The US patent system has a storied history: written into the Constitution by Madison; the Patent Act itself written by Jefferson; and, requested to be passed in Washington’s first State of the Union speech. As a former speech writer for the Commissioner back in 1985, I had the fun task of finding little interesting factotums about the US patent system to add some flavor to whatever audience the Commissioner was addressing. Such facts might include: local inventors, known statewide innovative companies, or just interesting moments in the course of the system and its contribution to the development of the then brand new United States.
Some fun stuff: Abraham Lincoln reckoned that, along with the invention of the printing press and Columbus discovery of America, the US patent system was among the three most important events in the history of the world. Of the 4 faces on Mt. Rushmore, 3 are inventors (Roosevelt is the exception); but, only Lincoln got a patent. The British burned pretty much everything in Washington that mattered in 1812; except, the Patent Office, around which they placed a guard. And so it goes.
Why am I resorting to the emotional heart strings; because the current round of patent reform is an existential threat to the US patent system. If these proposals pass, we will be left with a very, very expensive registration system in which the Fortune 50, and no one else, will be able to participate. In case no one has noticed, the Fortune 50 do not innovate (with few exceptions, it is those who will become the Fortune 50 that do the innovating) and so, the system ceases to exist. Let me explain.
Washington– The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force will host roundtable discussions in cities around the country on several copyright Internet policy topics, as part of the work envisioned in the Green Paper. The purpose of the roundtables is to engage further with members of the public on the following issues: (1) the legal framework for the creation of remixes; (2) the relevance and scope of the first sale doctrine in the digital environment; and (3) the appropriate calibration of statutory damages in the contexts of individual file sharers and of secondary liability for large-scale infringement. The roundtables, which will be led by USPTO and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), will be held in Nashville, TN on May 21, 2014, Cambridge, MA on June 25, 2014, Los Angeles, CA on July 29, 2014, and Berkeley, CA on July 30, 2014. The meetings were called for in the Task Force’s Green Paper on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economyreleased last year.
In the Green Paper and subsequent requests for public comments on October 3, 2013, the Task Force stated its intention to hold roundtable discussions on these issues. On December 12, 2013, the Task Force held a day-long public meeting to discuss the issues identified for its further work in the Green Paper, which included panel discussions on remixes, the first sale doctrine, and statutory damages, as well as other topics. The purpose of the planned roundtables is to seek additional input from the public in different parts of the country in order for the Task Force to have a complete and thorough record upon which to make recommendations.
As we get deeper into the month of April, the Companies We Follow series here at IPWatchdog wanted to take a little time to review the databases of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for inventions from this corporation. Over the past month or two, we’ve found many intriguing patent applications and issued patents describing a wide array of new technologies. We’re noticing some real activity on behalf of GE regarding medical and wind energy generation, among other developments.
Today’s featured patent application would protect a novel system of addressing power outages when a utility network doesn’t receive notification of the event directly from customers. This system allows a utility network to scan social media posts for relevant information about outages, and then turn those posts into instructions for maintenance crews. We also discuss a few inventions related to wind turbines, including a new method for measuring lightning strike damage on wind turbine blades, and a couple of patent applications filed to protect medical monitoring technologies.
Washington– The U.S. Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will host a public forum on May 9, 2014 at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, to solicit feedback from organizations and individuals on its recent guidance memorandum for determining subject matter eligibility of claims reciting or involving laws of nature, natural phenomena, and natural products (Laws of Nature/Natural Products Guidance). The Laws of Nature/Natural Products Guidance implemented a new procedure to address changes in the law relating to subject matter eligibility in view of recent Supreme Court precedent.
“We are always interested in receiving feedback from the public and this forum will provide an opportunity for participants to present their interpretation of the impact of Supreme Court precedent on the complex legal and technical issues involved in subject matter eligibility analyses during patent examination.” said Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee.
“Without a strong healthy business nothing else really matters–not even IP. A successful IP [plan] is one that follows the business and strategizes to meet its goals,” says Cynthia Raposo, Senior Vice President of Underarmour. The questions that need to be answered that go into formulating an intellectual property strategy–like when the company wants a profit, whether it is interested in attracting investors or academic collaborations or buyers, whether it will become a public or global company, what its niche in the market is, how fast developments in the field are– can’t be fully answered without not only consulting the business people, but being on the exact same page as them.
