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Companies We Follow

Panasonic Patent Application Review: Portable Devices, Manufacturing Advancements and Behavior Analysis

Posted: Monday, Aug 25, 2014 @ 3:49 pm | Written by Steve Brachmann | 1 Comment »
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Posted in: Companies We Follow, Electronics, Guest Contributors, IP News, IPWatchdog.com Articles, Panasonic, Patents, Steve Brachmann, Technology & Innovation

From U.S. Patent Application No. 20140226294, titled “Display Device.”

In our latest installment of the Companies We Follow series here at IPWatchdog, we want to take an in-depth look at an indisputable giant in the field of electronics development and manufacturing over the past few decades. The Panasonic Corporation of Osaka, Japan, is a brand well-known to consumers of electronics all over the world.

Recently, Panasonic created a little stir in the alternative energy industry by announcing a partnership with Tesla Motors to contribute to that company’s Gigafactory operations, producing many of the lithium-ion cells needed for Tesla’s electric vehicle batteries. Panasonic is trying to make forays into developing markets, notably through the release of its Eluga U smartphone in Indian markets. Panasonic has faced tough economic times in recent months, but many believe the corporation is reorganizing its operations to focus on products with a higher profit margin, thus improving its prospects. Interestingly, Panasonic has also shown a recent interest in agriculture and its technology is being used to support Singapore’s first indoor vegetable farm licensed to operate in that country.

There can be no doubt that Panasonic has lately been an intellectual property giant; in 2013, the company was issued 2,601 U.S. patent grants from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the 6th-most among any global entity seeking U.S. patents that year. We want to be thorough in our investigation of a company’s recent research and development operations, so today we’ll be focusing strictly on patent applications published recently by the USPTO. Although these applications do not indicate that a company has earned the right to protect an invention, they have been filed more recently than issued patents and are therefore a better indication of a corporation’s recent developments.



HP Patents: Social Network Sharing and Forensics Technologies

Posted: Thursday, Aug 21, 2014 @ 9:44 am | Written by Steve Brachmann | 1 Comment »
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Posted in: Companies We Follow, Computers, Guest Contributors, HP, IP News, IPWatchdog.com Articles, Patents, Social Media, Social Networking, Software, Steve Brachmann, Technology & Innovation

The Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE: HPQ) of Palo Alto, CA, is a multinational information technology developer based in America with a storied history as a major computer manufacturer that began in a one-car garage. Well-known for its lineup of printers and computer hardware, HP looks to make a move into the rapidly growing wearable tech industry with a luxury smartwatch developed with input from American fashion designer Michael Bastian. Recently, the company was at the center of a U.S. Justice Department probe for overcharging the U.S. Postal Service for computing products, and was ordered to pay a $32.5 million fine. Still, the company recently surpassed Walgreen to become the 62nd-largest company in the S&P 500, as ordered by market capitalization.

In today’s Companies We Follow segment here at IPWatchdog, we’re returning to this giant of IT development to see the latest innovations coming out of its research facilities. As always, we start off with a look at the patent applications assigned to HP and recently published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. What we noticed in our most recent search was a bevy of technologies for business services, including a couple of software technologies for enterprise network security. We also share some printing technologies, as well as one intriguing innovation designed to help music fans better hear their favorite bands or orchestras when attending live concerts.



Epson’s Patents: Plenty of Printing Tech and a Couple of Robots

Posted: Tuesday, Aug 12, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Written by Steve Brachmann | 1 Comment »
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Posted in: Companies We Follow, Guest Contributors, IP News, IPWatchdog.com Articles, Patents, Printers, Robotics, Seiko Epson, Steve Brachmann, Technology & Innovation

From U.S. Patent Application No. 20140214202, titled “Robot Control Method, Robot Control Device, Robot, and Robot System.”

In the world of printing technology, there are few companies who enjoy the market leading position of the Seiko Epson Corporation of Nagano, Japan. From inkjet and laser printers to projectors and computing hardware, Epson’s products also encompass image forming and display technologies. As we’ll discuss more in today’s column, Epson has been pursuing a fair amount of research and development in the field of wearable technology, like glasses with computing components. This corporation’s operations in India have earned the company the top spot in terms of projector sales in this major growing market. Epson’s has also recently been involved with the development of printing systems for improving work processes at small businesses, even delis and diners.

Epson is a company that we’ve taken some time to examine in past columns published in our Companies We Follow series. Recently, the president of the Seiko Epson Corporation, Minoru Usui, was quoted in comments about his commitment to developing intellectual property and how it protects the corporation’s financial success. We’re always excited to discover innovations from a company dedicated to increasing the strength of their patent portfolio, and we found plenty of patent applications and issued patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office related to Epson’s core printing business, as well as some intriguing side pursuits.



