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.
Posted: Friday, Oct 10, 2014 @ 9:00 am | Written by Gene Quinn | 2 comments
On September 4, 2014, I had the opportunity to do a webinar conversation with Bob Stoll, former Commissioner for Patents at the United States Patent and Trademark Office and current partner at Drinker Biddle in Washington, D.C. Our wide ranging discussion lasted for just over one hour. This conversation, the first of many, was made possible with support from Innography, which is one of our sponsors on IPWatchdog.com. You can access the entire recording, which is free, by visiting Patent Eligibility in a Time of Patent Turmoil.
What follows is a bit of our conversation to wet your appetite. We discuss the Supreme Court generally, the lack of technical expertise at the Supreme Court, the realities of creating software, amicus briefs, the ramifications for watering down patent rights, the need for bright line rules and whether Congress needs to get involved.
STOLL: As someone very interested in the patent arena and getting the standards correct, I’ve been really worrying about things. I think we are in a very confusing state at the moment. I think that the courts are actually undermining patent eligibility in many different areas. And the irony seems to be, Gene, that the Supreme Court and now this Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit seem to be not considering the fact that the United States is leading in many of these emerging technologies and specifically thinking about software and diagnostic methods and personalized medicine and gene sequences. I mean we are actually leading the world in this subject matter. We’ve developed these emerging technologies. We’re quite good at building upon a base of patents in these areas and I don’t think anybody’s taking into consideration the job creation and economic growth that these industries bring to the United States before mucking around in the standards.
Posted: Friday, Oct 10, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Written by Gene Quinn | 12 comments
On October 10, 1999, I remember sitting at my desk in my apartment in Winter Park, Florida. I had just starting teaching as a full time law school professor several months earlier. So many things have changed since then. I’ve moved all over the country, I’ve traveled all over the country, I’ve gotten married, we navigated the near collapse of the U.S. economy and like so many, the near collapse of our personal economy. My mother passed in 2012, which was undoubtedly the lowest moment in my entire life. A year later my father-in-law also passed. While there have no doubt been trying times, we have shared many great moments personally, and with those in our community who have become our friends. But since October 10, 1999, the one constant for me has been IPWatchdog.com, which went live for the first time 15 years ago today.
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 with respect to how critically important patents are to businesses and the U.S. economy. Of course, without readers none of this would be possible. So thank you so very much for continuing to come back day after day, week after week, month after month!
Today’s Companies We Follow column focuses on Toshiba innovations which have been filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. We found a wide assortment of novel technologies expressed in recent patent applications filed by the company. A couple of patent applications would protect technologies for identifying people captured within video feeds. We share a trio of patent applications discussing improvements to memory devices, especially flash memory devices. A number of intriguing technologies which we share below are also related to brick and mortar retail environments, including one patent application discussing a method of providing entertainment content to retail workers to keep them more productive.
Posted: Wednesday, Oct 8, 2014 @ 4:12 pm | Written by Steve Brachmann | No Comments »
Several days ago we profiled recent IBM patent applications. For this follow-up article we’ve gone through scores of patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to find you the latest and greatest in recently patented computing innovations.
Today’s column focuses solely on the inventions recently added to IBM’s patent portfolio; everything you see below represents a technology for which IBM has been issued a U.S. patent grant from late August and into September 2014. Telecommunications innovations are included among this, specifically systems for e-mail organization and telephone call filtering. We share a trio of patents protecting computer languages and networking technologies. Social networking analysis technologies and a couple of inventions related to accessibility programs for computer users with impairments are also featured. Television viewers may be intrigued as well to learn about the novel technique for blocking unwanted commercial content protected by another IBM patent that we explored today.
Posted: Wednesday, Oct 8, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Written by Michelle Fisher | 5 comments
Michelle Fisher, founder/CEO of Blaze Mobil.
A famous song entitled When You Believe by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston is about believing in yourself and not losing hope. When you are working on a new idea and blazing a new trail, your self-belief and your passion drive you forward, and inspire you and others around you.
Passion is required, but passion alone is not enough. True passion will make you get up early in the morning, stay up late at night, or work for free. However, in addition to pursuing the ideas that you are passionate about, it’s equally important to take steps to protect your ideas. In a recent post, Doesn’t #NFC Stand for National Football Conference?, I wrote about our early entry into mobile payments. In that article I shared that, “In addition to taking action, risks and being customer focused, we also invested heavily in IP.”
Investing in IP is especially valuable when you are early in a market. It’s a mixed blessing though. On the one hand, it gives one an opportunity to file patents with broad claims, which is great for those who recognize the value in that strategy. For example, one of our early investors and board members was Chuck Russell who was one of the first CEO’s of Visa and reminded me of John Wayne. He was a great guy – very smart, charismatic, and honest. When I gave him a presentation on my company, which included one slide on the patents that we had filed, he asked, “Young lady have you ever heard of VHS and BETA?” I replied of course. He then went on to tell me that while VHS won the video tape war, because BETA had a patent on the technology, they were able to close their office and set up a PO box to collect monthly royalty checks. Chuck explained that I could do the same if I wanted. Based on the fact that I had filed patens in mobile payments, he made a significant investment in my company and joined our Board Of Directors.
