Pellegrino & Associates: A Year in Review

The year 2014 has been a great one for Pellegrino & Associates. We worked with a number of repeat clients and enjoyed working with many new ones. All of these clients bring interesting concepts from a variety of industries. One industry sector that increasingly seeks our services is law. In fact, we worked with eight law firms over the year in a number of capacities. These law firms included the following:

  • Barnes & Thornburg LLP
  • Barrett & McNagney LLP
  • Denko Coburn Lauff, LLP
  • Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett, & Dunner LLP
  • G.W. Merrick & Associates, LLC
  • Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw & Pittman LLP
  • Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP
  • WM Breck & Associates, LLC

From royalty rate determination to expert witness services, our firm provided valuable services beneficial for each individual case.

Throughout the year, a number of organizations invited us to speak on various topics. Such organizations included the Association of University Technology Managers, TEDx, American Society of Appraisers, Canadian Institute of Chartered Business Valuators, the Malaysian Government, the Maryland Association of CPAs, the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity & Innovation, and others.

Via our projects and speaking engagements, we have traveled all over the country as well as overseas this year. For instance, we traveled to Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Fort Wayne, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Other parts of the world included Canada, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. We also took a fun company trip to Las Vegas to regroup, celebrate, and brainstorm.

Throughout the year, our engagements touched a variety of industries including advertising, casino, energy, fashion, food, medical, software, and telecommunications among others. Within these industries, we worked with Fortune 500 companies, publicly traded companies, startups, private companies, and others.

As you can see, we’ve had a productive year filled with new adventures, great projects, and fun speaking engagements. We look forward to new opportunities and working with former and new clients in 2015!

NFL Negative Publicity Effect on Value

Football is inarguably the most anticipated sport in the United States. Boasting more revenue than any other national league in the United States, the NFL generates approximately $9.5 billion annually. However, this year, the league faces considerable negative publicity. Headlines announce lawsuits from cheerleaders suing for low wages, double standard punishment for NFL personnel, an immense increase in concussions, and the Redskins name debate. Also, headlines shout greed over the NFL’s proposal to charge Super Bowl halftime entertainers to perform. Add to the mix lackluster game attendance and a continuous rise in ticket prices, the NFL seems to be struggling. Or is it?

The NFL dodges issues every year. While this year seems to be abundant with various negative issues, the league masters its ability to rectify issues—quickly and smartly. For instance, the league announced new penalties regarding sex violations and domestic abuse in response to public outcry regarding Ray Rice’s light punishment. In addressing the concussion issue, the league funded a think-tank for handling concussions in sports around the world. These are just a few examples of how the NFL responds to negative publicity.

The NFL also faces public backlash over its suggestion to charge halftime entertainers at the Super Bowl. Typically, the NFL does not charge Super Bowl halftime entertainers. Nor does it pay them. However, despite the public backlash, the NFL may have a good business point. If advertisers are willing to pay millions for mere seconds on a commercial, why wouldn’t entertainers pay for exposure for a much longer period? On the other hand, approached entertainers such as Katy Perry, Coldplay, and Rihanna do not necessarily need the exposure. They are worth more than $100 million each and their concerts typically sell out. However, other singers/bands who seek more exposure may find it worth the cost, as the halftime show draws tens of millions of viewers.

Another area of so-called greed comes with the live game experience. Fans who want the live experience pay a hefty price, with the average cost of attending a game at nearly $460.00. While the NFL could stand a boost in attendance, attendance remains steady over the last few years. Therefore, although prices have increased, the effect on attendance has been minimal. In the hopes of spiking attendance, the NFL is making efforts to enhance fans’ stadium experience by offering Wi-Fi and cellular standards, fantasy-friendly amenities, gourmet food, more space, and other perks. However, realizing that the cost factor, advanced technology, and comfort keep many fans at home, the league continues to find ways to capitalize on its at-home viewers. Currently, the NFL has network contracts totaling $5 billion annually through 2022.

Negative publicity is never a good thing. However, with a large number of personnel in the public view, negative hype is bound to happen. Yet, the fact remains that the NFL continues to dominate the U.S. sports industry. The league’s ability to tackle negative publicity with solutions helps keep its value stable.

