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专利尽职调查简介

发布时间:2020-08-03 08:54
所属栏目:法律学堂
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尽职调查是并购等交易中对目标公司资产和经营情况的调查,专利尽职调查通常也是其中一项调查内容。但是,专利尽职调查适用的场景却远远不止并购,如本文所述,无论是准备发起“进攻”,还是做好“防御”,亦或进行转让许可等货币化,都需要专利尽职调查
 
本文最有意思的一个概念是,企业应当准备好一套“放在架子”(“On the Shelf” )上的专利,以便随时可以对竞争对手提起专利侵权诉讼。不是鼓吹诉讼,而是根据我的经验,现在很多企业都是在很紧急和被动的情况才准备诉讼的专利,工作量太大而且也很难准备周全,所以我觉得这个建议还是挺好的。
后附Google翻译,仅供参考。
 
 
An Introduction to Patent Due Diligence
 
July 31, 2020 | Fish & Richardson - Michael Autuoro, Veena V. Tripathi, CIPP/US
 
A patent due diligence analysis can be an important and cost-effective tool for your company. It helps you determine the value of your own patent portfolio, including whether you can monetize your patents through licensing, enforcement or divestment. Conversely, it allows you to assess and mitigate the infringement risks posed by a competitor’s patents or the patents of another party, such as a Non-Practicing Entity (NPE). Diligence, for example, can guide your strategy for responding to a cease-and-desist letter from an NPE and can mitigate your damages exposure against a finding of willful infringement.
 
This post is part of a longer series designed to answer questions related to patent due diligence, when to do the analysis, what forms it may take, and what to look for in each step. Here, we provide a general overview of what patent due diligence is and various practical scenarios where it may be helpful. For the full list of posts see below.
 
Q1: What is Patent Due Diligence in the Patent Context?
 
At a high level, patent due diligence is the process of analyzing a patent or set of patents to support your business objectives. Patent due diligence can take many forms, depending upon the circumstances in which the need for diligence arises. For example, diligence can be “offensive” to determine whether others are infringing your patents or whether your patents can be monetized via licensing or divestment. Such an offensive diligence may entail researching other companies’ products to determine whether any of their products infringe your patents as a first step towards enforcing your patents. Additionally, it may include tailoring a licensing strategy to generate revenue in line with your business objectives. Patent diligence can also be “defensive” to assess whether you have the freedom to operate your next business venture, including whether you are infringing the patents of others and what steps can be taken to mitigate that risk. Whether engaging in offensive or defensive diligence, companies often rely on qualified IP counsel to analyze patents and identify how they may factor into business objectives because of the legal expertise required to assess factors such as the scope and validity of a patent and develop a monetization strategy to maximize the return on your IP investments.
 
Q2: What Does a Patent Due Diligence Process Entail?
 
The scope and depth of the patent due diligence analysis can vary significantly based on your needs. Common components of a diligence analysis include:
  • Determining whether a target product falls within the scope of patent claims. This analysis may include a review of patent file histories, specifications, and claims, an assessment of how certain claim terms could or should be interpreted in a patent proceeding, and an application of the patent claims to a target product. The results of this analysis are commonly used to determine the patent infringement risk associated with an existing or planned business activity.
  • Determining whether the patent is valid and/or enforceable. This analysis evaluates one or more factors concerning the validity of a patent, such as whether the patent claims are novel over the prior art, whether the patent sufficiently describes the invention, and whether the patent claims are directed to patentable subject matter or a patent-ineligible “abstract idea.” This analysis may also include evaluating any challenges to patent validity that were brought by a third-party in a previous litigation or patent proceeding.
  • Determining whether there are potential ownership, chain of title or maintenance fee issues. This analysis includes assessing the ownership, chain of title and early expiration issues. Ownership of a patent initially vests in the named inventors and can progress via patent assignment agreements to others. Defects in the chain of a title may substantially devalue the patent and make it more difficult to assert in litigation. Also, generally speaking and subject to certain exceptions, a United States utility patent will expire about 20 years after the earliest application for the patent was filed with the Patent Office. Patent maintenance fees are due to the Patent Office periodically over the course of a patent’s lifespan, and if those are not timely paid, a patent can lapse, or expire earlier.
Q3: When Should A Patent Due Diligence Analysis Be Performed?
 
