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Aon Intellectual Property Assets Brief - December 21, 2020

Thoughts from the Aon Team

There is nothing that we can say about 2020 that already hasn’t been said, but the one thing we can say that remains most relevant for the purposes of this newsletter is the growing importance of intellectual property.

In 2021, one of our key focuses as a firm will be to help clients rethink how they are accessing capital, especially through the strategic valuation and protection of their IP assets.

I have stated before and will restate again as we look back at 2020 and look forward in 2021: Our research consistently finds that IP is undervalued, under protected, and underappreciated as a source of significant value to companies of all sizes, at all stages, and in all industries.  And during good economic times and bad.

Given the ongoing unpredictability, it is critical for businesses to understand that their IP is one of their most valuable assets and retains significant value through recessionary periods. As companies grapple with evolving business models to face ongoing, unprecedented disruption, they must find ways to best leverage their IP assets to add liquidity, deflect potential IP-based risks, and protect against a post-crisis future.

As I write this today, on the 20th of December 2020 it does feel like there is far more hope in the air, than when we first started this newsletter, both economic and societal.  Even while the pandemic continues to significantly impact the U.S. and lockdowns are occurring around the world for the holiday season, new technologies are being deployed and vaccines are being distributed and delivered. 

There is still a long road ahead, with more uncertainty to come. But there is also a feeling of optimism as we enter 2021, and that is always a good thing.

I want to thank you for coming along this journey with us in 2020 and hope this newsletter has been a useful source of information for you and the work you do.  We’ll continue to work to improve on the content and the format, and as always welcome your feedback.

Please stay healthy and safe, and we’ll see you in 2021!

- Lewis Lee

Aon IP in the News

  • Aon's global Work, Travel and Convene Coalitions released findings from a report that researched how organizations are adapting to emerging risks amid the coronavirus pandemic. Coalitions were launched in countries and urban centers such as Australia, Germany, London, Madrid, and New York, and spanned more than 130 organizations including McDonald’s, Accenture and Merck KGaA. Aon also performed a quantitative diagnostic on industries' readiness, resilience and wellness as the pandemic evolved. 
  • Aon is now offering cyber and professional liability insurance online for small and medium-sized businesses, as well as an enhanced cyber insurance program for high net worth individuals and executives. The enhanced offering is a result of a partnership with Aspen Insurance and provides clients with concierge services for IT and cybersecurity needs, including device protection and personal information monitoring.
    • Aon has also formed a task force to meet the needs of businesses involved in special purpose acquisition companies. The task force was prompted by rapid growth in the SPAC market, which exposed their management liability and coverage needs.
  • Aon will serve as the digital economy broker for HyreCar, a carsharing and ridesharing marketplace. Aon's sophisticated insurance solutions will meet the needs of a digital economy company such as HyreCar, Aon’s Digital Economy Practice Leader Jillian Slyfield said.

Executive Insights

  • Federal agencies have unearthed a sophisticated cyberattack on U.S. government departments and thousands of public and private sector entities through the compromise of SolarWinds software. U.S. entities accused Russia of the hack, which began in March and lasted through the U.S. election. The attack, which breached SolarWinds’s Orion software and distributed malware as an update, underscores the risks of third-party vendors and raises questions about liability. 
  • Surgical device manufacturer Endobotics has won $192 million following an intellectual property dispute against Medrobotics Corp. for selling knockoffs of its patented surgical tool. Endobotics inherited patents and trade secrets that were developed by Cambridge Endoscopic and announced wins in Delaware and Massachusetts federal courts. 
  • Amazon and Yeti Coolers have jointly filed a lawsuit accusing third-party sellers of hawking counterfeit coolers and tumblers.The suit alleges that the sellers imported fake YETI tumblers from China and sold them on Amazon. 
    • The United States Patent and Trademark Office is seeking comments  as the agency considers secondary infringement in e-commerce. While numerous e-commerce sites are aware that third-party sellers are peddling counterfeit goods, manufacturers currently face a difficult process in asserting trademark infringement claims. 
  • A Belize broadcaster must pay Dish Network almost $16 million following allegations that it provided customers with unauthorized access to the satellite giant's TV content. A U.S. district court judge in the Southern District of Florida ordered the settlement, which requires Channel Broadcasting Corp. of Belize to pay $750 for each of 21,136 access credentials offered to the CBC service.
  • A federal judge in North Carolina ruled that pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly must face a lawsuit alleging that it stole an app developer's confidential information to launch a rival app that tracks users’ migraines. SensorRx Inc. began marketing its migraine tracking app last year.
  • The USPTO will increase some fees to file trademark applications and will introduce new fees to filings that were previously free. The agency has also designated three decisions from the Patent Trial and Appeals Board as precedential. Among them was Apple Inc. v. Uniloc, in which the board refused to institute inter partes review based on Apple’s “follow-on copycat petition.” 
  • U.S. Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina introduced a provision in the yearly spending bill that would make streaming copyrighted music a felony offense. Critics say the law would amount to a chill on expression and should be a civil rather than a criminal offense. 
  • Craft beer companies are becoming a theme in intellectual property theft cases. The relative newness of the industry coupled with the desire to buck the establishment has led many breweries to land in hot water as they use phrases, logos and images to market their products. Colorado-based brewery Oskar Blues settled a lawsuit from rock band Guns N’ Roses last year after the brewery released a “Guns ‘N’ Rosé” ale, along with merchandise without the band’s permission. 

