Friday, 31 March 2017

Encryption and Enigma: a postscript

Arthur Scherbius
Our post yesterday on patents for cryptography ("Encryption, cryptography and the current state of patents", here) attracted a good deal of interest, not least on account of its Cipher-driven data presentation. This interest has sparked off the following tailpiece to the topic, for those who are fascinated by the history of cryptography technologies:
The infamous cryptography machine used by the Germans during the Second World War -- eventually cracked by allied cryptologists led by the great mathematician Alan Turing (played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the Academy-awarded biopic “The Imitation Game”) -- was called “The Enigma”.  It was originally patented as long ago as 1918 by German inventor Arthur Scherbius

Scherbius never lived to see the uses to which his machine was put, or to discover how the allied cryptologists got the better of it: he was killed in a horse carriage accident in 1929.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Encryption, cryptography and the current state of patents

The recent terrorist attack in London's historical Parliament zone, Westminster, has again thrown into the limelight the keen debate over personal privacy versus public security. The British government has called for decryption of messages on the perpetrator's WhatsApp account and is insistent that the law should not enable terrorists to invoke encryption as a shield for their activities.  This sudden interest suggests to us that it is time, with the assistance of Cipher, to take a look at encryption and decryption technologies in terms of who currently owns them: who holds the patents?  Much has happened in the nearly ten months since this weblog published its profile of patents generally within the cybersecurity sector (here), so the data offered below is timely.

First, let's take a look at the chart below which quantifies active Encryption patent families, giving an idea of their growth over the past decade and a half:

Active encryption patent families over time

• In cultural terms, the history of cryptography goes back to the ancient Greeks who are said to have known of ciphers.  However, modern cryptography emerged only in the 1970s, when Martin E. Hellman, a professor at Stanford, together with his students patented the approach of generating a shared key for senders and recipients across insecure channels. This became known as the Diffie-Hellman patent.

• It may be assumed that both interest in and demand for encryption have been steadily growing, judging by the steady linear growth of encryption-related patents over the past 15 years.

There are many different ways in which information can be stored and transmitted, as technologies increase the options available to public sector, commercial and domestic users. The chart below takes a look at the way patents are split between these avenues.

Active encryption patent families by application area

• Encrypted communication remains the dominant application area, as well as that which enjoys the steadiest growth;
• The popularity of disk encryption increased in the early years of this century, but patenting activity has flattened out in recent years, presumably as disks have themselves become less popular;
• Patenting in the area of cloud encryption picked up fairly late, in 2009, but has been steadily increasing ever since. This predictably reflects the increased popularity of cloud computing in general.  

So who are the leading lights in the encryption/decryption field? 
The 20 biggest encryption players

• In the chart above, the size of each box represents the number of encryption-related patents owned by the company named within it, in relation to the whole technology field in 2017.  The colour of each box represents the positive/negative change in the proportion of patents the company held between 2007-2017 (Green = Growing; Red = Reducing: see the key at the top of the chart);
• The 20 biggest players in terms of encryption or cryptography patents are almost exclusively tech giants and household names, suggesting that there may not be many, or any, eminences grises lurking behind the scenes;
• Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic and Canon –- companies with more of an emphasis on disk-related activities -- are clearly losing their share of granted patents to companies like Google and Intel, which have demonstrated a far greater commitment to a data/cloud computing focus.
• All the “losers” in terms of share are Japanese companies, which makes one wonder whether Japanese cryptography is in decline.  

Which countries hold the greatest number of encryption and decryption patents, with the potential for exercise of political clout which control of a technology can establish? The chart below is instructive.

Encryption technology by country
• The United States is the clear leader here, with more patents than the next two countries combined (China and Japan);
• There are at least two countries that are known to possess a substantial degree of expertise in encryption and decryption, but do not feature in this chart at all: Russia and Israel. 
• If the member states of the European Union are aggregated, European encryption technology would be of the same order of magnitude as that of the United States.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Patents in China: present boom, future prospects

Chinese patents are
now showing their teeth
Who's Who Legal (WWL) has published an encouraging item on the way things are going in IP: "Patents 2017: Trends and Conclusions", as its name suggests, takes a look at the patent scene and acknowledges that this trend is decidedly upward. The subtitle, "China and the Global Patent Landscape", reflects the now well-established fact that, whatever one may think of the quality of Chinese-originating patents and of the vagaries of Chinese business strategies for expanding patent portfolios into markets other than the vast domestic one, it is Chinese patent filing that has driven the astonishing growth in that IP sector.

