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Celebrating 15 Years of IPWatchdog.com

On October 10, 1999, IPWatchdog.com first went live on the Internet. It has been an honor and privilege to get to know so many wonderful people in our industry over the last 15 years, to talk to many industry leaders on the record, and to in some small way continue to push the debate forward. Thanks to our readers and contributors we have been recognized as as one of the top 100 legal blogs by the American Bar Association for 5 years in a row. For 3 of the last 4 years (2010, 2012, 2013) we were recognized as the top intellectual property law blog according to the ABA. In January 2014 we were also honored to be inducted into the ABA Blawg Hall of Fame. CLICK HERE to read more.


Hot on Social Media

Over the past several months we have had a number of articles that have gotten quite a bit of attention on various social media outlets. If you haven’t read these articles yet take a look, they seem to be driving an interesting debate.

  1. Extortionist Demand Letters are Wrecking Public Confidence in the U.S. Patent System
  2. Patent Trolls are NOT the Biggest Barrier to Innovation
  3. 25 Years Since Galileo: A Recent Look at NASA Technologies
  4. Silicon Valley's Anti-Patent Propaganda: Success at What Cost?
  5. Patents are Important: Bursting the Twitter Patent Mythology
  6. Why Brands Need to Pay Attention to Unregulated Domains
  7. Post Patent Issuance Challenges and the Quest for Patent Quality
  8. If Patent Reform is Meant to Starve Patent Trolls, Why is it Feeding Them Instead?
  9. Eli Lilly Patents Treatments for HIV and Ebola Virus
  10. The Ramifications of Alice: A Conversation with Mark Lemley
 


Most Recent Articles on IPWatchdog.com


Software Forensics: Qualifying Tools and Experts Who Use Them

Posted: Friday, Oct 31, 2014 @ 10:00 am | Written by Bob Zeidman | No Comments »

In part 1 of this article I discussed software forensics, generally what it is and why it’s needed. One of the big reasons there is such a need for software forensics is to interject objectivity into what is otherwise a battle of experts who are supposed to be unbiased but who may be strongly influenced by, if not outright pressured to support, the positions of their clients. This is just as true of experts in other areas of litigation, but as more complex technologies are at issue in today’s IP cases, lay judges and juries are less capable of weeding through technical intricacies to weigh opposing views of experts. Compounding this reality is the ever increasing popularity of police dramas on television, which elevate the desire for juries to have some kind of objective information they can rely on; something of a smoking gun if you will. Software forensics can often provide that smoking gun and cut through the haze. But the question remains, how do we assure that software forensic tools are reliable and consistent and that the expert witnesses who use them are qualified and honest about their analyses?

Below are a few ideas about this, though each one carries with it potential problems. Perhaps not all of these ideas can definitely be implemented, but if we could insert some or all of them into the current legal system, we might have just results a higher percentage of the time. And applying these ideas to criminal cases might be a particularly good idea, where an expert’s opinion can be the difference between life and death for a person accused of a crime.





Canon’s Diversified Patents: Robotics to Touchscreens and Medical Innovations

Posted: Friday, Oct 31, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Written by Steve Brachmann | No Comments »

Headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, Canon Inc. is a multinational corporation focused on developing a variety of optical and imaging products for consumers and businesses, including printers, photocopiers, camcorders, cameras and even medical devices. In September, Canon released a line of inkjet printers under the brand name Maxify, a low-end printing solution for small businesses; most models cost between $150 and $400 per printer. On the higher end of the quality spectrum, Canon also recently unveiled a new CINE-SERVO Ultra-Telephoto Zoom lens, being marketed as the world’s longest 4K telephoto zoom lens, which comes with a price tag of $78,000 per unit. Canon is also making forays into information technology development across the world, having acquired Australian firm Harbour IT in September for $35 million, the corporation’s largest acquisition deal in the Oceania region.

This edition of IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow takes us back to the innovations most recently developed by this major purveyor of intellectual properties. In the patent applications filed by this company, we found an interesting trio of printing technologies, including one filing which would protect an improved system for printing and binding booklets. Medical innovations, including an endoscopic tool which can be selectively made transparent and visible depending on endoscopic operation needs, are discussed below. We also noted an innovation for reducing erroneous operations in an electronic device with multiple touchscreen panels.

There have been many recent additions to Canon’s already globally renowned patent portfolio that we profile today. We discuss a few patents issued to protect improvements to robotics technologies for manufacturing facilities. A couple of patents show Canon’s interest in improving nanofabrication techniques for creating semiconductors. We also explore inventions related to printing copy-forgery-inhibited patterns and high precision scanning technologies.