Although the Supreme Court in Alice declined to provide an express definition of “abstract idea,” the opinion is packed with evidence that the Court intended for the term “abstract idea” to apply not to any “abstract idea” in the colloquial sense, but only more specifically to abstract ideas that are fundamental practices long prevalent in their fields. Furthermore, although the Court did not provide any direct guidance regarding how “long” a practice must be in use to be “fundamental” and “long prevalent,” the examples that it used have been in use for hundreds of years, if not longer. To put it into everyday language, the Supreme Court seems to think that an idea is only a patent ineligible abstract idea if it is really, really old and well-established.
By employing the Drafting Rules set out above, the drafter expressly sets out the inventor’s intent for claim construction. Previously, a court could look at a single-embodiment specification and decide that the inventor really intended that embodiment to encompass the entire invention. If instead, that specification includes an additional paragraph, setting out several alternatives and variations, as well as expressly stating that the embodiment does not in fact encompass the entire invention, then courts are presented with exactly what they say they are seeking: the inventor’s intent. In Disclosure World, one gets what one discloses. To achieve a desired claim construction, disclose it. Complaining about Federal Circuit decisions accomplishes nothing, and whining does no good. Indeed, there is no crying in patent law.
Posted: Monday, Oct 6, 2014 @ 2:37 pm | Written by Gene Quinn | No Comments »
Phil Shaer (right) with law school friend Mervyn Valadares, who was also in attendance at AIPF annual meeting in Washington, DC.
Conversant IP is a patent owner that licenses their portfolio to others. They were the first such licensing company to take on the issue of ethical patent licensing. In fact, in November 2013, Conversant IP issued a groundbreaking set of guidelines for ethical patent licensing practices, in an attempt to initiate a discussion within the industry and to distinguish the many licensing entities that are not abusers of the patent or litigation systems. Then in July 2014, the company became the first licensing entities to launch a public awareness campaign.
“Sending ill-founded patent demand letters may be legal, but it’s just plain wrong,” said John Lindgren, President and CEO of Conversant said in July 2014. “This practice is hurting small business owners financially. It’s giving legitimate patent licensing a bad name. And it’s seriously undermining the public’s belief in the U.S. patent system and the value of patents as stimulants to innovation and economic growth.”
What brings this issue back to the pages of IPWatchdog is a recent presentation by Phil Shaer, Senior Vice-President and Chief Licensing Officer of Conversant IP, which occurred on Monday, September 29, 2014. Shaer was a featured speaker at the annual meeting of the Association of Intellectual Property Firms (AIPF), which was held at the Washington Plaza Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. During his presentation he explained that Conversant IP is wading into the patent troll debate because it is necessary for them, and other licensing companies, to “stand up to the bad practices that are damaging the industry.”
Posted: Monday, Oct 6, 2014 @ 10:49 am | Written by Robert Plotkin | 27 comments
Although the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank has caused some to conclude that software is no longer patent eligible in the U.S., or that the Alice decision renders all but a narrow range of computer-implemented inventions patent ineligible, a careful reading of the Alice opinion indicates that such conclusions are incorrect.
One reason for the public’s misunderstanding of Alice is that the decision has thrown the USPTO into what appears to be a state of confusion. Just days after the decision was released, the USPTO issued a memo to the Patent Examining Corps explaining the USPTO’s preliminary interpretation of Alice, which indicated that examiners should continue to examine patent applications for patent eligibility in much the same way as they had done before Alice. Then, just a few weeks later (and as reported in IPWatchdog), the USPTO did an about-face without any explanation and started withdrawing Notices of Allowance from patent applications—even in cases in which the issue fee had been paid—and issuing patent eligibility rejections based on Alice, using nothing more than a standard form paragraph. In my own practice I have seen wide disparities among examiners in their application of Alice to individual cases, ranging from Alice-based patent eligibility rejections for every claim containing the word “computer” to Office Actions whose reasoning seems unaffected by Alice, and everything in between.
In this edition of the Companies We Follow series, we’ve surveyed the recently published patent applications which have been filed by IBM with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. All in all, we found a wide assortment of data analysis technologies for business, medical and consumer fields which may likely their way into the corporation’s intellectual property portfolio in the months to come.
We start off with a look at a few inventions for software development projects, specifically for the management of artifacts connected to software development files by applications within development platforms. We discuss a trio of patent applications related to helping businesses make sense of immense data sets, including visualization methods and techniques for answering natural language questions. IBM’s patent applications involve more medical technologies, including a system for determining fraud within health care claims. We also profile one patent application describing a unique method for swaying the voting tendencies of a group of participants within an electronically hosted conference.