Immediately prior to becoming Director of the un-opened Silicon Valley Patent Office, from 2003 to 2012, Lee was the Deputy General Counsel and Head of Patents and Patent Strategy at Google Inc. Google has been a outspoken critic of the U.S. patent system and based on their public positions and lobbying it is clear that the company would like to see software patents abolished and the patent system significantly curtailed. Recently other large Silicon Valley companies have split with Google and have started to work to promote the importance of patents as a tool for American innovation.
Celebrating 15 Years of IPWatchdog.com
On October 10, 1999, IPWatchdog.com first went live on the Internet. It has been an honor and privilege to get to know so many wonderful people in our industry over the last 15 years, to talk to many industry leaders on the record, and to in some small way continue to push the debate forward. Thanks to our readers and contributors we have been recognized as as one of the top 100 legal blogs by the American Bar Association for 5 years in a row. For 3 of the last 4 years (2010, 2012, 2013) we were recognized as the top intellectual property law blog according to the ABA. In January 2014 we were also honored to be inducted into the ABA Blawg Hall of Fame. CLICK HERE to read more.
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Headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA, Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO) is a multinational corporation which has achieved global renown for its suite of Internet software technologies, including e-mail, finance, search engine and other web portal services. The corporation recently announced that the renowned Yahoo! Directory, the hierarchical list of links that was the first Internet product offered by Yahoo!, will be discontinued by the end of the year. Although it is parting with some longtime services, the company has been involved in an incredible amount of acquisitions, having recently its purchase of Luminate, a tech startup which has created an interactive platform for tagging images. Meanwhile, Yahoo! is trying to deal with pressure from certain shareholders to consider a merger with America Online.
Yahoo! may not be responsible for the large amounts of intellectual property development seen with other companies featured in IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, but we do always find many intriguing innovations when we look at the corporation’s recently filed patent applications. We were greatly interested in a trio of patent applications which are evidence of Yahoo!’s desire to build a social platform for achieving personal goals, including one application discussing the use of social and economic motivators to achieve goals. Other innovations included online advertisement improvements, including a method for presenting virtual billboards through a digital lens device, and methods for discovering relevant online content.
The patent portfolio of Yahoo! has increased in recent weeks, and we’ve selected a few of these inventions that our readers may enjoy learning more about. One patent protects methods of interacting with search engine results through keyboard inputs, improving on current methods which typically only involve mouse-based inputs. We found more patents regarding online advertising, proving that Yahoo! has a definite focus on helping advertisers sell products and services to users of the company’s Internet technologies. We also discuss a type of social network designed by Yahoo! for use specifically with mobile devices.
EDITORIAL NOTE: Charles Macedo will be a panelist at the upcoming 2014 IP Dealmakers Forum, which will take place in New York City from November 6 – 7, 2014. The program will bring together thought leaders who specialize in all aspects of IP procurement, asset valuation and monetization of patents. If you are interested in attending you can CLICK HERE to REGISTER.
Over the past year, patents and other intellectual property have received more and more attention. The Supreme Court last term issued six patent decisions, plus two copyright decisions and a Lanham Act decision. This increased interest is part and parcel with the importance that intellectual property plays in our nation’s economy. However, with all these new decisions, suggested and implemented legislative changes, and shifting public opinion, it is getting harder and harder to effectively source intellectual property acquisitions and investments, especially patents, as well as to conduct appropriate and effective due diligence in the process.
In this article, I summarize some of the key points I suggest a potential acquirer consider when researching the investment in or acquisition of patents for monetization.
The American multinational corporation Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), headquartered in Mountain View, CA, is a market leader in the development of computing services and products for Internet users. In the upcoming weeks, Google will be releasing a streaming music service to compete with similar services available from Apple, Spotify and others. Students will be able to benefit from improvements to the Google Apps for Education program, which will soon offer unlimited storage for free. Google is responsible for some very innovative Internet programs, and there is some speculation that the company is developing a drone program for providing wireless Internet access to mobile device owners.
But for us it is time for another check-in with Google’s recent innovations here on IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, and software inventions from this major technology developer are abounding. We found a couple of patent applications involving technologies which present topics of interest to computing device users, including methods for activity planning to see a concert or an event. Another patent application describes a method of providing insight from local experts about an unknown destination. We were also intrigued by a method of presenting digital advertisements to individuals which is designed to encourage retail sales at brick and mortar stores.
On October 3, 2014, I was at the University of Toledo College of Law for an all day program titled Doing Business in China. The program was excellent, but it had to come across as scary for a truly small business. During one of the breaks someone asked me what I was learning and my rather flip, off-the-cuff response was: “No one should do business in China.”
My snarky response was, of course, an exaggeration. Having said that, I don’t think it is much of an exaggeration to say that there are significant hurdles to doing business in China. If your business does not quality as a “small entity” at the United States Patent and Trademark Office you absolutely should be doing business in China. But if you own a truly small business or start-up company you probably don’t have the resources necessary to be doing business in China. Where the threshold is between too small for China and too big not to be doing business in China is hard to say, but it is fair to say that all businesses of all sizes should at least investigate the realities of doing business and China and have a China strategy in place.
One of the real challenges for the truly small businesses is with the virtual unanimity of presenters and panelists on one point — in order to do business in China you really have to have an employee in place in China on a permanent basis. Another option discusses was having one of the principles or partners of the business always on the ground in China, perhaps rotating in and out so that someone is always there to make sure everything goes according to plan. This might seem like overkill, but one of the big problems with counterfeiting is when the Chinese manufacturer runs an extra shift off the books using your equipment and raw materials to create unauthorized products. Having a person on the ground in China seems absolutely essential.
