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Photo Diary: USPTO Smithsonian Innovation Festival

Posted: Friday, Nov 7, 2014 @ 10:41 am | Written by Renee C. Quinn | 2 comments

This weekend, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, in collaboration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, hosted an Innovation Festival. The Festival, which is part of a five-year collaboration between the Smithsonian and USPTO to develop programs and exhibitions showcasing American ingenuity and innovation. This year’s Festival celebrated the spirit of innovation with displays, talks, performances, and craft projects for children and adults while highlighting the accomplishments of several American inventors.





FTC Bars Patent Assertion Entity From Using Deceptive Tactics

Posted: Thursday, Nov 6, 2014 @ 11:57 am | Written by Federal Trade Commission | 10 comments

Federal Trade Commission building, Washington, DC.

A company and its law firm have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they used deceptive sales claims and phony legal threats in letters that accused thousands of small businesses around the United States of patent infringement. The settlement would bar the company, MPHJ Technology Investments, LLC, and its law firm from making deceptive representations when asserting patent rights.

The settlement with MPHJ is the first time the FTC has taken action using its consumer protection authority against a patent assertion entity (PAE). PAEs are companies that obtain patent rights and try to generate revenue by licensing to or litigating against those who are or may be using patented technology.

“Patents can promote innovation, but a patent is not a license to engage in deception,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Small businesses and other consumers have the right to expect truthful communications from those who market patent rights.”





Patents and Portfolio Value, Up or Down?

Posted: Thursday, Nov 6, 2014 @ 10:00 am | Written by Gene Quinn | No Comments »

Event co-char Abha Divine of Technquity welcomes attendees. Co-chair Phil Hartstein of Finjan (standing) looks on, as David Morland (3LP Advisors) prepares to moderate.

Today I am in New York City at the 2014 IP Dealmakers Forum. This is the inaugural event, and over 190 people are in attendance today. In fact, event organizer Wendy Chou of CHOUmedia, told me several days ago that registration had to be closed early because maximum capacity had been reached. At a time when patents and patents and patent portfolios are under downward pressure as the result of patent reform and case law, this event has arrived at exactly he right time. Interest is very high, and anxiety is as well.

The first panel of the day, titled View of the IP Market and Investment Landscape, discussed the IP markets generally, trends in investments, recent deal activity, evolving business needs and other asset classes and emerging markets, including IP financing in Asia.

David Morland, a partner with 3LP Advisors, moderated the first panel. He lead off the segment by pointing out that in the United States patents are being both applied for and issued in record numbers year after year. He also started the substance of the program today by pointing out that the people who own patents in the United States do not seem to believe that the asset class has been devalued. “Maintenance fee payment rates have raised, particularly with respect to the twelve-year payment, which suggests that those who own the assets do not think they are diminishing in value,” Morland explained.





The Federal Trade Commission Celebrates 100 Years

Posted: Thursday, Nov 6, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Written by Steve Brachmann | No Comments »

FTC Building, Washington, DC.

In order to establish and maintain capitalistic markets which consumers trust enough to operate within, a set of effective rules regarding those markets must be enforced to encourage fair play. The federal government of the United States has enacted many laws and created agencies to ensure that consumer’s rights are respected and to prevent or prosecute entities for deceptive practices. Perhaps the most important of the agencies is the Federal Trade Commission, which recently hit a major milestone: on September 26, 2014, the consumer protection agency celebrated its 100th birthday.

On the morning of Friday, November 7, the FTC will officially recognize the occasion with a 100th Anniversary Symposium at the Constitution Center in Washington, D.C. The event will feature a day-long schedule of panel discussions involving current commissioners, current FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez and a long list of experts in business and law.

It’s easy to conflate the protection of consumer rights in America with the idea of snake oil salesmen and quack cures from the 1800s. Although that makes for a good story, it would be wrong to think that there aren’t a myriad of concerns that still affect consumer and business markets. For example, the FTC recently investigated allegations that AT&T “crammed” customers with costly add-on services; by the middle of October, AT&T had agreed to pay a $105 million settlement, $80 million of which will be refunded to customers.





DuPont Patents: From Plastics to Ethanol Production Using Bacterial Processes

Posted: Wednesday, Nov 5, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Written by Steve Brachmann | No Comments »

DuPont Experimental Station in Wilmington, Del., the company’s global R&D headquarters.

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (NYSE: DD), known as DuPont and headquartered in Wilmington, DE, is an American chemical company responsible for the creation of many commercially successful polymers, refrigerants and other chemical products. The latest quarterly earnings report released by this company shows that DuPont increased corporate profits by 20 percent over the past year’s third quarter results. However, some industry commentators look to uncertainty in DuPont’s agricultural business as a sign of possible instability in this company. As we’ll see more below, DuPont is very focused on food science innovations, such as the development of packaging resins to increase the shelf life of packaged meats.

