Google is a favorite among the corporations profiled here on IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series because of its development of interesting consumer technologies. As we check back in for our latest round with the company, we see that it hasn’t slowed its activities with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. We found an intriguing assortment of new technologies created by this company, especially those related to Google’s mobile device innovations.
The featured patent application for today highlights a novel system of using mobile devices to improve something millions of Americans do every day: order out for food. This Internet-based system of ordering enables more precise delivery, better estimation of arrival times as well as secure payments for food and other items. We also profile some patent applications pertaining to speech recognition technologies and online searches for flight itineraries.
EDITORIAL NOTE: Many no doubt are familiar with Carl Oppedahl, who for the last 10+ years has been writing an e-mail based newsletter. Carl has now joined the ranks of the blogging community and has asked me to notify readers of his new blog. With that in mind, and with Carl’s permission, what follows is a republication of his first blog post, which published on February 21, 2014.
In our office we try to track pretty closely the status of the cases that we have put on the Patent Prosecution Highway. It is a rare PPH case that reaches its first Office Action without at least one problem within USPTO that requires us to poke the USPTO. Today one of our PPH cases presented a problem that we had not seen before — a big delay in examination because the USPTO misclassified the case.
This case had been made Special on the Patent Prosecution Highway in October of 2013 because of a favorable Written Opinion from a PCT Searching Authority. For a Special case, USPTO’s case management system normally starts ringing an alarm on the Examiner’s desk after a couple of months. So we should have seen an Office Action at least a month ago, maybe two months ago. But that only works if the case has been assigned to an Examiner. Often the USPTO first assigns the case to a SPE and then it is left to the SPE to figure out which Examiner in the SPE’s art unit should actually examine the case. This case got assigned to the SPE in a particular art unit. Let’s call him “SPE V”. It seems that SPE V decided that this case had been misclassified and should not have gone to his art unit. So he tried to get rid of it.
The Myriad/Mayo guidelines include an example that discusses the patent eligibility of a purified amazonic acid. The USPTO guidelines read as follows:
“The Amazonian cherry tree is a naturally occurring tree that grows wild in the Amazon basin region of Brazil. The leaves of the Amazonian cherry tree contain a chemical that is useful in treating breast cancer. However, to be effective, a patient must eat 30 pounds of the leaves per day for at least four weeks. Many have tried and failed to isolate the cancer-fighting chemical from the leaves. Applicant has successfully purified the cancer-fighting chemical from the leaves and has named it amazonic acid. The purified amazonic acid is structurally identical to the amazonic acid in the leaves, but a patient only needs to eat one teaspoon of the purified acid to get the same effects as 30 pounds of the leaves…”
The view of the USPTO now is that a claim to purified amazonic acid is not patent-eligible because there is no structural difference between the purified acid in the claim and the acid in the leaves, and the claim does not include features that demonstrate that the recited product is markedly different from what exists in nature. However the proposition that only a structural difference suffices and that differences e.g. in purity and utility do not suffice is derivable neither from the opinion in Prometheus nor from the opinion in Myriad. It is abundantly clear from study of the opinion in Myriad that the reasons why the BRCA1 gene claim did not survive were that the gene had been defined in terms of its informational content rather than its chemical structure, and that no new utility for the isolated full-length gene had been disclosed. Such an interpretation is wholly consistent with the concession made on behalf of the Petitioners in oral argument.
According to data from Lex Machina, there has been a sharp decline in the number of patent litigation case filings so far in 2014. The obvious question this leads to is whether the patent litigation centric patent reforms presenting pending in the Congress are required if the number of patent infringement cases being brought is declining.
In January 2013, there were 490 new patent complaints filed. The number of new patent cases filed in January 2014 was 322. This represents a 34.3% drop in the number of new patent filings year to year, and represents the lowest number of new patent litigations since October 2011. See Patent Case Filings Drop Sharply in January to 322.
A source familiar with Lex Machina’s data tells me that the number of new patent lawsuits filed in February 2014 was also quite lower than during February 2013. During February 2013, according to Lex Machina data there were 548 new patent cases filed. The number of new patent cases filed during February 2014 was 456, which represents a decline of 16.8% year to year.
During the first two months of 2013 a total of 1,038 patent cases were filed, according to Lex Machina data, while the number of patent cases filed during the first to months of 2014 was just 778. This represents a decline of 25%.
In recent years, the American banking system has gone through major upheaval, as have financial industries across the globe, in response to the 2008 global economic crisis. According to digital news outlet Quartz, the fallout to this crisis currently has resulted in more profits that are being enjoyed by fewer, larger banks. In fact, Quartz reports that American bank profits in 2013 neared $160 billion and beat the industry’s pre-crisis peak revenue of $145 billion.
However, a new paradigm in financial systems is shaping up across the globe thanks to the one technology that’s been changing our world in incredible ways for at least the past two decades: the Internet. Globally, banks are racing to develop Internet-based banking systems, turning the idea of online banking from a checking or credit account service into a completely digital system of payment processing.
