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Metrics on patent, trademark and copyright cases, 1992- 2003

This blog has splashed posts everywhere about patents (at least 20 of them on costs, litigation, auctions, productivity, incentives and more – e-mail Rees Morrison if you would like the compilation), but it has been dry on trademarks and copyrights. I slighted trademarks and copyrights because I thought litigation, costs, and key corporate assets were primarily in the patent pool.

Wrong. The table below shows data compiled by Chief Legal Executive in the fall of 2003 for the period 1992 through Sept. 2003. That magazine drew on LexisNexis CourtLink data from Federal District Courts.

Industry Total Patent% TM% Copyright%
Computer Software 1030 10.3% 17.7% 72.0%
Gen Merchandise 827 28.2% 24.9% 46.9%
Pharmaceuticals 635 77.8% 21.1% 1.1%
Apparel 561 12.5% 81.1% 6.4%
Computer Offi.Equip. 496 59.3% 30.2% 10.5%

Four observations on the data: The variance in litigation numbers according to the three IP categories between these five industries (out of 10 in the article) is striking. Copyright lawsuits dominate Computer Software but barely touch Pharmaceuticals; Pharmaceutical companies sue or are sued over patents; Apparel makers rarely engage in patent suits. As to trademark litigation, the most brand-dependent companies, Apparel, fight all the time; computer software producers only now and then.

The even dispersion of lawsuits across the three categories is a second striking observation: 33.7 percent patent; 31.8 percent trademark; and 34.5 percent copyright. Much material may be on the internet about patents – my weak excuse for paying so much attention to that form of intellectual property – but the other two forms match patents in litigation activity.

Third, the data covers approximately 10 years, which means for these industries 50-to-100 a year; given the large number of companies in these broad industries, the volume of litigation per company would likely be small – although admittedly the cost and stakes might be high.

Finally, the total number of IP lawsuits for these five industries ranges from approximately 500 to 1,000, which is a tighter band than many law department managers might think.

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