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With Patents, You Can Have Quantity AND Quality

The Story
We’re still in an age of growth when it comes to patent filings, with annual stats rising year on year worldwide since the early 90s. With that quantity, there are many who began to talk about “patent quality” as the key measure, and that it is a key attribute of a well-functioning IP system. In that respect, the EPO is the place to file given the findings of the recent quality report from the EPO.

Why it Matters
There were mounting concerns that increased pressures on examiners would impact patent quality, but the EPO says that a “re-organisation of the Office is contributing to increasing quality and efficiency. Under the new structure, patent examiners and formalities officers work side-by-side in the same units, thereby reducing inter-departmental handover points and enhancing opportunities for quality improvements”. With patent quality seen as being at the heart of a successful patent ecosystem, other jurisdictions will be looking to achieve this milestone of both quality and quantity.


Blockchain Continues to Gather Patent Filings

Blockchain

The Story
One of the biggest areas of tech at the moment is blockchain, with filings in the space shooting up from around 100 in 2016 to over 4 times that many in 2017 according to public data. It is worth noting that this will be an underestimate of the total number due to the fact that patent applications aren’t published right away, an example being the US and the 18 month period before publication, meaning that the true figure could be radically greater. This is an extreme example of an emerging tech, due to the fact it is likely to be underpinning many possible technologies in the future.

Why it Matters
Big tech players are some of the biggest filers of patents in this space as they look to secure blockchain innovations and establish what could become foundational patents for a given application of blockchain. One example of this is IBM, who recently got 6 blockchain patents granted in one week, covering smart contracts, private transactions, performance optimisation, asset tracking, programming code authorship tracking, and tracking medical devices. This shows how wide the applications span, and these early filings on a given application may prove to be very valuable in years to come.


Old Campaigns Coming to China?

China IP filing up

The Story
Finding details of patent litigation in China is not quite as simple as it is in the US where the dockets are readily available from search sites. However, IAM recently managed to obtain information which indicates that there may be a link to NPE-like activity creeping in via China’s individual-filed cases which are surprisingly prevalent (~35%). An example case is where an individual is suing Xiaomi using a patent formerly from NPE Golden Bridge. This is after Golden Bridge had folded in the wake of losing a high profile case to Apple.

Why it Matters
Google managed to pick up a chunk of the portfolio in 2011, but crucially not this Chinese counterpart to one of the patents google did get their hands on. If that strategy is indicative of a more widespread tactic – namely not picking up the Chinese members of patent families in a bid to bring down the costs of acquiring a set of patents – then could we see small players resurrecting old campaigns in China?

 

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