Wednesday 17 June 2015

IPBC Global 2015: Conference report IX -- Financial services patents

Thanks to Maulin Shah (EnvisionIP), IP Finance can bring you this report on Monday's "Banking on IP" breakout session at IPBC Global 2015.  Much appreciated, Maulin! Incidentally, this post is based on Maulin's original blogpost on PatentVue, here.

The topic of financial services patents was a focus of discussion during a panel moderated by Bruce Berman (Brody Berman Associates) during this year’s IP Business Congress in San Francisco. The panellists included Michael Chernoff (MDB Capital Group), Andrew Ramer (Cantor Fitzgerald) and Sean Reilly (The Clearing House Payments Company).  Each panellist had a significant perspective on the future of patents held by banking and financial services firms, where the majority of these patents are primarily business methods and software-related.
The panellists seemed to agree that, overall, values for patents in their industry have seen a reduction post-Alice Corp.  Michael Chernoff stated that, over the years, he has stressed the difficulty in valuing methods patents, and the current environment is no exception. However, as history has shown, markets tend to rise and fall with the tides, and the panellists acknowledged that the near future could possibly be a low point for methods patents valuations.
Research from Michael Chernoff's firm showed that financial services companies, as well as major technology companies, continue to seek, and are receiving, methods patents, albeit not at the same rate as in previous years. For example, MDB Capital’s analysis of patent applications from 2011 to 2015 shows that eBay owns 585 patent application families related to business methods and software patents relevant to financial transactions and supporting technologies, while Bank of America owns 633.
Andrew Ramer envisioned that patenting activity at his firm, and other financial firms, would continue with regard to financial service-related technology. While he believed methods-related claims will still be sought, patent application filings related to consumer and enterprise facing devices and hardware may increase in the coming months and years.
Sean Reilly believed that the focus at the patent office would be on quality and clarity in terms of business methods patents; he did not feel that stricter legislation is necessarily the correct way to address issues surrounding the use of software patents.
The overall tone of this year’s conference seemed to focus on a pendulum shift from the high values attributed to patents during the Nortel and Motorola patent acquisitions (here and here) just a few years ago.  Many participants and speakers felt that the current environment is an extreme situation caused by an uncertainty in case law, and by the legislative issues still pending in Congress.  Despite the negative headwinds, some feel this may present a unique buying opportunity –- where an increased risk may prove to yield higher returns.

It's hoped that, once some further clarity comes out of the courts and Congress, the pendulum may swing back towards a median, which may signal an increase in overall patent values, especially for software-related patents.

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