State of Innovation

Patents and Innovation Economics

Another Anti-Patent Myth Debunked: The Selden Automobile Patent

There is a myth by the anti-patent crowd that “overly broad” patents inhibit the development of new technologies.  One of the classic examples they like to cite is the Selden Patent (US Pat. No. 549,160), which supposedly inhibited the development of the automobile around the turn of the century.  A new paper ‘The “Overly-broad” Selden patent, Henry Ford and Development in the Early US Automobile Industry’ By John Howells and Ron D. Katznelson, shows that in fact the automotive industry prospered and inventiveness accelerated despite the Selden patent.

According to the paper:

First, neither the ALAM-adopted restrictive licensing policy based on the Selden patent, nor the public liability threats to purchasers of unlicensed vehicles (see sections 2.2.3-2.2.4) restricted entry into the automobile industry as shown by Figure 1.

Second, measures of automobile development show it to have been most rapid during the Selden patent term; Raff and Trajtenberg’s analysis of real, quality adjusted prices for the American Automobile Industry show that the fastest rate of price decline for a given automobile quality occurred between 1906 and 1911, within the term of the Selden patent prior to its 1911 adjudication: the rate of quality improvement was greatest in the 1906 – 1911 period and more than half of the quality gain for a given price observed to have occurred by 1980, had been attained in the period 1906 – 1911 (Raff and Trajtenberg 1996, p85, 91).

Third, rather than Ford being slowed down through patent litigation with the ALAM, from the foundation of the Ford Motor Company in 1903, Ford grew sales at an exponential rate faster than that of the total industry during the period of litigation. A serial developer of five major automobile models, which gained tenfold increase in sales every four years, can hardly be considered to have been “stifled.” The Ford Motor Company became the leading manufacturer of automobiles produced in 1906, a position the company retained until 1927; see Figure 2.

econgrowth.smallThe paper provides overwhelming evidence that the Selden patent did not inhibit the automotive industry or the development of new technologies in the automotive industry.  This should have been apparent to anyone familiar with the history of the automotive industry.  The United States led the world in developing and manufacturing automobiles at the turn of the century and beyond.  Selden had a U.S. patent and it was enforced in the U.S., so the facts do not square with the anti-patent narrative.

Another interesting part of the paper is that Ford knew that they would prevail in a lawsuit over the Selden patent.  This is the value of well-defined laws and courts who stick to the law.

Selden’s patent was issued by the US Patent Office in 1895 and eventually was assigned to the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers (ALAM) in early 1903. The ALAM publicly asserted that the Selden patent claims should be broadly construed, meaning that the entire automobile industry was within their scope. In October 1903 suit was brought against the Ford Motor Company under the Selden patent and when finally adjudicated on appeal in 1911 the Ford Motor Company was found not to infringe because although the patent was held valid, it was construed narrowly to cover an improvement to the obsolete Brayton engine. This was the embodiment with which Selden had experimented prior to 1879, the year he applied for a patent. Columbia Motor Co. v. CA Duerr and Co. 184 F. 893, 896 (2nd Cir. 1911). The narrow Brayton-based construction saved Selden’s claims, but they were not infringed since all gasoline engines in commercial use were Otto engines by 1911, rendering the patent economically worthless

Another anti-patent lie bites the dust.  When a group or a movement consistently lies and promotes lies to support their position over and over again, as the anti-patent crowd has done, they should not be taken seriously by rational people.

July 11, 2016 Posted by | -Economics, -Law, Innovation, Patents | , , , , | Leave a comment

Adam Mossoff on the VENUE ACT

Law professor Adam Mossoff examines the latest patent deform bill, the Venue Act, in his editorial in the Washington Times entitled Weighing the Patent System.  This ACT makes it more difficult for patent owners to select the venue of their choice.  The legislation would not change the venue rules for any other class of plaintiffs or defendants, which shows the Act is arbitrary and makes patent owners second class citizens.

Aside from these concerns, the more fundamental problem is that the VENUE Act reflects ongoing bias against patent owners in the policy debates.

This bill is being pushed by a coalition of large companies.  These companies do not think they should ever have to pay to use other peoples’ intellectual property.  In other words they want to be legal thieves and they are willing to destroy the U.S. economy for their short term economic advantage.

It is widely recognized that the PTAB is incredibly biased against patents in both its procedural and substantive rules.

These new rules and procedures for challenging patents were pushed by the same coalition that is pushing the Venue Act.

mossoff

March 25, 2016 Posted by | -Law, Patents | , | Leave a comment

Can Patents be a True Property Right When They Expire?

