There are issued US patents for virtually ever occasion, and certainly for every holiday. I like to try and profile holiday patents, which are always interesting if not outright funny at times. So with no further ado, I give you some Halloween Patents! Happy Halloween everyone, and safe trick-or-treating kids!
When I saw this picture I knew it had to be included in any compilation of Halloween patents! The costume is made up of a first garment base, which generally defines the shape of at least a portion of a Halloween character. This under-garment has insulating material is disposed over at least a portion. The second garment layer is secured to the first garment and the second garment together with the first garment layer defines the complete shape on the Halloween character. The second garment also has a venting material which functions as a ventilator for the Halloween costume. The costume also has at least one decorative member secured to either the first or the second garment layers, and which further outlines the appearance of the Halloween character.
On Monday, October 26, 2009, Google, Inc. was sued for patent infringement relating to its new Chrome browser by Red Bend, Ltd., an Israeli corporation and Red Bend Software, a Delaware corporation located in Waltham, Massachusetts. Red Bend, Ltd. is the owner of US Patent No. 6,546,552, and Red Bend Software is the exclusive licensee of the ‘552 patent (hereinafter “Red Bend”). The complaint filed by Red Bend in the United States Federal District Court for the District of Massachusetts alleges that the Google Chrome browser infringes “one or more claims of the ‘552 Patent either literally or under the doctrine of equivalents.” The complaint is rather bare bones, does not identify the claims that are believed to be infringed and upon initial reading I thought this type of complaint by ambush, of which I am not a fan, wreaked of a patent troll. That was my thought at least until I got to the end and see that Dwyer & Collora, a Boston law firm, are local counsel and Baker Botts is seeking admission pro hac vice. While I may not like complaints without claim numbers, this is definitely not a troll action. Red Bend offers products and services, and are not just in the business of suing. On top of that, the big guns have been brought to bear. Without knowing anything about the underlying merits I feel comfortable saying that we should keep an eye on this litigation.
Everyone views the world through a prism, and the prism I look through is different than the prism others look through. That should hardly come as a surprise given that we each find ourselves at any point in time being where we are as a result of the journey we have taken. It is, therefore, not surprising that those who are patent attorneys will recommend that you should first file a patent application, and it is not surprising that those who are business coaches or licensing executives may recommend a different first step on the path to what will hopefully be success. I do not begrudge anyone their point of view, or suggest that there is but one right way to successfully get from point A to point B, but I do know that with every choice there are associated risks. When I hear people say that inventors do not need to start with a patent and can wait to file a patent application I cringe. It is not that this is universally bad advice, but it certainly comes with a lot of risk. I wonder whether inventors and small businesses are informed of the associated risk, and whether they realize that by waiting they may forever lose the ability to obtain a patent.
Earlier this week, on October 27, 2009, Amazon Technologies, Inc., received US Patent No. 7,610,382, which relates to a computer implemented method of marking copies of content distributed on a network. More specifically, the patent discloses and claims a variety of embodiments of a method and associated apparatus for programmatically substituting synonyms into text content distributed through a Web service. Embodiments include having a synonym substitution mechanism that will replace selected words in text with synonyms for those selected words, such as by substituting the synonyms in excerpts of copyrighted works that are provided to via a Web service interface. Tip of the hat to Slashdot for finding this patent and bringing it out into the open, but the major thrust of the patent and its potential importance was unfortunately downplayed. The submitter did recognize that in one version of the invention the method can be used to identify and call out copyright infringers, but then snidely joked about a minor aspect of the patent by saying “anti-piracy measures should trump kids’ ability to spell correctly, shouldn’t they?” Perhaps it is to much to ask for the masses to take any software related patent seriously, but there is no doubt this is an innovation and a good example running up to the Bilski Supreme Court arguments why software innovations should be patentable if they satisfy the other patentability requirements; namely if they are new and non-obvious.
