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  • Bloomberg

    ‘Death Squad’ That Tossed 2,000 Patents Challenged at High Court

    (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether to declare unconstitutional a system that technology companies, including Apple Inc. and Google Inc., have used to invalidate hundreds of patents and head off litigation.In an argument at the intersection of intellectual property and the separation of powers, the justices on Monday will consider a challenge to a congressionally-created board that critics have dubbed a “death squad” because of its tendency to toss out patents.The Patent Trial and Appeal Board has invalidated more than 2,000 patents since it began work in 2012. Apple says it alone has used the board to successfully attack almost 200 patents, many held by entities interested only in filing lawsuits and extracting royalties. Congress set up the board, known as PTAB, in 2011 as a faster and cheaper alternative to litigation.But some smaller inventors see a chance to undercut the board, saying it’s become an anticompetitive tool for large companies.The case “has the potential to shut down the PTAB, if only for a moment until Congress can do something to get it back on course,” said Jim Carmichael, a former PTAB judge and now managing director of Carmichael IP. “For many inventors and patent owners, that’s a very exciting prospect.”At issue is whether more than 250 PTAB judges are serving in violation of the Constitution. The federal appeals court that handles most patent disputes said the judges have important enough powers that they need to be appointed directly by the president.Should the Supreme Court agree, it could go as far as barring the board from continuing to review and invalidate patents. The justices could also issue a more limited ruling that would strip the judges of their job protections but leave the board’s powers intact. Either way, a decision against the board could mean that hundreds of cases would have to be reconsidered.Constitutional FightThe U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said the judges are “principal officers,” a constitutional category that requires presidential appointment and Senate confirmation. The court said it reached that conclusion in part because patent judges’ decisions, typically issued by three-person panels, aren’t subject to review by a presidentially appointed official at the agency.The Justice Department is urging the Supreme Court to leave the system in place, saying patent judges are “inferior officers,” who the Constitution says don’t have be presidential appointees. In a brief filed before leaving office, President Donald Trump’s administration said the Patent & Trademark Office director and the Commerce secretary together have broad control over the work of the judges. Among other tools, the patent office director can decide which judges sit on a review panel.The Supreme Court said in a 1997 case involving Coast Guard judges that inferior officers are people “whose work is directed and supervised at some level by others who were appointed by presidential nomination with the advice and consent of the Senate.”The case before the justices involves an Arthrex Inc. surgical device patent invalidated by PTAB after a challenge by Smith & Nephew Plc. The court has deferred action in dozens of other cases likely to be affected by its ruling.Technology CompaniesApple, the single biggest user of the review boards, filed a brief backing Arthrex. The iPhone maker said it relies “on Congress’s promise of a fair and efficient forum to challenge what often prove to be woefully weak patents that should not have issued in the first instance.”Other companies backing PTAB include Intel Corp. and an alliance whose members include Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Cisco Systems Inc., Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co.A group describing itself as “39 aggrieved inventors” said intellectual property rights are “under attack by large corporations that are motivated to devalue patents and quell competition.”“There is no place for overlooking constitutional violations and contrived, convoluted administrative shortcuts when the future of small businesses and their owners’ livelihoods hang in the balance,” the group said.The drug industry is largely staying out of the fight, though a trade group for the generic-drug industry urged the court to preserve the PTAB.So many patents have been invalidated that it’s been called a “death squad,” a term coined by Randall Rader, the former chief judge of the Federal Circuit, which oversees all patent disputes in the country. The patent office has since altered its rules, giving patent owners a better shot at surviving the challenges.PTAB already survived one challenge at the Supreme Court. In 2018, justices found the panel wasn’t unconstitutionally wielding powers that belong to the courts.The court is scheduled to rule by late June. The lead case is U.S. v. Arthrex, 19-1434.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Nvidia Slips on Concern About Growth of Data Center Business