Opponents of patents often like to refer to them as a monopoly, which is a thoroughly discredited idea (see here, here, here, here, and here).  Another argument they often raise is that “real” property rights do not expire, they go on in perpetuity.  Since patents and trademarks expire after a certain econgrowth.smallperiod of time, they cannot be true property rights.

To answer this question, it is necessary that examine the nature of property rights more carefully.  You obtain property rights in something because you made it productive or created it.  Of course you can also trade your rights in something you created for currency and then contract to buy something else, thus obtaining property rights in the item.  Your rights in say land are limited by the activity you undertook to obtain those rights.  For instance, if you farmed the land and say put a house on it, then you have a right to continue those activities and ones reasonably related to them.  However, this does not mean that your property rights extend to the center of the earth or up infinitely into space.  It also does not mean you can put a huge pigsty on the edge your land next to your neighbor’s house.  Note this was/is true under common law, no need for regulatory law or home owners’ associations.

Property rights are part of the system of natural rights, which are based on the foundation of self-ownership or self-sovereignty.

Is man a sovereign individual who owns his person, his mind, his life and its products – or is he the property of the tribe …[1]

Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, What is Capitalism, p 10.

Locke also based natural rights on self-ownership or self-sovereignty.  These ideas are not axioms but derived from observation and logic.[2]  You obtain property rights in something because you created it or made it productive.  Since you own yourself, you own those things you create, however the limits of your property rights are determined by what you created (made productive) and some practical legal implications.

When it comes to land, most people obtain property rights in the land because they farmed it or made it useful for habitation or both.  These property rights do not go on forever as commonly conceived.  Dead people cannot own something, only living people can have property rights.  When a person dies their property rights expire including their property rights in land.  The heirs do not acquire the property rights in the land (assuming they were not an active part of making the land productive), they just receive the first right to acquire the property rights in the land, by making it productive.  If they are unable to make the land productive or they are otherwise not a productive people they will quickly have to sell the land to someone who can make it productive.

You might argue that the law does not precisely follow the philosophical basis of the law and that would be correct.  However, the law has to consider factors that the pure philosopher does not, for instance, efficiency, evidentiary issues, and certainty of title.  If the ownership of land and other property were not passed to the heirs in the form of first right to acquire, then every time someone died there would be a free for all to acquire the land, etc.  This would lead to fights, both legal and physical.  This would defeat the legal goals of efficiency, evidentiary clarity, and title clarity.  However that is not to suggest that the system we have “inherited” for the disposition of estates is perfect or the best.

In the case of patents/copyrights the most philosophically correct position for the length of a patent/copyright (from this point forward I will just discuss patents) would be the inventor’s life.  However, this would cause all sorts of practical patents.  The patent for a first inventor could issue and one day later the inventor could die, while another inventor could live for another seventy years.  This would be unjust.  More importantly it would make it very difficult to verify if a patent was still active.  Last it would make it very risky to invest in company built around an invention that was patented.  Imagine that you are asked to invest in company whose main asset is an invention that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, however if the inventor dies tomorrow the company would lose its most important asset.  These practical realities of the law mean that patents should have a certain set period of time.  The patent cannot go on in perpetuity because the inventor’s heirs cannot make the asset productive as in the case of land, so they cannot reacquire the patent rights.  The US has tried out a number of different term lengths for patents.  Presently, it is 20 years from the date of filing and that makes it essentially uniform with the rest of the world.  My suggestion would be to make the term of a patent closer to half a person’s life, since most people do not invent things as a child and there is absolutely no macroeconomic evidence that stronger patents have ever inhibited the economy.

[1] Rand in other places states that Rights are based on the right to life.  She necessarily had to mean the right your own life, to be consistent with inalienable rights.  It is clear that she was not opposed to the idea of self-ownership and did not see this inconsistent with the idea of natural rights.  It is also easier to understand natural rights from a self-ownership point of view than a right to (your own) life.

[2] It is beyond the scope of this paper to explain the derivation of natural rights by Locke and Rand.

October 6, 2015 Posted by | -Economics, -Law, -Philosophy, Innovation, Patents | , , , | 3 Comments

Patent Trolls: Evidence from Targeted Firms

The paper, Patent Trolls: Evidence from Targeted Firms, by Umit G. Gurun and Scott Duke Kominer assumes that NPEs are enforcing patents of questionable validity.  However, the paper offers no proof of this and does not even try to justify this position.  Once you start with that position, it is a foregone conclusion that any litigation is unjustified and wastes resources.  However, the initial assumption is not proven and in fact many papers have shown the opposite.  If you do not start with this assumption then the paper’s whole argument falls apart.  Litigation losses by operating companies are a justified return to the inventor and their investors.  The operating companies are not victims, but victimizers and the return to inventors and their investors encourages more inventive activity.

