Toyota Motor Corporation, headquartered in Toyota, Japan, is an industry leader for research and development in the automotive industry. The multinational corporation has a strong American presence as well; the Toyota Technical Center is located in Ann Arbor, MI. Recently, the Technical Center held a ceremony to celebrate the corporation’s top inventors for the past year.
The corporation and its subsidiaries were awarded 1,491 patents in 2012, the most for any automobile manufacturer according to the Intellectual Property Owners Association. Of particular note were inventors Minjuan Zhang, a manager at the Toyota Research Institute NA, and Charan Lota, manager at the Toyota Technical Center. Both of these inventors earned, separately, their 20th issued patents during 2012.
Today in IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, we’re taking a look at recent Toyota patents to celebrate this incredible output of technological innovation from the Japanese car maker. Two patents we feature here include Zhang and Lota as part of the development team. One patent protects a new multi-layer exterior for vehicles that reflects a wider range of light, providing a vehicle better protection from damaging sunlight rays. Another patent protects a smart calendar system that can inform onboard GPS routing based on regular errands.
A recent Law Review article entitled Simplified Pleading, Meaningful Days in Court, and Trials on the Merits: Reflections on the Deformation of Federal Procedure, 88 NYU Law Rev. 286 (2013) (written by Arthur R. Miller who spent most of his career writing and thinking about the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the state of federal litigation in America) might well be mandatory reading for those who give full credit to the so-called patent reformers. Why? Because the attack on individual inventors using names like NPEs and patent trolls is nearly identical to the attacks previously waged by corporate America on personal injury lawyers, using the McDonald’s hot coffee case as an example of lawyer abuse (now it’s the Wi-Fi patent cases). Miller describes the McDonald’s case as being “grotesquely misdescribed” (p. 303), probably an understatement, just as the Wi-Fi case is misdescribed. See Setting the Record Straight on the Innovatio Patent Portfolio .
Like the corporate attacks on everything from the private enforcement of securities fraud claims to unfair business practice, civil rights and age discrimination claims, the new target is patent infringement claims brought by “boogie man” entities that don’t manufacture products. As Miller points out, these earlier attacks, like the NPE propaganda, are based upon slogans and propaganda, not empirical data and logic:
Bogus caseload statistics are propagated, while empirical data is ignored, and fears are spread by claims that there is a litigation explosion in this country and that Americans are paying a litigation tax that renders our businesses uncompetitive.
Editorial Note: The following inquiry was submitted via contact form. I communicated with the person who submitted, giving my advice. I was given permission to post the question here to solicit the collective wisdom of our readers.
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I’m a fairly new/young patent attorney. I work at a firm where I am the only patent attorney, of several attorneys. I am trying to figure out how to set my fees and fee structure for patent prosecution and trademark registration work. Friends from law school in the Dallas area suggested using a flat-fee for prosecution, rather than an hourly rate. My concerns are, because I’m relatively new to prosecution, I’m not sure how to accurately estimate the time involved from an inventor’s initial disclosure so I set a flat-fee that won’t grossly under predict the amount of time required. Of course, I also want to set my fee to be market competitive. I’m located in the Greater Nashville Area.
On July 1, 2013, Merck (NYSE: MRK) announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved new labeling for ISENTRESS® (raltegravir) Film-coated Tablets. The primary purpose of the FDA labeling requirements and regulations is to give healthcare professionals the information they need to prescribe drugs appropriately. See An Introduction to the Improved FDA Prescription Drug Labeling.
ISENTRESS is Merck’s integrase inhibitor for the treatment of HIV-1 infection in adult patients as part of combination Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) therapy. It is the first and only integrase inhibitor approved by the FDA. ISENTRESS had sales of $243,636,000 during Q1 of 2013, and has experienced growth quarter over quarter, which means that ISENTRESS is flirting with the $1 billion per year in sales that would make it a blockbuster drug. See Isentress Sales Data. The FDA approving new labeling seems likely to guarantee that during FY 2013 ISENTRESS will achieve blockbuster status.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), originally approved ISENTRESS on October 12, 2007, granting accelerated approval for raltegravir tablets (400 mg) for treatment of HIV-1 infection in combination with other antiretroviral agents. ISENTRESS received a priority review by the FDA, with the review and approval of the New Drug Application being completed within six months. At the time of the initial approval the FDA explained that when ISENTRESS is used with other anti-HIV medicines, it “may reduce the amount of HIV in the blood and may increase white blood cells, called CD4+ (T) cells, that help fight other infections.”
The hotter months have arrived, which means that it’s the time of the year that we feel solar energy the most. In fact, the heat and longer days make it perfect to enjoy some of the better things that Mother Nature has to offer.
