EDITORIAL NOTE: The black colored text below is taken from an FTC Press Release. I also provide my thoughts and comments in the format of comments from the peanut gallery, or perhaps as a patent attorney equivalent to Mystery Science Theater 3000. In order to differentiate my thoughts/comments from the FTC statement, my comments are italicized, colored, indented and tagged with the IPWatchdog logo.
Aaron’s, Inc., a national, Atlanta-based rent-to-own retailer, has agreed to settle FTC charges that it knowingly played a direct and vital role in its franchisees’ installation and use of software on rental computers that secretly monitored consumers including by taking webcam pictures of them in their homes.
Intel Corporation of Santa Clara, CA, is the world’s largest manufacturer of semiconductor chips used for computer processing jobs. Although the semiconductor is practically ubiquitous in our world, thanks to the quick proliferation of mobile electronic devices, Intel is currently focusing more strongly on developing Internet-based and mobile technologies. Even so, the company is still a strong manufacturer of computer processors, and the company’s next-generation of computer chip, known as the Broadwell, will be set for use in personal computers in 2014.
As a major developer of computer technologies, Intel is a logical choice for IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series. To give our readers an idea of the future of computer technology, we’ve pulled off a number of intriguing patent applications and issued patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that have been published recently and assigned to Intel.
As you might expect, a number of recently issued patents to Intel pertain to a series of novel computer improvements, which include but are not limited to (1) more efficient energy use in computing systems using multi-core processors, and (2) a system of aiding TCP-based communications when a processor enters sleep mode. Other issued patents show the widespread nature of Intel’s semiconductor technologies. In one patent the technology is used to improve security measures for video game servers to protect against cheaters or hackers who would manipulate the game environment. Interestingly, Intel also earned the right to protect a method of coating medical devices with biocompatible substances to reduce the risk of infection in patients. Another issued patent to Intel also improves security measures for mobile devices by allowing the device to determine a user is unauthorized based on local data.
The Oracle Corporation of Redwood City, CA, is an international leader in the development and sale of enterprise software solutions for businesses and corporations, especially those software suites that involve database management. The corporations recent announcement that it would incorporate the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Provenance protocols for standardized data record control in its upcoming software releases will go a very long way in making Provenance the international standard in that market. Oracle was also recently in the news on the sports page, interestingly enough, when Oracle Team USA pulled off a miraculous upset of the New Zealand team in the recent America’s Cup sailing championship.
Oracle’s strong showings in the technology world and other areas of the news make it a great subject to return to for IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series. Like always, we’ve scoured the most recently released patent applications and issued patents assigned to Oracle by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to get an idea of what we can expect for the future of enterprise software and other computer systems.
In our featured patent application today, we see that Oracle is interested in improving graphic user interface layouts for web pages and other software programs. This application describes methods of analyzing user viewing patterns to help companies develop a product that has a more intuitive layout. Other intriguing patent applications relate to the collection of traffic data for non-GPS vehicle communications systems and quick methods of deploying enterprise software to authorized users within a business network.
Not surprisingly, the decision of the latest Federal Circuit case on software patent eligibility – Accenture Global Services, GMBH v. Guidewire Software, Inc. – could be predicted from the makeup of the CAFC panel. Judge Lourie, joined by Judge Reyna, issued the majority opinion that the system claims were invalid. The Court followed the analysis for determining patent eligibility from CLS Bank,, 717 F.3d 1269 (Fed. Cir. 2013) and affirmed the district court’s finding that the system claims of U.S. Patent No. 7,013,284 (“the ‘284 patent”) were ineligible. Judge Rader dissented.
Accenture appealed the district court’s holding that system claims 1-7 and method claims 8-22 were invalid as not directed to patentable subject matter. Interestingly, Accenture only appealed the ruling on the system claims, thus waiving its appeal on the method claims.
Recently U.S. Patent No. 8,515,829(the ’829 patent) came to my attention. It is a patent issued to Google, which is titled Tax-free gifting. See Google Patents Tax-Free Gifting. The invention is interesting in its own right, but as I reviewed the patent I noticed an interesting figure — Figure 14 really caught my attention. Before proceeding to discuss the importance of Figure 14, allow me to provide some background information about this particular patent.
Generally speaking, the invention relates to a system and related techniques for gifting, and paying for, digital content, including media, such as audio and video. The core of the invention, as suggested by the title, relates to giving someone something tax-free. While the title may suggest the invention is potentially nefarious, or at least aimed at exploiting some tax loophole, that is not the case. The government is not going to be cheated out of collecting taxes. Instead, the invention relates to a method that allows for the giver of the gift to pay for the tax imposed by the jurisdiction where the gift (i.e., gift card) is redeemed.
Indeed, Claim 1 in the ’829 patent specifically includes a limitation specific to the payment of the tax that would otherwise be imposed when the gift is redeemed. Claim 1 recites (emphasis added):
Siemens AG is a giant European corporation involved with electronics and electrical engineering; headquartered in the German cities of Munich and Berlin, it is the European continent’s largest such company. The company has faced instability in recent months, but it’s hopeful that new CEO Joe Kaeser, appointed at the end of July, will help stabilize the company’s activities. Recently, the company was bolstered by an announcement of a $400 million contract to deliver two power plant blocks to Pennsylvania under an order from Gemma Power Systems LLC.
The scope of Siemens’ technology development makes it a recurring feature in IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series. Today, we look at a few issued patents and patent applications published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office that are assigned to this corporation.
Many of these patent references reviewed this week show us Siemens involvement with electrical and Internet systems on all levels, from personal to industrial. For example, one patent application would protect a floating sensor capable of detecting foam formation in industrial liquid production, a symptom of process issues. An issued patent, with an extremely narrow Claim 1, protects a system of analyzing industrial facility processes to identify energy cost savings. On an individual level, one patent application describes a system of creating anonymity among mobile device owners using cloud application resources.
Siemens is also involved in medical technology upgrades that aid various bodily systems. One patent application filed with the USPTO would protect a system of training the hearing impaired to better understand speech, even when amplification affects the signal. Finally, we feature one last patent application that discusses a system of measuring heart activity non-invasively.
Today in IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, we return to profile this American multinational corporation headquartered in Armonk, NY. A few patent applications filed with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office show IBM’s interests in improving online shopping experiences. One application provides a chronological timeline view for user review interfaces in an online store. Another application creates a virtual cart system that multiple users can interact with collaboratively, whether shopping online or at the store.
Other documents we feature here pertain more generally to computer systems, especially those with business applications. One recent issued patent protects a system of prioritizing e-mail to prevent against automated deletion of important data. A patent application filed by IBM would protect a system of analyzing a business’s computer systems and making suggestions for cloud computing resources. Finally, we look at a patent application that provides a system for recycling solid state devices discarded by users.
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