Authored by Michelle Carniaux and Michael E. Sander
In a previous post, we discussed the top patent owners in PTAB inter partes and covered business method review proceedings. We now turn our attention to the petitioners, to see which companies have been filing the most petitions for inter partes and covered business method review. In order to get a more recent snapshot of the state of the PTAB, we considered only petitions filed during the USPTO’s Fiscal Year 2014 (i.e., October 1, 2013 to the present). Again, we come across some surprising results. A table of the results is below.
Ranked at numbers one and two, Apple and Samsung top the list as having filed the most number of petitions for inter partes and covered business method review. Apple beat out Samsung in total number of petitions filed, with 33 petitions for inter partes review and 13 petitions for covered business method review, for a total of 46 petitions. Apple also tops the list with the most number of petitions for covered business method review filed in Fiscal Year 2014. Samsung, however, tops the list in the number of petitions for inter partes review (38). Given the number of patent lawsuits with which Apple and Samsung are involved, it is not surprising that they would be involved in so many PTAB proceedings.
Of the five petitions for inter partes review that Apple filed jointly with other companies, four were filed jointly with Google, despite the two parties’ widely reported disputes. The proverb “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” comes to mind. All but one of Apple’s 13 CBM petitions were filed against patents owned by a single company, Smartflash LLC, a non-practicing entity.
Surprisingly, the company that ties the next spot is Gillette, the consumer personal care company owned by Proctor & Gamble. Although tied with Google in total number of IPR and CBM petitions, Gillette has filed significantly more inter partes review petitions than Google. In fact, Gillette is tied with Apple in the number two spot in the number of inter partes review petitions filed. Interestingly, all 33 of Gillette’s petitions were filed against patents owned by Zond, Inc. Twenty seven of its petitions were filed just last month. In our previous discussion of the most active patent owners in the PTAB, we discussed Zond. However, Zond’s woes at the PTAB do not end with Gillette. As of this writing, Zond’s patents are subject to 120 petitions for inter partes review.
The next two companies are more predictable: Intel and TSMC, both large players in the technology industry, rank fifth and sixth, respectively.
Medtronic ranks number seven. Unlike all of our other top-ten petitioners, Medtronic is the only party that is itself subject to an inter partes review as a patent owner. Every other company on our list only brings petitions for inter partes and/or CBM review, but has not had to defend against petitions brought by others. Medtronic is in the rare position of being party on both sides at the PTAB.
Three companies tie for the tenth spot on our list, each having filed 20 petitions for inter partes review. As we previously discussed, TRW Automotive is engaged in a dispute with Magna Electronics, a competitor. Microsoft also filed 20 petitions, 12 of which were filed against VirnetX, which we have written about at length.
Last but not least is Ford Motor Company – the only vehicle manufacturer to make it on our list (Honda just missed the top ten with 16 petitions). Like TRW Automotive and Microsoft, Ford filed 20 petitions for inter partes review. However, of the 20 petitions filed by Ford, 7 were filed as joint petitions with other parties, including Honda, BMW, Subaru, Nissan, and Toyota, suggesting a stronger willingness to work with other parties in order to challenge a patent.
Altogether, the top ten IPR petitioners are involved in over a quarter of all IPR and CBM petitions filed in fiscal year 2014.
Table: Top 10 IPR Petitioners in PTO Fiscal Year 2014 to July 1, 2014
1Petitioner names include obvious subsidiaries.