While the WWL piece focuses only on patents, readers may want to reflect on the contrasting fate of different intellectual property rights in the world's most populous jurisdiction. Patents are now viewed much more positively than they were a decade or so ago, and this is demonstrated both by the country's increasing commitment to their protection and by a momentous increasing volume of patent infringement litigation -- a sign of confidence in the system if ever there was one, since patent litigation is an expensive business and no sane patent owner willingly throws bad money after good by suing infringers where there is no reasonable prospect of success. In contrast with patents, both trade marks and copyrights appear to be less easy to guard against the unwanted attention of counterfeiters and copyists. This may be because, while Chinese applicants are responsible for the great majority of local patents, the bulk of desirable brands and copyright works that can be most profitably exploited by unlicensed third parties originate from outside the country.

One thing that the WWL feature does not mention at all is patent analytics. Developments over the past few years have occurred more or less without the assistance of the sophisticated tools, of which Aistemos' Cipher is one, that are designed to assist businesses and investors in generating and understanding available patent and commercial data at the level necessary for taking the right market views and making the right calls at those critical junctures where ever-changing technologies meet ever-evolving markets. Prospects for future growth in patent-related investment and product development can only be enhanced once the power of analytics is harnessed to prudent human judgment. With the benefit of analytics, the better and more effective use of patents in encouraging and protecting investment in innovation can only be enhanced, both in China and beyond.

You can read Patents 2017: Trends and Conclusions in full by clicking here.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Grasping Intangibles: now you can enjoy the show

All assets, tangible or not,
need tangible support if they're
to play their role in business
A few weeks ago Aistemos CEO Nigel Swycher penned some comments on the risk of failing to recognise the importance and value of rights in intangible assets, and in particular intellectual property rights ["Grasping intangibles: IP can slip through your fingers", here].  Nigel's thoughts on the topic soon became the subject of a webinar, which took place last week.  The official description of the webinar runs like this:
Drawing on research from our recent IP Strategy Survey, Aistemos CEO, Nigel Swycher, along with guest speakers Scott Bell, Head of UK Investment Banking at Deutsche Bank, and David Kappos, Partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore spoke in our most recent IP strategy webinar: ‘Grasping intangibles: IP can slip through your fingers’. The panel explored the following key issues: 
  • Steps towards greater corporate transparency of intangible assets;
  • Approaches taken by major corporates to improve management of IP;
  • Accessing the right data at the right time -– the growth in IP business intelligence;
  • Investor attitudes to IP value in public and private companies.
If you weren't able to participate in the webinar and forgot to sign up to receive the recording, never mind -- you can still enjoy it by clicking here,  It runs for fractionally over 27 minutes and the recording includes all the visuals.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Making a mint? Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and patent ownership

'Bitecoin'? Unlikely to catch on
as a cryptocurrency ...
The ever-restless world of money seems set for further changes that lie outside the comprehension of most people. Most of these changes relate to the increased use, if not the greater respectability, of cryptocurrencies, of which the most prominent is Bitcoin [for more on Bitcoin click here; for our recent blogpost on patents based on the blockchain principle on which Bitcoin is based, click here]. 