Patent due diligence may be particularly useful in a number of scenarios:
  • After you receive a Notice Letter or Cease and Desist Letter. Generally speaking, Notice and Cease-and-Desist Letters are often designed to alert and warn accused infringers about the existence of the patent rights, initiate licensing discussions, maintain patent enforcement rights, and secure (and sometimes initiate) the opportunity to collect damages. Cease-and-Desist Letters are more aggressive than Notice Letters in that they also demand that the accused infringer immediately stop its potentially-infringing conduct. If you receive such letters you should consider a strategy for responding and mitigating risk as appropriate, including any risk of willful patent infringement. Important considerations here may include the depth and clarity of the infringement analysis, if any, provided by the patent holder, when the patents will expire, applicable state statutes governing bad faith assertions of patent infringement, and whether the patents would likely be found valid, enforceable and infringed by the accused company technology.
  • During a merger and acquisition. Patent due diligence considerations during an M&A transaction can include, among other things, assessing whether the parties’ patent portfolios cover critical company technology, and confirming that all fees have been paid and no ownership issues or chain of title defects exist. Taking these steps may then permit the parties to the transaction to assign monetary values to these portfolios. The analysis can also include assessing patent infringement risks posed by third-party patents on the to-be-acquired technology and identifying risk mitigation techniques.
  • Developing a set of “On the Shelf” patents. Even if your company is not looking to initiate a patent infringement lawsuit, you may still want to have a set of patents “on the shelf” to offensively assert against competitors that may bring a lawsuit against you. Here, patent due diligence allows you to create a cache of “on the shelf” patents that could be asserted against target products of the company’s competitors, and in addition to identifying potential areas for additional patent prosecution efforts. A weak portfolio may hinder effective enforcement, whereas a robust portfolio may dissuade others from suing you or your customers.
  • Monetization in the form of divestment or licensing. As alluded to earlier, divestment and licensing strategies allow you to determine how your patents will be utilized, especially considering your company’s bottom-line. Here, a strong patent portfolio that affords broad patent protection is likely to enhance the value of the technology. Patent valuation can be conducted in a variety of manners, including by using a qualitative and/or quantitative analyses. A qualitative analysis can aid in determining the scope and strength of your patent rights while a quantitative analysis uses those findings to help assign monetary value to those rights. Qualified IP counsel can help ensure that the scope and strength of those patent rights are properly accounted for and monetized.
 

Google翻译:

专利尽职调查简介

July 31, 2020 | Fish & Richardson - Michael Autuoro, Veena V. Tripathi, CIPP/US
专利尽职调查分析对于您的公司而言可能是重要且具有成本效益的工具。它可以帮助您确定自己的专利组合的价值,包括您是否可以通过许可,维权或转让来使自己的专利获利。相反,它使您可以评估和减轻竞争对手的专利或另一方(例如,非执业实体(NPE))的专利所构成的侵权风险。例如,尽职调查可以指导您应对NPE发出的终止与终止函的策略,并可以减轻故意发现侵权行为所造成的损失。
 
这篇文章是一个较长系列文章的一部分,旨在回答与专利尽职调查,何时进行分析,可能采取的形式以及在每个步骤中寻找什么有关的问题。在这里,我们对什么是专利尽职调查以及可能会有所帮助的各种实际情况进行了概述。有关帖子的完整列表,请参见下文。
 
问1:什么是专利背景下的专利尽职调查?
 
概括而言,专利尽职调查是分析一项或多项专利以支持您的业务目标的过程。专利尽职调查可以采取多种形式,具体取决于需要进行尽职调查的情况。例如,尽职调查可能是“进攻的”,以确定其他人是否在侵犯您的专利,或者您的专利是否可以通过许可或转让获利。这种进攻性的努力可能需要研究其他公司的产品,以确定他们的任何产品是否侵犯了您的专利,这是实现您的专利的第一步。此外,它可能包括定制许可策略以产生符合您业务目标的收入。专利尽职调查也可以“防御”评估您是否有自由经营下一家企业,包括您是否在侵犯他人的专利,以及可以采取哪些措施来减轻这种风险。无论是进行进攻性还是防御性尽职调查,公司都需要依靠合格的IP顾问来分析专利并确定其可如何纳入业务目标,这是因为需要具备法律专业知识来评估诸如专利范围和有效性等因素并制定货币化策略。最大化您的知识产权投资回报。
 
问题2:专利尽职调查程序需要什么?
 
