Are Patents Effective Brand Assets Anymore?
If you can’t innovate, litigate?
In the HBO series Silicon Valley, plucky startup Pied Piper is sued by Google-like giant Hooli for IP theft.
The fictional drama within the comedy is not unlike many tech industry lawsuits in real life, including a 2014 case from the SEO industry that dragged on for more than three years and is still in limbo. This may not be an industry associated with intrigue at first blush, but the BrightEdge Technologies v. Searchmetrics et. al case includes allegations of stolen trade secrets, patent trolling and a smear campaign – not to mention a jilted union and bankruptcy. Throw in a clean resolution in which everyone learns valuable lessons and we might have the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster.
In the meantime, a third party has more or less piggybacked on the fray, announcing it is giving away its patents in response to the battle between its SEO brethren, and, funny enough, all three platforms say their actions demonstrate they are focused on innovation and what’s best for customers.
But as reports say pre-IPO patent litigation is becoming more common, the question remains how brands can effectively compete and serve said customers, and whether patents actually protect valuable brand IP or are subject to abuse in a broken system that favors whatever litigant has more money.
Let’s start with the third party, Conductor.
In a blog post, Conductor chief executive Seth Besmertnik said Conductor decided to make its patents available “to anyone who cares to use them” and he invited interested parties to reach out for free licenses.
“Maybe you can use these licenses to create a better solution for customers,” he wrote, adding it is a “gesture to encourage everyone in our industry to do the same: focus on creating value instead of extracting it. This isn’t just a symbolic gesture; it’s an attempt to help refocus our industry’s attention on innovation and customers and leave the legal wrangling behind us.”