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Archived updates for Monday, April 24, 2006

People Who Make Innovation Pay

In "Making Innovation Pay: People Who Turn IP Into Shareholder Value," Bruce Berman, President of Brody Berman Associates consulting, provides essays by, and portraits of, some of the world's most-notable IP business people. With Chapter headings like "Managing Innovation Assets Like Business Assets" by Joe Beyers, Vice-President for IP Strategy at HP, "Who Benefits from Patent Enforcement," by patent litigator Raymond Niro, and "Roadblocks, Toll Roads and Bridges: Using a Patent Portfolio Wisely" by former Intel Director Peter Detkin, the stories provide an insight into what many see as the current minority view about what's right with the patent system.

Berman's own essay on "Roadblocks or Building Blocks?" ends with this comment:

Few patents, no more than 3% to 5% by most accounts, have significant value. Even worse, not many people are clear about what gives the valuable ones their own importance. Speculation on IP rights is not very different from investing in real property. The difference is that a ready market for commercial or residential properties helps establish price stability and generate demand. Most people get it when it comes to bricks and mortar, but few do when it comes to prime IP assets. Taking a financial position in an intangible asset, whether the owner plans to commercialize or otherwise exploit it, should not be viewed as an unnatural act.

. . . Savvy IP entrepreneurs are no more responsible for impeding progress than were speculators who purchased land in Kansas during the 1860s in anticipation of the transcontinental railroad. Nobody likes to pay a toll if they don't have to, but riding on a smoother straighter highway can save considerable time and money. For an innovation-based company, it can make a world of competitive difference. A traveler can try to find his or her own route, but it is often not worth it. The Kansas speculators were neither settlers nor railway owners, but businessmen who sought to buy land cheaply and then either lease it or resell it at a higher rate. At first, the railroad companies were indignant about having to pay to pay a toll to complete their route. In the end cooler heads prevailed, and the roadblocks became building blocks for wealth on the new frontier.

The book also explores some of the personalities of those who have pioneered new ways of profiting from IP following Kevin Rivette's and David Kline's "Rembrandts in the Attic: Unlocking the Hidden Value of Patents." (It seems that many of those profiled like to travel, drive fast cars, and exercise compulsively.) Alex Poltorak starts his essay "On Patent Trolls and Other Myths" with poetic license. "Today, corporate fathers read their children scary stories before kissing them goodnight, the stories about demon patent trolls that terrorize the noble business folk," he writes in the introduction to his "Ballad of the Patent Troll." But perhaps Dan McCurdy of ThinkFire sums it up best when he concludes his essay on "Seeing through the Illusion of Exclusion" with
. . . a simple truth: If the invention and the patent or patents that read on it are good enough, both parties will be interested in finding a deal that works for you and for them. After all, winning is more fun than losing.
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