Top Five Universities for Government-Funded Patents

The government grants funds to a variety of companies, universities, government organizations, and others to provide tools for innovation. Universities rank high among recipients of government-funded patents. With the exception of IBM, universities top the list of most received government-funded patents for the first ten months of this year.

Using our sister company’s proprietary patent analytics tool, ipAnalytx, we identified leading universities that receive the most government-funded patents. They are as follows:

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with 150 patents.
  • Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation with 108 patents.
  • The Regents of the University of California with 100 patents.
  • The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University with 81 patents.
  • The California Institute of Technology with 81 patents.

In addition to government-funded patents, these same universities are among the top universities that receive the most patents overall. For the first ten months of 2014, MIT had 263 patent grants and 286 patent applications; Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation had 131 patent grants and nearly 149 patent applications; the Regents of the University of California had 194 patent grants and 517 patent applications; the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University had 134 patent grants and 124 patent applications; and the California Institute of Technology had 151 patent grants and 171 patent applications.

These universities delve into a variety of fields including chemistry, plants, amplifiers, surgery, television, data processing, optics, electricity, and much more. To disregard the role of universities in innovation would be a huge disservice. With just the five universities we have listed, they represent more than 870 patent grants and more than 1,200 patent applications in the first ten months of this year. According toAUTM (Association of University Technology Managers), in 2012, academic TTOs filed 22,750 patent applications. Without realizing it, many people rely on the innovations that universities and the government provide.

Top Patent Classes Among Universities Involve Medical Indications

Universities significantly contribute to the medical field through their research efforts. Staffed with medical researchers, professors, and doctors, universities supply skills, labs, and knowledge necessary to provide advanced medical products to improve our health. The government often approves grants to these universities to enhance their efforts. Universities tend to focus on three patent classes that have strong representation in the medical field.

Based on the top five universities that receive the most government-funded patents, the top three patent classes are 435: Chemistry: Molecular Biology and Microbiology; 424: Drug, Bio-Affecting and Body Treating Compositions; and 514: Drug, Bio-Affecting and Body Treating Compositions. The five universities show more than 160 patents in these classes for the first ten months of this year. Many of these patents resulted from government-funded research.

Among the top three patent classes, a large variety of subclasses exist. For the 435 class, various inventions involve gene products, artificial immune systems, biofuel, detection for poison oak oil, and identification and isolation of cancer cells, to name a few. For the 424 and 514 classes, some inventions include treatment for inflammation disorders, influenza vaccines, tissue regeneration systems, detection of predisposition to breast cancer, ischemic heart disease treatments, multiple sclerosis treatments, diabetes treatments, and skin burn and open wound treatments, among others.

As noted, universities play a critical role in our health. The United States has a large need for many of the inventions cited. For instance, heart disease, diabetes, and various types of cancers continue to affect large numbers of people annually. Therefore, the fact that universities target these health issues shows how valuable of a role they play in the medical industry.

Top Five Best-Selling Drugs

As proven by Pfizer via its cholesterol-reducing drug Lipitor, medicine can command much value. In fact, the Lipitor patent became the most profitable patent ever produced. Today, that patent has expired, making it worthless. However, without the patent, Lipitor may have never been successful at all. We list the top five 2013 best-selling drugs next and how patents play a role in their success.

According to Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, the top five best-selling drugs and their 2013 sales are as follows.

  1. Humira – $10.659 billion.
  2. Remicade – $8.944 billion.
  3. Rituxan – $8.920 billion.
  4. Advair – $8.783 billion.
  5. Enbrel – $8.325 billion.

As noted, these drugs generate billions of dollars for big name pharmaceutical companies such as Amgen, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Pfizer, and Roche. With the exception of Advair, all of the top-selling drugs still have patent protection. This patent protection will give these companies an edge over competition for a few more years at least. The patent for Humira will expire in 2016, while Remicade and Rituxan will expire in 2018. Enbrel was set to expire in 2012, but received an extension for another 16 years.

