UPDATED: May 2, 2013 at 12:17am ET — An earlier version of this article explained that Google sells to patent trolls. Google has since informed me via telephone that they do not sell to patent trolls, but other big tech operating companies do sell to patent trolls, which concerns Google. See Google: We Don’t Sell to Patent Trolls.
Recently at a conference at American University Washington College of Law a senior patent attorney from Google — Suzanne Michel — lamented that big technology companies are practically forced to sell their patents to patent trolls. See Fixing the Patent System. So as it turns out big tech companies are responsible for creating at least a portion of the so-called “patent troll problem” by and through their own actions and business decisions. So how and why should their position relative to patent litigation be taken at all serious when they themselves admit to creating the problem in the first place?
If big tech companies are selling unwanted patents to patent trolls who then turn around and monetize them there are a lot of questions to ask. First, why are they selling to those who then turn around and sue them? There is an obvious solution to this problem, if it is indeed a real problem and not one made up for sake of publicity and swaying public opinion (and political opinion on Capitol Hill). Second, what are they doing selling patents that can be monetized? If they are giving these patents away how is that appropriate at all when the company needs to answer to shareholders? Isn’t the goal of any company to maximize returns for shareholders? Finally, if operating companies are selling to patent trolls then how is it possible that patent litigation is as big a problem as it is claimed to be? Something just doesn’t smell right here, but a room full of symposium attendees were told that big tech companies sells out to patent trolls. Curious.
As counter-intuitive as big tech companies selling to patent trolls may be, equally head scratching is how big tech companies complain about getting sued but refuse to negotiate unless they are sued. Seems like their actions force lawsuits that they complain about and hoist up to proclaim the patent system broken. Talk about the emperor wearing no clothes!
On March 25, 2013, I spoke on the record with Eric Gould Bear (left) about software innovations, software patents and the trials and tribulations of litigating software patents long after they were first written. Bear, among other things, is a leading authority on the creation of new user experiences, an accomplished inventor with over 100 patents and patent applications to his name and a testifying expert witness.
In Part I of our interview, titled Designing Into the Path of Disruptive Technology, we discussed the journey from ideas to designs that establish a technology platform that could realistically be useful 5, 10 or more years down the road. In Part II of our interview, which appears below, we discuss drafting software patent applications with an eye toward litigation and the unfortunate reality that the top technology innovators simply won’t listen to licensing overtures unless they are first sued.
On April 17, 2013, the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued an Order Denying Petition to Quash Civil Investigative Demandin the Matter of Jerk, LLC. This means that an investigation started by the FTC will now proceed and Jerk.com will either need to challenge the FTC in court or they will need to turn over the requested files and information. The hammer seems to be coming down on Jerk.com, which should make an awful lot of tormented, harassed and cyber-bullied people quite happy.
Jerk, LLC operates Jerk.com, a social networking website that collects and displays profiles, which include photographs, names, ages, email and physical addresses, telephone numbers, and opinions. Information on the website includes, among other things, information that is publicly available on other Internet sites and newly created user-generated content. Jerk.com encourages users to add personal information to profiles and to rate the profiled individuals as either “jerks” or “saints.”
Qualcomm Incorporated, headquartered in San Diego, CA, is a global leader in the design and manufacture of wireless telecommunications products, like cell phone semiconductors and tracking devices. Recently, Qualcomm has broadened its product and service base in wireless Internet networking and application programming. The company’s commitment to research and development make Qualcomm a visible presence at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office each week.
Today, we’ll take a close look at some of the more intriguing, recent Qualcomm patent applications recently published by the USPTO, many of which show the technology developer focusing on improving mobile network connections. Patent applications released within the last month describe systems of improving mobile device Internet connectivity to peripheral devices, like printers, or while indoors for pedestrian traffic analysis. More efficient means of social network messaging is the subject of another application. A fourth application included here is filed to protect a gesture-based system of interacting with computer projectors.
One patent received recently by Qualcomm, and covered below, protects a system of geographically locating computers and other devices connected to the Internet through an IP address, which doesn’t typically contain any geographical data.
On May 9, 2013, IPWatchdog’s very own Gene Quinn will be attending and presenting at the Business Development Institute’s Social Media Marketing Summit for Law Firms in NY. When they first reached out to IPWatchdog to ask Gene to present at this event, I offered to speak as the Social Media Diva, but given that the program specifically targets Law Firms, they declined my offer expressing their desire to have an attorney who not only knows and understand the importance of social media but one who also utilizes social media on a regular basis as part of the work he does each day! So Gene is definitely their guy!
The summit was put together as a result of increased awareness of social media by law firms and how these platforms can be used to attract new clients and to expand business with existing clients. According to the Summit’s Event Summary, “Most lawyers use social media networking tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter and most firms have at least one blog. Many firms now recognize that blogging and social networking have helped produce new client leads.” Gene himself gets all of his client work as a result of his blogging and other social media efforts. So BDI recognized that he is the perfect person to present at the Summit.