Smithsonian Will Host Innovation Festival at National Air and Space Museum

Posted: Thursday, Oct 30, 2014 @ 1:34 pm | Written by Press Releases | No Comments »

Image by Mark Avino, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum will host an Innovation Festival Nov. 1 and 2, a collaboration between the Smithsonian and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The festival will highlight accomplishments of American inventors and the spirit of innovation. It will feature displays, talks, performances and craft projects for children and adults.

This event is part of a five-year collaboration between the Smithsonian and USPTO to develop programs and exhibitions showcasing American innovation; USPTO will provide annual funding for public programs and exhibitions. Upcoming joint efforts will include a major new intellectual property exhibition at the National Museum of American History and an innovation family festival at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in spring 2015.





Patent Reform Dead if CAFC Reviews Willfulness En Banc

Posted: Thursday, Oct 30, 2014 @ 10:00 am | Written by Gene Quinn | 1 Comment »

Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a decision in Halo Electronics, Inc. v. Pulse Electronics, Inc. While the decision is no doubt important to the parties involved, this decision may have more far reaching implications for patent reform in 2015 and beyond. The issue of particular interest in this case was willful infringement. In a concurring opinion, Judge O’Malley, who was joined by Judge Hughes, wrote that she felt constrained by the Federal Circuit’s precedent in In re Seagate and Bard Peripheral Vascular v. W.L. Gore, but that recent Supreme Court decisions call into question the continued viability of that precedent.

As such, Judges O’Malley and Hughes have urged the Federal Circuit to reconsider en banc the standard for awarding enhanced damages under 35 U.S.C. 284.

If enhanced damages for willful infringement is back on the table any prospects for broad-based patent reform is dead. The America Invents Act (AIA) was famously and permanently stalled until the issue of willful infringement and damages was removed from the legislation. With the damages logjam broken the forces pushing for patent reform were able to coax the legislation across the finish line.





Dear Patent Troll: Drop Dead

Posted: Wednesday, Oct 29, 2014 @ 10:00 am | Written by Scott Burt | 3 comments

EDITORIAL NOTE: Conversant IP has set up a website called Stand Up to the Demand, which helps those being sued for patent infringement to distinguish between a bogus claim of patent infringement and a legitimate licensing inquiry from a patent owner. 

_____________________

One thing you can say about patent trolls: They sure are cowboys! In fact, one of the biggest patent trolls of all time is a cowboy hat-wearing Texas lawyer by the name of Jay Mac Rust.

In 2012, Mr. Rust bought five patents from an inventor named Laurence Klein for exactly $1. He then set up 101 separate limited liability companies (LLCs), each with bizarre six letter names like IsaMai, BriPol, and HarNol. No one but Mr. Rust knows what those acronyms mean. But thousands of Mom and Pop small businesses — 16,465 to be exact — soon found out that they translate as “trouble.” Each of these businesses received a “demand letter” from one of Rust’s shell companies accusing them of patent infringement and demanding roughly $1,000 per employee if they wanted to avoid a minimum six-figure (and possibly seven-figure) lawsuit in U.S. federal court.





FTC Says AT&T Has Misled Millions of Consumers with ‘Unlimited’ Data Promises

Posted: Wednesday, Oct 29, 2014 @ 9:30 am | Written by Federal Trade Commission | 4 comments

The Federal Trade Commission filed a federal court complaint against AT&T Mobility, LLC, charging that the company has misled millions of its smartphone customers by charging them for “unlimited” data plans while reducing their data speeds, in some cases by nearly 90 percent.

The FTC’s complaint alleges that the company failed to adequately disclose to its customers on unlimited data plans that, if they reach a certain amount of data use in a given billing cycle, AT&T reduces – or “throttles” – their data speeds to the point that many common mobile phone applications – like web browsing, GPS navigation and watching streaming video –  become difficult or nearly impossible to use.

“AT&T promised its customers ‘unlimited’ data, and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “The issue here is simple: ‘unlimited’ means unlimited.”





Nikon Patents: A Smorgasbord of Digital Cameras and Immersion Lithography

Posted: Wednesday, Oct 29, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Written by Steve Brachmann | 1 Comment »

A fair amount of innovation in various optical and imaging technology fields comes out of the research facilities of the Nikon Corporation (NASDAQ: NINOY) of Tokyo, Japan. Nikon is outpaced by its geographical and industrial rival Canon in a few significant ways, especially in number of patent grants obtained, although some commentators are predicting that Nikon will outdo Canon in its development of video DSLR cameras. Current DSLR camera technologies available from Nikon include interchangeable lenses and offer the ability to take detailed photos captured at incredibly quick frame rates. Nikon digital camera technologies even showed that they performed well in outer space, as recent selfies taken during an October spacewalk by International Space Station astronauts will confirm.

