NPEs are awesome: you'll never believe what happens next

what me worry

image: DC Entertainment

Patent Trolls;  At some point, folks just have to say enough. Enough!

Enough on the economy-damaging “patent troll” hyperbole.

I do my best to keep up with the latest IP trends, laws, legislation, innovation in the Intellectual Property industries.  As the CEO of two companies that serve in the IP industry it is, in part, my job to stay informed.  However, when I have to read hours of new rhetoric, junk science, and the polarizing extreme POVs from both sides of the argument it does nothing to move our industry forward.

I won’t do either side a solid and link to myriad of stories on the topic.  You’ve all read enough.

So I ask that you all do something more productive – go out and innovate.  If you must pontificate – here is your assignment.  Explain to me why 100% of my customers aren’t asking me about troll problems and lack of laws. They are all asking for help in finding more efficient methods to buy/sell/license IP.  Their sell-side quota in the licensing dept. didn’t get cut because of pending IP legislation. Nor did their corporate strategy to grow through licensing get shelved.

In the word of General George S. Patton, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week”.  Innovators execute violently, legislators, legal community and their proponents plan perfectly…

To NPE haters

In all honesty, I actually like the patent trolls. There I said it. They have at least attempted to create an “innovative” way to monetize Intellectual Property.  Do I like how they are doing it, of course not, but it is something. I have experienced more headwinds and constraint to commercializing innovation among the legal ranks – both inside and outside counsel – than NPEs causing the economy and their victims perceived damage.

I have seen more patents abandoned at E1 and E2 renewals in the last 6 months than all the patents litigated or threatened by NPEs  in the past 20 years.

So for you haters, just take a look at the public NPE sector performance (not exhaustive, but PIPCOs and a few others I track regularly) over the past 52-week trading period.  EVERYONE in the red.  Contrast that to the DOW performance – up 14% and NASDAQ – up 27% over the past year.  The market is figuring out the value of aggressive patent trolling.  We should be thankful that this many NPEs have decided to use public company vehicles to finance their efforts.

Public NPE 52-week stock performance.  Stats courtesy of Yahoo! Finance, et al

Public NPE 52-week stock performance. Stats courtesy of Yahoo! Finance, et al


We get transparency!  We get to vote with our dollars.  That is all us entrepreneurs ask for in a free market economy.

Even better, we are seeing more and more NPEs in pursuit of more traditional revenue models to mitigate the amplitude of revenues and earnings based solely on court case and settlement wins.  Public markets want predictable earnings and while the NPEs were supported by the high(er) volume traders looking to capitalize on regular patent settlements and ride stock prices up and down, this isn’t a long term strategy for public companies.  And they all know it. I’ll save my research on NPEs growing up but here is one that I believe is leading the newer, more moderate, repositioned NPE market.

 To Congress – focus on something you do and should have control over – maybe Military spending

Congress go fix military spending here in the US. A one percent reduction in spending puts about $6.4 Billion back in the hands of taxpayers where I trust “us” to do better with spending it (more) wisely.  Put $6.4 billion in the hands of inventors, researchers, investors, entrepreneurs and those of us that believe the American dream is alive and well – if you are ready to put in the work hard.

To the Innovators and Important, Opinion Leaders in the IP industry

Innovate!  Stop talking and start doing – more.  We need more liquidity and transparency in intellectual property.  So stop with this notion that everything must be keep secret and confidential; it’s rubbish. Share, share often, and steward ideas and IP to their best and most productive conclusion.

And someone please explain to me why we don’t have a bevy of twenty-something-led start-ups racing around, building the next-new thing in the IP industry like wearables, drones, mobile apps?  The US will spend $465 Billion on R&D in 2015 ($1.8 Billion Globally); patent filings are at record highs nationally (300,000) and internationally (274,174).  Tens of billions transact annually.

We are bigger than an Uber or Airbnb potential market yet no real VC attention and very few promising start-ups.  Just a bunch of aging legalist (by and large) screaming the loudest, yet doing nothing of note to change things.  Crowing about changing laws instead of markets. Enough.

A contrast:  at the IP DealMakers Forum last November by far the most progressive and productive IP event I have ever attended.  I sat down in the first main session and my first reaction was. “Dang, there sure are alot of “blue hairs” in the room”, – myself included as I am now north of the half century mark.  Where were all the young guns?

Fast forward to my attending SouthbySouthWest interactive here in Austin last week. The reverse held true. I was by far in the minority. Sure, SXSW is a different focus, but I saw very little in the way of Intellectual Property being discussed among the vast number of innovative companies and entrepreneurs.

My three simple ideas:

1) Leave the USPTO fees IN the USPTO at all cost, here, and here.

2) Empower Michelle Lee to innovate from the inside out; she can.  “Empower” as in leave her and her team alone to find the answers.  Less crappy patents will mitigate any noise around patent trolling.  Just let the rest age out over the next few years.

3) The rest of us with something to gain (or lose) – get out there and innovate your way out of the perceived “problem”.  A minor shill, but at least an example of walking the walk.  Another excellent example, my friends at the US Patent Utility.

I am a cup half-full sort so to all the rhetoric surrounding IP it has at least raise the collective consciousness. The question is what we choose to do proactively and positively to move IP into the mainstream and truly maximize its potential.

Me, worry? Not even close.


Managing Editor, IPWire

(H/T to TheIPHawk  for keeping tabs on public NPE sector and inspiring me to do the same.  So follow him!)

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