by Intellectual Property Attorney Bill Honaker, the IP Guy
On March 2, a jury awarded VSLI more than $2 billion in damages against Intel for infringing two patents covering technology to reduce computer chip power consumption.
- The technology was never used by the patent owners.
- The patents were pulled off the shelf where they were collecting dust.
- A hedge fund, Fortress Investment, is reported to be the owner of the VSLI patent. The hedge fund acquires patents to license or litigate. They’re called an NPE, non-practicing entity by some . . . a troll by others.
This is a growing trend. RPX Corporation, a defensive acquisition company, reported that in the first quarter of 2021, patent lawsuits have increased, driven in part by NPE litigation.
They stated: “A robust pipeline of operating company-to-NPE divestments… fuel the patent marketplace, with Covid-19 related economic pressure likely to prompt businesses to sell their patents to generate revenue. With the ever-increasing availability of litigation finance, more NPEs now have the means to acquire higher-quality patents, more readily enforce them, and indeed, have already done so.“
It’s likely the number of patent lawsuits will increase. The USPTO has made it more difficult to challenge patents through Inter Partes Review (IPR). This allows patent owners to have juries decide infringement and damages. When the economy slows, businesses tend to assert their patents more. Additionally, with money flowing into litigation financing and the need for returns, more cases are being funded.
In this environment, it’s more important than ever to have thorough clearance opinions on all products being launched. You cannot blindly launch products. The risks are too high. The small cost of a clearance opinion far outweighs the risk, expense, and potential damages of a patent lawsuit.
About the Author:
Bill Honaker, “The IP Guy” is a former USPTO Examiner, a partner with Dickinson-Wright, and author of the forthcoming book, Invisible Assets – How to Maximize the Hidden Value in Your Business. To download a sample chapter, click here.