, Companies such as Forgent Networks and Intellectual Ventures, an incubator company co-founded by former Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Nathan Myhrvold, are rapidly expanding their patent portfolios, both by buying patents and coming up with ideas that can be broadly licensed. One of the latest entrants in the intellectual-property field is Applied Minds, a company funded by the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers. Applied Minds comes up with product ideas and then works with established companies to bring them to market.

Kent Richardson, who is the vice president of intellectual property at Rambus, an intellectual-property company thinks that patent work is no longer a defensive insurance policy, but is part of the product offering. And depending on the circumstances and the clout of the players involved, the stakes can be astronomically high.

For example, when Forgent reviewed its portfolio and came across U.S. Patent No. 4,698,672, which it obtained when it acquired Compression Labs in 1997. The patent purportedly gave Austin, Texas-based Forgent the rights to the JPEG method for compressing digital video images.

In the last three years, the company has received more than $100 million in fees from Adobe Systems, Macromedia and others. A pending lawsuit against dozens of defendants, including Dell, and pending licensing deals could boost total royalties from the patent to $1 billion. Last week, Forgent filed a lawsuit against 15 more companies, saying it has the right to collect royalties on digital video recorders, or DVRs.

Acacia Research (a favorite of this blog) has collected more than 120 patents, signed hundreds of technology-licensing agreements and filed several lawsuits on patents relating to, among other ideas, electronic bar codes, credit card fraud, video-on-demand services and chips for setting parental controls on TV use.

Another example is Picture Marketing Inc., which claims to hold a patent for embedding photos in electronic messages sent for marketing purposes. The company plans to seek to collect royalties from companies that send (or have been sending) advertising e-mails that contain pictures. The patent was obtained in the late 1990s.

Intergraph was a flailing workstation manufacturer when it filed an antitrust suit against Intel. After that failed, the company pursued claims that Intel chips infringed on Intergraph's Clipper processor patents, resulting in settlements and verdicts that have thus far totaled $675 million and royalties that will continue to 2009.

According to Nathan Myhrvold, the attitude toward patents was forged in part by the particular history of the tech industry, where the rewards often have gone not to inventors, but to the companies that exploited the inventions best. IBM invented the relational database, but Oracle commercialized it.

"In computing, there has been a strong sense that patents were not the fundamental secret of success of most of the big companies," Myhrvold said. "Now they view patents as this very weird, evil, bizarre thing."

3 Comentários:

Anonymous said...

Wow. Good post! Very well written. Eschew the casual approach most bloggers take!

Anonymous said...

You didn't write that...good try though.

Anonymous said...

This looks very familiar.....

One of the latest entrants in the intellectual-property field is Applied Minds, a company funded by the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers. Applied Minds comes up with product ideas and then works with established companies to bring them to market.

By Michael Kanellos
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
July 20, 2005 4:00AM PDT

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