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Dear Patent Troll: Drop Dead

Posted: Wednesday, Oct 29, 2014 @ 10:00 am | Written by Scott Burt | 3 comments

EDITORIAL NOTE: Conversant IP has set up a website called Stand Up to the Demand, which helps those being sued for patent infringement to distinguish between a bogus claim of patent infringement and a legitimate licensing inquiry from a patent owner. 

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One thing you can say about patent trolls: They sure are cowboys! In fact, one of the biggest patent trolls of all time is a cowboy hat-wearing Texas lawyer by the name of Jay Mac Rust.

In 2012, Mr. Rust bought five patents from an inventor named Laurence Klein for exactly $1. He then set up 101 separate limited liability companies (LLCs), each with bizarre six letter names like IsaMai, BriPol, and HarNol. No one but Mr. Rust knows what those acronyms mean. But thousands of Mom and Pop small businesses — 16,465 to be exact — soon found out that they translate as “trouble.” Each of these businesses received a “demand letter” from one of Rust’s shell companies accusing them of patent infringement and demanding roughly $1,000 per employee if they wanted to avoid a minimum six-figure (and possibly seven-figure) lawsuit in U.S. federal court.





FTC Says AT&T Has Misled Millions of Consumers with ‘Unlimited’ Data Promises

Posted: Wednesday, Oct 29, 2014 @ 9:30 am | Written by Federal Trade Commission | 4 comments

The Federal Trade Commission filed a federal court complaint against AT&T Mobility, LLC, charging that the company has misled millions of its smartphone customers by charging them for “unlimited” data plans while reducing their data speeds, in some cases by nearly 90 percent.

The FTC’s complaint alleges that the company failed to adequately disclose to its customers on unlimited data plans that, if they reach a certain amount of data use in a given billing cycle, AT&T reduces – or “throttles” – their data speeds to the point that many common mobile phone applications – like web browsing, GPS navigation and watching streaming video –  become difficult or nearly impossible to use.

“AT&T promised its customers ‘unlimited’ data, and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “The issue here is simple: ‘unlimited’ means unlimited.”





Nikon Patents: A Smorgasbord of Digital Cameras and Immersion Lithography

Posted: Wednesday, Oct 29, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Written by Steve Brachmann | 1 Comment »

A fair amount of innovation in various optical and imaging technology fields comes out of the research facilities of the Nikon Corporation (NASDAQ: NINOY) of Tokyo, Japan. Nikon is outpaced by its geographical and industrial rival Canon in a few significant ways, especially in number of patent grants obtained, although some commentators are predicting that Nikon will outdo Canon in its development of video DSLR cameras. Current DSLR camera technologies available from Nikon include interchangeable lenses and offer the ability to take detailed photos captured at incredibly quick frame rates. Nikon digital camera technologies even showed that they performed well in outer space, as recent selfies taken during an October spacewalk by International Space Station astronauts will confirm.

Every now and again, the Companies We Follow series returns to check up on Nikon’s innovations, and we learned some interesting things about Nikon’s current corporate focus. According to a myriad of patent applications filed at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Nikon is serious about expanding its intellectual property holdings in the area of lithography, especially immersion lithography, for the manufacture of semiconductors and other electronics. An X-ray device which is less affected by thermal expansion and a digital bulletin board for an online electronic album service are also discussed in recently filed Nikon patent applications.





Carrier Grade Standard Essential 4G Patents on the Open Market

Posted: Tuesday, Oct 28, 2014 @ 2:30 pm | Written by Gene Quinn | No Comments »

Raze Technologies, formerly WestEnd Broadband, Inc., was founded in late 1999 with the purpose of developing a last mile access system that would allow service providers to offer both broadband data and high quality, fully featured voice services to residential and small business customers. The result was the development of a turnkey, end-to-end, carrier-class, and scalable platform. It was capable of terminating voice and data traffic and their associated protocols at a center office, and provided all the necessary transport and remote management capabilities to the customer’s premises.

In August 2002, Raze suspended its development operations and focused its remaining resources on the prosecution of its patent portfolio. Over time, as most if not all of the other innovative start-ups in the space have gone the way of the dinosaur, Raze has managed to accumulate a foundationally important patent portfolio relating to standard-related innovations surrounding mobile network infrastructure technologies that relate to 4G/LTE, which is the next generation wireless standard. Indeed, one of Raze’s seminal innovations related to the use of 2 tiered wireless networks with a broadband connection to a WiFi connection in order to increase building penetration and the utility of service. These concepts are among those patented by Raze and are today known as mobile hotspots and tethering.

The Raze 4G/LTE patent portfolio, which includes patents having priority filing dates all the way back to April 2001, is currently for sale and could well fetch a handsome sum even given downward pressure in the market created by some unfortunate recent Supreme Court decisions (more on this later). The sale is being brokered by ICAP Patent Brokerage via a private sale.





The Evolution of Digital Cameras – A Patent History

Posted: Tuesday, Oct 28, 2014 @ 1:32 pm | Written by Steve Brachmann | 1 Comment »

Steve Sasson, inventor of the digital camera, receives National Medal of Science from President Obama on 11/17/2010.

