Yesterday Rambus announced that it had reached an agreement with STMicroelectronics that brings an end to long-standing patent litigation between the two. This dates back to 2010 when the semiconductor company was among those targeted by Rambus in an assertion campaign relating to the so-called Barth patents. In July 2012 the ITC ruled that neither STMicro nor LSI had infringed the patents; this followed a ruling by the USPTO earlier in the year that several of them were, in fact, invalid. Given all that, it’s no surprise that there was no mention of any cash being involved in yesterday’s deal – instead, what looks to have been agreed is a face-saving cross-licensing arrangement. This is in marked contrast to the settlement Rambus announced earlier this month with Korea’s SK Hynix which will be worth $240 million to the company over the next five years.
Rambus has had a torrid time over recent years, with its market cap collapsing by 60% in late 2011 following an adverse anti-trust ruling in a case brought against Hynix and Micron; something which precipitated an extended bear run on the stock price. However, over recent months – almost unnoticed – Rambus has been clawing its way back into the game. Since the start of the year, the company’s value has climbed by over 75%.
Rambus is identified by PatentFreedom, the oft-quoted source of statistics related to NPEs, as the owner of one of the largest NPE portfolios. As we all know, the terms NPE and troll are often used in an interchangeable manner by those who seek to rein in the activities of entities that litigate patents on which they do not practise. However, Rambus is one of those companies that demonstrates how dangerous – and deceptive (though, of course, convenient) – such loose use of terminology is. The company actually spends tens of millions of dollars on R&D and is also closely involved in rolling out products, while its licensed patents are incorporated into millions of devices sold by dozens of licensees each year. It is, in fact, the very model of a research-based company operating in an advanced 21st century economy. I really struggle to see what is wrong with any of that; or with the fact that, at times, it needs to aggressively protect what is its life blood – either directly or through deals agreed with third parties. Perhaps opponents of NPEs, such as the Executive Office of the President, could tell us what Rambus is doing wrong.
Licensing, IP politics, IP litigation, Patents, IP business
This problem has its roots in the IP world allowing those with agendas to muddy the waters. PatentFreedom and their backers have an agenda. They make no real effort to differentiate between a University and a Real Troll and so the convenience of the generic NPE is born.
Don't blame the US Govt for getting it wrong when many people in the IP world who should know better have pandered to the pejorative Troll/NPE combination and have done nothing effective to defend the rights of inventors/SMEs and real innovators. Sadly those with the loudest voices are not that long in the IP tooth and really do not know what they are talking about despite being apparent world leading IP Strategists!
The really big threat to the likes of PatentFreedom and their backers is not the Trolls but the possibility, with some real effort, that ALL IP of value that is actually being used is rewarded. The Troll/NPE link is a very effective tool to neutralise this threat.
Patent Assertion Entities came into existence to do just that. Assert patents. The vast majority of the early patents could be asserted and were valid. So why did the PAEs get involved? Simply because they have the financial backing to do what the original patent owners often inventors could not do and that is seek a return for the use of their invention/innovation from a thief. Since the early phase we now have the bottom feeders coming into the fray and that is what is driving the political action.
The serious dishonesty here is not understanding the bigger picture and the fact that invention in, as an example, the US is in decline. That decline has zero to do with Patent Trolls and will have an impact on US viability that will be orders of magnitude greater than that of the Trolls.Nicholas White, Tangible IP on 18 Jun 2013 @ 12:03