Karina Tiwana: Please Explain The Aqua Licensing Agreement

Remember the part about patent infringement, where it’s illegal? Apparently not; it’s just an inconvenience to the multi-national conglomerates


Tom Hochstatter - Managing Editor, IPWire by: Tom Hochstatter | January 21, 2018

So I find myself here on Sunday morning compelled to respond to yet another hit piece on the ethereal “patent troll” penned by Katrina Tiwana in VentureBeat. I highly encourage you to read it and then jump back here.

Let’s define quickly what we are talking about:  a company who’s made it their mission to take lawfully issued patents, validate the legal and economic merits of an alleged patent infringement (through literally hundreds of hours of technical and legal research), notify the discovered infringers of their trespass, and ask to meet to discuss a path to fair compensation.

The fact that a company like Alcatel-Lucent would refuse to engage in a professional, business negotiation to settle such trespass and then call themselves a victim when they find themselves in court over it, is beyond the pale.

(To those not initiated into the world of intellectual property disputes: most firms who provide consultation on such disputes are quite small and their client bases are made up in large part of individual inventors or other small businesses who lack the resources or expertise to confront a company with the size and economic leverage of an Alcatel-Lucent’s regarding patent infringement.)

What are individual inventors to do?

What resource or recourse does an individual, who through inspiration and perspiration made and patented an invention, have with BigCo? If that individual sent an email to Karina, or another GC of a Global 2000 company, what are the odds that GC responds? In my now 11 years of IP industry experience I would put that number at less than 5%. With that inquiry coming from a Patent Assertion Entity (PAE) the odds go up to maybe 25%. Now, that same PAE, submitting detailed evidence of use charts, detailing the research that demonstrates where and how an Alcatel-Lucent may be infringing an inventor’s patent, increases the response rate (in my experience) to about 50-60%.

Not until a legal filing that compels a company to respond does that response rate move to 100%. Again, why is that?

Maybe Why Large Companies Do Not Respond

In Karina’s words in her VentureBeat article:

“[she] believe[s] in the Constitutional protections afforded to inventors that bring products to market“, and

“[she] think it’s wrong that PAEs, whose sole business is to make money from suing other businesses, should legally attack everyone from engineers to suppliers by trying to force a “nuisance value” settlement.”

So what’s wrong with this seemingly accurate and benign point of view? Well, that any patent system is to allow inventors to see value from their innovative labor WITHOUT having to produce an actual product. That, and I would love to hear her definition of “nuisance value” settlement. (The invitation is open to come on our podcast and discuss it with us.)

What’s Disingenuious about The Article and The Headline

I alert the reader to this press release from last August announcing Nokia Technologies’ (fka: Alcatel-Lucent/Bell Labs/et. al.) partnership with a Patent Middleman, Aqua Licensing. Some 6,069 global patents and 734 patent applications are to be sold by Aqua; the original Assignee on those patents is Alcatel-Lucent. I am going to watch this process like a hawk. I can, with almost 100% certainty, forecast that a percentage of this portfolio will land in the hands of those PAEs Ms. Tiwana so vehemently decries. When it happens, expect another post from me and a request to Merriam-Webster for a new definition of ironic in the dictionary.

Where to go from here? Get Informed on all sides of the Patent Debate

I encourage everyone to listen to two of our podcasts over on IP…Frequently: No panacea – the LOT Network and Open Innovation Network, and The Patent Troll Myth. I also authored a 3 part series last summer on why even using the term “patent troll” is so damaging to everyone in the innovation industry, on all sides: Part I, Part II and Part III. I just ask you to get and stay informed. And, if you disagree, pen a response and I’ll post here on IPWire unedited, and/or come on the IP…Frequently podcast and voice your opinions there – also unedited. We believe in a transparent debate – nothing to hide.

This may sound personal – because it is. It’s MY livelihood

So, I implore folks to not use the “bleeding heart” defense, it’s pedantic and juvenile – it’s certainly not professional, and at best it’s disingenuous in this case in light of the press release announcement above.

If you want to indict the system or patent process – maybe we can look at the front of the process. There is a proliferation of patent research firms that offer relatively inexpensive Freedom to Operate (FTO) and Prior Art research. In that effort, perhaps many of these now asserted patents by pesky PAEs are discovered and dealt with in a proactive manner-acquired, licensed, or a firm simply decides against pursing that particular product idea.

VentureBeat let’s agree to stop the “patent troll” headlines

I get that these stories are headline grabbing and sell page views, clicks and ad dollars. Look, IPWire is an online media site too. I graciously ask for both sides of the story, or argument as the case may be.

So in honor of that request, I invite you, Venturebeat, to come to our company, Dominion Harbor, and embed with us to see how this seemingly underbelly of the patent world works up close and personal.  You too can meet us, our families, and most importantly those inventors (our clients) we’ve chosen to represent in an effort to maximize the value of their innovations too.

Now that is a compelling story.

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