Results tagged “Adobe executives”

Of Trolls and Leeches

Note: This post is cross-posted from Mike Dillon’s personal blog

Silicon Valley. It’s a place emulated around the world as a continuous source of innovative thought spawning new products, companies and industries. More importantly, this innovation is a powerful economic and job-creation engine for the Digital Age.

Unfortunately, there are a group of individuals and entities that are constantly siphoning fuel from this engine. They go by a variety of names. Some people describe them with polite terms like “non-practicing entities” or “NPEs”; others refer to them with more subtly negative names like “patent trolls”. I prefer to be more blunt: they are leeches; leeches that divert capital investment and innovative energy away from job creation and, instead, to litigation.

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Much has been written on this subject, but in general this is what is happening. An individual or small group of investors purchases a patent on the open market. Often it is a weak patent that shouldn’t have been issued by an overworked examiner at the U.S. Patent Office or it could be a strong patent that may have been interpreted incorrectly in the judicial process. The owners of these patents then file lawsuits against any company where they can even remotely make a claim of patent infringement. In years past, the focus of these suits was primarily technology companies, but that is no longer the case. Recently, on a single day, more than twenty retail companies, including J.C. Penny, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Men’s Wearhouse, Walgreens and Pier 1 Imports were all sued for patent infringement in this type of case.

Every company that I have worked for has been on the receiving end of these lawsuits.  Most of these cases begin with a demand letter in which the plaintiff doesn’t even bother to specify the allegedly infringing feature of the product, or the precise part of the patent that is claimed to infringed. The letters just list one of many patents, refer nebulously to a company’s products, and say “pay up.” And, when you don’t, your company finds itself receiving a visit from a process server, delivering a similarly vaguely worded complaint and lawsuit.

Recently, for example, one of these entities filed suit against comedian Adam Carolla, alleging infringement of a patent that appears to describe a way of disseminating episodes of content in a serialized fashion. First question: Really? You can patent that? Second question: Why are they suing Carolla, a comedian who is best known for his free podcast?

The answer is that it’s all about economics.  In the U.S. we have a judicial system in which each party pays its own legal costs and attorney fees.  The plaintiffs in this type of case uses this to their advantage. They know that when faced with even a specious patent infringement lawsuit, a company will be inclined to settle because if it wins the case, it loses from a financial standpoint. On average it cancost between $3 – $5 million to defend a patent infringement lawsuit. So, if a company wins at trial, it gets nothing other than a large legal bill and a verdict of non-infringement. Thus, it’s a financially rational decision to raise the white flag as long as the settlement amount is less than the anticipated legal cost of going to trial. Knowing this many companies elect to settle as soon as they face one of these lawsuits and incur significant costs in defending it.

Now, you may ask, why don’t companies use their own patents and sue these entities as a form of deterence? Good question. This intellectual property equivalent of “mutually assured destruction” is the reason that patent litigation between competitors across all industries is relatively rare. If you intend to sue a competitor over a patent, you had better be prepared that your company will face the downside risk of being sued for infringement in response. What’s different in these cases is that the entities that file them don’t actually make anything. They are instead, just litigation shell companies. Because of this, their tactics can’t be used against them – i.e. they have no products that a company can claim are infringing.

This all plays to the plaintiff’s benefit because if they file enough cases, some percentage of companies will settle. The proceeds from these settlements are then used to fund litigation against other companies and the purchase of additional patents to be used in future lawsuits. In order to obtain an ROI, plaintiffs only have to cast a broad net and manage their legal costs efficiently.

Often the plaintiffs defend their actions by saying that they are “standing up for the sole inventor.” Well, we like sole inventors. Adobe was founded by two guys in a garage. (The name of the company originated from a creek near where they lived.) But the plaintiffs in these cases are not standing up for quality patents, and getting meaningful value for these patents. They are, instead,  just holding companies up for the cost of litigation. It doesn’t even matter what the patent is about. The only people getting wealthy from this system are the lawyers (and that’s coming from one).

At Adobe the vast majority of the litigation against our company are patent infringement cases of this type. We fight all of them because, quite frankly, they’re bullshit.

But this doesn’t mean it’s an easy decision because we don’t measure our defense costs in dollars; we measure them in jobs. When we fight a case through trial it is the equivalent of 15 to 20 forgone engineering positions. Positions that could be creating additional innovation and job growth.

Now, what if in this area of litigation only, we changed the economics? What if instead of each side paying their own fees and costs, we changed to a “loser pays” system as it is in much of the rest of the world? This wouldn’t prevent anyone from bringing a patent infringement suit, they would just have to be very confident that they would prevail at trial.

