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Why the US's most litigious NPE is a huge fan of the German patent system

Issue 63 of IAM has now been published and is available to subscribers on-line. Our cover story this time round is an in-depth profile of IPNav, the US’s most litigious NPE. It features interviews with several of the firm’s senior managers, including founder Erich Spangenberg.

Never one to hold back, Spangenberg is a journalist’s dream – happy to answer anything you throw at him. Among other things, the piece’s author Jack Ellis got the lowdown on what attracted Spangenberg to the monetisation business in the first place, why IPNav is so quick to go to court and his thoughts on the current patent reform proposals before the US Congress – in broad terms, he likes them as he thinks they will help IPNav’s business. He also explains why he is keen on litigating in Europe, especially in Germany – and that he is looking forward to the arrival of the new unitary patent system in the EU. Here’s an excerpt:

IPNav has been defaulting to the German litigation system more and more in its efforts to achieve satisfactory – and speedy – results for patent owners. “For the right client, Germany is great,” says Spangenberg. “It moves much quicker through the first instance than the US system, because there is very limited discovery and you get a highly educated group of three judges to hear your case. It is incredibly efficient, so I am a big fan.”

IPNav also appreciates Germany’s bifurcated patent litigation system, in which a patent’s validity can be decided separately from – and more quickly than – infringement claims. “If you have an invalid patent, do you really want to litigate over it for four or five years and at the end of that find out it is invalid?” asks Spangenberg. “It is crazy that [IPNav’s critics] would have you believe that what we advocate is some system where you can obfuscate and delay, delay, delay. That is the last thing we want! We are not in the litigation business; we are in the licensing business. If the patent is invalid, I want to know that right away.”

Spangenberg also praises the benefits of other European systems – and IPNav will seek to make use of them if those jurisdictions are covered in the relevant patent family. “We’ve also had cases in France, and the patent court being centralised in Paris is a big plus,” he says (the Paris court was granted sole jurisdiction over patent disputes in November 2009). “It is not as quick as we’d like it to be, but it is certainly quicker than the US and avoids many of the antics and theatrics that go on in the US. So I think the French system is evolving quite nicely as well.”

Spangenberg is excited by the prospect of the forthcoming Unified Patent Court (UPC) – which, if all signatory countries ratify the UPC agreement, will have jurisdiction over at least 25 of the European Union’s 28 member states. “I am a big fan of the unitary system that will be coming into effect, because I expect it to be efficient,” he says.

Another major piece in issue 63 is a fascinating look at the state of play in the US brokered patent market. Kent Richardson and Erik Oliver focus on recent trends, which indicate that opportunities abound in an arena which is going from strength to strength. Staying with monetisation we also focus on the tricky business of ensuring that as a licensor you get what is due to you: doing the deal is just the start of the process and it is all too often the case that royalty fees go underpaid; Debora Stewart and Judy Byrd detail how to guarantee you receive the right amount. Look out too for an article by David Schwartz and Jay Kesan that analyses the recent report issued by the US’s Government Accountability Office on the consequences of patent litigation by NPEs; while Arvin Patel and Paul Germeraad cover the valuation of patent portfolios for acquisition.

With IP in Asia becoming ever more important to both companies and governments, we continue to report on major developments in the region. This time out, protecting trade secrets in China, patenting trends in India, Tata’s approach to IP strategy and efforts in Afghanistan to establish a workable IP system come under the microscope. All four pieces contain unique and important insights that are not to be missed.

Elsewhere in the issue, we have all the regular features and introduce a new columnist: David Kappos, the former Director of the US Patent and Trademark Office. It’s great to have him on board.


Joff Wild
IAM Magazine
02 December 2013

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Licensing, IP politics, IP litigation, Patents, IP business

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