We’re seeing a lot of interesting financial innovations, and today we want to feature some unique and groundbreaking inventions developed by a trio of major players in the American banking industry. Today, we’ve profiled an assortment of patent applications and issued patents coming out of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that are assigned to Citigroup Technology of New York, NY; The Bank of America Corporation of Charlotte, NC; and JPMorgan Chase Bank, also of New York, NY.
There is no larger online retailer in the world than Amazon.com, an international electronic commerce corporation with its headquarters based in Seattle, WA. After establishing itself as a major Internet service for retail shopping, the company has focused on developing its line of Kindle tablet devices and shipping services in recent years. This company just made major waves in Chinese consumer markets by releasing its Kindle Fire HDX reader in that country for a retail price starting at about $278 USD. In the American market, we’ll likely notice the influence of this company in television over the next year, as Amazon.com gets ready to roll out its TV set top box technology for Internet video content.
Every time we visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to view Amazon’s recently published applications and issued patents, we’re genuinely piqued to learn about this retailer and electronic device manufacturer’s plans for the future of digital content consumption. Today, IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series takes a hard look at the recent innovations coming from Amazon.com and its subsidiaries.
Our look at Amazon’s patented technologies focuses heavily on the shopping experience that online users encounter on their website, or their ability to view content in innovative ways. One patent protects a gaze-based technology for eBook scrolling on a reading device. Another couple of patents we feature protect innovative ways of providing consumer feedback for digital content, such as chapter reviews within an eBook or methods of soliciting feedback from users based on their catalog searches.
In a few weeks the United States Supreme Court will hold oral arguments in Alice v. CLS Bank. At stake in this case is the future of software patents. Half of the Federal Circuit de facto ruled that software is patent ineligible. Of course they could not come right out and say that because it would contradict both settled Supreme Court precedent and patent laws enacted by Congress and codified in Title 35 of the United States Code. Nevertheless, the undeniable position of half of the Federal Circuit was that software is not patent eligible because to these Judges none of the claiming techniques that are used to write software patent claims result in patent eligible subject matter being claimed.
In preparation for the oral arguments we are shifting through the briefs. I have already written about the IBM brief, see Supreme Court “Abstract Idea Doctrine” is Unworkable. We plan multiple articles leading up to the oral argument that discusses the various briefs filed, and complete coverage of the oral arguments. Today, however, I write about the brief of the United States Government filed by the Solicitor General, which is simply disingenuous.
Truthfully, to call the Solicitor’s brief disingenuous is being charitable. The logic, if you can call it that, necessary for the Solicitor’s arguments to be correct is extraordinarily tortured, not to mention circular and dependent upon itself for support. The premise of the argument made by the Government is simply false. The Solicitor tells the Supreme Court that the patent claims in question are to an abstract idea, which is flat wrong. But in a bizarre twist the Solicitor pivots to then say that what is covered is not an abstract idea but it is not necessary for there to be an abstract idea protected in order for the claim to be patent ineligible as an abstract idea. Sadly, I’m not making this up.
The Federal Circuit has affirmed once again—this time in a sharply divided en banc decision—that it will subject a district court’s claim construction to de novo review on appeal. The case is Lighting Ballast Control v. Philips, and the appeal was the latest challenge to the standard of review set by the Federal Circuit over 15 years ago in Cybor Corp. v. FAS Technologies, Inc.
On the surface, this question of patent procedural law seems innocuous enough, but a glance at the title pages of the numerous amicus briefs (filed by an impressive roster of academic commentators and industry heavyweights) shows otherwise. The question of the appropriate standard of review for claim construction rulings is of immense importance to the patent bar.
At stake in Lighting Ballast was the Federal Circuit’s ruling 15 years ago in Cybor,that claim construction is subject to de novo review at the appellate level, despite the fact that the interpretation of patent terms often has factual underpinnings, a domain where trial judges are usually given a wide berth and significant deference. As the Supreme Court recognized in its landmark decision in Markman v. Westview Instruments, decided in 1996 shortly before Cybor, claim construction is a “mongrel practice” of both law and fact that often involves “construing a term of art following receipt of evidence.”
Cybor has been criticized both by Federal Circuit judges and by outside commentators, with most critics deriding Cybor’s blindness to the factual issues that are often implicit in the interpretation of what a patent means. While the question can sometimes be answered by reference to the terms of the patent alone—a traditional legal inquiry—it oftentimes also requires extrinsic evidence and the opinions of dueling experts on the state of the art and the technology in question—factual issues traditionally left alone absent “clear error.”
How to Write a Patent Application is a must own for patent attorneys, patent agents and law students alike. A crucial hands-on resource that walks you through every aspect of preparing and filing a patent application, from working with an inventor to patent searches, preparing the patent application, drafting claims and more.
Without hesitation I recommend One Simple Idea and think it should be required reading for any motivated inventor. There is so much to like about the book and so much that I think author Stephen Key nails dead on accurate. The book is educational, information and inspirational. For the $14 cover price it is essential reading.
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