A series of disingenuous and maybe even deliberately mendacious op-eds in the US press over the last 12 months have warned of the dangers to American innovators posed by so-called “state-sponsored patent trolls”: entities supposedly established by foreign governments essentially to extort money from innocent US companies by leveraging the patent system to their advantage. Among those named in the pieces are sovereign patent funds such as Korea’s Intellectual Discovery, France Brevets and Japan-based IP Bridge.
In the cover story of the latest issue of IAM, published online today and now available to subscribers, we speak to the people who manage and invest in these organisations, and they set the record straight. Needless to say, it is clear that their US critics have – either knowingly or unknowingly – got it all wrong. Far from setting out to exploit US businesses, the funds were actually set up to protect the interests of domestic players, particularly in a US market where many of them have been extremely vulnerable to assertion and patent appropriation for a number of years.
Making accusations about foreign trolls is a prime example of dog-whistle politics; and with a new attempt to secure substantial legislative patent reform getting underway in the United States, it is probably no surprise that such claims have surfaced. Also in this issue, our North America editor Richard Lloyd looks at how the different camps in the reform debate are lining up as the new Congress gets to work. One thing is clear, he says: opponents of major changes are much better organised than they were last time around.
Another big feature in this issue focuses on the thorny and controversial area of standard essential patents. Recent developments suggest that regulators are taking a much closer look at how the system works. The article’s authors, Matthias Schneider and Thomas Ewing, explain why this is happening and argue that it is a welcome development. Not all will agree with that viewpoint, but it is an important one to consider.
With other articles looking at issues such as how patents incentivise VCs to invest in start-ups, the opportunities and dangers the secondary market presents to SMEs, building portfolios to maximise their future value and the growing importance of university technology transfer, there is plenty more to keep subscribers reading. Hard copy issues will be mailed on Monday and should hit desks shortly after that. The next issue of IAM is out at the end of March.