This blogpost, with the assistance of Cipher, takes a quick look at the patent ownership position regarding cryptocurrencies. This is what we found:

The treemap shown above depicts the lie of the land in terms of patents for bitcoin/cryptocurrency technology.  The size of each rectangle indicates the current distribution of patent families, while the colour -- ranging from red to green -- shows the change in the proportion of patent families owned over the period 2013 to 2017 (Red indicates loss, green shows gain). From this treemap it can be seen that 
  • a large portion of the patent families is in the hands of private owners; 
  • there is a notable decline in the notional “market share” of private owners, a decline which shows two things: (i) private owners had the filed first (first movers); (ii) companies are gaining in terms of portfolio size in this technology.
Territorial coverage (both with and without private owners)
  • The figure showing territorial coverage is remarkable, in that it shows how far behind the main investors are the Europeans. In short
  • When private owners are excluded, the United States is way ahead of the rest of the world, with the Asia-Pacific trailing behind at a respectable distance
  • Once private owners are included the position is reversed, with around roughly 60% of coverage in the Asia-Pacific and only around 40% in the United States.  
  • Figures for Europe are so insignificant that they do not register at all on the figure. Europe in general is quite conservative in terms of monetary policy, and anything to do with fiscal policy and monetary transactions is heavily regulated. That does not make Europe immune to developments elsewhere in the global economy, but does suggest that the Old World will be made to follow the New World, rather than to lead it.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Something to trumpet about: good news if you're heading for the IP Strategy Forum

Free registration for in-house IP
folk: something
to trumpet about
Readers of this weblog will by now be well aware that Managing Intellectual Property journal (MIP) has launched its inaugural IP Strategy Forum, to be held in the historical and quite lovely surroundings of London's County Hall, on 26 April 2017.  We have also trumpeted the happy fact that the World Intellectual Property Organization -- the UN agency responsible for promoting IP globally and administering its international filing systems -- has designated precisely that day as World Intellectual Property Day 2017 [the WIPO World IP Day website, here, has some background information about this year's event, which is on the theme of "Innovation -- Improving Lives"].

Today's good news is that MIP has kindly agreed to register IP and R&D professionals within companies for free.

County Hall
This year's IP Strategy Forum is being held in conjunction with Aistemos.  Apart from the benefits of participating in the Forum itself, there's an additional bonus in that the results of last year's Aistemos IP Strategy in the Boardroom survey will be released in the form of the Aistemos IP Strategy Report. Why not join us and MIP on 26 April? We can celebrate the day together and spend a bit of time reflecting thoughtfully on the potential of the IP system to save lives and to enhance their quality, as well delivering benefits to those who create, develop and market them? We can tweet our ideas and comments using the pre-designated hashtag #worldipday.

A strong panel of speakers and participants will be on hand, so you can test out your own views of IP strategy against people who have dedicated their professional lives to developing, shaping and modifying strategies of their own in an ever-changing world in which last year's IP best practice can so easily end up being shunted into next year's dead-end. 

Qualcomm, BAE, Philips, IBM, Nissan and Deutsche Bank are among the leading IP-sensitive businesses whose experiences and ideas will be up for discussion.  Do attend and join them in discussion if you can!

Further details of this programme can be obtained by clicking here.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

February's Aistemos blogposts: a handy summary

Each month we list and summarise the previous month's blogposts for readers  who have been away or who were simply too busy to follow them in real time.  This blog lists our main posts for the recently-passed month of February.

Every one of the blogposts listed below comes with a moderated comment facility, so please feel welcome to respond to anything you read, whether you disagree with it, wish to amplify or clarify its points, or merely provide further links to relevant material.

To check each post out, just click the title:

Monday, 27 February 2017

Seize the moment, grasp those intangibles: this webinar discusses how

Here's a reminder that Aistemos is running a webinar with the theme of "Grasping intangibles: IP can slip through your fingers". It's scheduled for Wednesday 8 March, starting at 1500 pm GMT. Not to be missed!


Friday, 24 February 2017

Navigating the intangible landscape: in data we trust

Another opinion piece in our series of features built upon the survey conducted last year by Aistemos into IP strategy and attitudes found within the boardroom.


Thursday, 23 February 2017

Celebrate World IP Day with us at the IP Strategy Forum

We team up with Managing Intellectual Property journal, which launches its inaugural IP Strategy Forum this spring, in the historical and quite lovely surroundings of London's County Hall, on 26 April 2017.  This blogpost explains what it's all about.


Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The US Chamber of Commerce's Global Intellectual Property Center has released its International IP Index for 2017. We take a look and ask whether such exercises are of any use and, if so, to whom.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

How intellectual property became the strategist's darling

Here's another challenging piece in our series of features built upon the survey conducted last year by Aistemos into IP strategy and attitudes found within the boardroom. 


