Patent litigation is one of the main ways that new technologies and companies are kept from becoming new forces. Search “patent litigation” on Google News and you get a ton of returns from IBM suing Twitter to Google/Samsung being sued by a consortium that bought Nortel’s patents two years ago. It’s scary.
The CRE industry is coming very late to the technology game. We are trying to do things that were accomplished a decade or more ago in other industries. There is still not even a dominant CRM in the space! The basic building blocks just haven’t been done yet.
And this lack of building blocks is where risk comes into play. If technology has to be reinvented to work in our space (which it appears must happen) then we are going to run up against a ton of legacy patents that could cover what we are trying to do. However, it is only after tools and solutions become successful that the patent litigation begins. This delayed effect could have a devastating impact on an already limited lineup of technology innovators in commercial real estate.
On the plus side, we may be late enough to the game that enough groundwork will be laid in the courts and Congress to take some of this risk off the table. The two cases listed above are unlikely to be settled out of court and could provide the precedents needed to lay the groundwork for future innovation.
No matter what, it’s going to be interesting to see how it shakes out.