    (Bloomberg) -- Nvidia Corp. shares slipped on concern about growth of the company’s data center chip business.During an earnings conference call, Chief Financial Officer Colette Kress said the majority of growth in the current period will come from Nvidia’s gaming business. Some analysts worried that means the data center division will expand more slowly and they asked several questions on the topic during the call.Nvidia reported data center chip sales jumped 97% to $1.9 billion in the fiscal fourth quarter from a year earlier. It also gave a revenue forecast that beat Wall Street expectations. However, the CFO’s comments on the conference call curbed enthusiasm for a stock that has more than doubled in the past year.The stock fell about 2.5% in extended trading, after closing at $579.96 in New York earlier on Wednesday.The company has become a barometer of confidence at some of the biggest tech companies. Cloud providers such as Google and Amazon.com Inc. use Nvidia graphics chips to help power some of the most widely used services on the internet. That business is choppy, with spikes in orders followed by lulls as customers use up stockpiles of chips.Right now, the semiconductor sector is struggling to meet surging demand in some parts of the industry, and Nvidia has been caught up in this.An increase in online activity and purchases of technology gear for working from home triggered a sharp rebound in chip demand last year. That caught some customers off guard, especially automakers. New orders flooded in and the global semiconductor supply chain is still trying to catch up. Nvidia outsources production to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Samsung Electronics Co., which are swamped with orders. That’s limiting Nvidia’s ability to meet demand.“Throughout our supply chain, stronger demand globally has limited the availability of capacity and components, particularly in Gaming,” Kress said.QuickTake: Here’s Why the World Is Short of Computer Chips.Nvidia is supply constrained “at the company level,” Chief Executive Officer Jensen Huang said. It has enough supply to grow throughout this year, and some segments like data center won’t be hurt by chip shortages, he added.Revenue will be about $5.3 billion in the period ending in April, the Santa Clara, California-based company said Wednesday in a statement. That compares with an average analyst estimate of $4.5 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.The chipmaker is seeing a surge in orders for PC gaming gear from consumers stuck at home in the pandemic and looking for entertainment. Nvidia’s graphics chips are also important components in machines that run the code needed to create Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies. The price of Bitcoin has soared in recent months.Huang has built on Nvidia’s strength in PC gaming graphics chips by taking the company into new markets such as artificial intelligence processing in data centers and components for autonomous vehicles.Revenue from gaming was $2.5 billion in the quarter, up 67% from the same period last year.During previous run ups in the price of cryptocurrencies, Nvidia experienced surging demand followed by crashes sparked by price drops and the switch to more customized technology. The company has tried to minimize this volatility by offering different chips specifically for crypto mining. That reduces the risk that Nvidia’s gaming chips are dumped back into the market when crypto customers realized they don’t need them.Last September, Nvidia agreed to buy SoftBank Group Corp.’s chip division Arm Ltd. for $40 billion, in a bid to control of some of the most widely used electronics technology. The two are seeking regulatory approval around the world. Arm customers including Google, Microsoft Corp. and Qualcomm Inc. are worried about the deal and have urged antitrust officials to intervene.Fiscal fourth quarter revenue rose 61% to $5 billion and profit excluding certain costs was $3.10 a share in the period, which ended Jan. 31, the company said. Analysts, on average, predicted earnings of $2.81 a share on sales of $4.82 billion.(Updates with CFO comments in second paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

  • IonQ in Talks to Go Public Through Merger with DMY SPAC
    Bloomberg

    IonQ in Talks to Go Public Through Merger with DMY SPAC

    (Bloomberg) -- IonQ is in advanced talks to merge with blank-check company DMY Technology Group Inc. III, according to people with knowledge of the matter, creating one of the first public quantum-computing firms.The combined company is slated to be worth about $2 billion and a deal is set to be announced in coming weeks, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. Silver Lake, MSD Partners, Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy and an affiliate of Hyundai Motor Co. are in talks to participate in a so-called strategic private investment in public equity, or PIPE.Shares of the SPAC surged 15% at 10:24 a.m. in New York.DMY Technology is discussing raising additional equity from institutional investors, and new equity from strategic and institutional investors is set to total around $300 million, one of the people said. Existing IonQ investors are expected to roll their equity into the transaction, according to one of the people.As with any deal that hasn’t been finalized, it’s possible terms change or talks fall apart. Representatives for IonQ and DMY declined to comment, as did spokesmen for Silver Lake and MSD Partners. Representatives of Hyundai and Breakthrough Energy Ventures didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.The SPAC, led by Chairman Harry You and Chief Executive Officer Niccolo De Masi, raised $300 million in November and said at the time it would pursue a target in consumer technology.College Park, Maryland-based IonQ was founded in 2015 by Chris Monroe and Jungsang Kim and is led by CEO Peter Chapman. Its investors include Amazon Web Services, Samsung Catalyst Fund, GV (formerly known as Google Ventures), NEA, Lockheed Martin Corp., Airbus Ventures and Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH. IonQ in October unveiled what it describes as the world’s most powerful quantum computer.Quantum has long been touted as the next frontier in technology. Such computers would be capable of simulating and understanding phenomena in the natural world instantly and providing the basis for systems that are unhackable. Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp., among other companies, are also working to advance quantum computing. The technology also has potential implications for producing new materials or creating new drugs.(Updates share price in third paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.