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Guest Contributors

For Whom the Bell Tolls: The US Patent System

Posted: Friday, Apr 18, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Written by John White | 9 comments
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Posted in: Congress, Government, Guest Contributors, IP News, IPWatchdog.com 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, IPWatchdog.com 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.



Laying the Groundwork for a Reflective IP Strategy

Posted: Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Written by Dolly Krishnaswamy | No Comments »
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Posted in: Dolly Krishnaswamy, Guest Contributors, IP News, IPWatchdog.com Articles

“Without a strong healthy business nothing else really matters–not even IP.  A successful IP [plan] is one that follows the business and strategizes to meet its goals,” says Cynthia Raposo, Senior Vice President of Underarmour. The questions that need to be answered that go into formulating an intellectual property strategy–like when the company wants a profit, whether it is interested in attracting investors or academic collaborations or buyers, whether it will become a public or global company, what its niche in the market is, how fast developments in the field are– can’t be fully answered without not only consulting the business people, but being on the exact same page as them.

Instead of trying to warp business around IP or thinking about why and when IP might make incentives for business, as has been the case in the scholarly literature, we should start shifting the focus and instead discuss IP strategy in the context of business growth and development. This year at the AIPLA Mid-Winter Institute, the panels allowed us to take a detailed look at seven companies (Underarmour, RedHat, GlobeImmune, Cubist Pharmaceuticals, Harley Davidson, Ventana Medical Systems, and Global Partner Holdings) who have done just that and have progressed from small start-ups to well-known, profitable companies. Their successes emphasize why and how IP strategy should change as the business changes.



Do Patents Truly Promote Innovation?

Posted: Tuesday, Apr 15, 2014 @ 10:00 am | Written by David Kline | 3 comments
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Posted in: Anti-patent Nonsense, Guest Contributors, IP News, IPWatchdog.com Articles, Patents

Do patents actually promote innovation and economic growth?

We know from the historical record that in 19th century America, at least, most observers had no doubt that that the patent system was absolutely vital to U.S. economic success.

Sir William Thompson, a British inventor and scientist attending the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, looked at the amazing array of American inventions — including Bell’s telephone, the Westinghouse airbrake, Singer’s sewing machines, and Edison’s improved telegraph — and told Scientific American that “if Europe does not amend its patent laws, America will speedily become the nursery of useful inventions for the world.”

Meanwhile, the Swiss Commissioner in attendance, the shoe manufacturer Edward Bally, offered a similar warning to his Old World countrymen. “American industry has taken a lead which in a few years may cause Europe to feel its consequences in a very marked degree.”



Happy Birthday to the Patent System, A Dream of Our Forefathers

Posted: Monday, Apr 14, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Written by Raymond Van Dyke | 1 Comment »
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Posted in: Guest Contributors, IP News, IPWatchdog.com Articles, Patents

Eleven score and four years ago, on April 10, 1790, our Founders brought forth our patent system, an institution designed to promote progress in the fledgling nation called America. See First U.S. Patent Laws. Despite its value to our country, 224 years later, that system is under attack.

Until the late 18th Century, innovative colonists in the Americas relied on British-based patent laws to obtain Colonial patents. In 1790, however, American citizens could obtain a patent under the new U.S. patent system.  George Washington, in his first Message to Congress on the State of the Union, stressed the importance of a patent system, in which he promoted “the expediency of giving effectual encouragement as well to the introduction of new and useful inventions from abroad, as to the exertions of skill and genius in producing them at home.”

A successful country needs new ideas and businesses.  Our patent system provides the carrot to attract innovation by granting a 20-year period of exclusivity.  But the inventor must pay a price for this right: full disclosure.  He or she must reveal every detail about the invention, and, after 20 years of development, promotion and profit, the scientific and technological knowledge in that innovation enters the public realm for all to use.  Our Founders recognized that patent rights, although very strong, are also short-lived and serve a greater public purpose.



The “Useful Arts” in the Modern Era: For SCOTUS on CLS Bank

Posted: Sunday, Apr 13, 2014 @ 10:30 am | Written by John White | 1 Comment »
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Posted in: Government, Guest Contributors, IP News, IPWatchdog.com Articles, John White, Patents, Software, Technology & Innovation, US Supreme Court

This is my third article, in a series, written to provide some useful aid for the Supreme Court and clerks in the wrapping of their minds and writing around the issues surrounding computers and software. I have already written two installments:  Help for the Supreme Court in CLS Bank; and, What is a Computer?  As predicted when I started, almost every patent person with a “dog” in the fight re software has written articles (or Amici) to be helpful. I only hope that what emerges from beneath the avalanche of writing is something that can get the patent system, and its relationship to computers/software, back to where it needs to be for the system to be an incentive and reward based enterprise as it was intended.