Inventors have been filing for patents regarding solar powered items for at least several decades. Patents issued by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office during the early ‘80s show how inventors have used solar energy to power lighting systems (US Patent No. 4,384,317) and even for the propulsion of aircraft through the sky(US Patent No. 4,415,133). In the 1990s, more interesting applications for solar energy use in outdoor entertainment can be seen, such as this patent protecting a solar-powered hot dog cooker (US Patent No. 5,054,467).
Today at IPWatchdog, as we continue our Summer 2013 series, we take a look at some of the patents and applications regarding the application of solar energy to improve outdoor summer activities. A few patent applications give us an insight to some of the intriguing uses of solar energy we might see someday in our own backyards. One application describes an umbrella table capable of storing electricity and sending it to electrical outlets on the table. Another application is for a grill canopy with solar-powered lighting displaying downward from the fabric top. A third application would protect a solar powered outdoor lamp with a more stable base for non-permeable ground settings.
Acacia Research Corporation (Nasdaq: ACTG) announced on Friday, July 5, 2013, that its Board of Directors appointed Matthew Vella, Acacia’s current President, as Chief Executive Officer and a Director effective August 1, 2013. Mr. Vella will also continue to serve as President of Acacia, thus assuming the title President & CEO. Paul Ryan, Acacia’s current Chief Executive Officer and a Director, has announced that he will retire. Ryan will retire and leave Acacia effective July 31, 2013.
Mr. Ryan commented, “In anticipation of my retirement I want to thank all of the very talented employees who have built Acacia into a premier patent licensing company. Acacia has a very deep and experienced management team and I along with our Executive Chairman, Chip Harris, and all of our board of directors are very confident that with Matthew Vella as CEO, the company will continue to build its leadership role in the industry.”
I had the opportunity to interview Ryan on the record earlier this year. We talked about a number of topics, including the Acacia business model and how the patent system incentivizes inventors. One of the things that many are critical of is the type of monetization done by Acacia and others relative to so-called non-practicing entities. Ryan explained to me that it really shouldn’t matter where the right comes from. We talked about it being a very dangerous slippery slope if you start focusing on whether a patent plaintiff is an operating company or one that simply innovates, or even acquires from the original innovator. Why? Because many (if not most) of the big players simply do not play fair with smaller business and individual inventors. They push around smaller players, ignore legitimate inquiries regarding licensing and simply force small companies and individuals to pursue expensive litigation, which they know many won’t pursue.
Recently the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld Nintendo’s victory in a patent-infringement case brought against Nintendo by IA Labs CA, LLC. See IA Labs CA v. Nintendo Co., LTD. The Federal Circuit agreed with the the United States Federal District Court for the District of Maryland, issuing what is called a Rule 36 Judgment. A Rule 36 Judgement is one a judgment of affirmance without an opinion. See Rule 36 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, Federal Circuit Rules.
We do not have any recitation of facts or reasoning explaining the Federal Circuit panel decision because the Per Curiam decision of the panel, which was made up of Circuit Judges Newman, O’Malley and Wallach, merely read: “AFFIRMED. See Fed. Cir. R. 36.” Thus, we must look to the underlying district court proceeding.
At trial it was determined by United States District Judge Peter J. Messitte that Nintendo did not infringe IA Labs’ patent (U.S. Patent No. 7,121,982). Further, Judge Messitte ordered IA Labs to pay Nintendo more than $236,000 in attorneys’ fees because it was an exceptional case due to the fact that the claims were objectively baseless. Also of interest is the fact that IA Labs sought to not post a bond to appeal, which was denied at least in part because the litigation was being funded by a third-party financier.
The current debate in Congress on patent litigation reform is focused on patent monetization entities, including the so-called “patent trolls.” But another theme underlying this debate is a supposed explosion in patent litigation.  Many fear that patent litigation is stifling innovation in the United States and the upcoming report by the GAO will hopefully shed some light on these fears. To get a sense of what the GAO report might include, this article looks at historical patent litigation trends to evaluate whether the supposed explosion in patent litigation is real and what factors contribute to patent litigation trends.
The America Invents Act (AIA) changed the joinder rules to restrict a patent owner from suing multiple defendants in the same lawsuit. It is clear that these reforms have resulted in numerically more patent lawsuits being filed in the last two years.  What is unclear is whether this increase in lawsuits is due only to the AIA reforms, or whether there are more fundamental changes occurring in patent litigation trends. To put recent patent litigation trends into perspective, an analysis was made of patenting and patent litigation in the US over the last 40 years in comparison to overall US economic activity.
As President Lincoln recognized in his famous line, “The patent system added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.”  It is in our nature to innovate. In fact, the ability to innovate is part of what makes us human.  Patent protection is not meant to encourage innovation; rather patent protection should serve to encourage economic investment in commercializing our innovations. So, it is appropriate to measure our patent system in comparison to our economic activity.