Every now and again, the Companies We Follow series returns to check up on Nikon’s innovations, and we learned some interesting things about Nikon’s current corporate focus. According to a myriad of patent applications filed at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Nikon is serious about expanding its intellectual property holdings in the area of lithography, especially immersion lithography, for the manufacture of semiconductors and other electronics. An X-ray device which is less affected by thermal expansion and a digital bulletin board for an online electronic album service are also discussed in recently filed Nikon patent applications.





Carrier Grade Standard Essential 4G Patents on the Open Market

Posted: Tuesday, Oct 28, 2014 @ 2:30 pm | Written by Gene Quinn | No Comments »

Raze Technologies, formerly WestEnd Broadband, Inc., was founded in late 1999 with the purpose of developing a last mile access system that would allow service providers to offer both broadband data and high quality, fully featured voice services to residential and small business customers. The result was the development of a turnkey, end-to-end, carrier-class, and scalable platform. It was capable of terminating voice and data traffic and their associated protocols at a center office, and provided all the necessary transport and remote management capabilities to the customer’s premises.

In August 2002, Raze suspended its development operations and focused its remaining resources on the prosecution of its patent portfolio. Over time, as most if not all of the other innovative start-ups in the space have gone the way of the dinosaur, Raze has managed to accumulate a foundationally important patent portfolio relating to standard-related innovations surrounding mobile network infrastructure technologies that relate to 4G/LTE, which is the next generation wireless standard. Indeed, one of Raze’s seminal innovations related to the use of 2 tiered wireless networks with a broadband connection to a WiFi connection in order to increase building penetration and the utility of service. These concepts are among those patented by Raze and are today known as mobile hotspots and tethering.

The Raze 4G/LTE patent portfolio, which includes patents having priority filing dates all the way back to April 2001, is currently for sale and could well fetch a handsome sum even given downward pressure in the market created by some unfortunate recent Supreme Court decisions (more on this later). The sale is being brokered by ICAP Patent Brokerage via a private sale.





The Evolution of Digital Cameras – A Patent History

Posted: Tuesday, Oct 28, 2014 @ 1:32 pm | Written by Steve Brachmann | No Comments »

Steve Sasson, inventor of the digital camera, receives National Medal of Science from President Obama on 11/17/2010.

Just about 40 years ago, a young electrical engineer working at the offices of Eastman Kodak in Rochester, NY, developed a product that would upend the entire world of photography. Since that time, the technology has exploded into consumer markets and has proliferated into our daily lives, from camera components included in smartphones to high-quality megapixel systems which provide professional-grade images. All of this came to be thanks to the development of light-sensitive semiconductor devices capable of storing and transmitting light exposure information to create a digital image.

Here at IPWatchdog, we like to return regularly to our Evolution of Technology series to detail the development of a popular consumer technology across the years. Today, with our recent focus on patents issued to companies developing digital photography products, we wanted to dive in a little more deeply to look at the history of development in this field of technology. The chronology of digital photography development comprises the establishment of the JPEG image standard and the development of liquid crystal display screens. It also closely follows the decline of a major American developer of imaging products and the subsequent shift in the entire photography market.





Software Forensics: Objectively Proving Infringement or Misappropriation

Posted: Monday, Oct 27, 2014 @ 4:21 pm | Written by Bob Zeidman | No Comments »

The word “forensic” comes from the Latin word “forensis” meaning “of or before the forum.” In ancient Rome, an accused criminal and the accusing victim would present their cases before a group in a public forum. In this very general sense it wasn’t unlike the modern U.S. legal system where plaintiffs and defendants present their cases in a public forum. Of course the rules and procedures of the presentation differ from those days. Also, parties are typically represented by lawyers trained in the intricacies of all of these rules and procedures.

After deliberation, one party would be declared a winner. The party with the best presentation skills, regardless of innocence or guilt, would often prevail. The modern system relies on attorneys representing the parties to make the arguments rather than the parties themselves, under the assumption that lawyers, trained in law and skilled at presenting complex information, will each present their client’s case in the best possible manner and that ultimately a just outcome will occur. I don’t want to say that the truth will prevail, not only because that’s a cliché, but because there’s often some amount of truth in the arguments of both parties. Rather, more often than not, justice will be served.

I believe that this model works very well. Not perfectly, but very well. With regard to highly technical cases, however, the percentages for justice being served go down because the issues become difficult for a judge or jury to grasp. Technical experts can throw around technical jargon, sometimes without realizing it and other times to purposely cause confusion. This is the reason that I believed, when I started out examining code for intellectual property litigation, that two things were required to improve the analysis of software for the legal system.