The object of this installment is not scholarly, in the sense that case citations are going to show up, but rather is another effort to give the lay person a chance to “get” what it is we in the patent community continue to babble about, in patent attorney code, when it comes to software. Of course, because, I am doing the writing, car analogies will be present because that is the only technology that I can readily relate to when characterizing computers/software/machines.

The story that begins the tale is me attending a small car show in Williamsburg, Virginia last summer. The selection of cars ranged from brass era to modern sports cars. As a part of the show, and to keep folks around, they had a schedule of “car starts” where a specific car would be fired up and the crowd would be given a short demo on the particular car. The one I waited for, specifically, was the Ford Model-T. It was the car that made modern America. It put thousands on the road and thousands to work. That “device” changed the course of our collective history. But, it was, none-the-less, a cantankerous beast. Henry Ford was quoted as saying, “I will give you the car for free if I can sell you the parts to keep it running!” (Hey, the first “freeware” sales model!) It was solid and, for its day, very reliable and capable. But the owner /operator had to be mechanically quite adept.



AT&T Patents Personalized Information Services System

Posted: Saturday, Apr 12, 2014 @ 9:00 am | Written by Gene Quinn & Steve Brachmann | No Comments »
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Posted in: AT&T, Companies We Follow, Gene Quinn, Guest Contributors, IP News, IPWatchdog.com Articles, Patents, Software, Steve Brachmann, Technology & Innovation

The Whitacre Tower in downtown Dallas, TX, is home to the main headquarters for AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), a major multinational corporation in the field of telecommunications and our latest featured corporation for IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series. A recent increase in demand for AT&T products and services nationwide has led to the company’s recent announcement that it would hire 3,000 more retail workers in the U.S. over the coming months. Stronger AT&T stock prices may also enable the company to be a bigger player in mergers & acquisitions markets, as this online article published by The Wall Street Journal suggests.

Whenever we check in with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a closer look at AT&T’s recent inventions, we find an intriguing selection of technologies for enhancing the user experience for mobile electronic devices. Today, we’re sharing our favorite patent applications and issued patents from this major developer of telecommunications products and services. As you can see, AT&T is heavily invested in a variety of software related innovations. In this article we particularly focus our selections on a variety of personalized services enabling many real-life benefits to an AT&T device owner.

The featured application is a continuation of a patent application that matured into a patent for AT&T in December 2013, some 9 years after it was first filed. The file history shows that after being unable to convince the patent examiner after several final rejections AT&T appealed to the Board, which in May 2013, reversed the examiners rejections. Obviously, given that AT&T has fought so long and all the way to the Board they must believe this innovation to be of some importance. Indeed, this AT&T innovation offers a very practical service that can be applied to a variety of emergency situations. This technology involves a time-sensitive encoded artifact that is affixed to a person or object which can be scanned to communication important information in response to an emergency event.



Are Software Patents Stifling Innovation?

Posted: Friday, Apr 11, 2014 @ 10:00 am | Written by David Kline & Bernard J. Cassidy | 12 comments
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Posted in: David Kline, Guest Contributors, IP News, IPWatchdog.com Articles, Patent Reform, Patents, Software, Technology & Innovation

What if (Almost) Everything You Thought You Knew About America’s “Broken” Patent System Was Wrong?

What follows is the fourth and final installment in the “Myths of the Patent Wars” series.

The necessary legislative effort to curb bad actors in the patent industry has been “hijacked” by a small handful of very powerful global technology companies intent on forcing broader changes in the patent system to make it better serve their business interests.

Under the banner of “patent reform,” these giant firms have spent tens of millions of dollars on lobbyists and media relations to promulgate a series of dramatic but false claims about America’s supposedly-“broken” patent system — claims that are now almost universally accepted as true by the media, Congress, and the public at large.

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we examined the false claim that there is an “explosion of patent litigation greater than any in history” as well as the myth that non-practicing entities are a new breed of parasitic patent holder who contributes nothing to society. In Part 3, we debunked the myth that NPEs are stampeding the International Trade Commission with spurious infringement claims, as well as the myth that excessive damages are being won in litigation.