 

The paper’s big conclusion is: 

“Specifically, in the years following litigation, firms against whom cases are dismissed produced spent on average $211 million (t = 1.96) more on R&D expenditures than firms that lost to NPEs.  These firms also spent on average $49 million more (t = 2.95) to acquire more in process R&D from outside.30 Furthermore, in the years following litigation, firms against whom cases are dismissed produced 63.52 more new patents (t = 2.96), and these new patents received 723.98 more citations (t = 3.45), relative to the group of firms that suffered the cost of NPE litigation.31 These large differences in R&D expenditure, patent production and in the quality of produced patents do not appear until after NPE litigation.”

Inherent in this statement is that anytime an operating firm that loses a patent litigation case to a NPE is a bad result.  If the firm was stealing an invention, then the fact that they lost is a good thing.

The companies that lost in litigation spend less on R&D according to the paper.  Perhaps that is because they were not as inventive to start with, perhaps it is because they decided to focus on manufacturing and purchasing their R&D from outside inventors, and perhaps it is because they lost a substantial amount of money.  These are not dire results or unexpected results or necessarily bad results.

The paper implies that NPE lawsuits result in less spending on R&D, but just because firms that lose patent lawsuits spend less on R&D in the years immediately following, does not mean that total R&D is down.  When inventors see their rights are upheld then they are encouraged to spend more time inventing.  Unless you measure the amount spent by independent inventors or inventive firms who now see their rights upheld, you cannot draw that conclusion.  These comments also apply to the citation differences.  The authors are only looking at the microeconomic system that they care about, but you cannot draw the macroeconomic conclusions they do, because they don’t consider all the macroeconomic effects.

The paper does not define what a NPE is.  It starts with this surprising conclusion, “We show that NPEs on average target firms that are flush with cash (or have just had large positive cash shocks).”  They needed a study to tell them that?  Of course NPEs focus on companies with cash on hand, why would they waste their time suing companies that could not pay them?  Especially after the eBay decision, in which they are unlikely to get an injunction.

 

The paper goes on to state:

“A new organizational form, the non-practicing entity (hereafter, NPE), has recently emerged as a major driver of IP litigation. NPEs amass patents not for the sake of producing commercial products, but in order to prosecute infringement on their patent portfolios.”

Edison, Tesla, Bell, Amstrong ‘amassed patents.’  In fact, most of the US’s greatest inventors were just inventors.  They did not create patents ‘for the sake of producing commercial products.’  They specialized in being inventors and let manufactures concentrate on manufacturing.  All of them were involved in numerous lawsuits.  The difference between them and today’s inventors is that the courts were much more likely to uphold their rights to their inventions.  As a result, manufacturers were much quicker to license inventions.  In fact, one study showed that in the late 1800’s an inventor’s chance of monetizing their invention if they received a patent was around 85%.  In other words they made money specializing as inventors.  Today that figure would be less than 2%.  Because courts allow companies like Google, Microsoft, Samsung, etc. to get away with stealing other people’s inventions, they make the calculated risk that it is better to go to court than pay an inventor a licensing fee.  As a result, inventors often have to team with someone with a deep pocket in order to get large corporations to pay them the licensing fees they deserve.  In fact, large companies such as IBM, Microsoft and others will also often team with people who are experts in licensing or litigation.

Division of labor is generally considered a positive in economics.  The fact that this paper is arguing against it means that it has to give extraordinary proof for its extraordinary claim.  The attack on NPEs is really an attack on the profession of inventing.  A uniquely American profession.

This is not an academic paper, it is a propaganda paper pretending to be science.

 

 

 

Patent Trolls: Evidence from Targeted Firms, by Umit G. Gurun and Scott Duke Kominer

September 14, 2014 Posted by | -Law, -Philosophy, News, Patents | , , | Leave a comment

CATO and Mercatus Center: Another Flawed Study on Patents

The paper, The True Story of How the Patent Bar Captured a Court and Shrank the Intellectual Commons, has a number of errors that show its conclusions are flawed.  The author’s errors in a related article, entitled How Many Jobs Does Intellectual Property Create? were well documented by Adam Mossoff and Mark Schultz in Intellectual Property, Innovation and Economic Growth: Mercatus Gets it Wrong.  This paper’s title purports to show the Court of Appeal for the Federal Circuit has been captured by patent attorneys, but never actually provides any evidence to support this assertion.  Below I will detail a number, but not all the other errors in this paper.

