It seems that no matter where you go these days, the likelihood is high that you will see a “Free Wi-Fi” sticker on the front door of the establishment. Whether you are going for coffee, meeting a colleague for lunch, stopping at a rest stop or waiting for an airplane, you can pretty much bet that you will be able to check your email and surf the web while you are there. But providing customers with free Internet access is just the beginning. Some of the world’s most well known brands are aggressively using social media as a marketing tool.
Many of the largest and most recognizable restaurant brands are starting to realize the power and potential of social media, not only for the use of their clientele but also in getting their message out in new and innovative ways. They have begun to realize that building larger online communities equates to higher numbers of restaurant sales. For this reason, media outlet Nation’s Restaurant News teamed up with an analytics and digital branding firm, DigitalCoCo to create the Restaurant Social Media Index (RSMI) highlighting the industry’s Top 100 each quarter.
Earlier today U.S. News & World Report published its Best Lawyers list for 2011-2012. The rankings broke firms into 75 national practice areas, and for the first time ever identified the “Firm of the Year” in each of those practice areas.
There was little information revealed relating to how U.S. News & World Report evaluated firms and settled upon its various lists. The blog post announcing the list simply said that “topics of evaluation were a firm’s expertise, responsiveness, cost-effectiveness, and civility, and whether it deserved to be recommended for work.”
Of course, these lists never give any love to the small or mid-size firms that provide high quality legal work at a reasonable cost to clients. But that is only one of the things that will raise some eyebrows. U.S. News included Howrey LLP in the top tier for intellectual property litigation, but the firm dissolved on March 15, 2011, hardly 10 weeks into 2011. So how exactly does that qualify Howrey, a firm that no longer exists, for top tier ranking? That alone will cause some to scratch their heads and wonder exactly what U.S. New was thinking.
Earlier today the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decided not grant a petition for en banc rehearing in Retractable Technologies Inc. v. Becton, Dickinson and Company. See Order and dissents. While a failure to order rehearing en banc is typically not newsworthy, this one was because there were two separate and passionate dissents. Judge Moore wrote the first dissent and was joined by Chief Judge Rader (who was on the original panel along with Judge Lourie and Judge Plager). The second dissent was written by Judge O’Malley. Both dissents make compelling cases for this case to have been reheard en banc to once and for all address the split among the Federal Circuit relative to claim interpretation.
Judge Moore started her dissent by saying: “Claim construction is the single most important event in the course of a patent litigation.” She would then go on to explain what we all know to be true: “claim construction appeals are “panel dependent” which leads to frustrating and unpredictable results for both the litigants and the trial court.” Bravo to Judge Moore for saying what patent attorneys whisper to each other at cocktail parties out of earshot of one or another Federal Circuit Judge.
Despite the protestations of some, software is patentable in in the United States. There are some jurisdictions that do not allow for the patenting of software or computer implemented processes, but the law in the United States allows for software to be patented.
Given the software patents are my business, one of the questions I typically receive from an inventor is: What software can be patented? How does one know that what they have is something that can be protected? The short answer is this: In my experience those who come to me before they start coding always have something that can be patented. Of course we have to do a search and seek out the available space, but there are some many twists and turns that there is almost always something patentable. Unfortunately, some do the programming first and never approach the design as an engineering problem for which they have a unique solution. That means no attempt has been made to identify the unique characteristics so what is programmed is many times virtually identical to the prior art. It doesn’t have to be that way though.
It is one again time to take pause and try and have a little bit of fun patent style. From time to time I like to profile specific patents, so what better way to kill two birds with one stone than to look for holiday themed patents? OK, maybe not your particular cup of tea, but work with me here and get into the spirit (pun intended).
Today is Halloween, as if you didn’t already know or figure out. Wikipedia explains: “Halloween (or Hallowe’en) is an annual holiday observed on October 31, which commonly includes activities such as trick-or-treating, attending costume parties, carving jack-o’-lanterns, bonfires, apple bobbing, visiting haunted attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories, and watching horror films.”
The holiday patent du jour gives us the opportunity to explore the candy collecting aspects of trick-or-treating. More specifically, U.S. Patent No. 7,594,669 is for a portable container having wheels and a handle. What makes it worthy note on Halloween is that the container itself is either a pumpkin, witch, ghost, goblin, monster, vampire or werewolf. And yes, that is required in the broadest claim, claim 1. The pictures in the patent show a jack-o’-lantern version of the invention.
There are two free webinars this week relative to the America Invents Act to alert you to. Given the enormity of the changes and how every time I read the legislation I seem to find something new, you might want to take time to sign up for both. The first will be hosted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Monday, October 31, 2011 beginning at 1:00 pm ET. The second, which will focus specifically on how the AIA will impact your business, is provided by K&L Gates and will be on Thursday, November 3, 2011 from 3:00pm to 4:30 pm ET.
Over the past several months I have received a number of inquiries from inventors who set out to draft their own patent applications. The inquiry typically goes something like this: “I have a draft patent application and I would like to get an attorney to review and make any necessary changes before I file.” This is quite a reasonable request, and in fact a very good idea. I have encouraged this myself on numerous occasions, but now find that a bit of clarification might be useful.
It is certainly true that once you file a nonprovisional patent application your ability to make additions to the application has largely ceased (although you can add claims if the original filing describes what you seek to add). Even if you are filing a provisional patent application, while you could always file another provisional patent application to correct mistakes, the first filing is only as good as what is disclosed. Taking the first filed patent application seriously and making sure it has all the necessary disclosure is absolutely critical. Therefore, having a professional review your patent application before you file is definitely wise. The question, however, is when do you seek the assistance? Frequently many inventors wait too long before they seek help, which means much of what they have done is unusable and various levels of difficult (or impossible) to work with.
With an eye toward creating new jobs and improving the economy, the Obama Administration wants to expand the ability to quickly and efficiently transfer science and engineering breakthroughs from the laboratory to the commercial marketplace. To accomplish this goal, earlier today the Obama Administration announced two new initiatives to help U.S businesses create jobs and strengthen competitiveness in the global economy. The new initiatives continue a week long theme where President Obama has showed a willingness to take whatever executive action he feels he can in order to attempt to spur job creation.
This latest set of initiatives will take steps to speed up the transfer of federal research and development from the laboratory to the marketplace, and it will create BusinessUSA, a one-stop, central online platform where small businesses and businesses of all sizes that want to begin or increase exporting can access information about available federal programs without having to waste time navigating the federal bureaucracy.
Is this a good idea? Yes, I think so. Will this work in any relevant time frame to create new jobs? I doubt it. There is too much work that needs to be done, you cannot mandate the speed of innovation and many universities have a rather myopic view of their role within the technology transfer cycle to suggest that an effort like this will yield any results over the short-term. It is, however, something that should be undertaken.