The Samsung Group of Seoul, South Korea, is a multinational conglomerate comprised of an incredibly diverse array of subsidiaries and affiliates. The corporation, however, is best known for its depth of intellectual property development in electronics technologies, especially mobile phones and semiconductors. Samsung’s personal electronics products are sold all over the globe, and the company is trying to increase its presence in the Indian consumer market with the release of the Galaxy Note 4 smartphone. The company is banking on increased demand for tablet computers, evidenced by its decision to end sales of laptop computers in European markets. In America, consumers will be able to purchase the Samsung Gear S smartwatch device, which offers 3G connectivity, sometime this fall.
Samsung, and especially it’s subsidiary Samsung Electronics Co., is responsible for an incredible amount of innovation. IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series turns now to scope out the recent technological developments expressed in recent patent filings assigned to Samsung and published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Recent patent applications show a focus on developing an array of mobile technologies. Below, we’ve shared technologies for adjusting device displays for left-handed users and improving the quality of experience when sharing content between devices. We also noticed an application disclosing an intriguing method for helping patients make better purchase decisions regarding health management devices.
The Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd., also known as Foxconn Technology Group, is headquartered in New Taipei, Taiwan. The electronics contract manufacturing company creates parts for many of the world’s most popular electronic products which are often sold under other brand names. Although headquartered in Taiwan, Foxconn operates manufacturing facilities all over the world, including a factory in São Paulo, Brazil, where workers have recently returned after a five-day strike. The corporation has been under scrutiny for many worker’s rights issues in recent years, although there is some speculation that the company may be attempting, albeit imperfectly, to encourage democratization and trade unions among its workers. Although the company has experienced sliding profit margins in recent years, CEO Terry Gou has said that he expects annual revenue growth of 10 percent to 15 percent for Foxconn over the next five years.
In recent months, IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series has opened its focus to include the research and development activities of this electronics manufacturer. Although much of the company’s work is contracted from other companies, recent patent applications filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office show that Hon Hai Precision invents a surprising amount of its own technologies. Improvements to cleaning robots and smart television sets are discussed in a couple of patents we explore below. A couple of patent applications also discuss hardware improvements to notebook computer screens that allow them to rotate or be positioned in other ways.
Foxconn enjoys a very diverse patent portfolio as well, to judge by the patents recently issued to the Taiwanese corporation by the USPTO. A few patents protect intriguing improvements to audio/video telecommunication systems, including an image capture device for video telephones with an adjustable field of view. Unmanned technologies, including robotic arms and unmanned aerial vehicles, are the focal point of a few other patents that we shared today. Other patents assigned to Hon Hai Precision also show development in the fields of fiber optics transmissions and printing devices.
One of the real problems with the debate over patent litigation abuse is that it hasn’t focused on litigation abuse at all. Instead, the debate has focused on attempts to characterize patent owners with pejorative labels, such as calling anyone who has the audacity to seek to enforce their rights a “patent troll.” Unfortunately, the term “patent troll” has evolved to mean “anyone who sues me alleging patent infringement.” This has lead the media, the public and Members of Congress to incorrectly believe that there is a “patent troll problem,” which has influenced decision-makers all the way from Capitol Hill to the United States Supreme Court, who increasingly seems to be deciding patent cases with one eye firmly on what is a completely non-existent problem.
You have probably heard the narrative start something like this: there is an explosion of patent litigation. The objective reality, however, is that there has not been an explosion of patent litigation. The Government Accountability Office, after an exhaustive review of patent litigation, concluded that there was no patent litigation crisis. The same GAO report also found that 80% of the patent lawsuits filed are brought by operating companies suing other operating companies. Thus, those who profess there to be rampant problems associated with patent trolls and non-practicing entities suing for patent infringement are simply telling a tale that the factual data doesn’t support.
More recently Lex Machina has come forward with some eye opening statistics as well. A recent report from Lex Machina concludes: “Plaintiffs filed 329 new federal patent cases in September 2014, a 40% decrease from the 549 cases filed in September 2013.” Indeed, if you dive deeper into the 2013 and 2014 statistics you see that through the first nine months of 2013 there were 4,548 patent infringement lawsuits filed, but during the first nine months of 2014 there were only 3,887 patent infringement lawsuits filed, which represents a 15% reduction in patent litigation in 2014 compared with 2013. Furthermore, in 7 of the 9 months during 2014 there have been fewer patent infringement lawsuits filed during 2014 than during 2013. The statistics and independent GAO report just do not support a narrative that proclaims there to be a run away problem with patent litigation run amok.
Faegre Baker Daniels LLP seeks a patent agent with a degree in electrical engineering, computer science or physics to join our thriving Intellectual Property Group in our Denver office. Faegre Baker Daniels is an Am Law 100 firm with offices located throughout the U.S., Europe, and China. Our IP practice includes all areas of intellectual property law for a national and international client base.
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Perhaps you have an idea for a new product simmering in the back of your mind. You’ve done a few Google searches, but haven’t found anything similar. This makes you confident that you have stumbled upon the NEXT BIG THING.
Every day inventors tell me they “haven’t found anything like it,” and while that’s a good start, chances are that they haven’t been looking in the right places.
Before investing additional money and resources, it’s the right time to find out definitively if the invention is unique, determine if there is a market for it, and explore how to make it better.
Inventors should do a search online with a goal of finding two or three competitive products. If they’re scared to do the search, that’s a good thing, because in my experience, it usually means they’re on the right track.