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Guest Contributors

Innovation Focus: Water Treatment & Desalination

Posted: Thursday, Apr 24, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Written by Steve Brachmann | No Comments »
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Posted in: Green Technology, Guest Contributors, IP News, Articles, Patents, Steve Brachmann, Technology & Innovation

One-fifth of the world’s population live in areas of the globe where water is scarce as a naturally occurring resources. One-quarter of the world’s population, about 1.6 billion people, live in regions where the local economy cannot support the infrastructure needed to draw water into municipal systems. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) reports that enough freshwater exists on Earth to support seven billion people, but issues with uneven distribution, pollution and poor management greatly hinder this.

Like most other natural resources, there is a finite amount of water in our world. Few resources are required more than water, which is used at every level of society and industry. Not only do humans need to consume water daily to survive, hundreds of thousands of gallons may be used in thermal cooling or oil extraction processes. In the United States, 41 percent of all water withdrawals are used to irrigate crops.

In IPWatchdog’s continuing coverage of Earth Day 2014, we decided to take some time to look at inventions that may help address water shortage issues across the globe. In many areas of the world, disputes over access to available water are leading to great tension among a growing global population that relies on the substance. Today, we wanted to scour the recent published patent applications and issued patents coming out of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for technologies in this field.

Fear of the Troll has Many Crying Foul

Posted: Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014 @ 11:22 am | Written by Robert Stoll | No Comments »
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Posted in: Guest Contributors, IP News, Articles, Patent Troll Basics, Patent Trolls, Patents, US Economy

Trolls of lore were ugly creatures who lived under bridges.   They charged travelers to safely cross the raging waters and threatened harm to those who refused to pay.  Trolls and their kindred spirits have haunted the nightmares of our children for generations.

But Peter Detkin, a co-founder of Intellectual Ventures, repurposed the term to represent the activities of non-practicing entities (NPEs) or patent assertion entities (PAEs).  Perhaps our collective subconscious childhood fears of the trolls of old make it too easy for the media, our elected leaders and even some savvy CEOs to vilify modern trolls for everything they represent.  I bet Mr. Detkin now wishes he used a more attractive term to describe the activities of his company.

What defines a troll?  Most would agree that a company that does not make products, but buys up patents to assert against others, would be in the category.  However, there seem to be as many permutations to this basic formulation as there are companies. What about large manufacturing companies with divisions that purchase patent portfolios for the purpose of assertion?  What about companies that spin-off their unused patent portfolio to wholly or partially owned subsidiaries that assert those patents?  What about companies that  buy up portfolios for defensive purposes, compelling membership by companies that join for protection? What about universities?  They don’t make products.  Most would say that universities don’t fit into the category of trolls, because they license to companies that make the products covered by their patents.  But what if the university sells its patents to a patent assertion entity with an agreement to share in the profits?

University Research Leads to Biofuel Breakthrough

Posted: Tuesday, Apr 22, 2014 @ 5:51 pm | Written by Steve Brachmann | 2 comments
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Posted in: Green Technology, Guest Contributors, IP News, Articles, Patents, Steve Brachmann, Technology & Innovation, Universities

In discussions about our ability as human beings to build a sustainable future for ourselves, our reliance on deriving energy from fossil fuels is of major concern. Not only do these forms of fuel cause considerable pollution when combusted by vehicles, the carbon-based sources of these fuels are finite and quickly depleting. Although new technologies, like hydrofracking, have enabled us to find new sources of petroleum fuels, these methods come with their own negative environmental impacts.

In our further coverage of green and sustainable technologies for Earth Day 2014, we here at IPWatchdog wanted to take a closer look at innovations that could help us address many of the concerns of using fossil fuels for years into the future. Biofuel production has increased in recent years, but for many reasons production has fallen short of public policy goals. However, as we profile below, exciting new innovations being patented and licensed by American universities may provide some effective answers to issues that have been vexing biofuel developers for years.

Earth Day 2014: A Salute to Recycling Innovations

Posted: Tuesday, Apr 22, 2014 @ 1:27 pm | Written by Steve Brachmann | 1 Comment »
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Posted in: Green Technology, Guest Contributors, IP News, Articles, Patents, Steve Brachmann, Technology & Innovation

Today is Earth Day 2014, and with that in mind we will be taking some time today and throughout the week to take some time to look at the progress of sustainable, environmentally friendly technologies in America and abroad.

Our Earth Day 2013 coverage focused on recycling systems, solar energy generators and other green inventions from Universities. One particularly intriguing set of environmentally friendly inventions related to various hybrid electric vehicle innovations developed by Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. This year, we wanted to start our analysis of green technologies by focusing on patent applications and issued patents describing inventions related to recycling. As the Bureau of International Recycling reports, 1.6 million people across the globe are employed by an industry that recycles more than 600 million tons of material, an industry that creates a global economic impact of $200 billion.