Monday, 20 February 2017

"The Benefits of Transparency in Patent Ownership" now accessible online

"Transparent patent records: it's time to toast an ORoPO webinar" promoted a CPA Global webinar on the need for more accurate and transparent patent ownership records, and on the role that can be played by the non-profit ORoPO -- the Open Register of Patent Ownership -- in achieving this end. Here we provide a link to the full recording.


Monday, 20 February 2017

Blockchain patents: where is control of the new technology heading?

It's nearly a year since our blog team asked what blockchain actually was, and offered a helpful explanation. This post follows on by examining, with the aid of Cipher, the lie of the land so far as blockchain patents are concerned.

Friday, 17 February 2017

The currency of ideas: IP can make or break a business

Another in the popular series of blogposts that originate from the IP in the Boardroom survey conducted by Aistemos last year.


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

IP planning: a playbook for entrepreneurs

The Entrepreneur's IP Planning Playbook, subtitled "A Strategy Guide To Help Solopreneurs, Startup Founders, And Entrepreneurs Harness Their Intellectual Capital", is a short (81 page) and highly focused little book, the purpose of which is clearly flagged in its title. The author is Robert Klinck. This blogpost takes a look at it.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Grasping intangibles: IP can slip through your fingers

Last year Aistemos ran its IP Strategy in the Board Room project, which sought to gauge current levels of awareness of significant intellectual property issues and to raise the level of awareness among the top echelons of IP-sensitive businesses. This blogpost comments on the consequences of a lack of awareness.


Tuesday, 7 February 2017

CourtListener: what can it offer?

Aistemos reviews a service for tracking US litigation, including intellectual property disputes.


Monday, 6 February 2017

Examining the Rise and Rise of the Intangible Asset: loud and clear!

We provide a link to the recording of Aistemos's most heavily-followed webinar ever, "Examining the Rise and Rise of the Intangible Asset".


Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Oiling the machinery of fracking technology: we see where the patents lie

A recent study on avoidable oil spillages caused by fracking in the United States was the trigger for this blogpost, compiled with the assistance of Cipher, on the state of the fracking industry in terms of patent ownership and control.

The first thing we did was to look at fracking patents in terms of time.  The table below offers a time-chart from the year 2000.  

Active Fracking Patent Families over time

• Fracking is not actually a brand-new concept.  The first experiment on hydraulic fracturing was carried out as long ago as July 1947 in Hugoton, Kansas by Stanolind Oil & Gas company, according to this article in the Michigan Telecommunicaions and Technology Law Review;
• The first fracking patent was filed in 1948 by Stanolind which, around the same time, granted Halliburton a licence. Halliburton is today the biggest fracking player in terms of patents, as can be seen from the activity chart for the five biggest fracking actors (in terms of patents), below;
• There has been a steady growth of patents for fracking since the turn of the century.

Let us now take a look at the historical filing activity for the five biggest actors of 2017.

Historical filing activity for the 5 biggest actors of 2017

• Halliburton and Schlumberger have led the field since the early years of the ’00s
• The Chinese actors have been picking up on the leaders since the late ’00s
• This chart highlights interesting areas for further analysis and invites the question: is the increased competition from Chinese actors itself a reason behind the increased patent activity from Halliburton?

Now let's look at the biggest fracking companies. In the chart below, the size of the box represents the number of fracking patents owned by the company in relation to the whole technology field in 2017, while the colour of the box represents the positive or negative change in the proportion of patents held between 2012-2017

The biggest fracking companies

• As can be seen, this field is almost exclusively populated by energy giants;
• The winners in terms of share gains are clearly Chinese companies. In contrast, the actors from US and EMEA appear to be losing ground.

Taking a nationalistic view, we now consider control of fracking technology on a country-by-country basis. The chart below shows an overview of the geographical distribution of granted fracking patent families.
Fracking technology by country

• It can be seen that the United States and China are again dominant. 
Russia, not usually among the leaders in patent-owning charts, is strongly represented here, with the United Kingdom heading the rest of the European contingent.