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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.