Friday, 19 September 2014

Patents as assets: just like bullets

Yesterday's Aistemos launch [on which see earlier blog post here] produced lots of food for thought which this blogger is still digesting. However, he couldn't resist publishing Sir Robin Jacob's point about single patents when compared with bundles of them.

In short, it is generally accepted that -- for whatever reason -- around 70 per cent of patents are invalid.  This means that, if you hold a single patent, the odds are on it being invalid and therefore incapable of enforcement and not very attractive to anyone who is contemplating an advance of funds on the security of it.  

The situation is however entirely different if you hold a portfolio of, say, 100 patents covering a single technology.  Even if each individual patent is more likely than not to be invalid, the chances are that around 30 of them will have legal force. This means that they will provide the means of controlling the market for at least part of the products and services covered by them and that they will accordingly make a more attractive prospect for a cautiously-minded lender.

It's just like bullets, Sir Robin explained.  If you just have one, it may hit the target but may also miss it. However, if you have 100, even if your aim is not very good there's a far better prospect of hitting the target -- and you only need one bullet to do the job.  So too with patents: however many of a bundle of patents turn out to be ineffective, you only need one that works properly in order to provide the requisite protection.

3 comments:

doris spielthenner said...

Thanks for your post. Yes, we need to consider the 70% of invalid patents or low value patents. We did a recent analysis on the Nortel vs. Kodak patent portfolio and the graph shows that any comparison must look at the rating of patents, rather than just counting patents. Link to the analysis here: http://ambercite.com/index.php/amberblog/entry/kodak-vs-nortel-battle-of-the-bankrupt-patent-portfolios

Anonymous said...

I like Robin Jacob's honesty, but isn't his suggested strategy of filing hundreds of patents anticompetitive?

Anonymous said...

Patents, being monopolies, are intrinsically anti-competitive,
but that is a price we are apparently prepared pay to promote innovation.
Given the limitations of patent searching and examinination, perhaps the only way in which a company can get sufficient
protection to justify research, is by filing 100s of applications.