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Dispatches from the IP Wars

Alan Sipress


As corporate America has learned to do business in today's Idea Economy, so have American lawyers. Intellectual property is becoming ever more central to the success of business. So it's not surprising that court battles over patents and other forms of intellectual property have increased dramatically over the last generation.

But two studies out within the last week have very different takes on the state of the IP wars.

Law.com is reporting today a "burgeoning number of blockbuster verdicts" in intellectual property cases and attributes this to the growing global market for technology products. Last year, these court verdicts exceeded $1.3 billion, according to research by the Web site and VerdictSearch, which is affiliated with the National Law Journal.

That total already seems like small potatoes. After all, only two weeks ago, a federal jury in San Diego ordered Microsoft to pay $1.52 billion to Alcatel-Lucent for infringing two patents for the MP3 technology used to play digital music on computers, cellphones and other portable devices. Microsoft has promised to appeal the ruling.

Yet a separate study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that the number of filed patent cases has actually declined in the last two years. While the number of patent cases filed nearly tripled between 1991 and 2004, the total dropped more than 10 percent the following year, the accounting company reported late last week.

It said the downward trend was due to a range of factors, including fewer filings for business-method patents, increased use of alternate ways for resolving disputes, rising litigation costs and recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The study also found that the average amount awarded to successful plaintiffs was down sharply in the last year.

By Alan Sipress  |  March 5, 2007; 1:57 PM ET  | Category:  Alan Sipress
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