Last month a two-day international symposium sponsored by WIPO concluded with broad agreement on the need to pool efforts at the international level to address the problem of backlogs in patent applications at patent offices around the world. In 2007, the last year for which complete worldwide statistics are available, unprocessed patent applications around the world reached 4.2 million, and that number continues to grow according to WIPO. The Director General of WIPO, Mr. Francis Gurry, explained at the symposium that the main challenge of the future for patent offices around the world is to promote coordinated international action to enhance efficiency of operations and encourage dissemination of best practices in modernizing the infrastructure, operations and management of the world’s various patent offices. WIPO hinted that work sharing could be enhanced through the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) and Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) agreements, with new pilot projects to come on line in early 2010. According to Gary Smith, of the PCT Learning Center and a former member of the United Nations diplomatic corps who served as the Director of the Patent Cooperation Treaty at WIPO, “this will be a considerable inducement to those applicants wishing to obtain patent protection in the growing list of countries participating in the PPH.”
As first reported by Bartholomew Sullivan of The Commercial Appeal, last week, on October 22, 2009, thirty-four members of Congress wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to steadfastly support strong intellectual property rights and not to given in to international demands that would weaken intellectual property rights, particularly patent rights. The concern expressed by these members of Congress centers around negotiations attempting to obtain an international agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCCC). This letter references a 432-0 vote in the United States House of Representatives on June 10, 2009, relative to an amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorization Bill, which stated that the United States “should prevent any weakening of, and ensure robust compliance with and enforcement of, existing international legal requirements as of the date of the enactment of this Act for the protection of intellectual property rights related to energy or environmental technology” in order to “protect American jobs, spur economic growth, and promote a ‘Green Economy.'”
A study released today by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) provides first-of-its-kind data on the importance of university/industry research and development partnerships to the U.S. economy. The study of university technology licensing from 1996 to 2007 shows a $187 billion dollar positive impact on the U.S. Gross National Product (GNP) and a $457 billion addition to gross industrial output, using very conservative models.
“It has long been believed that the Bayh-Dole Act, which permits and encourages industry to partner with research universities to turn federally-funded basic research into new and valuable products, is a critical factor in driving America’s innovation economy. Indeed, because of this inspired piece of legislation, the U.S. leads the world in commercializing university-based research to create new companies and good, high-paying jobs throughout the country,” stated BIO President & CEO Jim Greenwood. “This new study provides the evidence to back up that belief.”
False marking is a statute in the Patent Act that imposes civil liability for intentionally marking a product as patented when it isn’t.
We’ve all come across a product marked with the phrase, “This product is covered by U.S. Patent No. (fill in the blank).” Such marking puts the world on notice that the patent holder has exclusive rights to collect monetary damages from those who infringe their patent.
While patentees are not obligated to display the patent number, the one factor they must always consider is the costly mistake of false marking.
When someone improperly marks an unpatented item as being covered by a patent with intent to deceive the public, that person is legally at risk. Anyone has the right to sue a patentee for false marking, with potential damages of $500 per occurrence.
Apple was issued US Patent No. 7,608,775 earlier today relating to a method of changing time duration guiding a note along a beat ruler in a Graphical User Interface (GUI). This patent application was filed on January 7, 2005, the same day that several other GarageBand patent applications were filed, including US Patent No. 7,603,623, relating to methods to automatically correct timing of recorded audio in a GUI, which was issued just two weeks ago on October 13, 2009. According to USA Today, “Apple’s GarageBand is far and away the most popular program for creating and recording music on the computer, since it’s free and shipped with every new Mac.” GarageBand does come free with every Apple computer, and is a part of the iLife suite. If you have a Mac and do not have iLife you can download iLife ’09 for $79.
Federal funding, typically in the form of research grants, is often used to support university research. The Bayh-Dole Act also allows universities to retain title to invention rights in such research (referred to as “subject inventions”). See 35 U.S.C. § 202(c)(2). What the Federal Circuit has struggled with recently is what does “retain title” mean under Bayh-Dole, and especially where does the title to the “subject invention” initially reside. The case of Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University v. Roche Molecular Systems, Inc. suggests the Federal Circuit “still doesn’t get it” on how title to “subject inventions” works under Bayh-Dole.