I started writing about annuities almost two years ago when I asked the question (rhetorical, of course), Are 401(k) plans transforming into defined benefit plans?

Since then, the financial industry’s race to develop and distribute retirement income products has been accelerating, and I’ll be increasing my coverage of this emerging area accordingly.

And one piece of recent news struck me as how competitive the retirement income market is becoming.  

It was the announcement that Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, part of Ft. Wayne, Indiana-based Lincoln Financial Group, won a  $13.1 million jury verdict in a variable annuity patent infringement case against three Aegon USA companies, Transamerica Life Insurance Co., Transamerica Financial Life Insurance Co., and Western Reserve Life Assurance Co. of Ohio.

The patent claim at issue related not to the variable annuity itself but to a computerized method for administering variable annuity products that combine guaranteed minimum payment features with systematic withdrawal programs.

The patent also includes data processing methods used to administer variable annuities in the payout phase and withdrawals from mutual funds, particularly systematic withdrawals from funds.

I’ll let the intellectual property lawyers slice and dice this case, but from a marketing standpoint – priceless.