Last year, Congressmen Peter Defazio and Jason Chaffetz introduced a piece of bipartisan legislation called the SHIELD Act (Saving High-tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes Act). Although various business, legal and government constituencies are still negotiating the details, in concept it is as I have described above – a shifting of economic incentives so that in this type of patent litigation, the losing party would be required to pay the prevailing party’s fees and costs. Under this system, the true “garage” inventors would still be able to use the courts to enforce their patents,  but plaintiffs would face more risk when they bring a poorly founded lawsuit.

While not a perfect solution, the SHIELD Act would go a long way to helping companies spend more on creating jobs, rather than fighting litigation. It’s legislation that matters to employers, shareholders and consumers.  For more information and to show your support contact Congressman Defazio here.

Back in the saddle

blamkin-107-4x6editedI just passed my one-month mark after rejoining Adobe to head up corporate strategy and mergers and acquisitions.  It’s a unique perspective, having spent 14 years helping build Adobe’s creative business and then going off to lead teams in consumer internet, social and mobile companies before returning here.  Adobe is the great company that I remember:  incredible innovation, talented people, and the coolest customers anywhere.  But it’s a company that has changed in many ways. As I come back in with fresh eyes, I thought I would share some of my observations.

It’s a whole new world when it comes to the creative professional and their work.  Back in “the day” in our creative business, we spent most of our energy building kick-ass applications that helped creative professionals move from traditional to digital workflows while navigating the complexities of the desktop Mac and Windows platforms. Our customers were primarily focused on delivering great print or web content.  Now with the explosion of mobile, creatives need to make sure their experiences scale to hundreds of smartphones and tablets, not to mention TVs, car dashboards and in-store kiosks.  The challenge is staggering, both for creatives and Adobe, but there has never been more demand for compelling content.  (That’s a good thing!)  And with the advent of powerful mobile platforms, EVERYONE wants to be creative as they capture, enhance and share their daily experiences.

Enter the cloud.  With cloud computing, customers are quickly learning (and expecting) to engage with us 24/7 and need our product offerings to go further in addressing a broader range of challenges, well beyond content creation.  As a former product manager, I remember the team’s frustration when they were forced to hold back features to fit our 18-month Creative Suite product cycle.  It was very difficult to deliver new innovations “off-cycle” due to our delivery and accounting model. (Every desktop software company struggles with this same challenge.)  Nothing is more satisfying to one of our talented engineers than getting a new product feature into the hands of customers quickly, and now we can.

But Creative Cloud is so much more than a mechanism for getting new product features in the hands of customers faster.  It will be the hub for creativity worldwide and enable you to work when and where you want.  It will be where creative communities gather to be inspired by each other’s work and collaborate on projects.  Our recent acquisition of Behance, the leading online social media platform for creatives, accelerates Adobe’s strategy to bring great community features to Creative Cloud.  You’ll see us begin to integrate Behance with our creative tools in the next few months and in the meantime Behance will continue to be a key showcase for creativity.   Check out their awesome blog highlighting some of the coolest creative work out there.

Some customers have given us their perspective on Creative Cloud in the video below and we promise that we’ve only just started.   Indeed, all the innovation that we have planned for Creative Cloud will make Adobe MAX, the Creativity Conference, a must-attend event.   It’s in Los Angeles May 4-8.  We hope you can join us.

Finally, it’s been exhilarating to get involved with a whole new set of customers with Adobe Marketing Cloud.  We have long focused on content creation for the world’s leading marketing departments.  Now we’re extending that value to helping marketers manage and optimize consumer experiences across every touchpoint, from their websites to the social realm. Last week I attended our Summit conference and spoke to dozens of digital marketing customers about the possibilities as our Creative Cloud and Marketing Cloud come together for better collaboration across teams and agencies.  This is really where the creative rubber hits the road, from my perspective – showing the business return from all the amazing content created with our tools.

With my little “walkabout” behind me, I can honestly say that I’m thrilled to be back in the saddle at Adobe and am particularly excited to engage with our new customers and see how many familiar ones are still with us on this journey!

An Adult Science Fair

Note: This post is cross-posted from Mike Dillon’s personal blog

I’m in the 5th grade.

For weeks, I’ve been working on paper mache model of a volcano. With my father’s assistance I discover that a mixture of baking soda and vinegar produces a simulated volcanic eruption. Sweet! I just know that I am going to dazzle everyone at the Edison Elementary School (Alameda, California) science fair and grab first prize. Thinking about it causes me to tremble with excitement as I meticulously paint my volcano and add finishing touches like bits of moss and dirt to heighten the realistic effect.

