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Judge Michel says Alice Decision ‘will create total chaos’

Posted: Wednesday, Aug 6, 2014 @ 12:19 pm | Written by Gene Quinn | 3 comments

Chief Judge Michel (ret.), Dec. 10, 2013, at IPO Inventor of the Year ceremony in DC.

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with private citizen Paul Michel, who we know in the patent community as the former Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Judge Michel left the Federal Circuit several years ago now, choosing to retire rather than take senior status. Michel told me back then that he wanted to step down so he could say what needed to be said on behalf of the patent system, something he felt he couldn’t do while a member of the federal judiciary.

Judge Michel has been true to his promise. He keeps an active speaking schedule, he continues to appear on Capitol Hill to discuss matters of concern for the patent system, he continues to attend numerous industry events, and he has freely given of his time on the record for us at IPWatchdog.com.

In our latest conversation we talked about a great many things, including the seemingly inevitable nomination of Phil Johnson as Director of the USPTO, which now seems very unlikely. We also spent considerable time talking about the Supreme Court’s decision in Alice v. CLS Bank. As you will read in the interview below, Michel thinks the decision was terrible and will lead to nothing short of chaos because there is simply no workable, repeatable test that can evenly and predictably be applied by the numerous decision makers in the patent world.





LG Patents – Digital Broadcast Services to Voice Recognition Technologies

Posted: Wednesday, Aug 6, 2014 @ 11:25 am | Written by Steve Brachmann | 2 comments

LG Electronics of Seoul, South Korea, is a multinational corporation in the world of electronics development and manufacturing with operations in mobile communications, energy solutions, home entertainment and home appliances. In recent days, the corporation has been experiencing a lot of financial success, and its $411.8 billion in net income during the 2nd quarter of 2014 is more than twice what the company earned in the same period last year. The 14.5 million smartphone units sold by the company during this period, including 900,000 units of LG’s flagship G3 smartphone, is cited as a major reason for this increase. LG successfully won an appeal recently in a $910 million patent infringement lawsuit brought forth by Multimedia Patent Trust over video compression technologies. In home appliances, news reports from global publications are indicating that LG is focused on developing a line of smart home appliances which use the LG HomeChat system.

Here at IPWatchdog, we haven’t featured LG Electronics all that often in our Companies We Follow series, but they inhabit a very strong position in terms of global intellectual property development which deserves to be covered. As always, we’ve collected an intriguing collection of patent applications and recently issued patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office which are assigned to LG. We found a variety of innovations related to mobile electronic devices and a couple involving some intriguing home appliances.

Today, we’ve explored a couple of patent applications related to improved methods for businesses that are trying to reach mobile users within a close proximity, including one technology for directly communicating proximity-based services to mobile device owners as well as methods for communicating those proximity-based services to groups. Another patent application discusses an improved LED lighting apparatus for better diffusion of light on an LCD screen. We also noticed a patent application related to an improved method of manufacturing solar cells.





Will Obama Nominate Anyone for the USPTO?

Posted: Tuesday, Aug 5, 2014 @ 12:24 pm | Written by Gene Quinn | 2 comments

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

In recent weeks news has come out that Phil Johnson’s nomination as Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office is dead. It seems to be dead due to the protest of at least one Senator on the Senate Judiciary Committee, not because the onerous vetting process produced any red flags or because the White House has lost interest. The Senator allegedly unhappy is Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Johnson, a strong proponent for patent reform, publicly questioned the need for expanding covered business method (CBM) review, which has long been a pet cause of Shumer’s. Schumer is on record as supporting CBM and wanting to expand the reach of this post grant patent challenge. It is believed Schumer is so invested in CBM because those primarily using CBM are banks and other financial institutions, which is where Schumer receives much of his considerable financial backing and political support. More recently Schumer has also been lobbied by App developers and others who would like CBM review to become available to challenge all software patents.

If the news of resistance on the Senate Judiciary Committee is true the question then turns to whether anyone qualified for the job of Director of the USPTO could be confirmed. Virtually everyone in the industry questioned the wisdom behind expanding CBM review; Phil Johnson was hardly an outlier on that subject. In fact, even Microsoft and Apple broke off from the Google/Cisco high tech collaboration to question the wisdom of expanded CBM review. It was a bad idea to expand CBM. If support for expanding CBM becomes a litmus test then it seems unlikely that a candidate will emerge that is both acceptable to those who adhere to the Google/Cisco orthodoxy and who would also be acceptable to pharma/biotech and the rest of the patent community that needs strong patents and a fully functioning patent system.





‘Happy Birthday to You’ Copyright Challenged in Class Action

Posted: Tuesday, Aug 5, 2014 @ 10:03 am | Written by Steve Brachmann | No Comments »

By many accounts, “Happy Birthday to You” is the most popular and well-known song in the English language and has been so for years. This is a reality that has been very lucrative for Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., the company which has been enforcing a copyright on the song since its acquisition of Birch Tree Ltd. in 1998. That purchase brought with it six copyrights registered with the U.S. Copyright Office which protect musical arrangements for that song.

These copyright protections generate about $2 million in revenue every year for Warner/Chappell, making them very lucrative copyright holdings. The company enforces the copyright against film and entertainment productions of all kinds, exacting a thousand dollars or so from groups that often don’t have the resources to stake the large legal battle that would ensue by refusing to pay and incurring the possible $150,000 penalty that could be applicable under the terms of the Copyright Act of 1976.