We’ve searched the recently published patent applications and issued patents coming out of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to find the most unique innovations in the realm of recycling technologies. As you can see below, recycling technologies and innovation come in many different forms. While recycling in and of itself is no doubt environmentally friendly, so too are technologies that enable reusing items, relate to biodegradability and recycling items not previously viewed as recyclable.

The Evolution of Hip Replacements

Posted: Monday, Apr 21, 2014 @ 1:42 pm | Written by Gene Quinn & Steve Brachmann | 2 comments
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Posted in: Gene Quinn, Guest Contributors, IP News, Articles, Medical Devices & Methods, Patents, Steve Brachmann, Technology & Innovation

A Note from Gene: Nearly two weeks ago, on Tuesday, April 8, 2014, I had a total right hip replacement. The surgery went very well. The biggest problem I encountered was nearly non-stop hiccups for the first week, which was likely due to the anesthesia. I was walking the next day, and I am now walking with only the assistance of a cane. Rehab is going nicely. With this going on in my personal life I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the evolution of hip replacement technology through the lens of issued U.S. patents.


Themistokles Gluck, circa 1901, performed the first documented hip replacement in 1891.

Hip surgeries have been taking place for at least three hundreds years, and have progressed from rudimentary surgeries to the sophisticated total hip replacement (i.e., total hip arthroplasty or THA) surgeries that are so commonplace today. According to the CDC, during 2010 there were 332,000 in patient total hip replacements performed in the U.S. Indeed, hip replacement surgery today is widely recognized as one of the most successful surgical interventions ever developed. See Early Attempts at Hip Arthroplasty.

Modern days of hip replacement surgery really date back to the 1960s, with the development of new devices that reduced the wear sustained by artificial hip joints over time, and which provided more predictable outcomes. Still, as with all great scientific advancement, it is impossible to overlook the important discoveries of the early days. Without first steps in any scientific endeavor future steps are impossible.

With this in mind, today we wanted to take a look at the innovation history of hip replacement surgery and technologies, from the first femoral head attachments fashioned from ivory to current technologies which may enable surgeons to conserve more natural bone than ever before through the use of synthetic cartilage.

Intel Patents: A Diverse Story of Software Innovation

Posted: Sunday, Apr 20, 2014 @ 1:29 pm | Written by Steve Brachmann | No Comments »
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Posted in: Companies We Follow, Guest Contributors, Intel, IP News, Articles, Mobile Devices, Patents, Software, Technology & Innovation

The Intel Corporation of Santa Clara, CA, has been a global leader in the development of computing processors and related semiconductor components for the past few decades. In 2013, this technology manufacturer saw a drop in revenues but still maintained 15.4 percent of the world’s market share for semiconductors, making it the top corporation overall in that respect. New Intel chipset products are set to hit technology markets in May 2014, which could result in upgrades to the Apple iMacs using these processors. Intel’s also developing improvements to its Thunderbolt Networking technology allowing for easy connection of computers running different operating system platforms, supporting PC-to-Mac connections.

Our Companies We Follow series has looked at Intel a few times before. Our latest chance to check in with this multinational semiconductor chip manufacturer has revealed some truly unique technologies meant to improve mobile devices and communication systems for a great number of global consumers. Software is the common theme behind those patents and patent application we found during this snapshot look at Intel.

We start our profile of Intel’s recently developed technologies with a look at our featured patent application, which discusses a novel system for managing access to a vehicle among multiple drivers. This access management system would also be able to delegate responsibilities, such as gas refueling and scheduled maintenance, as well as enable emergency access to trusted parties. Other patent applications which we noticed today discussed enhanced security measures for private data as well as home media systems for accessing segmented television content.

For Whom the Bell Tolls: The US Patent System

Posted: Friday, Apr 18, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Written by John White | 37 comments
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Posted in: Congress, Government, Guest Contributors, IP News, Articles, John White, Patent Reform, Patents

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.

GE Seeks Patent on Using Social Media to Detect Power Outages

Posted: Thursday, Apr 17, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Written by Steve Brachmann | No Comments »
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Posted in: Companies We Follow, General Electric, Guest Contributors, IP News, Articles, Social Media, Steve Brachmann, Technology & Innovation

When it comes to global technological innovation, there are few companies in the world that produce the level of intellectual property of General Electric, a multinational conglomerate in energy, technology infrastructure, consumer appliances and more. In the United States, this company is involved with many energy infrastructure projects, including the installation of hundreds of miles of natural gas pipeline across North America/a>. Even though the company is more than 100 years old, General Electric recently beat out many other tech firms at the Shorty Awards, which recognizes excellence in brand use in social media. A major manufacturer itself, General Electric is posed to help usher in a new future of prototyping and factory manufacture through the use of 3D printing.

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.