Elwha, a holding company that Intellectual Ventures (IV) uses to help maintain its patent portfolio, has been abandoning pending electric vehicle energy financial settlement patent (EV-EFS) applications (8) and letting issued patents (10) expire by not paying the renewal fees. These actions are in keeping with IV’s overall trend of either divesting or abandoning patents and applications.
“IV is really good at unloading patents to NPEs” says Kent Richardson, a partner at the Richardson Oliver Law Group in Los Altos, Calif.
“Letting these EFS patents and applications expire or go abandoned indicates that IV couldn’t find a buyer or licensee”, says Guy Beretich at Patent Forecast®. Does nobody want these patents because they are likely to be invalidated? Intellectual Ventures has been losing infringement litigation due to “Alice,” the 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, and all these EV-EFS patents/applications were filed in 2012/2013, so this could be the case.
On the other hand, maybe the technology is obsolete. The approach of file now and abandon swiftly is not limited to NPEs. More and more operating companies are dropping patents in similar fashion. Consider IBM’s recent trend of abandoning patents up for renewal at a rate of over 50%. The difference now compared to 20 years ago is that younger patents are being trimmed more aggressively, at the first maintenance fee expiration. Something has changed. Is it just Alice? Faster technology turnover? Or maybe it's Watson?! Is IBM using Watson to predict which technology is going to be obsolete even before the first maintenance fee has expired? Or maybe the patent market is still recovering, and opportunity cost considerations tip the scales? Keep watching this trend…