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A Grammy-Class Outcome to the Rockstar Patents

Today’s definitive agreement for purchase of the Rockstar patents by a subsidiary of patent clearinghouse RPX Corporation, with simultaneous licensing of the portfolio to more than 30 technology companies, including Cisco, represents a victory for common sense. It also puts to rest a wayward and misguided business model that threatened to add costs to industry and consumers with no benefits to innovation or economic development.  This step should also send a strong message to companies who toy with the idea of “monetizing” their patent portfolios through transactions with private equity and non-practicing-entities, or by shaking down other industry participants: They will find themselves isolated. In short, they will end up as net losers if they initiate a game based on short-sighted greed.

We’re taking a different approach. Working with RPX, we devised a licensing model where even those who chose not to join with more than thirty of their peers in this purchase will still have the chance to license on comparable and fair terms.  Kent Walker, the general counsel of Google, was instrumental in pulling this together. Brad Smith and Bruce Sewell, the general counsels of Microsoft and Apple, deserve huge credit for working with the other Rockstar members – Blackberry, Ericsson and Sony – to reach a consensus that produced this positive result.

The origins of “Rockstar” are found in the smartphone patent wars that began several years ago. While we have no quarrel with companies using their patents to stop the copying of differentiating features without permission (and in fact commented favorably on the direct Apple-Samsung litigation), the driving up of patent valuations as each side in the war sought to bulk up for battle ended up serving no one other than lawyers and middlemen. Rockstar’s litigation strategy turned out to be inconclusive, keeping many lawyers very busy but with little money changing hands to date.

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Innovatio Case: Victory for Cisco Customers Makes the Case for Patent Reform

We’re pleased to announce today that we’ve achieved full protection for millions of Cisco customers from the overblown and specious claims of a very aggressive patent assertion entity.

Once upon a time a company called “Innovatio” set out to force retailers and small businesses to pay over two thousand dollars per location for use of WiFi patents.  They did this knowing they were obligated to license the patents under reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms and, even worse, that the majority of the businesses they were targeting were already licensed to use the patents.   Innovatio targeted over 170 million Cisco devices that Innovatio claimed could be taxed by their scheme. They sent over 14,000 letters in the first wave of an attack through which they hoped to eventually suck close to $4 billion out of the productive part of the U.S. economy by threatening innocent entrepreneurs with costly litigation.

We, together with Netgear and Motorola, intervened on behalf of our customers and accused Innovatio of running a racket, and we demanded a trial on the true value of those patents.  We also demanded damages for the breach of the contractual obligations to license standard-essential patents on fair terms.  Although Chief Judge Holderman in the Northern District of Illinois did not allow the racketeering claim to move forward, he determined that the patents had a collective value of approximately 10 cents per WiFi device.  “Innovatio” later admitted that over 100 million of the devices they targeted were already licensed, and taking into account our strong breach of contract and other claims, they agreed to license the remaining 85 million devices for a total of $2.7M, or less than 3.2 cents apiece.

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