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Patent expert witnesses team with law departments seeking patent revenue

Law departments, ugly-duckling cost centers, sometimes dream of molting into swan profit centers. One way is through collecting royalties from patents improperly used by other companies. The New York Times (Oct. 4, 2005 at C8) discussed expert witness firms, such as the giants LECG and Exponent, that assist law departments who bird-dog infringers.

The article stated that “the handful of large expert-witness firms have made ‘handshake’ agreements to act in partnership with companies that are accumulating portfolios of patents with the intent of collecting revenue from them.”

A bit hard to parse, that quoted sentence, because aside from some so-called defensive patents whose purpose is to block competitors from patenting in an area, obtaining a patent always has the near or long-term hope of letting the holder collect revenue.

But the remainder of the article talks mostly about patent litigation and the role of expert witnesses. (See my post of Sept. 13, 2005 about the cottage industry supporting law departments.) It makes you wonder, doesn’t it, when the putatively neutral expert has formed a partnership to testify on behalf of its partner.