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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) of New Brunswick, NJ, is an American multinational company focused on the sale of medical devices, consumer packaged goods and pharmaceuticals. The invitation of Johnson & Johnson’s CEO, Alex Gorsky, to IBM’s board of directors in June of this year may signal a growing partnership with the data services giant to develop more pharmaceutical drugs. The company’s recent announcement of its $1.75 billion purchase of private biotechnology firm Alios BioPharma is further evidence of a growing corporate focus on pharmaceuticals for J&J. The company is involved in many vision care programs and initiatives, and its Sight for Kids partnership with the Lions Clubs International Foundation announced that it had administered its 20-millionth free vision screen for children in need.
J&J is pretty active in terms of patenting, and our recent survey of patent applications filed with the USPTO showed us that the company is looking to usher in the next age of contact lenses. In a time when many people are talking about Google Glass and other wearable technologies, we were intrigued to find a large number of patent applications filed by J&J to protect methods of incorporating semiconductor components into contact lenses for digitizing vision care and correction. A surgical implant for hernia repair and cosmetic compositions which cause less skin irritation are also discussed below.
The New Jersey-based company and its various subsidiaries were the recipients of a large number of patent grants in the past few months, and we’re sharing some of our favorites below. Even more contact lens innovation is reflected in these recently issued patents, including contact lenses for stopping myopia progression or for providing more stability when worn on the eye. Anti-tumor topical compositions and disposable assay devices for the simpler completion of biochemical tests have also recently entered the intellectual property portfolio of this firm.
The greatest long-term threat to the U.S. patent system does not come from its professional opponents – those large businesses and their political allies who stand to profit from enfeebled patent rights. A deeper harm is caused by unscrupulous patent trolls who use extortionist “demand letters” to victimize small businesses. This practice, we believe, is wrecking public confidence in the U.S. patent system – and by extension, profoundly weakening the heretofore bedrock belief in the great economic benefits conferred by patent-protected inventions.
Yet even as damage caused by demand letters spreads, most legitimate patent licensors whose businesses depend upon continued legislative and public trust stand idly by, doing little or nothing to address it. Well-insulated within the patent industry’s cozy professional bubble, we are, in effect, fiddling like a modern-day Nero while innovation’s Rome burns.