 

1) The article states.  “Just as other property rights internalize the social benefits of improvements to land, automobile maintenance, or business investment, patents incentivize the creation of new inventions, which might otherwise be undersupplied.”

This is the utilitarian model of property rights.  The US was not founded on the Utilitarian model it was founded on natural rights, which are incorporated the Declaration of Independence and into Blackstone’s Commentaries which formed the basis of US common law for the first century of the US. In fact, Blackstone specifically states that patents and copyrights are property rights based on Locke’s formulation.  See The Second Treatise of Civil Government; 1690; John Locke; CHAP. IX., Of the Ends of Political Society and Government.

There is no such thing as balancing test for property rights as implied by the author, this is a Utilitarian formulation of property rights.

 

2) The article states.  “A single, politically captured circuit court with exclusive jurisdiction over patent appeals has consistently expanded the scope of patentable subject matter. This expansion has resulted in an explosion of both patents and patent litigation, with destructive consequences.”

The myth of an explosion in patent litigation has been debunked many times.  As pointed out in the article The “Patent Litigation Explosion” Canard,

“First, it’s simply untrue. Award-winning economist, Zorina Khan, reports in her book, The Democratization of Invention, that patent litigation rates from 1790 to 1860 fluctuated a lot, but averaged 1.65%. Today’s patent litigation rates are around 1.5%. As Yoda would say: patent litigation explosion this is not, hmm, no. In fact, for three decades in Khan’s study patent litigation rates were higher than today’s litigation rate. From 1840-1849, for instance, patent litigation rates were 3.6% —more than twice the patent litigation rate today.”

Also see Massive Litigation Spike in Response to America Invents Act and The America Invents Act at Work – The Major Cause for the Recent Rise in Patent Litigation

Second there has not been an explosion in the number of issued patents.  The number of patents issued to US inventors in 1980 were 37,355 and in 2011 there were 108,626 that is a 3.5% increase in the number of patents per year, hardly an explosion in the number of issued patents.

The research and development cost  per patent has increased from around $1.2 Million per patent to around $4 Million per patent from 1955 to 2005 and GDP per patent over the same time period in constant dollars has increased from 60 million per patent to around 170 million per patent.  According to a paper by the Federal Research Bank of San Francisco[1], real industrial R&D has been growing at 3.7% per year between 1953 and 2000, while the number of patents per capita has been growing at 1.7% per year over the same period.  The number of citations per patent increased 3.3% per year over the 25 year period from 1975-1999.

 

3) The article states.  “As early as 1951, Simon Rifkind, a former federal judge in New York City, warned in a prescient essay that then-current proposals to create a specialized patent court would lead to “decadence and decay.”

This was the time period in which a Supreme Court Justice in 1948 would write “the only patent that is valid is one which the Court has not been able to get its hands on.”  Jungerson v. Ostby and Barton Co., 355 US 560.  This was also when the Supreme Court was applying its “flash of genus standard to patents.”  If Rifkind meant that it would result in courts that did not have this utter disdain of patents he was right.  However, this is hardly an objective measure.

 

4) The article states.  “Using a dataset of district and appellate patent decisions for the years 1953–2002, economists Matthew Henry and John Turner find that the Federal Circuit has been significantly more permissive with respect to affirming the validity of patents.”

Well given the Supreme Court’s attitude the only patent that is valid is one which the Court has not been able to get its hands on that is hardly a surprise.  One of the first things that Reagan did upon becoming president, was to create the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  This court does hear all patent appeals and actually had about half the Justice that were actually trained in patent law.  In order to be legally or factually competent as a patent attorney you have to have a technical background in science or technology, which none of the present Supreme Court justices have.  In addition, patent attorneys have to pass a separate bar exam that has one of the lowest pass rates in the US.  Patent law is a highly technical and specialized area, just like quantum mechanics is highly specialized and technical.  You would not ask an English professor how to solve a problem in quantum mechanics and expect anything sensible.  The same is true for patent law.

 

5) The chart in the article is a lie.  It shows the number of patents linearly, which would show any compound growth as an exponential.  In fact the number of issued patents has grown at a rate 3.5% from 1980 to 2011, hardly an explosion.

 

6) The article states.  “They estimate that patentees are three times more likely to win on appeal after a district court ruling of invalidity in the post-1982 era. In addition, following the precedents set by the Federal Circuit, district courts have been 50 percent less likely to find a patent invalid in the first place, and patentees have become 25 percent more likely to appeal a decision of invalidity.”