While Advair remains one of the top-selling drugs, its lack of patent protection is starting to show its effects. The first quarter of 2014 showed a 10% drop in market share, due to rivals hitting the market with similar medication. Patents afford pharmaceutical companies the ability to keep competition at bay. They make it difficult for generics and other similar drugs to enter the market so that consumers are limited in choices. Therefore, the pharmaceutical under patent gains the most market share. Although Advair is listed among the top five best-selling drugs, it’s only a matter of time before it falls off the list, which appears to be soon. In the meantime, GlaxoSmithKline has to develop other medications and build its patent portfolio to help bring up sales.

Patents Critical to Pharma Industry

It’s common to read headlines regarding technology companies and patent lawsuits. These companies fight fiercely to protect their innovations. Further, their innovations often cross paths, causing confusion and more risk among competitors. While technology companies work diligently to build patent portfolios to beat the competition, pharmaceutical companies work just as diligently for the same reasons.

Patents provide great value to the pharma industry for a variety of reasons. Among those reasons is the ability to keep others from the market. When a pharma company has a patent on a specific drug, it’s much harder for a generic alternative to hit the shelves before a patent expires. This affords the company with a patented drug years of exclusivity. This exclusivity has garnered billions of dollars for pharmaceutical companies.

Patents also provide pharmaceutical companies great protection in the event of a lawsuit. Among pharma companies, lawsuits are common. According to Pricewaterhouse Cooper’s 2014 Patent Litigation Study, pharma companies gain great awards (or losses) in lawsuits. Biotechnology/pharma and medical device companies rank the highest among patent holders that have the most success rates in the event of a lawsuit. In addition, these same companies rank second and third, after telecommunications, with higher median damages awards than other industries. In fact, the largest damages award case involved a biotechnology company and pharmaceutical company in the amount of $1.7 billion, Centocor Ortho Biotech Inc. vs. Abbott Laboratories.

For these reasons, pharma companies seek to build their patent portfolios. The top pharma companies have no less than 500 U.S. patents, with many owning thousands. (And this doesn’t take into account international patents!) While patents can be costly, the cost invested in time, effort, and money for the creation of new drugs is greater. Therefore, the protection patents give to pharma companies is worth it. Patent protection may give pharma companies the ability to recoup investments in new products. Without this protection, pharma companies don’t stand a chance in the market.

Further, patents spur pharma companies to continue with their innovations. If there were no protection, then these companies would not put forth the effort to create new drugs. Without these new drugs, cures for cancer, autoimmune disorders, and other life-threatening diseases may never happen. With patents, the pharma industry can continue to improve the health of society and our quality of life.

Raising IP Awareness

Innovation plays a material role in the U.S. economy. In fact, the direct and indirect impacts of innovation account for more than 40% of U.S. economic growth and employment. However, without intellectual property (IP), innovation may not reach its economic potential. IP protects innovation and drives a significant portion of the market value of companies. It comes in the form of patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets.

The value placed on IP, especially patents, continues to rise. In fact, the patent landscape may reach worldwide licensing revenue of $500 billion by 2015 according to Ernst & Young. And as headlines show, companies continue to apply for and acquire patents to build portfolios for defense measures and to increase market value. Despite the continued interest in patents, the United States faces major competition with foreign countries. In 2013, Japan and Taiwan ranked first, third, and fourth for top geographic grants. This is a significant indicator that the United States may be at risk in the innovation landscape.

A part of the issue may stem from the fact that much of the public does not understand what IP is, what it does, and how important it is. This is not great news for up and coming entrepreneurs and innovators. It’s really no wonder since it is generally not taught in schools. IP strategist Ben Goodger reports that few business schools and universities teach courses focused on the importance of IP as a crucial economic and financial asset. Therefore, many people simply stumble through the nuances of IP. This is not ideal as the lack of IP can make the difference between success and failure.

Therefore, the question arises as to when IP should be introduced. Today, plenty of adults do not understand IP. Perhaps IP should be taught at the grade school level. At least one organization focused on young children finds value in IP education. In collaboration with the Intellectual Property Owners (IPO) Education Foundation and the USPTO, the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital now offers an intellectual property patch. In an effort to encourage girls to focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers, the organization offers an IP patch to familiarize scouts with the patent process and innovation.