DuPont is a company responsible for many impressive industrial and commercial innovations, and our latest survey of patent applications published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office bears this fact out. We explored a couple of patent applications that discuss novel methods of creating fuel from biomass materials, especially those materials that don’t draw from the food supply. Transparent conductive materials, ink-jet inks with better pigment stability and a whipping agent for frozen sorbet are other technological advances which are discussed below.

This corporation benefits from a strong patent portfolio and we’ve chronicled the addition of several important patents to DuPont’s intellectual property portfolio today. More food production innovations are reflected here, including a patent protect a better method for obtaining betaine from sugar beets for the production of molasses. Plastics production, including dielectric films for capacitors, are explored in more detail below. We also profile inventions involving relief printing methods for corrugated cardboard as well as another innovation for producing ethanol from biomass.





Can New Patent Monetization Models Save American Innovators?

Posted: Tuesday, Nov 4, 2014 @ 1:28 pm | Written by Gene Quinn | 2 comments

The passage of the America Invents Act (AIA) in 2011 was touted as an important moment for modernizing patent laws and making it easier for innovators to innovate. Of course, nothing could have been further from the truth. The AIA further weakened patent rights, which is exactly what the large tech companies wanted. Far more is prior art under the AIA than under the previous regime, the grace period that remains is so infinitesimally narrow that it would be malpractice to suggest the AIA ushered in anything other than an absolute novelty system, there are a trio of new post grant procedures aimed at making it easier to strip patent rights away from owners, and several categories of invention were explicitly made unpatentable. The AIA was hardly the panacea that it was sold to be.

But legislative changes to the patent system are not the most significant blows suffered by the innovators who require strong patents in order to obtain financing and have any kind of chance against the large corporations that would love nothing more than to take their inventions without remuneration. The Courts are where the most dramatic changes to patent law have come, starting back at least as early as 2005 when the Supreme Court rendered its decision in eBay v. MercExchange. That ill-considered decision turned a patent, which had been an exclusive right, into some kind of a ghostly remnant of its former self. Thanks the eBay it has been extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obtain an injunction even after proving infringement and withstanding all invalidity challenges. The irony is that strong patents that have been infringed are really no longer capable of supporting exclusive rights. See The Impact of eBay v. MercExchange. What good is a patent without an injunction against an infringer?





Nobel Prize Innovation: Lighting the World with Blue LEDs

Posted: Tuesday, Nov 4, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Written by Steve Brachmann | 6 comments

Lighting is one of the most energy consuming technologies in use in our world. During 2012, about 12 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption was used for lighting; estimates of global energy use for lighting reach as high as 25 percent of global electricity consumption. Incandescent lighting, the first major form of electrical lighting, revolutionized the world by increasing the number of hours in which a person could be productive every day. Many decades later, fluorescents and halogen bulbs would produce some improvements in energy efficiency and service life.

Right now, though, we’re starting to reap the benefits of an incredible revolution in electrical lighting. Any improvement to lighting technologies pales in comparison to the possibilities of light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. Incandescents, halogens and fluorescents spend energy generating either heat or gaseous discharge in addition to light. Currently, incandescent bulbs produce about 16 lumens per watt and fluorescents product about 70 lumens per watt. LEDs can produce about 300 lumens per watt, and efficiency improvements are still being pursued. An LED can also achieve a service life of 100,000 hours, compared to 1,000 for incandescents and 10,000 for fluorescents.

Since LED technology has been able to mature, it has inspired an impressive breadth of innovation in various fields. The implications for street lighting and desk lighting are clear, but LEDs have been discussed for use in color-changing wall panels for building interior aesthetics or even contact lenses, enabling a user to check e-mail or access apps through their contacts. Electronic contacts are a technology we’ve actually seen before in our Companies We Follow coverage of Johnson & Johnson.





When Lives Depend on Tech Transfer

Posted: Monday, Nov 3, 2014 @ 10:00 am | Written by Joseph Allen | No Comments »

Every once and a while you get a reminder that lives are literally at stake in some R&D partnerships. Last Wednesday was one of those days. I was privileged to moderate a panel for the Congressional Technology Transfer Caucus on innovative partnerships fostered by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) the newest center/institute at the National Institutes of Health. It was anything but a run of the mill tech transfer session.

We often hear that $2 billion to $5 billion are required to commercialize a new drug, with 14 years or more required for development and a 95% chance of failure. Less well known is that for thousands of serious diseases plaguing humanity only about 500 have FDA approved treatments available. Stark as that seems it’s downright cheery compared to rare or neglected diseases. Of more than 6,500 such ailments only 250 have treatments. While these may be “rare” diseases for many of us, to millions of our friends, families and neighbors each morning brings another day of suffering desperately hoping that someone, somewhere is working on a cure.