专利尽职调查分析的范围和深度可以根据您的需求而有很大不同。尽职调查的常见组成部分包括:
  • 确定目标产品是否属于专利权利要求的范围。该分析可能包括对专利文件历史,说明书和权利要求的审查,对某些权利要求条款在专利程序中如何解释的评估以及将专利权利要求应用于目标产品的评估。该分析的结果通常用于确定与现有或计划中的业务活动相关的专利侵权风险。
  • 确定专利是否有效和/或可执行。这项分析评估了一个或多个与专利有效性有关的因素,例如专利权利要求是否比现有技术新颖,专利是否充分描述了本发明以及专利权利要求是否针对可取得专利的主题或专利,不符合条件的“抽象概念”。该分析还可能包括评估第三方在先前的诉讼或专利程序中对专利有效性提出的任何挑战。
  • 确定是否存在潜在的所有权,所有权链条或维护费问题。该分析包括评估所有权,所有权链和早期到期问题。专利的所有权最初归属于指定的发明人,并且可以通过与他人的专利转让协议来发展。所有权链中的瑕疵可能会大大降低专利的价值,并使其在诉讼中的主张更加困难。同样,一般而言,除某些例外情况外,美国实用新型专利将在最早向专利局提交专利申请后约20年到期。专利维护费是在专利使用期内定期向专利局收取的,如果未及时缴纳专利,则专利可能会过期或更早失效。
问题3:何时应进行专利尽职调查分析?
 
专利尽职调查在许多情况下可能特别有用:
  • 收到通知书或终止和终止书之后。一般而言,通知书和停书通知书通常旨在警告和警告被侵权人有关专利权的存在,启动许可讨论,维护专利执行权以及确保(有时启动)收取损害赔偿的机会。停止与终止函比通知函更具进攻性,因为它们还要求被告侵权者立即停止其潜在侵权行为。如果收到此类信函,则应考虑采取适当的应对和缓解风险的策略,包括任何故意侵犯专利的风险。这里的重要考虑因素可能包括专利持有人提供的侵权分析的深度和清晰度(如果有),专利何时到期,
  • 在并购过程中。并购交易中专利尽职调查的考虑因素包括:评估双方的专利组合是否涵盖关键的公司技术,并确认已支付所有费用,并且不存在所有权问题或授权链条缺陷。然后采取这些步骤可以允许交易的各方将货币价值分配给这些投资组合。分析还可以包括评估第三方专利对将要获得的技术造成的专利侵权风险,以及确定风险缓解技术。
  • 开发一套“现成的”专利。即使您的公司不打算提起专利侵权诉讼,您仍可能希望“架上”拥有一套专利,以进攻性地对可能对您提起诉讼的竞争对手提出主张。在这里,专利尽职调查使您可以创建“现成”专利的缓存,可以针对公司竞争对手的目标产品主张这些专利,此外还可以确定可能需要进行其他专利起诉的领域。薄弱的投资组合可能会阻碍有效的执法,而稳健的投资组合可能会阻止其他人起诉您或您的客户。
  • 以转让或许可形式货币化。如前所述,转让和许可策略使您可以确定如何利用专利,尤其是考虑到公司的底线。在这里,强大的专利组合可提供广泛的专利保护,很可能会提高该技术的价值。可以采用多种方式进行专利评估,包括使用定性和/或定量分析。定性分析可以帮助确定专利权的范围和强度,而定量分析则可以利用这些发现帮助为这些权利分配货币价值。合格的知识产权顾问可以帮助确保正确说明这些专利权的范围和强度并从中获利。

 

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Source:https://www.fr.com/fish-litigation/intro-patent-due-diligence/
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