By introducing IP value at a young age, we can better prepare our children about the business world. These children continue to face a technologically advanced society, which makes copyright infringement and trade secret theft much easier. However, some of these offenses stem from lack of knowledge. Many people simply do not realize they are infringing on copyrighted work. Educating the public about IP can only result in good things, increasing our chances of introducing new inventions, reducing copyright infringement, stifling trade secret theft, and getting the most value from all forms of IP.

Consumer Perception Feeds Brand Power

One of the best things about popular brands is that consumers can count on them. At least that is what most people perceive. For instance, it is a safe bet that Coca-Cola’s formula will remain intact for years to come. Therefore, when consumers reach for a Coke, they know how it will taste. As a result, consumers give Coca-Cola their trust. They trust particular brands because those brands have worked for them, they become enticed by brand advertisements, and/or they want what is popular. However, brands can instantly break consumer trust if they do not hold up to consumer expectations. For example, if Coca-Cola changes its Coke formula, those who have always loved the soda will be disappointed and will likely choose another brand.

Perception plays a huge role in a brand’s success. Therefore, companies often seek ways to update brands to attract different crowds, address new concerns, and keep up with the latest trends. However, when companies try to change a brand’s image, they may face strong resistance. For instance, when Gap tried to change its logo in 2010, its fans immediately protested. When Tropicana changed its orange juice package design, sales dropped. These instances prove that a fine line exists for companies that try to change brands to keep up with the latest trends, yet uphold the image that earned them success. Fast food restaurants are a prime example as they continually compete with ever-increasing obesity statistics. They must somehow keep the foods that made them popular to begin with, yet satisfy those who seek better and healthier alternatives without ruining their reputation.

Many times, companies make subtle changes to their brands. For instance, Unilever claims it changed its ice cream ingredients in an effort to better appeal to its consumers. However, its ice cream once touted as natural is no longer so. Breyers was well known for its natural products, consisting of four or five natural ingredients including milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla beans for its vanilla-flavored ice cream. Today, that ice cream now includes more than five ingredients including those considered unhealthy and/or unnatural such as corn syrup and tara gum. Due to its changes, some of the brand’s ice cream is now labeled as “frozen dessert” rather than ice cream.

Breyers ice cream was among very few in the industry that promoted natural ingredients. Today, finding ice cream without corn syrup, tara gum, and other hard-to-pronounce ingredients is very difficult and nearly impossible. While Unilever claims it changed the ingredients of its ice cream to appease its consumers, based on consumers’ online rants, many wonder if the ingredients were changed to save money. For a society that is trying to promote better and cleaner eating habits, Unilever’s changes do not fit consumer goals. Furthermore, the changes made to the ice cream were not advertised. If these changes were meant to appeal to consumers, wouldn’t the company advertise the changes? It seems the company hoped that consumers wouldn’t notice. After all, those who purchase Breyers frequently would assume the recipe remained the same. However, these are also the same consumers who began to notice a difference in taste and texture. While specific sales for Breyers ice cream are not available, it is a safe bet that Unilever began to lose consumers who specifically chose its ice cream for its natural ingredients.

The same has happened to other companies that made changes to their popular brands. Whenever companies fail consumer expectations, they place themselves at great risk. For consumers and companies alike, brand image means a great deal.

Robin Williams’ Suicide Effect on Estate Value

Recent headlines announcing the death of comedian/actor Robin Williams shocked the nation. However, perhaps the most startling aspect of this news is the nature of his death. Although past celebrities have died from drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, and other self-destructive methods, these types of deaths are easier to brush off as accidental—whether true or not. In Williams’ case, evidence indicates that he purposely took his life. For some people, death by suicide is simply inexcusable. Based on his untimely death and public scrutiny, how does this affect his estate’s value?

As one of the most charismatic actors in the entertainment world, Williams enjoyed a large fan base and many career opportunities spanning four decades. His career began as a stand-up comedian, which gained him notoriety and led him to the acting world. He tackled all types of acting including film, television, and theater. And he was good—so good that he earned numerous awards including Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, Grammys, and Screen Actor Guild awards. His movies grossed $6 billion, with him as the lead character in more than half of those films.

