Legal Departments Confront Complicated IP Arena

There are all kinds of fights. On one end of the spectrum you have the gentlemanly dual, where two combatants resolve their dispute via a time-honored, tradition-bound ritual. On the other end is the roadhouse brawl, a chaotic scrum where strange alliances are quickly forged and broken, and ultimate victory is a relative proposition.

The intellectual property arena these days looks a bit more like the latter than the former: It's a lot more complicated and aggressive than it used to be, there are more fighters in the ring, and Queensberry rules have pretty much gone out the window.

It's tempting to see this transition merely in the context of Silicon Valley, but that would miss the point. Intellectual property has so permeated global business that these days, every large corporation is essentially a technology company.

Cummins is a perfect example. A producer of diesel engines, filtration systems, generators and other power-related products, it's easy to view the company as an old-line manufacturer. Not so, says Schelkopf.

The first generation of patent aggregators followed a rather simple logic: that it should be cheaper to pool resources and buy troll patents than to face the threat of enormous judgments. But that too has evolved in the past few years.

"Two things happened," Yoches says. "One, it turned out there were more patents out there than they could buy. Two, the amount of judgments came down because the law started to change."

Another Look

Aggregation is not the only tack companies are taking to mitigate the risk posed by NPEs. Re-examination claims
are booming.

Across the Universe

Patent litigation gets all the headlines, but it's not the only aspect of intellectual property in the throes of a sea change. Licensing, particularly of copyrights for any type of digital content, is coping with the vast and unpredictable implications
of converging technologies.

Contributing Author

Steven Andersen

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