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.
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.
We often return to Microsoft during the course of our Companies We Follow series here at IPWatchdog to profile the most intriguing inventions developed by a giant of American technological development. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has published dozens of recently filed patent applications assigned to this company. We noticed a great deal of research and development in the field of cloud computing, as well as an intriguing assortment of filings related to video gaming. Two of these involve the use of a physical activity monitoring device worn by a player for personal training or gameplay.
Microsoft has one of the most powerful patent portfolios in the world and the past few weeks have not shown any signs of slow activity here. One patent protects a system enabling mobile device users to quickly share video and audio content across short-range networks, like Bluetooth. A couple of software solutions for business issues are included, such as one patent protecting a method of syncing data from a recovery machine more quickly in response to a network failure. The prevention of phishing scams and methods of tailoring web services to the preferences of a group are also explored below.
Posted: Friday, Oct 3, 2014 @ 11:04 am | Written by Gene Quinn | 1 Comment »
Today I am in Toledo, Ohio, at the University of Toledo College of Law. The College of Law and Professor Llew Gibbons, who is Chair of the Board of Directors for the Confucius Institute, and are the hosts for Doing Business in China. Thisall day program will discuss the advantages of doing business in China for small and mid-size corporations. It is hoped that the program will dispel myths and provide useful information with respect to helping businesses decide whether they should consider doing business in China.
One of the first topics discussed this morning relates to patent examination standards in China. Thomas Moga, a partner with Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP, explained that businesses should be considering getting patents in China to keep others from using your IP, to develop a portfolio for cross-licensing and to stop counterfeiting. Moga explained that while he cannot say that enforcing rights in China isn’t without problems, but one thing is for certain — if you don’t obtain patent rights you have no chance of enforcing rights in China. “One of the reasons foreigners have in China is they don’t take advantage of the system, which is because we don’t understand the system,” Moga said.
Regardless of Apple’s current business difficulties, recently published patent applications filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Organization show that the company is still trying to establish itself as a bastion of computing innovation. Below, we’ve explored three patent applications specifically directed at mobile devices, including one technology designed to predict a preferred driving route without any manual input. Improvements to personal digital assistants and graphical user interfaces for software programs are also discussed.
Apple is one of the stronger American companies in terms of intellectual properties held, and recent weeks saw the addition of many more patents in the field of consumer computing technologies. We discuss a group of patents related to improved graphical user interfaces, including one technology to help digital objects respond to touch inputs in a way that suggests physical interaction in the real world. Intelligent systems for telecommunications are another area of development focused on by Apple, including methods of determining chat session capabilities in a contact’s device.
Justices of the United States Supreme Court. No friends to innovators who require strong patent rights.
As I was putting together the slides for this Powerpoint presentation I thought to myself, “how do I title this page.” I’ll tell you the thought that first jumped into my head, although I ruled it out: “Public Enemy Number One.” Or I suppose “Public Enemy Number One through Nine.” There is little doubt that the Justices of the Supreme Court are indeed public enemies, at least insofar as patent owners are concerned. Unless you are represented by Seth Waxman at the Supreme Court your patent claims are invalid! And even Seth doesn’t always win, although he sure wins a lot for Monsanto.
Let’s start our discussion of SCOTUS decisions with Mayo v. Prometheus. In Mayo the Supreme Court proudly proclaims that they’re not going to take the government’s invitation to apply 102, 103, and 112. Instead the Court decided to limit its handling of the issues to patent eligibility under 101. And as they go through their analysis they admit that the claim in question includes things that are not in nature, but yet they reach the conclusion that the claim is still a law of nature anyway because you’re just adding some extra stuff that already exists. It’s breathtaking. One, that’s not what the law is. Two, that’s not what the statute says. And three, every other Supreme Court throughout history specifically said never do that, and they did it anyway.
Gene Quinn at the AIPF Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, September 29, 2014.
Today I am going to talk about what I call the patent pendulum. When Todd Van Thomme and I originally started talking about what I would talk about today I said that there would undoubtedly be something that comes up at the last minute. I even joked that I might wind up talking about how the Supreme Court actually got the Alice decision right, surprising us all and saying once and for all that software is clearly patentable. We all know it didn’t turn out that way. So the title of my presentation today is this: Dark Days Ahead: The Patent Pendulum.
As you are probably all familiar, patent law never stays the same in the same spot. It is always swinging one or another, either swinging more towards stronger patent rights and the patent owner, or away from strong patent rights and away from the owner. It has been that way throughout history.
Normally what’s happened is that we’ve seen the pendulum swing over longer periods of time, like over decades, and then it’ll move away. For example the 1952 Patent Act was premised on the fact that Congress didn’t like the way the law was developing over the preceding years and wanted more things be patentable, hence the 1952 Patent Act did away with the flash of creative genius test. So things swung back toward a more patent friendly law, at least for a while. And then in the 1970s no courts ever saw a patent that actually had valid patent claims. This famously prompted Congress to create the Federal Circuit. Under the guidance of Chief Judge Markey and Judges like Giles Sutherland Rich and Pauline Newman, who is still on the court, the pendulum swings back toward the patent owner once again.