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Aon Intellectual Property Assets Briefing - November 2021

Thoughts from the Aon Team

Aon just released its 2021 Global Risk Management Survey (GRMS), which provides a comprehensive, global view of how organizations view their key risks and challenges compared to other companies from more than 60 countries/territories. Of the 60 types of risks included in the report, six of the top ten identified global risks, including business interruption, reputational harm and failure to innovate, are closely tied to intellectual property (IP) risk.

This was no surprise to us, since intangible assets make up such a large portion of enterprise value in our innovation-driven economy. Our updated 2021 IP Litigation report shows the continued trend of increasing cases and judgment severity since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another takeaway is that global risk managers don’t fully appreciate the extent to which IP assets play a role in these risks. While many of the top risks involve IP assets, the survey also showed that IP risk itself ranked in the bottom half of areas of concern. This is likely due to the narrow view that IP risk only pertains to the threat of litigation when it is central to most risks in today’s organizations.

These client insights reinforce the need to continue educating and informing on the evolving importance of IP in all phases of business. We are very excited to be continuing this dialogue and sponsoring and attending global events once again. To that end, we hope to see you at IPBC Global in Seattle this week, where two of our leaders will be panel participants. Brian Hinman, our Chief Commercial Officer, will be speaking on IP Investment and David Andrews, our Chief Data and Analytics Officer, on Diversity and Inclusion. Check out IPBC’s full agenda and be sure to stop by our booth.

Lewis Lee, CEO, Aon IP Solutions


Aon in the News

  • A piece from Bloomberg discusses the results of the Aon 2021 Global Risk Management Survey (GRMS), which is a risk management survey conducted by Aon every two years to identify key risks and challenges their organizations are facing. The GRMS provides a comprehensive view of how an organization’s key risks and challenges compare to other companies from more than 60 countries/territories and 16 industries. 
  • Aon played a key role in Gluware raising $43 million in growth funding to accelerate the company’s growth without diluting their ownership.
  • Aon CEO Greg Case hailed the “exceptional” momentum for the firm following another quarter of double-digit growth, noting that Aon is looking to invest in talent and product development.
  • Aon founder Patrick Ryan was featured in an article for Bloomberg about his new endeavors since retiring from the world’s second-largest insurance brokerage after building and running it for 41 years as chief executive officer.
  • Cyber exposures in the U.S. property insurance market could result in $12.5 billion in non-physical damage losses, according to a joint study that included Aon. The accumulation of cyber risk could trigger the one-in-100-year-loss, which would be enough to cause a downward transition of the Best’s Capital Adequacy Ratio (BCAR) for 18 U.S. property insurance carriers.
    • Aon launched a new offering to address cyber insurability challenges in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “Ransomware Defence” helps mid-market organizations improve and demonstrate their cyber preparedness, both mitigating risk of a ransomware attack and facilitating cyber insurance placement.
  • Managing climate change is now “business as usual” for pension funds, according to Aon. Meanwhile, other factors such as political instability have diminished in importance.
  • Aon has partnered with Locomation to develop a risk management plan for AV operations. The collaboration is expected to reduce customers’ operating costs through lower insurance rates for carriers, shippers, truck manufacturers, and more.


Executive Insights

  • President Joe Biden nominated Winston & Strawn partner Kathi Vidal to lead the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a candidate who supporters say could provide balance in her role due to her experience representing both sides for patent eligibility at the Federal Circuit. The next PTO director will also have more power to shape patent law following a Supreme Court ruling in June that gave the director authority to review decisions made by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.
  • Nike has filed trademark applications indicating that the company plans to sell sneakers, clothing and other goods stamped with its logo in virtual worlds including video games and other online platforms. Trademark experts say the “new frontier” of the digital world could become a significant revenue stream for Nike, which would be able to protect its brand in virtual worlds.
  • The search for cigarette alternatives has prompted a rise in litigation among U.S. tobacco firms as companies fight for market share in smoke-free products. Because e-cigarettes and heated tobacco sticks incorporate more technology than traditional cigarettes, the number of patents in the industry is spiking. Most recently, the International Trade Commission banned Philip Morris and Altria from importing their heated tobacco sticks due to a patent dispute with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, threatening up to 15% of Altria’s anticipated sales by the end of 2023.
  • The weak infringement claims brought against Marathon Oil and other companies have resulted in a $5 million award for those companies in attorney’s fees. A U.S. appeals court ruled that Heat On-The-Fly LLC had filed patent infringement claims despite knowing that its fracking patent was invalid. The decision concludes nine years of litigation after the company purposely withheld information from the USPTO that would have prevented the patent from being issued in the first place.
  • Nippon Steel is suing Toyota for using stolen technology to make a steel material used in electric motors. The company, a longtime supplier for Toyota, filed the patent-infringement lawsuit as prices continue to rise for raw materials, underscoring growing tensions in IP as supply chains back up. The suit names both Toyota and Nippon’s rival supplier Baoshan Iron & Steel, moving Toyota to argue that Nippon Steel and Baoshan should have settled the matter between themselves.
  • Dairy Queen is taking a Massachusetts bottled water company to court in an effort to stop the company from using the "Blizzard" name for its bottled spring water. The lawsuit brought against W.B. Mason Co. argues that trademarks for Dairy Queen's Blizzard date back to 1946, that the soft-serve ice cream treat is required at all locations, and its stores also sell water.

