CAD / PLM and Patent Wars

CAD / PLM and Patent Wars

I know, patent stories are hot now. After Google decided to pay Motorola the premium of USD 12.5B to defend Android from potential lawsuits, the question about how much software companies are ready to pay to prevent themselves from a potential patent war becomes obvious. I read Techcrunch article – The Terrible Cost of Patents. Have a read and make your opinion. I found the following passage interesting:

Technology products, and software especially, are never created from whole cloth. By their very nature, they build upon previous technologies and improve upon them. But what you and I might consider an improvement, a patent lawyer might consider infringement. Figuring out which patents your product might infringe upon is a nearly impossible task. A single smartphone might involve 250,000 patent claims, which may or may not be valid. The fact that the Patent Office approves many bogus patents does not help matters. So..

Patents were originally conceived to protect inventors—people and companies who contribute to the advancement of society by creating new products. But in the past decade, something went horribly wrong. Patents are increasingly becamenothing more than financial and legal weapons, to be amassed in portfolios by “non-practicing entities” (i.e. patent trolls) and used to extort protection money from economically productive companies.

It wasn’t absolutely new thing for me. However, it is quite shocking to see the amount of money software and technological companies are spending on patent-ecosystem.

CAD / PLM Patents

Well, I’m obviously not pretending to provide an exhaustive study about CAD /PLM patents. Techcrunch article and corresponded numbers definitely made me think about what is the situation with patents in CAD / PLM. Is it possible to estimate how much CAD / PLM vendors are spending on patents and what is the chance of potential patent war between these companies?.

I have to say that searching for patents is a tricky thing. Sometimes, companies are using multiple techniques to prevent patents from being discoverable by competitors. Since, my goal wasn’t to provide exact numbers, I just made very rough estimations of patents based on a single attribute of a patent – Assignee Name. This method is also questionable, because of company name changes. However, I consider that naming will be quite stable for the following company names – Autodesk Inc, Dassault Systemes, Parametric Technology and UGS Corp. The last one was the most problematic elements for me, since it definitely wasn’t able to cover patents that belonging to Siemens PLM (new name of UGS Corp after acquisition). To estimate results, I used Google Patent Search and Free Patents Search online.

Results according to the Google:

Autodesk Inc. – 10’800 results
Dassault Systemes – 1’680 results
UGS Corp. – 505 results
Parametric Technology – 395 results

Results according to the Free Patent Search:

Autodesk Inc. – 622 results
Dassault Systemes – 105 results
UGS Corp. – 33
Parametric Technology – 24

I have to tell you that as soon as you will dig inside of the content of patents you can find lots of interesting stuff related to systems, and invention described there. I don’t want to point on my favorites, but I’m pretty sure everyone will find something to think about…

What is my conclusion? I want to make an exception in today’s blog and will not make “my conclusion” as I usually do. I assume everybody in the hightech and software industry have their “love and hate” relationships with patents, patent lawyers and USPTO. I’d be interested to know your opinion if you think CAD / PLM competition can follow “patent war” routes. What is your opinion? Speak your mind?

Best, Oleg


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