At the time of his death, Williams’ net worth was valued at $50 million. Despite rumors that Williams was broke and forced to sell one of his homes and work on a television series, his estate likely still held value. Williams appeared in more than 100 movies and television shows, many of which are likely still earning royalties. At the time of his death, Williams had completed four movies that had yet to debut. In light of his death, these films may actually fare better as people grab an opportunity to pay him tribute and get a glimpse of an admired man. Sales of his movies will likely soar in the event of his death. Furthermore, use of his likeness in future material will help bring value to his estate.

While suicide conjures up mixed emotions among the public, the nature of his death has little bearing on his estate’s value. He was a powerful presence in people’s lives throughout the years, as evidenced by the mention of him in social media. In fact, less than a day after his death, Twitter showed 7.3 million mentions of his name. He was too likeable and talented for his death to affect all that he accomplished in life. Those who choose to boycott anything to do with Williams based on the circumstances of his death will be too insignificant to matter. While Williams’ death is truly tragic, his celebrity status and the public mention of his suicide—an often private affair—may help raise suicide awareness. In the meantime, his estate will continue to retain value in many ways.

Pharmaceuticals and Their Outrageous Costs Explained

Nearly everybody faces the cost obstacle when it comes to medication. Prescription medication is often exorbitantly priced, especially brand name drugs. While generic versions often provide cost relief, they may not always prove to be the best medication for a given situation. As a result, spending on specialty drugs continues to increase as it reached $92 billion in 2012, with an expected $235 billion by 2018. Overall prescription drug spending rose 3.2% to $329.2 billion in 2013 due to fewer patent expirations, more people using health care services, and the introduction of new drugs. While spending continues to increase, so does the number of Americans who cannot afford their medications at approximately one in five.

Much of the cost of new drugs stems from a long and arduous clinical research process. Often, pharmaceutical companies spend many years, countless man-hours, and an enormous amount of money on drug trials—only to have a drug fail somewhere along the process. In fact, less than 1 in every 10 drug succeeds. According to Cutting Edge Information, a business intelligence firm, costs per patient during clinical studies vary per phase: Phase 1 at $15,700; Phase 2 at $19,300; and Phase 3 at $26,000. Overall, average drug development can cost a company upwards of $4 billion. The amount of time spent in the development process also takes away from potential earnings a drug could make in the market. In fact, the average lifetime of a drug on the market is only approximately 11 years, if the company is lucky enough to get its drug approved.

After many years, numerous resources, and billions of dollars, a drug that succeeds in clinical trials is ready to go to market. However, in order to introduce the drug, pharmaceutical companies must advertise. According to eMarketer, pharma spent more than $27 billion in 2012 on promotional expenditures. FDA labeling limitations complicate a drug’s introduction to market. Therefore, companies must consider the best way to market their products. The FDA label guidelines restrict the value products could create if companies were allowed to market products for a variety of indications. Companies must be creative and determine the best avenue to retain value when marketing their products.

Also, during the development process, a company must file for a patent in order to protect the innovation. Patents are expensive. One patent can cost between $10,000 and $50,000, and as much as $250,000. Defending patents is even more expensive. A typical patent lawsuit in the United States costs $3 million or more. Although expensive, patents provide critical value to pharmaceutical companies by keeping competitors at bay, providing rights in the event of willful infringement, and allowing for higher market prices. In fact, the most valuable patent in history turned out to be the pharmaceutical Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowering drug. While the Lipitor patent has expired and is now worthless, it is likely that Lipitor would not have been so successful if it did not have the patent to protect it to begin with.

As shown, the high risk and costs pharmaceutical companies have to expend to get a drug to market are stupendous. Even more sobering is that only about 3 out of 10 drugs that reach the market ever earn back money that exceeds or meets R&D. For these reasons, pharmaceutical companies charge high prices to make up for lost time, resources, and money. If consumers do not pay these high prices, the incentives for pharmaceutical companies to continue researching new solutions to life-threatening problems may cease. Although this explanation does not ease the cost burden on consumers, perhaps understanding the reasons behind the costs will provide consumers more peace of mind.