News of Interest

  • Breaking the 5G Curve by Looking Beyond the U.S. Patent System - IPWatchdog - 12/16/2020
    • Outbound Virality: Facebook: 1 Interaction; Twitter: 5 Tweets
    • Implementers faced with high SEP licensing cost and uncertainty typically mitigate risk by: (1) using licensed components, (2) receiving indemnification, and (3) leveraging defensive portfolios. But there is another strategy that should be considered given the tools which are now available: preemptively challenging patent family validity in foreign jurisdictions that are relatively quick, inexpensive and often more effective.
  • Airbnb valuation surges past $100 billion in biggest U.S. IPO of 2020 - Reuters - 12/18/2020
    • Outbound Virality: Facebook: 0 Interactions; Twitter: 0 Tweets
    • Founded in 2008 as a website to take bookings for rooms during conferences, Airbnb’s listing was one of the most anticipated U.S. IPOs of 2020, which has already been a record year for stock market listings.
  • Opinion | China Is National Security Threat No. 1 - Wall Street Journal - 12/3/2020
    • Outbound Virality: Facebook: 687 Interactions; Twitter: 994 Tweets
    • As Director of National Intelligence, I am entrusted with access to more intelligence than any member of the U.S. government other than the president. I oversee the intelligence agencies, and my office produces the President’s Daily Brief detailing the threats facing the country. If I could communicate one thing to the American people from this unique vantage point, it is that the People’s Republic of China poses the greatest threat to America today, and the greatest threat to democracy and freedom world-wide since World War II.
  • A Dominant Patent Court Is A Good Thing - - 12/16/2020
    • Outbound Virality: Facebook: 0 Interactions; Twitter: 3 Tweets
    • The opinion in In re Apple, Case No. 2020-135 (CAFC Nov. 9, 2020), highlights how big tech companies enjoy the Texas business climate but seek to avoid its legal system. It also undermines the wisdom of having specialized patent courts efficiently resolve complex patent disputes.
  • India, US ink MoU to cooperate on IP examination and protection - The Economic Times - 12/3/2020
    • Outbound Virality: Facebook: 4 Interactions; Twitter: 4 Tweets
    • The present agreement covers for the next 10 years, describing a range of cooperative activities pertaining to securing, using, and enforcing IP rights in the areas of patents, trademarks, copyrights, geographical indications, and industrial designs.
  • Opinion | The Risk in Suspending Vaccine Patent Rules - The New York Times - 12/10/2020
    • Outbound Virality: Facebook: 110 Interactions; Twitter: 86 Tweets
    • Development of a new medicine is risky and costly. Consider that scientists have spent decades — and billions of dollars — working on Alzheimer’s treatments, but still have little to show for it. The companies and investors who fund research shoulder so much risk because they have a shot at a reward. Once a patent expires, generic companies are free to produce the same product. Intellectual property rights underpin the system that gives us all new medicines, from psychiatric drugs to cancer treatments.

Social Contribution

  • The Daily Eye @TheDailyEye 18 Dec For blockchain technology to take off in the management of IP design rights and copyrights, there would be a need to internationally supported set of standards, writes Dr Anurag Yadav Read more Retweets: 8 Likes: 9
  • CNET @CNET 18 Dec Microsoft head calls SolarWinds hack "act of recklessness". Here's what you need to know Retweets: 6 Likes: 20
  • The American Lawyer @AmericanLawyer 17 Dec COVID-19 Pushed More Legal Departments to Cut Outside Spending Retweets: 2 Likes: 2
  • Traction News @Traction_News 14 Dec Bridgestone has received a favorable ruling from its lawsuit regarding the infringement of patent rights against Chinese tire manufacturer Shandong Vheal Group. Retweets: 0 Likes: 2
  • Peter Flax @Pflax1 15 Dec Interesting update on the suit in which patent infringement is alleged against Peloton by a spin-bike inventor. Retweets: 0 Likes: 8

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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