Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a decision in Halo Electronics, Inc. v. Pulse Electronics, Inc. While the decision is no doubt important to the parties involved, this decision may have more far reaching implications for patent reform in 2015 and beyond. The issue of particular interest in this case was willful infringement. In a concurring opinion, Judge O’Malley, who was joined by Judge Hughes, wrote that she felt constrained by the Federal Circuit’s precedent in In re Seagate and Bard Peripheral Vascular v. W.L. Gore, but that recent Supreme Court decisions call into question the continued viability of that precedent.
As such, Judges O’Malley and Hughes have urged the Federal Circuit to reconsider en banc the standard for awarding enhanced damages under 35 U.S.C. 284.
If enhanced damages for willful infringement is back on the table any prospects for broad-based patent reform is dead. The America Invents Act (AIA) was famously and permanently stalled until the issue of willful infringement and damages was removed from the legislation. With the damages logjam broken the forces pushing for patent reform were able to coax the legislation across the finish line.
EDITORIAL NOTE: Conversant IP has set up a website called Stand Up to the Demand, which helps those being sued for patent infringement to distinguish between a bogus claim of patent infringement and a legitimate licensing inquiry from a patent owner.
One thing you can say about patent trolls: They sure are cowboys! In fact, one of the biggest patent trolls of all time is a cowboy hat-wearing Texas lawyer by the name of Jay Mac Rust.
In 2012, Mr. Rust bought five patents from an inventor named Laurence Klein for exactly $1. He then set up 101 separate limited liability companies (LLCs), each with bizarre six letter names like IsaMai, BriPol, and HarNol. No one but Mr. Rust knows what those acronyms mean. But thousands of Mom and Pop small businesses — 16,465 to be exact — soon found out that they translate as “trouble.” Each of these businesses received a “demand letter” from one of Rust’s shell companies accusing them of patent infringement and demanding roughly $1,000 per employee if they wanted to avoid a minimum six-figure (and possibly seven-figure) lawsuit in U.S. federal court.
Every now and again, the Companies We Follow series returns to check up on Nikon’s innovations, and we learned some interesting things about Nikon’s current corporate focus. According to a myriad of patent applications filed at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Nikon is serious about expanding its intellectual property holdings in the area of lithography, especially immersion lithography, for the manufacture of semiconductors and other electronics. An X-ray device which is less affected by thermal expansion and a digital bulletin board for an online electronic album service are also discussed in recently filed Nikon patent applications.
Raze Technologies, formerly WestEnd Broadband, Inc., was founded in late 1999 with the purpose of developing a last mile access system that would allow service providers to offer both broadband data and high quality, fully featured voice services to residential and small business customers. The result was the development of a turnkey, end-to-end, carrier-class, and scalable platform. It was capable of terminating voice and data traffic and their associated protocols at a center office, and provided all the necessary transport and remote management capabilities to the customer’s premises.
In August 2002, Raze suspended its development operations and focused its remaining resources on the prosecution of its patent portfolio. Over time, as most if not all of the other innovative start-ups in the space have gone the way of the dinosaur, Raze has managed to accumulate a foundationally important patent portfolio relating to standard-related innovations surrounding mobile network infrastructure technologies that relate to 4G/LTE, which is the next generation wireless standard. Indeed, one of Raze’s seminal innovations related to the use of 2 tiered wireless networks with a broadband connection to a WiFi connection in order to increase building penetration and the utility of service. These concepts are among those patented by Raze and are today known as mobile hotspots and tethering.
The Raze 4G/LTE patent portfolio, which includes patents having priority filing dates all the way back to April 2001, is currently for sale and could well fetch a handsome sum even given downward pressure in the market created by some unfortunate recent Supreme Court decisions (more on this later). The sale is being brokered by ICAP Patent Brokerage via a private sale.
Steve Sasson, inventor of the digital camera, receives National Medal of Science from President Obama on 11/17/2010.
Just about 40 years ago, a young electrical engineer working at the offices of Eastman Kodak in Rochester, NY, developed a product that would upend the entire world of photography. Since that time, the technology has exploded into consumer markets and has proliferated into our daily lives, from camera components included in smartphones to high-quality megapixel systems which provide professional-grade images. All of this came to be thanks to the development of light-sensitive semiconductor devices capable of storing and transmitting light exposure information to create a digital image.
Here at IPWatchdog, we like to return regularly to our Evolution of Technology series to detail the development of a popular consumer technology across the years. Today, with our recent focus on patents issued to companies developing digital photography products, we wanted to dive in a little more deeply to look at the history of development in this field of technology. The chronology of digital photography development comprises the establishment of the JPEG image standard and the development of liquid crystal display screens. It also closely follows the decline of a major American developer of imaging products and the subsequent shift in the entire photography market.