The 1970s was a period of time in which several appeals circuits had not upheld the validity of a patent in 25 years.  The FTC had a policy of nine no-nos of what you could not do with your patent without running afoul of the antitrust laws.  It is hardly surprising that Reagan and Congress wanted to strengthen the property rights of inventors.

 

7) The article states.  “The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, holding that mathematical algorithms (and therefore software) were not patentable subject matter.”

Here the Supreme Court showed their complete ignorance of what a computer is and what software does.  Any electrical engineer knows that any device implemented in software can be implemented in hardware.  In fact, software just wires an electronic circuit (computer) to create an application specific device.  Engineers choose between these options based on the need for flexibility and lower cost (software) and speed (hardware) and have several choices in between.

In order to be logically against software patents, one has to be against all patents for electronic circuits.  This is the sort of nonsense you get from a court that does not understand the underlying technology.

 

8 ) The article states.  “State Street Bank v. Signature Financial Group (1998), the Federal Circuit broadened the criteria for patentability of software and business methods substantially, allowing protection as long as the innovation “produces a useful, concrete and tangible result.”

35 USC 101 states “Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.”  A computer implemented invention is a new and useful machine and useful process.  Seems like the Federal Circuit got it right.

 

9) The article states.  “The GAO estimates that more than half of all patents granted in recent years are software-related.”

The GAO counted any invention that includes some sort of software, firmware, or related.  Let’s see, a procedure to sequence DNA would probably use a machine that had software or firmware and therefor met the GAO’s definition.  A chemical patent that used any computer controlled machinery would count as a software patent under this definition.  Today most transmission systems are computer controlled and therefore meet this definition.  This standard is so loose as to meaningless.

 

10) The article states.  “While more patents have not resulted in faster economic growth, they have resulted in more patent lawsuits.”

This statement will take some unpacking.  First of all the 1980s and 1990s saw significantly faster growth than the 1970s, which had a significantly weaker patent system.  Second of all the patent laws were weakened starting in 2000 with the Patent Act of 2000.  This trend has continued to this day.  In 2002, we passed Sarbanes Oxley which made it almost impossible for startups to go public, which starved startups and VCs of capital.  Economic growth did not start to fall off until around 2000.  So actually the data is consistent.  Weaker patent laws are associated with weaker economic growth.  Third, the patent system cannot function in a socialist system.  The US by CATO’s estimate takes 60% of the GDP today.  What does it mean to own your patent in a world where the EPA can take your land at any time, in which the eminent domain can be used to take your property for a project that promises higher tax revenue, a world in which the government publishes your invention for the whole world to see before they provide you any patent protection, a world in which the government does not accept any limits to tax you or regulate you?  The author is right that a patent system cannot cause economic growth in the USSR, which tried to implement a patent system.  A patent system is based on a system of property rights.  Since 2000 we have created a patent system that supports crony socialism (capitalism), not surprisingly our inventors and entrepreneurs are not creating economic growth.

The macroeconomic evidence is overwhelming for patent systems creating growth.  Those countries with the strongest patent systems are the most inventive and have the greatest technological dispersion and are the wealthiest in the world.  While those with the weakest patent systems do not contribute any inventions and have very poor technological dispersion and are some of the poorest countries in the world.

 

I for one am very disappointed that the CATO Institute would publish such a poorly researched and reasoned article.

 

 

 

[1] Wilson, Daniel, “Are We Running Out of New Ideas” A Look at Patents and R&D”, FRBSF Economic Letter, Number 2003-26, September 12, 2003.

September 10, 2014 Posted by | -Law, -Philosophy, News, Patents | , | 1 Comment

Fallout from Alice: Digitech Image v. Electronics for Imaging

We are beginning to see the absurd results from Alice in the case Digitech Image Technologies, LLC v. Electronics For Imaging, Inc., Case No. 13-1600 (Fed. Cir. July 14, 2014), the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court decision invalidating all claims of Digitech’s patent (U.S. Patent No. 6,128,415).  The invention tags digital images with particular information about the camera and its color/spatial image qualities in a form that is device-independent. The patent includes claims directed to both a “device profile” and a “method of generating a device profile.”  The Court found the claims invalid under 35 USC 101.  Independent Claim 1 states:

 

1. A device profile for describing properties of a device in a digital image reproduction system to capture, transform or render an image, said device profile comprising:

first data for describing a device dependent transformation of color information content of the image to a device independent color space; and

second data for describing a device dependent transformation of spatial information content of the image in said device independent color space.