Just about 40 years ago, a young electrical engineer working at the offices of Eastman Kodak in Rochester, NY, developed a product that would upend the entire world of photography. Since that time, the technology has exploded into consumer markets and has proliferated into our daily lives, from camera components included in smartphones to high-quality megapixel systems which provide professional-grade images. All of this came to be thanks to the development of light-sensitive semiconductor devices capable of storing and transmitting light exposure information to create a digital image.

Here at IPWatchdog, we like to return regularly to our Evolution of Technology series to detail the development of a popular consumer technology across the years. Today, with our recent focus on patents issued to companies developing digital photography products, we wanted to dive in a little more deeply to look at the history of development in this field of technology. The chronology of digital photography development comprises the establishment of the JPEG image standard and the development of liquid crystal display screens. It also closely follows the decline of a major American developer of imaging products and the subsequent shift in the entire photography market.





Software Forensics: Objectively Proving Infringement or Misappropriation

Posted: Monday, Oct 27, 2014 @ 4:21 pm | Written by Bob Zeidman | No Comments »

The word “forensic” comes from the Latin word “forensis” meaning “of or before the forum.” In ancient Rome, an accused criminal and the accusing victim would present their cases before a group in a public forum. In this very general sense it wasn’t unlike the modern U.S. legal system where plaintiffs and defendants present their cases in a public forum. Of course the rules and procedures of the presentation differ from those days. Also, parties are typically represented by lawyers trained in the intricacies of all of these rules and procedures.

After deliberation, one party would be declared a winner. The party with the best presentation skills, regardless of innocence or guilt, would often prevail. The modern system relies on attorneys representing the parties to make the arguments rather than the parties themselves, under the assumption that lawyers, trained in law and skilled at presenting complex information, will each present their client’s case in the best possible manner and that ultimately a just outcome will occur. I don’t want to say that the truth will prevail, not only because that’s a cliché, but because there’s often some amount of truth in the arguments of both parties. Rather, more often than not, justice will be served.

I believe that this model works very well. Not perfectly, but very well. With regard to highly technical cases, however, the percentages for justice being served go down because the issues become difficult for a judge or jury to grasp. Technical experts can throw around technical jargon, sometimes without realizing it and other times to purposely cause confusion. This is the reason that I believed, when I started out examining code for intellectual property litigation, that two things were required to improve the analysis of software for the legal system.





J&J Innovation: From Electronic Contact Lenses to Hernia Repair

Posted: Monday, Oct 27, 2014 @ 1:20 pm | Written by Steve Brachmann | No Comments »

Johnson & Johnson headquarters in New Brunswick, NJ.

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) of New Brunswick, NJ, is an American multinational company focused on the sale of medical devices, consumer packaged goods and pharmaceuticals. The invitation of Johnson & Johnson’s CEO, Alex Gorsky, to IBM’s board of directors in June of this year may signal a growing partnership with the data services giant to develop more pharmaceutical drugs. The company’s recent announcement of its $1.75 billion purchase of private biotechnology firm Alios BioPharma is further evidence of a growing corporate focus on pharmaceuticals for J&J. The company is involved in many vision care programs and initiatives, and its Sight for Kids partnership with the Lions Clubs International Foundation announced that it had administered its 20-millionth free vision screen for children in need.

J&J is pretty active in terms of patenting, and our recent survey of patent applications filed with the USPTO showed us that the company is looking to usher in the next age of contact lenses. In a time when many people are talking about Google Glass and other wearable technologies, we were intrigued to find a large number of patent applications filed by J&J to protect methods of incorporating semiconductor components into contact lenses for digitizing vision care and correction. A surgical implant for hernia repair and cosmetic compositions which cause less skin irritation are also discussed below.

The New Jersey-based company and its various subsidiaries were the recipients of a large number of patent grants in the past few months, and we’re sharing some of our favorites below. Even more contact lens innovation is reflected in these recently issued patents, including contact lenses for stopping myopia progression or for providing more stability when worn on the eye. Anti-tumor topical compositions and disposable assay devices for the simpler completion of biochemical tests have also recently entered the intellectual property portfolio of this firm.





Extortionist Demand Letters are Wrecking Public Confidence in the U.S. Patent System

Posted: Sunday, Oct 26, 2014 @ 11:36 am | Written by Scott Burt | 28 comments

Nero and the burning of Rome by M. de Lipman, circa 1897.

Adam Carolla, one of the most popular podcasters in the U.S., is sued by a patent troll. The story goes viral. Across the country, state Attorneys General are using consumer protection laws to guard their small businesses from the predacious patent trolls. And here’s something previously unthinkable: the President of the United States, in the 2014 State of the Union address (“It’s the country’s most valuable political real estate,” noted one D.C. veteran), urged Congress to “pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly and needless litigation.”