However, one production company has decided to take this battle to the courts in the hopes of overturning what it feels are misappropriated copyright protections. If the court decides in favor of the plaintiff, Warner/Chappell could be ordered to return all copyright licensing fees it has collected for the past three years.





Patent Eligibility Post-Alice

Posted: Monday, Aug 4, 2014 @ 10:00 am | Written by Derek F. Dahlgren | 6 comments

Alice with Lion and Unicorn from “Through the Looking Glass,” published 1871.

Last month, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, _ U.S. _ (2013). In its opinion, the Court holds that Alice Corp.’s patent claims are drawn to the abstract idea of intermediated settlement, and that merely requiring generic computer implementation fails to transform the abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention. Since the opinion issued, the PTO has starting pulling allowed applications and issuing § 101 rejections. And lower courts are already applying Alice to hold claims ineligible. Taken together, all this signals that § 101 is going to remain at the forefront of patent law for the foreseeable future. In view of its importance, this article provides an overview of the opinion, attempts to glean lessons from Alice, and finally identifies some considerations for patent owners and challengers as they navigate the murky morass that is § 101 jurisprudence.

At the outset, the Supreme Court reiterates the principle that laws of nature, natural phenomena and abstract ideas are not patentable—noting that it has interpreted § 101 and its predecessor statutes this way for over 150 years. It observes that the concern driving these exceptions to patentability is pre-emption. That said, the Court recognizes that this exclusionary principle must be carefully construed because at some level all inventions embody laws of nature, natural phenomena or abstract ideas. It states “[t]hus, an invention is not rendered ineligible for patent simply because it involves an abstract concept” and “applications of such concepts to a new and useful end . . . remain eligible . . . .” Slip op. at 6 (internal quotations and citations omitted).





Whirlpool’s Patent Applications: From Spherical Ice Dispensers to Steam Cooking Ovens

Posted: Monday, Aug 4, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Written by Steve Brachmann | 1 Comment »

The Whirlpool Corporation of Benton Charter Township, MI, is a company which has become synonymous with the American market for consumer home appliances like dishwashers, refrigerators or laundry machines. The company announced a 9.6 percent drop in sales outside of the United States during the second quarter of 2014, reducing the corporation’s sales forecast for the entire year. However, Whirlpool may be trying to counteract its poor global sales by acquiring the Indesit Company, an Italy-based manufacturer and distributor of home appliances. Whirlpool is still at the forefront of innovation in the field of home appliances, which its recent unveiling of an in-home 10-minute dry cleaning appliance proves. Recently, the corporation has partnered with researchers from Purdue University to convert a 1920s Indiana home into a net-zero energy residence, creating as much energy as it consumes within a year.

Whirlpool’s devoted focus to household appliances of many kinds makes it a very visible corporation among American consumers and a good choice for IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series.

Publication of a patent application does not mean that a patent will be issued for the technology, but looking through them, we have our best chances of learning about a company’s most recent research and development goals. To judge from what we saw today, Whirlpool is very hard at work creating improvements to the various ice making assemblies manufactured for the company’s refrigerators or other appliances. We were also intrigued by one patent application which may protect a cooking method for a home oven that provides for the steam cooking of fish and vegetables.





Phil Johnson – An Outstanding Choice for USPTO Director

Posted: Sunday, Aug 3, 2014 @ 1:13 pm | Written by Gene Quinn | 4 comments

Phil Johnson at IPO Inventor of the Year award ceremony, December 10, 2013.

The Washington Post recently reported that the anticipated nomination of Phil Johnson to head the United States Patent and Trademark Office is dead. News of the death of Johnson’s nomination is both a shocking surprise and yet all too predictable in a town that increasingly makes little logical sense. Johnson is extraordinarily qualified, he is willing to take the position, he has seen the patent system from virtually all vantage points, and yet his nomination has stalled after many months of vetting and no legitimate red flags surfacing.

It seems that Johnson’s major flaw may be that he strongly supports the patent system, which is a very sad commentary. In fact, there are some starting to believe that the only candidate that may be acceptable to certain political forces is one who opposes the patent system on a fundamental level. Of course, such a candidate would be unacceptable to a great many other powerful industry interests, so this could mean that the USPTO will indefinitely be without a politically appointed and confirmed leader, at least unless the White House is willing to step up and make a nomination.

I am on record supporting the nomination of Phil Johnson, and simultaneously pointing out that the proffered rationale used by his detractors is factually false. Those suggesting Phil Johnson hasn’t been supportive of patent reform efforts are simply misinformed. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find anyone in the private sector who has been more supportive of patent reform over the last 8 to 10 years. In fact, Johnson was a strong supporter of the American Invents Act (AIA), which has been one of President Obama’s signature accomplishments. Johnson was also a strong supporter of fee-shifting legislation. Stay tuned more on Johnson’s support of patent reform efforts in the coming days and weeks.





IP Law Summit – September 14-16

Posted: Sunday, Aug 3, 2014 @ 12:21 pm | Written by Gene Quinn | No Comments »

The IP Law Summit will be held from September 14, 2014, through September 16, 2014, at the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, Palm Beach, Florida. The event will bring together senior IP Counsel from large corporations and mid-market organizations with service providers. The Summit is an invitation-only event that will take place behind closed doors.