According to Patently O:

At the Federal Circuit, the patentee argued that one of skill in the art would understand that the claims required hardware or software within a digital image processing system. However, in an implicit claim construction, the appellate panel rejected that argument – finding that the claims are not so limited. “The claims encompass all embodiments of the information contained in the device profile, regardless of the process through which this information is obtained or the physical medium in which it is stored.” The underlying problem with this analysis is the reality that data is always stored in a physical form lest it disappear.

The court disagreed and found the patent was directed to an Abstract Idea, a term that the Supreme Court has refused to define.  Logically all inventions are directed to an abstract idea, in that they abstract the invention from the particular or specifics.  The only logical definition of Abstract Idea is a thought or conception that is separate from concrete existence or not applied to the practical.  Here the invention is clearly drawn to the practical and is being widely used.

You can argue that patentee wrote the claims incorrectly, but the Supremes would then counter than cleaver draftmanship will not save you from 101.  Of course the Supremes then look to the claims to determine 101 eligibility.  This is circular reasoning on the part of the Supremes.

Claims are supposed to define the invention, they are not the invention.  A definition should not have extraneous information that does not add meaning.  Here the physical structure would not have added anything to the definition.  This is why I have been arguing that 101 should really be about the specification.  Here the patentee clearly describes an invention.  Patent law is devolving back to the 1940s and now we are all talking about how many angels can dance on a pinhead.

July 24, 2014 Posted by | -Law, News, Patents | , , | Leave a comment

Supreme Court Alice v. CLS Decision

The long awaited decision by the Supreme Court in Alice v. CLS Bank came out on June 19, 2014, while I was away giving a talk at Atlas Summit 2014, which is why this post has been delayed.  Even in the statement of the question presented in the case the Court got it wrong:

The question presented is whether these claims are patent eligible under 35 U. S. C. §101, or are instead drawn to a patent-ineligible abstract idea.

Abstract ideas are not an exception to section 101, despite a long line of nonsense by the court.  Every invention is an abstract idea in that it describes a class of things, not a specific instance.  The failure (purposeful) of the Court to define what they mean by an “abstract idea” has resulted in an incomprehensible standard.

An abstract idea is a thought or conception that is separate from concrete existence or not applied to the practical.  From this definition, it is clear that if an inventor were to describe an “abstract idea” it would be a section 112 issue, not a 101 issue.  In this case, Alice describes and claims a concrete existence that is applied to the practical problem of settlement risk that saves billions of dollars a year.  Note using any rational definition of abstract idea, means it would not be a “process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter.”  Therefore the abstract ideas exception is just redundant.  But the Court is unable to think logically, so instead of applying the statute, they make up the law as they go along.

In any event, we need not labor to delimit the precise contours of the “abstract ideas” category in this case. It is enough to recognize that there is no meaningful distinction between the concept of risk hedging in Bilski and the concept of intermediated settlement at issue here. Both are squarely within the realm of “abstract ideas” as we have used that term.

Biliski did not claim or describe “risk hedging” and Alice did not describe “intermediate settlement” any more than the patent for the LASER described “light making.”  The Court’s characterization of these inventions with two word tag lines is intellectually dishonest.

Note the Court admits that they refuse define what they mean by abstract idea.  Failure to define one’s terms is the hallmark of charlatans and tyrants.  The Court’s statement means that no one can know what will be considered an abstract idea until the Supreme Court rules.  This is a judicial power grab.

Below the Court tries to justify what is clearly an absurd position.

The fact that a computer “necessarily exist[s] in the physical, rather than purely conceptual, realm,” Brief for Petitioner 39, is beside the point. There is no dispute that a computer is a tangible system (in §101 terms, a “ma­chine”), or that many computer-implemented claims are formally addressed to patent-eligible subject matter. But if that were the end of the §101 inquiry, an applicant could claim any principle of the physical or social sciences by reciting a computer system configured to implement the relevant concept.

But what petitioner characterizes as specific hardware—a “data processing system” with a “communications controller” and “data storage unit,” for example, see App. 954,958, 1257—is purely functional and generic. Nearly every computer will include a “communications controller” and “data storage unit” capable of performing the basic calculation, storage, and transmission functions required by the method claims.

A computer is a machine and those are covered by 101.  The Court is intellectual dishonest or just plain stupid when they state “an applicant could claim any principle of the physical or social sciences by reciting a computer system configured to implement the relevant concept.”  Alice never said any such thing, but because the Justices are incompetent in reading claims and computer technology, they ignore the claims and description, and come up with their own characterization.