The greatest long-term threat to the U.S. patent system does not come from its professional opponents – those large businesses and their political allies who stand to profit from enfeebled patent rights. A deeper harm is caused by unscrupulous patent trolls who use extortionist “demand letters” to victimize small businesses. This practice, we believe, is wrecking public confidence in the U.S. patent system – and by extension, profoundly weakening the heretofore bedrock belief in the great economic benefits conferred by patent-protected inventions.

Yet even as damage caused by demand letters spreads, most legitimate patent licensors whose businesses depend upon continued legislative and public trust stand idly by, doing little or nothing to address it. Well-insulated within the patent industry’s cozy professional bubble, we are, in effect, fiddling like a modern-day Nero while innovation’s Rome burns.





Are you Ready to File a Provisional Patent Application?

Posted: Saturday, Oct 25, 2014 @ 4:09 pm | Written by Mark Nowotarski | 17 comments

If you read the previous article in this series, Why Inventors Should Not Rely On Their Own Search, you know that before you file a provisional patent application, you should do a comprehensive search of the U.S. Patent Office and other U.S. and/or international databases. A patent agent/attorney will do this for their clients, or you can have a trusted confidant, (who won’t take your idea for their own), work with you to complete it.

Prepare yourself, you are very likely to find a similar product, and that is a good thing.

It’s a good thing because it means that someone else has also recognized that there is a problem which requires a solution. Ideally your solution, or some aspect of it, is either better than theirs, or distinctly different, which makes it possible to submit a provisional patent application for it.

At this point, you may think you know what the patentable element is, and are ready to file a provisional, but you’re not there yet, and here’s why.





AIPLA Names Lisa Jorgenson as Executive Director

Posted: Friday, Oct 24, 2014 @ 1:36 pm | Written by Gene Quinn | No Comments »

Lisa Jorgenson, the new AIPLA Executive Director.

The American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) is hosting their annual meeting in Washington, DC, and moments ago at the luncheon the organization announced that the AIPLA Board of Directors has named Lisa K. Jorgenson as the new Executive Director. Her appointment will take effective November 17, 2014. Jorgenson previously served as a member of the AIPLA Board of Directors from 2005 – 2008 and recently served as the Treasurer for the Intellectual Property Owners Association, and as a member of the Executive Committee of the Association of Corporate Patent Counsel.

Jorgenson, who most recently served as the Group Vice President of Intellectual Property and Licensing at the Dallas, Texas, based STMicroelectronics, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of semiconductor products, will be relocating to the metropolitan DC area in order to take this position with AIPLA.





Michelle Lee tells AIPLA She Shares Our Conviction

Posted: Friday, Oct 24, 2014 @ 10:14 am | Written by U.S.P.T.O. | 9 comments

EDITORIAL NOTE: This week the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) is hosting their annual meeting at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC. Michelle Lee, who is the current Deputy Director of the USPTO and recently nominated to the position of Director, opened the public portion of the meeting on Thursday with a keynote address. Below are her remarks as prepared for delivery.

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Michelle Lee, USPTO Deputy Director and Director Nominee.

Thank you, Wayne, and good morning everyone. Before I begin, I just wanted to say, it’s been a busy week, and that I am beginning to lose my voice, but it means a lot to me to be here today and to speak to you all of you, so I hope you will bear with me and hopefully my voice will hold through the speech.

With that, I’d like to congratulate Q. Todd Dickinson for his successful leadership of AIPLA, and for his past service as Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

We at the USPTO appreciate his support of our agency over the years, and I personally want to thank Todd for his warm welcome of me when I took the helm of the agency in January.  I know we all wish him the very best in his future endeavors.

I also want to commend Vince Garlock for his recent stewardship of the Association, and congratulate Wayne for his successful tenure as the 106th president of AIPLA.





Patent Trolls are NOT the Biggest Barrier to Innovation

Posted: Thursday, Oct 23, 2014 @ 1:05 pm | Written by Gene Quinn | 12 comments
 A recently published survey by The Atlantic asked a panel of 50 Silicon Valley insiders a variety of questions ranging from what is the most exciting tech start-up at the moment to which tech company is most overvalued. One question in particular was quite intriguing: What is the biggest barrier to innovation in the United States? You might be surprised by the answer.

According to this poll the biggest barriers to innovation in the United States are, in order:

  • Government regulation/bureaucracy 20%
  • Immigration policies 16%
  • Education 14%
  • Talent shortage 10%
  • Lack of diversity among tech executives 10%
  • The need for patent reform 8%
  • Lack of investment 6%

This survey shows what those in the industry have long known — patent trolls and the need for patent reform are NOT the biggest problems facing the high tech industry in the United States. In fact, 92% of respondents feel that there are other things that are more concerning and a bigger barrier to innovation. But how can this be? The public has been consistently fed the line that patents stifle innovation. How can something that stifles innovation not be the biggest concern, particularly when so many of the tech giants from Silicon Valley have for years blamed the patent system for all their woes? The simple answer is that patents do NOT stifle innovation, but rather patents foster innovation. Those who are intimately familiar with the industry know patents promote innovation regardless of the lies promoted to advance patent reform, vilify innovators and lay the blame for everything at the feet of patent trolls. See also Promoting Innovation: The Economics of Incentives.