CAFC Reverses Summary Judgment Fee-Shifting Sanction

Posted: Monday, Nov 3, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Written by Gene Quinn | 1 Comment »

On October 20, 2014, the Federal Circuit issued a decision in AntiCancer, Inc. v. Pfizer, Inc. The litigation related to patents owned by AntiCancer, Inc. on a technology related to the imaging of gene expression using a green fluorescent protein linked to a gene promoter. The fluorescent protein is derived from a species of green-glowing jellyfish named Aequorea victoria. The patented inventions are described as useful for drug discovery and evaluation in cancer control and treatment.

The appeal came to the Federal Circuit from the United States Federal District Court for the Southern District of California. The district court granted summary judgment of noninfringement. The decision of the district court was not entered on the substantive merits of any issue raised in the complaint, but instead on what the Federal Circuit characterized as a procedural aspect that occurred at the beginning of the litigation and arising from application of the Patent Local Rules of the Southern District of California.

The district court imposed a fee-shifting sanction as a condition of permitting AntiCancer to supplement the Preliminary Infringement Contentions that the district court found defective under Patent Local Rule 3.1. The district court issued an Order that would have allowed AntiCancer to supplement its infringement contentions, but only if it concurrently pay the attorney fees and costs incurred by the defendants in connection with their motion for summary judgment related to the defective infringement contentions. AntiCancer objected to this condition, and the district court entered summary judgment.





Exclusive Interview with Jaime Siegel of Acacia Research

Posted: Sunday, Nov 2, 2014 @ 10:00 am | Written by Gene Quinn | 2 comments

Jaime Siegel, Executive VP of Acacia Research

Jaime Siegel is Executive Vice President of of Licensing and Litigation at Acacia Research. He joined Acacia in 2013, coming to the company after serving as Vice President and Senior IP Counsel for Sony Corporation. Siegel has extensive experience in international IP monetization, enforcement and strategic acquisitions, and he agreed to chat with me on the record. Our interview took place on Thursday, October 23, 2014.

Siegel will be attending the IP Dealmakers Forum in New York City from November 6-7, 2014. He will also be on a panel on Friday morning titled Evaluating Public Market IP Investment Opportunities, which will discuss how investors can measure market value and performance of public IP companies, as well as exploring the various business models and strategies currently seen in the marketplace.

My conversation with Siegel was for the purpose of discussing these topics. As you will read below, while our discussion starts there it became a far ranging discussion of the issues facing the industry more globally. If there is a theme that shines through from our discussion it is about the undeniable reality that early stage investors always want to see patents before investing.





The Rise and Fall of the Company that Invented Digital Cameras

Posted: Saturday, Nov 1, 2014 @ 3:11 pm | Written by Steve Brachmann | 8 comments

Imagine a time well into the future where someone might not understand what it means to “Google” something. A time when they would have absolutely no clue that the name of this corporation was used colloquially to describe a search of Internet-based content and data. Or, as it is essentially used in conversation, as the way to find the answers to your questions.

That mental image is impossible for anyone with regular Internet access to fully realize, with good reason: Google is a company offering a product, but that product has become something with widespread cultural implications. The Information Age is driven by the value derived by instant access to data, and one of the foundational tools of consumer access to data is the search engine.

If, in 100 years, Google is no longer recognized in this way, it would be said that Google had become the world’s next Kodak. What had been known as “the Kodak moment,” a culturally persistent reference to a moment in time with friends or family that should be saved for posterity, has been completely subverted by “the selfie” and the act of “gramming” a picture on Instagram.





Software Forensics: Qualifying Tools and Experts Who Use Them

Posted: Friday, Oct 31, 2014 @ 10:00 am | Written by Bob Zeidman | 2 comments

In part 1 of this article I discussed software forensics, generally what it is and why it’s needed. One of the big reasons there is such a need for software forensics is to interject objectivity into what is otherwise a battle of experts who are supposed to be unbiased but who may be strongly influenced by, if not outright pressured to support, the positions of their clients. This is just as true of experts in other areas of litigation, but as more complex technologies are at issue in today’s IP cases, lay judges and juries are less capable of weeding through technical intricacies to weigh opposing views of experts. Compounding this reality is the ever increasing popularity of police dramas on television, which elevate the desire for juries to have some kind of objective information they can rely on; something of a smoking gun if you will. Software forensics can often provide that smoking gun and cut through the haze. But the question remains, how do we assure that software forensic tools are reliable and consistent and that the expert witnesses who use them are qualified and honest about their analyses?

Below are a few ideas about this, though each one carries with it potential problems. Perhaps not all of these ideas can definitely be implemented, but if we could insert some or all of them into the current legal system, we might have just results a higher percentage of the time. And applying these ideas to criminal cases might be a particularly good idea, where an expert’s opinion can be the difference between life and death for a person accused of a crime.