Here they again prove they cannot read the claims and instead paraphrase them, of course ignoring any part they find inconvenient.

The representative method claim in this case recites the following steps: (1) “creating” shadow records for each counterparty to a transaction; (2) “obtaining” start-of-day balances based on the parties’ real-world accounts at exchange institutions; (3) “adjusting” the shadow records as transactions are entered, allowing only those transactions for which the parties have sufficient 8resources; and (4) issuing irrevocable end-of-day instructions to the exchange institutions to carry out the permitted transactions. See n.2, supra.

The Court then proceeds to suggest that there is some sort of balancing test to 35 USC 101.

The former “would risk disproportionately tying up the use of the underlying” ideas, id., at ___ (slip op., at 4), and are therefore ineligible for patent protection. The latter pose no comparable risk of pre-emption, and therefore remain eligible for the monopoly granted under our patent laws.

Balancing tests are inherently unconstitutional.  A nation of laws is based on Natural Rights and clearly delineated laws.  A balancing test turns that into a nation of men.  Judges like them because they are the “men” so it is an inherent power grab.  The Constitution requires the Rights of Inventors be secured.  It does not allow for judicial balancing of inventors’ rights.

The Court then ignores the 1952 Patent Act and deconstructs the claims, which not only violates 35 USC 103, but is illogical (every invention is a combination of existing elements – conservation of matter and energy).  In addition, it brings back the discredited idea of “inventive concept”, which the 1952 Patent Act specifically was directed at eliminating.

To answer that question, we consider the elements of each claim both individually and “as an ordered combination” to determine whether the additional elements “transform the nature of the claim” into a patent-eligible application. Id., at ___ (slip op., at 10, 9). We have described step two of this analysis as a search for an “ ‘inventive concept’”—i.e., an element or combination of elements that is “sufficient to ensure that the patent in practice amounts to significantly more than a patent upon the [ineligible concept] itself.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 3).

It would be nice if the Justices could actually read a statute.

The following statement shows the intellectual dishonesty of the court.

A claim that recites an abstract idea must include “additional features” to ensure “that the [claim] is more than a drafting effort designed to monopo­lize the [abstract idea].” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 8–9). Mayomade clear that transformation into a patent-eligible application requires “more than simply stat[ing] the [ab­stract idea] while adding the words ‘apply it.’Id., at ___ (slip op., at 3).

Alice’s patent application never said any such thing.  The Justices should be impeached for this sort of outrageous characterization.

Here again, the Justices prove they have no idea how to read a claim.

On their face, the claims before us are drawn to the concept of intermediated settlement, i.e., the use of a third party to mitigate settlement risk. Like the risk hedging in Bilski, the concept of intermediated settlement is “ ‘a fundamental economic practice long prevalent in our system of commerce.’” Ibid.; see, e.g., Emery, Speculation on the Stock and Produce Exchanges of the United States, in 7 Studies in History, Economics and Public Law 283, 346–356 (1896) (discussing the use of a “clearing-house” asan intermediary to reduce settlement risk).

The claims are not drawn to anything.  This is just an attempt to ignore the limitations of claims to smear the invention.  The LASER is a part of the fundamental practice of creating light that has been known before for millions of years.  Does that mean it should not have been patentable?

 

Conclusion

The bottom line on this case is the Court is opposed to patents that cover financial products.  Alice and Biliski are Wall Street protection act decisions.  It is impossible to draw any conclusions broader than the Court will not allow patents on financial products.  This is not logic and it is not law.  It is time that we withdraw the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over patent cases.  Not one of the Justices or their aides are legally or factually competent to be patent attorneys, and the consequences of their incompetence are just too high.

 

July 2, 2014 Posted by | -Law, -Philosophy, Patents | , | 5 Comments

$120 Per Smartphone in Royalties – Outrageous!

An academic paper claims that the cost for royalties ($120 per phone) is about the same as the cost of the components in a smartphone.  This was accompanied by a number of articles suggesting this was outrageous and unsustainable.  For example see:

* High smartphone patent royalties undermine industry profitability: report 

* The $120 Smartphone Patent Tax: Patent Royalties Cost More Than The Actual Hardware In Your Phone:   This one from my favorite patent Luddite site, Techdirt.

