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11.04.18

Law Firms Won’t Improve Patent Quality Because Quality in Patenting Limits Their Ability to Sue (Profit Irrespective of the Outcome)

Posted in America, Patents at 12:51 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Michael Risch

Summary: A new paper (cited by Michael Risch above) asserts that choice of attorney matters to quality, but what the authors mean by high-quality attorney is one who knows how to secure low-quality patents, such as software patents

THE U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has returned to a leadership of patent maximalists (people who predate Michelle Lee) — much like the European Patent Office (EPO) under Battistelli and António Campinos — an issue we’ll have a lot more to say about tomorrow. A patent office which disregards patent quality does not promote or protect innovation; instead it protects litigation. There’s a tradeoff between defense and offense and some patents, due to their nature and their so-called ‘owner’, will never yield anything except lawsuits. There’s some new coverage by Crain’s Chicago Business regarding Motorola under the headline “patents provide the sword and the shield”. It is possible to have a lot of patents and still not sue anybody.

There’s also this new paper [PDF] from Alfons Palangkaraya (Swinburne University of Technology) and Elizabeth Webster (Swinburne University of Technology; The University of Melbourne – Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research). The abstract says that they found “the ability to obtain patent protection depends not only on the quality of the invention but also on the quality of the patent attorney.” To quote:

Failure to obtain a patent weakens the market position and production chain of enterprises in patent-intensive technology domains. For such enterprises, finding ways to maximise the chance to obtain patent protection is a business imperative. Using information from patent applications filed in at least two of the five largest patent offices in the world between 2000 and 2006, we find that the ability to obtain patent protection depends not only on the quality of the invention but also on the quality of the patent attorney. In some cases, the latter is surprisingly more important than the former. We also find that having a high-quality patent attorney increases the chance of getting a patent in less codified technology areas such as software and ICT.

Notice that last sentence. So in effect they consider an attorney to be “high-quality” if or he she can attain bogus patents on something like software, i.e. low-quality patents. Isn’t that an inversion of the meaning of “high-quality”?

Professor Risch, who studied patent trolls in the distant past, has mentioned the above and commented as follows:

It stands to reason that better attorneys are better at turning patent applications into patents. Theoretically, better arguments about overcoming prior art, for example, will be more likely to lead to granted claims. But what about the quality of inventions? Maybe better patent attorneys just get better patent applications, so of course they have better success rates.

Measuring this is hard, but Gaétan de Rassenfosse (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) and four co-authors from University of Melbourne and Swinburne University of Technology think they have found the answer. Examining 1.2 million granted and refused patent applications in the US, Europe (EPO), China, Japan, and South Korea, they think they have the answer.

There are many overlooked aspects; for instance, different firms attract different kinds of applicants and what really matters is the reference implementation/application, not some words on a piece of paper.

Sadly, we’ve been seeing the transition here in Europe from innovation to litigation and from scientists to lawyers. The latter push hard for the UPC, but thankfully they are failing due to incredibly powerful resistance from those who know what’s going on.

In relation to USAA, whose patent battles we’ve been repeatedly mentioning (e.g. [1, 2]) earlier this year, this law firm has just put out a “litigation webinar”. Here’s what they say:

CUNA members can now access a free recording of a webinar outlining the latest development in patent litigation brought against several credit unions involving remote deposit capture (RDC) technology. The live version of the webinar hit capacity, with 1,000 credit unions registering to attend.

A law firm representing USAA began sending out patent licensing demands to many credit unions in late 2017, alleging those institutions were infringing on a USAA patent involving RDC services.

They’re a patent aggressor and the above firm makes money from the aggression; Nowadays the word “webinar” has come to mean marketing or advertising, e.g. for litigation giants. To them, “licensing demands” and lawsuits are a “product” or “service” and they have thus become an inherent part of the problem. They don’t want patent quality; they just want lots and lots of patent actions, grants, lawsuits, injunctions, raids etc.

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