On March 25, 2013, I spoke on the record with Eric Gould Bear (left) about software innovations, software patents and the trials and tribulations of litigating software patents long after they were first written.
Bear is an inventor on over 100 patents and patent applications in the software space. He has spent over 25 years working with numerous Fortune 500 corporations with respect to assisting them in the creation of new user experiences. He is also a founder of the design studio MONKEYmedia, which recently launched a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple that we will discuss in Part II of the interview. MONKEYmedia also has litigation pending against Sony, Disney and others. And on top of all of this, Bear is a testifying expert witness for patent infringement cases. Simply, there is little in the software/patent space that Bear hasn’t seen or been a part of over his career.
In Part I of our conversation, which appears below, we discuss the journey from ideas to designs that sit in the path of disruptive technology and could realistically be useful 5, 10 or more years down the road.
In this last column in our Earth Day 2013 series, IPWatchdog wants to take a look at some of the research and development coming out of one of the industry leaders in wind energy technology, General Electric Company of Schenectady, NY.
GE Wind Energy is a branch of General Electric Company that is involved with the development and manufacture of wind energy turbines. As of 2009, General Electric was the world’s 2nd largest wind turbine supplier, according to Reuters. Wind energy has gained a lot of attention in the alternative energy world because it is renewable and can create electricity without fossil fuel emissions.
These patents and patent applications, published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, outline General Electric’s goals to increase efficiency and reduce manufacturing costs for its wind energy systems. Recently published patent applications include documents filed to protect a more efficiently designed turbine blade and an electronic sensor that can determine if corrosive forces have damaged a turbine blade. Another application is for a light reflective substance that can help warn birds away from turbine blades, which may at first seem insignificant but a major obstacle in the adoption of wind energy are complaints from environmentalists relating to the number of birds killed each year.
Back in January, Scott Daniels pondered the question of whether patent applicants and patentees have a chance of success when appealing Patent Office rejections to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The sad and candid truth is “not much of a chance.” As Scott pointed out, where the Federal Circuit is reviewing a validity decision from the district courts, the Federal Circuit reviews the claim construction de novo. The Federal Circuit also chooses not the most likely meaning, but the broadest reasonable meaning for disputed claim language. That is, the claim construction most likely to invalidate the claim in question. Now, we ask whether the same fate is likely to befall claims that are being asserted in a patent infringement action. Asked differently, does the Federal Circuit choose the claim construction most likely to lead to a conclusion of no infringement? Saffran v. Johnson & Johnson seems to suggest that the answer is sadly, yes.
Dr. Bruce Saffran (“Saffran”) is the owner and sole inventor of U.S. Patent No. 5,653,760 (the “’760 patent”). The ’760 patent describes an apparatus for spurring the repair of bone fractures by containing tissue fragments and tissue growth-promoting macromolecules within the fracture site. A single-layered sheet, which is selectively impermeable to the macromolecules and the tissue fragments, is affixed to the injured bone tissues. The selective barrier properties of the sheet prevent macromolecules from leaking out into neighboring tissues, thus concentrating the macromolecules at the fracture site.
In addition, drugs facilitating tissue regeneration can be bonded via hydrolysable chemical bonds to the inner surface of the single-layered sheet. This inner surface faces the injured tissues. Water molecules present at the fracture site causes lysing of the chemical bonds, which in turn releases and delivers the drugs into the fracture site. Bond lysis occurs at a constant rate, which enables the steady and controlled release of the drugs.
EDITORIAL NOTE: As of April 26, 2013 at 12:56am ET, the USPTO has resolved this issue. Notices not automatically sent will be resent.
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Although Earth Day 2013 is now behind us, our week long Earth Day 2013 series continues to looking at different ways American research and development firms are advancing green technologies. Today, we’ll look at hybrid electric vehicle patents and patent applications issued/published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office to the “Big Three” U.S. automobile manufactures: Ford, Chrysler and General Motors.
Hybrid electric vehicles pose a number of potential environmental and economic benefits that make it an important sector within green technology. Hybrids store an electrical charge in a battery that either reduces the amount of power required from an internal combustion engine or, in the case of all-electric vehicles, powers the entire car. This technology is in many ways still in its early developmental stages, but already some car manufacturers are selling hybrid models that reach100 miles per gallon of gasoline, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. This reduces the amount of gasoline needed from imports and reduces fossil fuel emissions to almost nil.
Recent patent applications published by the USPTO show that much of the basic controls behind hybrid electric systems in vehicles still have much room for improvement. We’ve noticed a lot of patent applications for systems of controlling electrical charges within the hybrid vehicle or the local electrical grid, in the case of charging stations. Another patent application makes it easier to diagnose powertrain issues in hybrid vehicles.