On the appointed day, I arrive with eager anticipation and proudly place my volcano in its designated spot and set up the cardboard backdrop explaining the principles of volcanology.  Then I stand by and wait for the crowds to assemble and marvel at my work.

But, they don’t.

Instead they are huddled around Frank Rodgers’ project which has something to do with the effect of zero gravity on plankton and Jennifer Taylor’s working demonstration of water desalination plant. What the heck is “desalination”?

Looking with embarrassment at my volcano, I made the decision on the spot – I was not cut out for science or engineering.

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This week, I renewed my deep appreciation for people who followed those career paths when I attended the Adobe Technology Summit. This is an annual internal company event where members of our engineering community meet in person to share information about current and future products and technology.

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I love attending these types of events as they force you to pull yourself up from the day-to-day and take a look at the what’s coming over the technology horizon. For example, are you ready for 3D printing? How about using your fingers as simulated paint brushes to create beautiful art on a tablet computer? Or taking a photograph with your mobile device and having it create a color palette for use with any creative project? What if you could push a key on your computer and bring into focus a blurry digital photograph that you snapped at a friend’s birthday party?

At each session I saw mind-blowing advances like these in the way people will express themselves creatively in the digital world to come (or, will be able to express themselves creatively – sooner than we think).

It’s way more fun than paper mache volcanoes.

The Valley

Earlier this week, Adobe celebrated its 30th year in business. In its storied history, it has grown from a small private company focused on developing and promulgating a common way to exchange documents – a major problem during the advent of the PC era – into a wellspring of innovative technologies that enable people to create digitally and to receive more tailored and personally relevant digital marketing.

When I interviewed for my new role, I had the opportunity to meet with the two founders, John Warnock and Chuck Geschke.  At the end of our conversation, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to ask them a distinctly non-interview type question: “Do you ever take a look in the mirror in the morning, consider Adobe’s size, the jobs you have created and the technological impact you have had on the world, and wonder – how did this happen?”

The immediate response from both: “Every single day.”

While Chuck and John are legendary in the tech industry for many reasons, including their warmth and humility, another way to understand their response is as an acknowledgment that there are many external factors that are determinative of a company’s success.  For inchoate technology businesses, one of the most important is whether they are located in Silicon Valley. With all deference to Seattle, Bangalore, Tel Aviv and even Des Moines there is something truly unique about this thirty mile stretch of the world. Countless MBA students, journalists and consultants have tried to analyze why this area has spawned so many successful global companies. Some say it’s the result of ready access to capital flowing from Sand Hill Road. Others attribute it to the proximity of educational institutions like Stanford, UC Berkley and the University of Santa Clara. For others, it’s the cultural and intellectual diversity.

Most likely it is all of these. Longtime residents (I’m one of them) tend to take it all for granted as the innovation surrounds us.

Take a day I had a few weeks ago, as a case in point:

  •  I started the morning having breakfast with a board member of a company where I had previously worked. He wanted to move back into an operating role and was trying to decide whether he wanted to go to a large public company or a small, pre-IPO, start-up.
  • At lunch that day, I spoke with a friend who had spent the last 10 years working as a senior engineer at a half dozen companies in the Valley, including a couple of start-ups and several technology behemoths.
  •  Driving back to the office, I passed the campuses of Oracle, Facebook, Intel and Cisco representing a collective market cap of over $400 billion and employing over 600,000. At one point along the drive I was passed by a Google’s driverless car. We see them so often now during rush hour that they are often unnoticed.
  • When I returned to the office, I exchanged emails with a couple of former colleagues. One has created an interesting social networking company for people who are caring for loved ones with medical conditions. The other works for a private company  that has developed a small, unmanned, self-propelled, ocean going device that can be used for an array of tasks ranging from mapping the oceans to monitoring oil spills and the effects of climate change.
  • To close the day, my wife and I attended the Tech Museum’s Tech Award dinner as guests of some friends, one of whom is an entrepreneur with a company that has developed an application that provides users with awards for the miles they walk, run and cycle, which they donate to the charity of their choice. If getting healthy isn’t enough of a motivation, how about exercising to help others?
  • The Tech Awards is an impressive event where several thousand people come together to celebrate entrepreneurs who are creating technology to solve some of mankind’s more pressing problems. Three award winners that stood out included: Simpa Networks, a company that has created a pay-as-you go mobile payment system permitting people to access affordable solar energy in areas lacking access to reliable electricity; Professors from UCDavis who received an award for developing a rice gene that permits crops to be grown even in flood-prone areas (Rice, a key dietary staple for much of the world, is grown in areas that are susceptible to flooding, which, given the impact of climate change, will only worsen); and the developers of the BioLite Home Stove who received recognition for their solution to health problems impacting rural citizens of the world who rely on indoor fires for cooking. The BioLite stove uses an innovative design to deliver a low cost, highly efficient, wood burning stove that not only greatly reduces smoke and other harmful emissions, but also generates electricity to power cell phones and LED lights.