"Big Tobacco Is Spending More Time Fighting Over Patents" - The Wall Street Journal / Source: MaxVal and LexisNexis


News of Interest

  • Senators slam Albright over 'extreme concentration' of patent cases - Reuters - 11/3/2021
    • Outbound Virality: Facebook: 15 Interactions; Twitter: 2 Tweets
    • Critics say Albright's policies attract alleged "patent trolls," as individuals and companies that generate revenue by suing over patents instead of actually making products have been called, to his court. Albright told Reuters earlier this year that he considered negative perceptions of his court to be "pretty much from outside the bubble."
  • IBM delivers hundreds of patents to DoorDash in latest big startup transaction - I AM Media - 10/21/2021
    • Outbound Virality: Facebook: 0 Interactions; Twitter: 0 Tweets
    • Recent deal shows that IBM patent sales to startups can generate their own momentum – and that they are not limited to pre-IPO companies.
  • Inside the lawsuit that ended US gene patenting - Nature - 10/25/2021
    • Outbound Virality: Facebook: 10 Interactions; Twitter: 62 Tweets
    • The Salt Lake City company used its intellectual property to create a monopoly on certain tests for cancer risk, and threatened potential competitors with legal action. At the time, the tests cost thousands of dollars and, thanks in no small part to the vagaries of the US health-care system, were not always available to the people who needed them.
  • USPTO Has Ways to Improve Patent Diversity and Inclusion - Bloomberg Law - 10/13/2021
    • Outbound Virality: Facebook: 0 Interactions; Twitter: 0 Tweets
    • One way to encourage diverse inventorship could be to grant special status, such as reduced application fees and/or accelerated examination, to patent applications that name inventors from underrepresented demographics.
  • U.S. warns against IP, trade secret risks in draft EU tech rules - Reuters - 11/10/2021
    • Outbound Virality: Facebook: 1 Interaction; Twitter: 33 Tweets
    • The paper said requiring gatekeepers - companies that control data and access to their platforms - to change their business practices and the design of their software may have implications for security and consumer protection.


Social Contribution

  • debjani ghosh @debjani_ghosh_ 8 Oct The race for 6G leadership is already on...with China leading the way.  20,000 6G-related patent applications as of Aug 21.. 40.3% from China, 35.2% from US. Core areas r communications, quantum technology, base stations, AI etc Retweets: 13 Likes: 58
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy @SenatorLeahy 19 Oct Too many small businesses and entrepreneurs have had to sink money into costly litigation just to find out who is suing them for patent infringement. We can change that by passing the Pride in Patent Ownership Act to make patent ownership information available to the public. Retweets: 19 Likes: 49
  • Carl Quintanilla @carlquintanilla 22 Oct MORGAN STANLEY: The US is seeing “the strongest capex cycle since the 1940s, driven by business investment in equipment and intellectual property rights. In the US, capex should reach the pre-Covid trend as early as 4Q this year.” Retweets: 225 Likes: 654
  • Dr. Tom Frieden @DrTomFrieden 14 Oct The pandemic won't be over until the world is vaccinated. Moderna and Pfizer must help other companies scale up production. This isn’t charity. Their intellectual property can be protected and they can receive billions of dollars in royalties—AND millions of lives will be saved. Retweets: 623 Likes: 2.6K
  • Lorrie Goldstein @sunlorrie 19 Oct A different time: When Frederick Banting discovered insulin in 1923 he felt it was unethical for a doctor to profit from a discovery that would save lives. Co-inventors James Collip & Charles Best sold the patent to the U of T for $1. They wanted everyone to be able to afford it Retweets: 146 Likes: 514

Aon’s Intellectual Property Solutions team helps clients identify, protect, and maximize value from their most valuable assets in today’s business world, their intellectual property. Aon brings the best minds and strong analytical tools to provide a comprehensive approach to intellectual property strategy, valuation and risk management across a client’s business -- aligning current and future intellectual property assets with a businesses’ overarching strategy.

For more information about Aon’s Intellectual Property Solutions, please contact  

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