LG Patents – Digital Broadcast Services to Voice Recognition Technologies

Posted: Wednesday, Aug 6, 2014 @ 11:25 am | Written by Steve Brachmann | 2 comments
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Posted in: Companies We Follow, Consumer Products, Electronics, Guest Contributors, Household Tech, IP News, IPWatchdog.com Articles, LG Electronics, Patents, Steve Brachmann, Technology & Innovation

LG Electronics of Seoul, South Korea, is a multinational corporation in the world of electronics development and manufacturing with operations in mobile communications, energy solutions, home entertainment and home appliances. In recent days, the corporation has been experiencing a lot of financial success, and its $411.8 billion in net income during the 2nd quarter of 2014 is more than twice what the company earned in the same period last year. The 14.5 million smartphone units sold by the company during this period, including 900,000 units of LG’s flagship G3 smartphone, is cited as a major reason for this increase. LG successfully won an appeal recently in a $910 million patent infringement lawsuit brought forth by Multimedia Patent Trust over video compression technologies. In home appliances, news reports from global publications are indicating that LG is focused on developing a line of smart home appliances which use the LG HomeChat system.

Here at IPWatchdog, we haven’t featured LG Electronics all that often in our Companies We Follow series, but they inhabit a very strong position in terms of global intellectual property development which deserves to be covered. As always, we’ve collected an intriguing collection of patent applications and recently issued patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office which are assigned to LG. We found a variety of innovations related to mobile electronic devices and a couple involving some intriguing home appliances.

Today, we’ve explored a couple of patent applications related to improved methods for businesses that are trying to reach mobile users within a close proximity, including one technology for directly communicating proximity-based services to mobile device owners as well as methods for communicating those proximity-based services to groups. Another patent application discusses an improved LED lighting apparatus for better diffusion of light on an LCD screen. We also noticed a patent application related to an improved method of manufacturing solar cells.



Whirlpool’s Patent Applications: From Spherical Ice Dispensers to Steam Cooking Ovens

Posted: Monday, Aug 4, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Written by Steve Brachmann | 1 Comment »
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Posted in: Companies We Follow, Guest Contributors, Household Tech, IP News, IPWatchdog.com Articles, Patents, Steve Brachmann, Technology & Innovation, Whirlpool

The Whirlpool Corporation of Benton Charter Township, MI, is a company which has become synonymous with the American market for consumer home appliances like dishwashers, refrigerators or laundry machines. The company announced a 9.6 percent drop in sales outside of the United States during the second quarter of 2014, reducing the corporation’s sales forecast for the entire year. However, Whirlpool may be trying to counteract its poor global sales by acquiring the Indesit Company, an Italy-based manufacturer and distributor of home appliances. Whirlpool is still at the forefront of innovation in the field of home appliances, which its recent unveiling of an in-home 10-minute dry cleaning appliance proves. Recently, the corporation has partnered with researchers from Purdue University to convert a 1920s Indiana home into a net-zero energy residence, creating as much energy as it consumes within a year.

Whirlpool’s devoted focus to household appliances of many kinds makes it a very visible corporation among American consumers and a good choice for IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series.

Publication of a patent application does not mean that a patent will be issued for the technology, but looking through them, we have our best chances of learning about a company’s most recent research and development goals. To judge from what we saw today, Whirlpool is very hard at work creating improvements to the various ice making assemblies manufactured for the company’s refrigerators or other appliances. We were also intrigued by one patent application which may protect a cooking method for a home oven that provides for the steam cooking of fish and vegetables.



GE Patents: Patents of Note: Medical Inventions & Alternative Energy Systems

Posted: Friday, Aug 1, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Written by Steve Brachmann | 1 Comment »
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Posted in: Companies We Follow, General Electric, Green Technology, Guest Contributors, IP News, IPWatchdog.com Articles, Medical Devices & Methods, Patents, Steve Brachmann, Technology & Innovation

Headquartered in Schenectady, NY, the multinational conglomerate General Electric is a corporation which is heavily involved in research and development in many industry sectors, including capital finance, energy, technology infrastructure and consumer appliances. Interestingly, reports indicate that GE is trying to sell its consumer home appliance businesses, marking a major shift in the corporations focus towards industrial operations. General Electric’s activities in fuel cell technology development may be shifting the market if a pilot manufacturing plant is successful. GE, which already owns 60 percent of the U.S. locomotive market, may pull further ahead of Caterpillar and other companies in the industry by designing trains with pollution-reduction systems within the engine, meant to meet rigorous exhaust systems established by the U.S. government.

IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series checks in with General Electric every few months to see what recent patent activities have been supported by this company’s research and development. Our recent perusal of the dozens of patent applications and issued patents filed at the halls of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and assigned to GE showed us an incredible swath of innovation in fields from medical care to electrical energy generation. Below, we’re sharing some of the inventions which we felt were most interesting with our readers.

Our exploration of General Electric’s recently published patent applications confirms the idea that this corporation is increasing its development in the field of locomotives. We feature a couple of patent applications in this field, including one that would protect a system for detecting the order of rail cars for cooperative braking and tractive operations. We also sharing some patent applications related to consumer appliances, such as one directed at a new design for a dishwasher filter media that can collect a wider range of particulate without clogging.



Abstraction in the Commonplace: Alice v. CLS Bank and its Use of Ubiquity to Determine Patent Eligibility

Posted: Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 @ 11:55 am | Written by Marc Ehrlich, Marian Underweiser, Mark Ringes & Manny Schecter | 25 comments
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Posted in: Companies We Follow, Government, Guest Contributors, IBM, IP News, IPWatchdog.com Articles, Patentability, Patents, Software, Technology & Innovation, US Supreme Court

It has been over a month since the Supreme Court published its opinion in Alice v. CLS Bank. While the question on which certiorari was granted broadly considered the patent eligibility of computer implemented inventions, the Court ultimately issued an opinion that was tightly focused on the invention underlying Alice Corp’s patent. While many hoped that the Court would address this broader issue, the narrow opinion leaves many key questions unanswered. More importantly, the Court’s explanation of why the Alice patent was an ineligible abstract idea demonstrates the limitations inherent in applying that doctrine to computer implemented inventions. Those limitations will come to define the struggles confronting innovators, courts and the patent office as they attempt to operate in accordance with this opinion.

A review of the opinion and oral argument reveals that no participant was able to articulate a meaningful, repeatable, and predictable approach for determining which computer implemented inventions are too abstract and which are eligible for patent protection. The Court intentionally declined to broadly address this key issue: “[i]n any event we need not labor to delimit the precise contours of the “abstract ideas” exception in this case.”  And that is because it cannot be done. As the Court itself acknowledged in Mayo v. Prometheus, “all inventions at some level embody” an abstract idea.   And unlike laws of nature and natural phenomena, abstract ideas are not readily susceptible to line-drawing – where does the abstract idea stop and the eligible “application” of that abstraction begin?

Learned Hand lamented the intractable nature of this problem in the context of the idea expression dichotomy in copyright law. Struggling to separate the underlying unprotected idea from the copyright protected expression, he noted “…there is a point in this series of abstractions where they are no longer protected, since otherwise the playwright could prevent the use of his ‘ideas’, to which, apart from their expression, his property is never extended. Nobody has ever been able to fix that boundary, and nobody ever can.” See Nichols v. Universal Pictures Corporation.



Nikon Patents: More Accessories, Improved Functionality for Digital Cameras

Posted: Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Written by Steve Brachmann | No Comments »
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Posted in: Cameras, Companies We Follow, Consumer Products, Electronics, Guest Contributors, IP News, IPWatchdog.com Articles, Nikon, Patents, Steve Brachmann, Technology & Innovation

The Nikon Corporation (TYO: 7731) of Tokyo, Japan, specializes in the research and development of cameras, camera lenses, microscopes and a variety of other optics technologies and products. Recently, the company just announced a new flagship digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera, the D810, which includes an image processor designed to reduce color artifacts and other image issues while offering some videography capabilities. The corporation is also rolling out the Nikon 1 J4, a compact camera developed for hobbyists which can make use of interchangeable lenses for capturing images in a variety of styles. Owners of Nikon’s digital cameras may benefit from the free Capture NX-D software released by Nikon for editing RAW-format images captured from DSLR, Nikon 1 and other cameras developed by the company. According to comments from Nikon’s newly appointed CEO Kazuo Ushida which have been reported by other publications, the company plans to increase its medical business investment by $2 billion, mainly through the acquisition of other businesses in those fields.

Nikon is not a corporation we profile often in the Companies We Follow series. However, with our recent focus on Canon and other optical and imaging technology manufacturers, we felt that now was a good time to add Nikon to our rotation, a global leader in digital cameras and similar consumer devices. Our recent search of patent applications and issued patents filed at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office showed us a very intriguing scope of innovative development in the world of digital image and video capture.

The patent applications published in recent weeks by the USPTO and assigned to Nikon include a couple of filings pertaining to camera accessories which we explored for today’s column. One of these accessories provides a continuous light for the better detection of light exposure conditions for a digital camera. Other patent applications are directed at improved configurations for interchangeable camera lenses and lens barrels. Another intriguing patent application discusses a method of displaying two-dimensional and three-dimensional images on the same screen without degrading the quality of either version.