Driving home from the event at the end of that day, I felt profoundly inspired (and wishing I had gone to engineering school rather than getting a law degree). Looking out at the lights from the office buildings around me, I decided that what’s truly unique about Silicon Valley isn’t days like this, but rather that every day is like this.

Note: This post is cross-posted from Mike Dillon’s personal blog

KaBOOM! 2012: Recreate Now

For the past five years, Adobe has partnered with SAP and KaBOOM! to build playgrounds in the Bay Area.
With executive sponsorship from Matt Thompson and support from Mark Garrett and Ann Lewnes, this event has been a tremendous opportunity for teams at Adobe to come together in a fun way and make an impact on the community.

Last week, more than 110 Adobe employees from Worldwide Field Operations, Global Marketing and Finance brought their tools and smiles to create a new playground for Escuela Popular in San Jose, a family learning center that builds on students’ social, linguistic and cultural strengths with the intent to develop bilingual, bi-cultural students fully prepared to continue on to higher education and empowered to pursue their goals. Not only does it serve 600 children during school hours, Escuela Popular has the Alum Rock Youth Center on site, which operates a Boys & Girls Club and other programming for school-age children from the community every day after school, and the campus is open to the community from sunrise to sunset on weekends.

“When we first visited Escuela Popular, we knew this was the perfect site. Escuela Popular is a great school in a community that totally deserves a playground. We know the playground will be put to good use during and after school and on the weekends,” says Julia Love, Senior Program Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility.

In less than six hours, more than 300 volunteers from Adobe, SAP and the community:

  • Mixed 16,000 pounds of concrete
  • Moved 170 cubic yards of mulch
  • Moved 10 cubic yards of decomposed granite
  • Moved 10 cubic yards of top soil
  • Built 4 child picnic tables
  • Built 8 benches
  • Built 1 green child size garden tunnel
  • Built 4 raised planters and 8 planter boxes
  • Built and painted 3 trash containers
  • Built 1 amazing outdoor classroom

There was a special sense of collaboration for this year’s build. Many of employees raised their hands to help out before the event took place. “Even the planning process itself evoked a sense of community within Adobe,” says Katie Hingle, Director of Licensing Programs, Business Model Strategy and Pricing Operations Group and a 3-year veteran KaBOOMer and build captain. “There were so many things that needed to happen before the build day. It was amazing how quickly we were able to get support from others wanting to play a role in this event. You could tell that the KaBOOM! build really resonates with employees and gives them a sense of pride knowing that Adobe supports KaBOOM’s mission to promote creative play for children in our local communities.”

Stephen Snyder, VP of WW Channel Sales, shares his experience at the build: “This was a fantastic event and a great way to give back to the community. I am proud to work for a company that gets together with other Bay Area companies to support the community in which we work.”

Learn more about Adobe’s Corporate Social Responsibility efforts and see pictures from the day on our FB page.

Adobe’s Transformation

On Tuesday, we made some big announcements about our business moving forward:  Our strategy to double-down on the two growth markets of Digital Media and Digital Marketing, and an update on our expected Q4 revenue and restructuring our business.

The decision to restructure our business was a difficult one, and it has been tough for me as well as all our employees.  But it’s essential that Adobe makes the right moves now to ensure we’re positioned right for the long-term.

At the highest level, here are the big takeaways:

  • The future of the Internet comes down to content – creating it and monetizing it.  This is where our customers rely on Adobe, and it’s what is shaping our strategy moving forward.
  • Digital Media – creating and publishing content across media and devices, and Digital Marketing – managing the impact and return from content, are two enormous areas of market opportunity, and Adobe is in the sweet spot for both.
  • To double-down in our investments in these two markets, we’re focusing our resources and energy into the areas where we can make the biggest impact:  reimagining the creative process through touch and in the cloud; building a billion-dollar digital marketing SaaS business; and taking digital publishing to a new level for consumers and content creators.

This is a transformative time for Adobe as well as the industry.  The pace of change in the digital landscape is accelerating, and we intend to be there with the solutions and expertise to help our customers profit from it.  Adobe is a company reinvented — consistent in our mission, but updated for the customer opportunities and business models ahead.

I’ve never been more excited about Adobe’s future.

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