Instead of trying to warp business around IP or thinking about why and when IP might make incentives for business, as has been the case in the scholarly literature, we should start shifting the focus and instead discuss IP strategy in the context of business growth and development. This year at the AIPLA Mid-Winter Institute, the panels allowed us to take a detailed look at seven companies (Underarmour, RedHat, GlobeImmune, Cubist Pharmaceuticals, Harley Davidson, Ventana Medical Systems, and Global Partner Holdings) who have done just that and have progressed from small start-ups to well-known, profitable companies. Their successes emphasize why and how IP strategy should change as the business changes.
Do patents actually promote innovation and economic growth?
We know from the historical record that in 19th century America, at least, most observers had no doubt that that the patent system was absolutely vital to U.S. economic success.
Sir William Thompson, a British inventor and scientist attending the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, looked at the amazing array of American inventions — including Bell’s telephone, the Westinghouse airbrake, Singer’s sewing machines, and Edison’s improved telegraph — and told Scientific American that “if Europe does not amend its patent laws, America will speedily become the nursery of useful inventions for the world.”
Meanwhile, the Swiss Commissioner in attendance, the shoe manufacturer Edward Bally, offered a similar warning to his Old World countrymen. “American industry has taken a lead which in a few years may cause Europe to feel its consequences in a very marked degree.”
Eleven score and four years ago, on April 10, 1790, our Founders brought forth our patent system, an institution designed to promote progress in the fledgling nation called America. See First U.S. Patent Laws. Despite its value to our country, 224 years later, that system is under attack.
Until the late 18th Century, innovative colonists in the Americas relied on British-based patent laws to obtain Colonial patents. In 1790, however, American citizens could obtain a patent under the new U.S. patent system. George Washington, in his first Message to Congress on the State of the Union, stressed the importance of a patent system, in which he promoted “the expediency of giving effectual encouragement as well to the introduction of new and useful inventions from abroad, as to the exertions of skill and genius in producing them at home.”
A successful country needs new ideas and businesses. Our patent system provides the carrot to attract innovation by granting a 20-year period of exclusivity. But the inventor must pay a price for this right: full disclosure. He or she must reveal every detail about the invention, and, after 20 years of development, promotion and profit, the scientific and technological knowledge in that innovation enters the public realm for all to use. Our Founders recognized that patent rights, although very strong, are also short-lived and serve a greater public purpose.
This is my third article, in a series, written to provide some useful aid for the Supreme Court and clerks in the wrapping of their minds and writing around the issues surrounding computers and software. I have already written two installments: Help for the Supreme Court in CLS Bank; and, What is a Computer? As predicted when I started, almost every patent person with a “dog” in the fight re software has written articles (or Amici) to be helpful. I only hope that what emerges from beneath the avalanche of writing is something that can get the patent system, and its relationship to computers/software, back to where it needs to be for the system to be an incentive and reward based enterprise as it was intended.
The object of this installment is not scholarly, in the sense that case citations are going to show up, but rather is another effort to give the lay person a chance to “get” what it is we in the patent community continue to babble about, in patent attorney code, when it comes to software. Of course, because, I am doing the writing, car analogies will be present because that is the only technology that I can readily relate to when characterizing computers/software/machines.
The story that begins the tale is me attending a small car show in Williamsburg, Virginia last summer. The selection of cars ranged from brass era to modern sports cars. As a part of the show, and to keep folks around, they had a schedule of “car starts” where a specific car would be fired up and the crowd would be given a short demo on the particular car. The one I waited for, specifically, was the Ford Model-T. It was the car that made modern America. It put thousands on the road and thousands to work. That “device” changed the course of our collective history. But, it was, none-the-less, a cantankerous beast. Henry Ford was quoted as saying, “I will give you the car for free if I can sell you the parts to keep it running!” (Hey, the first “freeware” sales model!) It was solid and, for its day, very reliable and capable. But the owner /operator had to be mechanically quite adept.
How to Write a Patent Application is a must own for patent attorneys, patent agents and law students alike. A crucial hands-on resource that walks you through every aspect of preparing and filing a patent application, from working with an inventor to patent searches, preparing the patent application, drafting claims and more.
Without hesitation I recommend One Simple Idea and think it should be required reading for any motivated inventor. There is so much to like about the book and so much that I think author Stephen Key nails dead on accurate. The book is educational, information and inspirational. For the $14 cover price it is essential reading.
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