J&J is pretty active in terms of patenting, and our recent survey of patent applications filed with the USPTO showed us that the company is looking to usher in the next age of contact lenses. In a time when many people are talking about Google Glass and other wearable technologies, we were intrigued to find a large number of patent applications filed by J&J to protect methods of incorporating semiconductor components into contact lenses for digitizing vision care and correction. A surgical implant for hernia repair and cosmetic compositions which cause less skin irritation are also discussed below.
The New Jersey-based company and its various subsidiaries were the recipients of a large number of patent grants in the past few months, and we’re sharing some of our favorites below. Even more contact lens innovation is reflected in these recently issued patents, including contact lenses for stopping myopia progression or for providing more stability when worn on the eye. Anti-tumor topical compositions and disposable assay devices for the simpler completion of biochemical tests have also recently entered the intellectual property portfolio of this firm.
Nero and the burning of Rome by M. de Lipman, circa 1897.
Adam Carolla, one of the most popular podcasters in the U.S., is sued by a patent troll. The story goes viral. Across the country, state Attorneys General are using consumer protection laws to guard their small businesses from the predacious patent trolls. And here’s something previously unthinkable: the President of the United States, in the 2014 State of the Union address (“It’s the country’s most valuable political real estate,” noted one D.C. veteran), urged Congress to “pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly and needless litigation.”
The greatest long-term threat to the U.S. patent system does not come from its professional opponents – those large businesses and their political allies who stand to profit from enfeebled patent rights. A deeper harm is caused by unscrupulous patent trolls who use extortionist “demand letters” to victimize small businesses. This practice, we believe, is wrecking public confidence in the U.S. patent system – and by extension, profoundly weakening the heretofore bedrock belief in the great economic benefits conferred by patent-protected inventions.
Yet even as damage caused by demand letters spreads, most legitimate patent licensors whose businesses depend upon continued legislative and public trust stand idly by, doing little or nothing to address it. Well-insulated within the patent industry’s cozy professional bubble, we are, in effect, fiddling like a modern-day Nero while innovation’s Rome burns.
If you read the previous article in this series, Why Inventors Should Not Rely On Their Own Search, you know that before you file a provisional patent application, you should do a comprehensive search of the U.S. Patent Office and other U.S. and/or international databases. A patent agent/attorney will do this for their clients, or you can have a trusted confidant, (who won’t take your idea for their own), work with you to complete it.
Prepare yourself, you are very likely to find a similar product, and that is a good thing.
It’s a good thing because it means that someone else has also recognized that there is a problem which requires a solution. Ideally your solution, or some aspect of it, is either better than theirs, or distinctly different, which makes it possible to submit a provisional patent application for it.
At this point, you may think you know what the patentable element is, and are ready to file a provisional, but you’re not there yet, and here’s why.
Michelle Lee, USPTO Deputy Director and Director Nominee.
Thank you, Wayne, and good morning everyone. Before I begin, I just wanted to say, it’s been a busy week, and that I am beginning to lose my voice, but it means a lot to me to be here today and to speak to you all of you, so I hope you will bear with me and hopefully my voice will hold through the speech.
With that, I’d like to congratulate Q. Todd Dickinson for his successful leadership of AIPLA, and for his past service as Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
We at the USPTO appreciate his support of our agency over the years, and I personally want to thank Todd for his warm welcome of me when I took the helm of the agency in January. I know we all wish him the very best in his future endeavors.
I also want to commend Vince Garlock for his recent stewardship of the Association, and congratulate Wayne for his successful tenure as the 106th president of AIPLA.
A recently published survey by The Atlantic asked a panel of 50 Silicon Valley insiders a variety of questions ranging from what is the most exciting tech start-up at the moment to which tech company is most overvalued. One question in particular was quite intriguing: What is the biggest barrier to innovation in the United States? You might be surprised by the answer.
According to this poll the biggest barriers to innovation in the United States are, in order:
Government regulation/bureaucracy 20%
Immigration policies 16%
Talent shortage 10%
Lack of diversity among tech executives 10%
The need for patent reform 8%
Lack of investment 6%
This survey shows what those in the industry have long known — patent trolls and the need for patent reform are NOT the biggest problems facing the high tech industry in the United States. In fact, 92% of respondents feel that there are other things that are more concerning and a bigger barrier to innovation. But how can this be? The public has been consistently fed the line that patents stifle innovation. How can something that stifles innovation not be the biggest concern, particularly when so many of the tech giants from Silicon Valley have for years blamed the patent system for all their woes? The simple answer is that patents do NOT stifle innovation, but rather patents foster innovation. Those who are intimately familiar with the industry know patents promote innovation regardless of the lies promoted to advance patent reform, vilify innovators and lay the blame for everything at the feet of patent trolls. See also Promoting Innovation: The Economics of Incentives.