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The best things we've read this year

Managing IP’s editors have scanned the trillions of words written on IP in the past year, and selected their favourite 25 articles from publications such as Fortune, BusinessWeek and the Economist as well as IP blogs and of course Managing IP itself. We’ve also included some infographics, pictures and video

Follow the links to read the articles in full. Unless stated otherwise, no subscription is required. For the avoidance of doubt, Managing IP is not responsible for the content of external sites and does not endorse their views.

Getting to know you

An electric car, lunch at the Inn and excitement at the Applications Court – a typical day in the life of Mr Justice Arnold, patents judge at the High Court in London. Arnold was interviewed in Managing IP as part of a series of articles looking at the lives of people working in IP.

Dr NakaMats
Eccentric innovator Dr NakaMats

It only covers the smartphone litigation with Samsung briefly, but this interview with Tim Cook in Bloomberg BusinessWeek provides a great insight into the Apple boss’s first year in charge, as well as the company’s innovative thinking on design and branding.

The Smithsonian magazine recently profiled one of the world’s most prolific but unusual inventors – Dr NakaMats. Find out why he lives on pureed foods and tends to dive into hotel pools to seek inspiration.

Meet China’s first law professor: Liu Chuntian spoke with Managing IP this year about the rapid development of the country’s IP system, and how his experiences during the Cultural Revolution shaped his views of intellectual property.

In an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, New York Times author Charles Duhigg (co-author of The Patent, Used as a Sword) said that “patents have become a toll gate on the road of innovation”. One stat cited: the $20 billion spent on patent purchases and litigation in the smartphone industry in the last two years is equivalent to the cost of eight Mars Rover missions.

An interview published in Managing IP in October with Randall Rader revealed how arguably grumpy the chief judge has become about the US patent system. When asked whether he is holding out any hope that the Supreme Court might help resolve the patentable subject matter dilemma, Rader told us quite candidly: No hope whatsoever.”

Let me tell you a story...

Patent litigation is not all about mobile phones and gene sequences. In a fascinating article published in Fortune magazine in November, Ken Otterbourg told the story of the VAC ‑ a $500 million tale of innovation, disputed ownership and searching for prior art in Russia.

VAC device
The device that sparked a multi-million-dollar patent fight

On the other side of the world, Stan Abrams’ coverage of Baidu’s struggles against a trade mark squatter (who used the mark on condoms), on the China Hearsay blog was humorous and opinionated, and also provided insight into the internet search giant’s registration strategies.

The US Copyright Office recently put an end to a long-running fight between Bikram Choudhury and some of his former yoga students who teach the Bikram sequence of yoga poses with an official stance on copyright for compilations. The Office said that “a selection, coordination, or arrangement of exercise movements, such as a compilation of yoga poses, may be precluded from registration as a functional system or process”, according to an article in Hodgson Legal.

For a case study illustrating the problems companies face when doing business in China, read Bloomberg’s story about American Semiconductor’s battle with former Chinese partner Sinovel over alleged trade secret theft and copyright infringement in March.

In a typically thought-provoking piece in September, the Economist provided some practical, eye-opening examples of how automated copyright-detecting machines can go badly wrong.

Innovative thinking

In a feature in March, The Economist looked behind competing stories of innovation in China (either that there is none and the country is doomed to copy forever; or that its China-centric inventions will take over the world) to provide an interesting, balanced description of China’s situation, and some policy prescriptions for improving it.

Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes - the inspiration for modern patent litigation strategies?

A series of posts by economist Nicola Searle ran on the IP Kat blog over the past two years under the heading “Katonomics” and generated considerable debate. Typical was a post on the economics of IP litigation from May this year, in which Searle cited work by economists showing that lawsuits cost infringers, on average, $500,000 in legal fees but the negative impact on stock market value means that these firms lose on average $28.7 million. “The success of NPE litigation increases incentives for broad, low-quality patents and therefore decreases the ability of patents to incentivise innovation,” she wrote.

The Bayer v Natco compulsory licensing saga in India has caused considerable concern for the pharmaceutical industry. SpicyIP’s coverage of the topic is extensive and detailed. Even readers who disagree with the blog’s position on the issue can appreciate the depth of the analysis.

Most of Managing IP’s readers probably take the benefits of applying for patents for granted. Here’s a comment piece in the FT from a research scientist who disagrees.

The conservative Institute for Policy Innovation used this blog post to highlight quite an IP blunder by Republicans in November. When Derek Khanna, A Republican Study Committee staffer, posted a paper on the RSC website that was decidedly copyleft, many thought the party had changed its traditionally business-friendly position on IP. The paper was quickly taken down and shrugged off as a mistake.

“Step Into the Arena and Be Prepared to Get Dirty” was the title of a blog post on IP Made Simple by Kelly Proia, which argued that IP is and always has been a full-contact sport, a bloody battle rather than a round of golf. Call it the Hobbesian theory of patents.

Smartphones, trolls and tax

Litigation over smartphone patents and designs has been inescapable this year. The Guardian’s technology correspondent Charles Arthur has followed the smartphone wars closely, turning technical jargon into readable, understandable journalism for a lay audience. This is his comprehensive Q&A guide to the smartphone wars.

Starbucks logo
Taxing times for Starbucks

The role of patent trolls is a growing concern for rights holders, and recent evidence (summarized in this piece on Ars Technica) suggesting that they are getting increasingly active in litigation will only intensify debates as to their role in fostering or hindering innovation.

Another controversial topic that emerged late in the year was the use of transfer pricing to reduce corporate tax liabilities. Reuters produced a report that investigated Starbucks’ transfer pricing policies and added to the pressure on the company over its tax regime. In December the US company announced it would hand over more money to the UK Treasury and would fund the move by no longer claiming tax deductions for royalties.

A picture speaks 1000 words

July 4 2012 may prove to be an epochal date in the development of global IP policy, as this was when the European Parliament voted against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, effectively killing the controversial treaty. This video report (YouTube) includes the vote, the heckling and the pictures of MEPs waving placards saying “Hello Democracy, Goodbye ACTA”.

IP pioneer Porora

Did you know that many trade mark licences meet the Federal Trade Commission’s definition of a franchise, rendering licensors potentially liable under franchise law? J Michael Dady of Dady & Gardner explains in this web seminar that not all attorneys do and provides advice on avoiding the situation, which could put both licensors and their attorneys at risk of negligence.

Maps are underused in intellectual property, and are becoming particularly useful the more brands become global and their IP managers have to develop global protection strategies. Managing IP ran a map in the magazine’s December/January issue showing where companies can register their marks with Customs authorities.

No other topic in intellectual property has been as suited to infographics as smartphone litigation. With multiple parties, patents and forums all fighting in different permutations, a visual illustration was always more helpful than a plain description. This site has collected together the best.

Finally, here’s one for the children. WIPO’s YouTube channel includes a series of educational cartoons on IP featuring the character Pororo. The latest is “Pororo Makes His Mark”. Enjoy it!

Are there any other articles you’ve enjoyed reading (or videos you’ve enjoyed watching) this year? Send us the links by commenting and we will add them to the review.

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