* Smartphone royalties now equal manufacturing costs

The logical flaw underlying all these articles is that the value of products is determined by the amount of physical labor and/or the cost of the underlying materials.  On this basis, the actual material costs of a cell phone are probably less than $5 and the labor (unskilled labor in the US is worth perhaps $10/hr) involved in making the phone might be worth $5, let’s throw in $10 for distribution and the hard costs of a smartphone are about $20.[i]  The rest of the costs are the result of intellectual property, much of which is in the form of patents, but some is in the skilled labor, copyrights and trademarks.  The actual cost of the intellectual property in a smartphone is closer to $380.00.  Much of these costs are hidden.  For instance, when Intel sells a microprocessor they charge you $50, for example, but the labor cost and material cost of the microprocessor is pennies.  The reason they can charge $50 is because of the intellectual property, which means patents.  From an economic point of view you are paying a dollar or so for the manufacturing and $49 in patent royalties.

Another logical flaw in these articles is that this is an unsustainable business model.  First of all the underlying paper points out that sales of smartphones and tablets is now bigger than all the rest of the consumer electronics space, with over a billion smartphones sold in 2013.  Clearly the business model is not falling apart.  Second of all, the cost of Microsoft Office Home and Business 2013 is $219.00 and none of that is manufacturing cost.  The cost of Microsoft Office is essentially all IP (Patents, Copyrights, etc.).  Solidworks, which is 3D CAD software, cost $4000.00 and also has essentially no manufacturing costs, which means you are paying the equivalent of $4000 in royalties.  The argument that the model is unsustainable is absurd.

 

Actual Paper

The paper that started this economic stupidity is The Smartphone Royalty Stack: Surveying Royalty Demands for the Components Within Modern Smartphones.  The paper is clearly designed to sway public and Judicial opinion in a manner that will be beneficial for Intel.  Namely, Intel wants a patent system that emphasizes manufacturing, not inventing.  Another goal of the paper is to get courts to reduce the amount of royalties that inventors receive.

“In particular, there has been significant recent focus on “royalty stacking,” in which the cumulative demands of patent holders across the relevant technology or the device threaten to make it economically unviable to offer the product.”

This statement is absurd on its face, as the paper itself points out.

“The market for smartphones has exploded. Smartphones sales for 2013 topped one billion units globally for the first time ever.  In addition, global revenues for smartphone and tablet sales in 2013 are estimated to have surpassed for the first time revenues for the entire consumer electronics markets (e.g., televisions, audio equipment, cameras, and home appliances).”

Here is the real point that this paper is pushing:

“Further, the available data demonstrate a need for licensees to advocate and courts to rigorously apply methodologies for calculating royalties that focus on the actual value of a claimed invention put in context of the myriad other technologies in a smartphone and the components in which the technologies are implemented.”

I will admit that having courts set royalty rates is not ideal and the results can be squirrelly, which is why eBay  should be reversed.  The courts used to just prohibit the infringer from using the patented technology and then the parties had to work out a deal.  But the Supreme Court decided that enforcing the only right you get with your patent is an injunction – actually it is not an injunction it is an exclusion order requiring the infringer to not trespass on (use) the patent owner’s property.

The paper admits that its methodology is limited and the actual cash cost going to pay royalties could be higher or lower.  For instance, the paper does not track cross licensing, pass through, or patent exhaustion, all of which could significantly reduce the actual royalties paid.  They clearly made an error if they did not account for patent exhaustion.  If patent exhaustion was part of the royalty costs, then almost every high value component’s price is mainly due to patents.  Correctly accounting for patent exhaustion would show a royalty per smartphone closer to the $380.00 per phone as explained above.

The paper is just dishonest when discussing the growth in the number of patents issued and the number of patent lawsuits.  It shows in 20 years the number of patents issued in the US has increased from 100,000 per year to 250,000 per year.  The implication is that this is an absurd increase in the number of issued patents, but if you do the math this turns out to be a 4.75% annual increase, about the same as the increase in worldwide GDP over the same time period.  The paper also shows a graph depicting the number of patent lawsuits exploding around 2011.  This increase is due to the America Invents Act, which limited the joinder of defendants in patent lawsuits.  This has been well documented, as in the article  The America Invents Act at Work – The Major Cause for the Recent Rise in Patent Litigation.  The paper’s failure to point this out is just outright fraud.  The fraud is perpetrated again when the paper points to the increase in the number of NPE lawsuits.  These authors seem to have gotten their training from Al Gore and French economist Thomas Piketty.

 

 


[i] In fact you can buy cell phones for less $30.00 on the Internet.  The cost of materials in a smartphone and a $30 cell phone is essentially the same.  The material costs in a cell phone include the plastic which costs several cents, the metal for the conductors which might be worth a dollar, the silicon which in its raw form is worth almost nothing.

June 1, 2014 Posted by | -Law, -Legal, -Philosophy, News, Patents | , | 2 Comments

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