Monday, 30 January 2012

The giants among us -- or US"?

"The Giants Among Us" is an article by Tom Ewing & Robin Feldman that has recently been published at 2012 Stanford Technology Law Journal 1.  You can read it online here. Astonishingly, given that it was posted three weeks ago and covers such an important subject, no readers' comments have yet been posted in response to it.  IP Finance readers may wish to take note of its abstract:
"The patent world is undergoing a change of seismic proportions. A small number of entities have been quietly amassing vast treasuries of patents. These are not the typical patent trolls that we have come to expect. Rather, these entities have investors such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Sony, the World Bank, and non-profit institutions. The largest and most secretive of these has accumulated a staggering 30,000-60,000 patents.

Investing thousands of hours of research and using publicly available sources, we have pieced together a detailed picture of these giants and their activities. We consider first the potential positive effects, including facilitating appropriate rewards for forgotten inventors, creating a market to connect innovators with those who can manufacture their inventions, and most important, operating as a form of insurance – something akin to an Anti-Troll defence fund.

We turn next to the potential harmful economic effects, including operating as a tax on current production and facilitating horizontal collusion as well as single firm anticompetitive gamesmanship that can raise a rival’s costs. Most important, we note that mass aggregation may not be an activity that society wants to encourage, given that the successful aggregator is likely to be the one that frightens the greatest number of companies in the most terrifying way.

We argue that mass aggregators have created a new market for monetization of patents. It is vast, rapidly growing, and largely unregulated. We conclude with some normative recommendations, including that proper monitoring and regulation will require a shift in the definition of markets as well as a different view of corporations and their agents".
Slightly mischievously, I did a word count on "Intellectual Ventures" which revealed 279 references to that remarkable business. Even more mischievously I did a word-count for "Europe", which secured just three mentions. This is an absorbing, well-reasoned and attractively-presented essay -- but it cries out for a counterpart based on European data, regulatory mechanisms and legal background with which to complement it. Is there anyone in Europe who is prepared to take up this task?

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