As any viewer of “Shark Tank” can attest, the variety of financial arrangements which are negotiated between inventor entrepreneurs and investors is broad. A final agreement is always the result of negotiation between the two parties. Unfortunately, many inventors go into the gunfight with a knife, so to speak, over-matched and under-prepared.
Unless you are a veteran of previous negotiation and thoroughly understand the potential value of your invention, you would be wise to engage the services of an attorney and/or a firm who has previously negotiated financial transactions for similar inventions. You don’t want to leave money on the table, nor do you want to have an unrealistic view of your work. Expert assistance can help you avoid either outcome.
The following descriptions are by no means exhaustive, but represent a sample of the strategies you might employ in order to monetize your work:
The Supreme Court on May 20, 2013, agreed to review a Federal Circuit decision that a patent licensee bears the burden of proof in its action for a declaratory judgment of noninfringement where the license remains in effect to preclude the defendant patentee’s infringement counterclaim. Medtronic Inc. v. Boston Scientific Corp., U.S., No. 12-1128, 5/20/2013.
The question presented in the petition for certiorari is as follows:
In Medlmmune, Inc. v. Genentech, Inc., 549 U.S. 118, 137 (2007), this Court ruled that a patent licensee that believes that its products do not infringe the patent and accordingly are not subject to royalty payments is “not required … to break or terminate its … license agreement before seeking a declaratory judgment in federal court that the underlying patent is … not infringed.”
The question presented is whether, in such a declaratory judgment action brought by a licensee under MedImmune, the licensee has the burden to prove that its products do not infringe the patent, or whether (as is the case in all other patent litigation, including other declaratory judgment actions), the patentee must prove infringement.
Recently, it has struck me that many business folks who “negotiate tons of IP license agreements,” fail to understand the difference between covenants, representations and warranties that are “standard” in many such agreements. Well, that is not too surprising. What is very surprising, however, is that many of their lawyers also fail to appreciate the differences as well! Many think the terms are synonymous and thus use them interchangeably. They are not. So, for those of you tired of faking the funk, here is some (either fresh or refresher) “Contracts 101!”
A covenant is a promise by a party by which it pledges that something is either done, will be done or shall not be done.
Example 1: “Licensee shall pay Licensor a flat royalty based on 2.5% of Gross Revenues received from the sale of Licensed Products.”
Example 2: “Company A hereby covenants not to sue Company B under any patent listed in Exhibit A for infringement based upon any act by Company B of manufacture, use, sale, offer for sale or import that occurs after the Effective Date.”
A rather astonishing thing is happening currently in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The United States federal government, by and through the Department of Justice, is actually arguing in favor of stripping licenses to U.S. patents away from seven companies so that they can be shaken down by a subsequent acquirer of those patents. Yes, the United States government in its infinite wisdom believes that a negotiated patent license ought to be stripped away from companies who have detrimentally relied on the licenses in making business decisions, advancing their own research and development, and with respect to manufacturing and distributing products.
Collectively you rise as one and say — “that can’t be!” What nonsense are you trying to spew? Sadly, it is true and if you keep reading you will soon understand all the sordid details. But suffice it to say that to call this position of the government anti-patent would be unfair to thoughtfully taken positions that call into question one or more patent rights. Indeed, this position can only be properly characterized as ridiculous, garbage, inane and/or idiotic.
The case is In re Qimonda AG, which arises from the insolvency of Qimonda AG, which is a German semiconductor manufacturer headquartered in Munich.
That fellow seems to me to possess but one idea; and that is a wrong one. — Dr. Samuel Johnson
The Brookings Institution’s new report Building an Innovation-Based Economy draws on “two dozen innovation leaders” for its findings. Only one section, “Increasing Commercialization and Technology Transfer,” names no leaders backing its recommendations, perhaps with good reason.
Brookings wants new regulations imposed on university and federal laboratory patent licensing, presenting theoretical problems with no supporting facts. Brookings lightly brushes aside the Bayh-Dole Act’s thirty-two year record of success. The Act believes that technology creators, not the bureaucracy, best understand how to manage resulting inventions. Those recommending sweeping changes face a high burden of proof that Brookings doesn’t attempt to meet.
During the course of my practice, I am continually amazed at the contents of IP and technology-related agreements I receive from opposing counsel who happen to be “good” lawyers at “good” firms. While not getting into all the “strange,” “sloppy,” or downright “wrong” legal verbiage I see, I do have one thing that has been bothering me lately. What’s that, you ask? Well, it’s the use of numbers and those silly parentheticals.
I am sure all of you have seen language in agreements such as:
“In consideration of the license rights granted herein by Licensor to Licensee, Licensee shall pay to Licensee a one time, up-front, non-refundable license fee of one million United States dollars (US$2,000,000.00).”
“In consideration of the license rights granted herein by Licensor to Licensee, Licensee shall pay a flat royalty based on two and one-half percent (2.0%) of Gross Revenues received from the sale of Licensed Products.”
“Licensee shall pay any deficiency, plus interest thereon from the date each payment was due, within thirty (20) days of the date of any notice of such discrepancy.”
Our interview took place on Friday, December 14, 2012. During our interview we talked about the nearly constant challenges to gut Bayh-Dole, which is the very foundation of university technology licensing and the piece of legislation called the most successful domestic legislation in the post World War II era by none other than The Economist. We also discussed what it is that universities do and how, despite what the critics say, the basic research done by universities is hardly ready for the marketplace. To read the interview from the beginning please see Part 1.
Without further ado, here is Part II (the finale) of my interview with Todd Sherer.
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