Chicago has set a new record with the third straight day of 100+ degree heat. Temperatures in Illinois are expected to hit as high as 104 degrees before relief finally arrives on Sunday. Washington, DC hit 100 degrees today, and is expected to be even hotter on Saturday, with Baltimore, Richmond and Philadelphia all expecting 100+ degrees for Saturday. See Bloomberg. The DC area has also had its ninth straight day has had heat in excess of 95 degrees. Indeed, it is fair to say that the eastern half of the United States is experiencing prolonged heat like few can ever remember.
With that in mind I thought it might be an interesting time to take a look at some of the innovations that attempts to beat summer heat have lead to over the years. The theme here is wearable coolness.
So sit right back in your chair, hopefully in a heavily air conditioned office or home, and get in touch with your inner inventor. These individuals came up with something patentable, and necessity is certainly the mother of innovation. Admittedly, some are more practical than others, but who knows, perhaps this prolonged heat agony will lead to a who new crop of gadgets associated with keeping one cool and refreshed during the dog days of summer.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), in conjunction with INSEAD, released the 2012 Global Innovation Index (GII) on July 3, 2012. The GII model included study of 141 economies, which represent 94.9% of the world’s population and 99.4% of the world’s GDP (measured in US dollars). Once again, for the second year in a row, Switzerland, Sweden and Sinagpore top the list, which measures overall innovation performance. The report ranks countries on the basis of their innovation capabilities and results. The United States ranked 10th.
The study shows that the dynamics of innovation continue to be affected by the emergence of new successful innovators, as seen by the range of countries across continents in the top twenty, as well as the strong performances of emerging countries such as Latvia (30th), Malaysia (32nd), China (34th), Montenegro (45th), Serbia (46th), Republic of Moldova (50th), Jordan (56th), Ukraine (63rd), India (64th), Mongolia (68th) and Armenia (69th), all of which were in the top half of those 141 countries studied.
Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM), a developer and innovator of advanced wireless technologies, products and services, announced last week that it plans to modify its corporate structure. The corporate structure changes are being implemented, among other reasons, in order to enhance Qualcomm’s ability to quickly deliver products to its customers, while further protecting and insulating its valuable patent portfolio from any claims resulting from actions and activities by portions of the company other than the Qualcomm Technology Licensing Division (QTL). According to the company this is not a restructuring in anticipate of spinning off either the QTL or QCT business, nor is this change in response to any third party actions or claims.
Qualcomm is indeed an innovator of note, as well as an aggressive filer of patent applications worldwide. For 2011, Qualcomm ranked as the 6th most prolific filer of international patent applications filed under the auspices of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). Qualcomm filed some 1,494 international patent applications in 2011. See International Patent & Trademark Filings Set New Record in 2011. For 2010, Qualcomm ranked 37th overall in terms of the number of U.S. patents obtained, receiving 772 according to the Intellectual Property Owners Association. See Top 300 Organizations Granted U.S. Patents in 2010 (page 2).
It was less than two weeks ago that AOL announced that it completed a $1.056 billion patent transaction with Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT). At the time of the announcement of the Microsoft transaction AOL explained that the company expected to provide additional details to shareholders by the end of June. Earlier today, AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL) announced that it has commenced a modified Dutch auction tender offer to repurchase shares of its common stock up to an aggregate purchase price of $400 million, making good on its earlier promise to shareholders. Indeed, this announcement is being touted by the company as a first step in returning 100% of the proceeds of its recent patent transaction to its shareholders by the end of calendar 2012.
The Microsoft patent transaction included the sale of over 800 AOL patents and their related patent applications, and granted Microsoft a non-exclusive license to its retained patent portfolio for an amount totaling $1.056 billion in cash. AOL continues to hold a significant patent portfolio of over 300 patents and patent applications spanning core and strategic technologies, including advertising, search, content generation/management, social networking, mapping, multimedia/streaming, and security among others.
Last week, on Friday, June 15, 2012, Merck (NYSE: MRK) announced the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey (Judge Peter G. Sheridan) ruled against the company on the issue of patent infringement in its suit against Apotex Inc. and Apotex Corp. See Non-Published, Redacted Opinionand Court Order. The patent at issue in the decision was U.S. Patent No. 6,127,353, which covers the active ingredient in Nasonex® and which provides exclusivity the expiration of the patent on April 3, 2018. The District Court decision did, however, confirm the patentability of the claims in question, finding Apotex’s challenges for anticipation and obviousness unpersuasive.
The case at issue in the Merck announcement was styled Schering Corporation v. Apotex, Inc. 3:09-cv-06373. So why was Merck announcing this adverse decision? In November 2009, Merck completed a $41 billion acquisition of Schering-Plough. See Merck completes acquisition of Shering-Plough. This acquisition, making Schering a fully owned subsidiary, was reportedly part of an attempt to diversify as they seek to weather the recession and cope with the unpredictability of drug development. See Merck to buy rival for $41 billion.
In a complaint filed December 18, 2009, Schering claimed that the Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) filed by Apotex constitutes patent infringement of the ‘353 patent, which was issued to Schering on October 3, 2000 and claimed priority of an international patent application first filed pursuant to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) on September 6, 1991.
Konarka Technologies, Inc., a leading developer of thin-film solar panels, has filed for bankruptcy protection under chapter 7 of the Federal bankruptcy laws. Under chapter 7 proceedings, the company’s operations cease and a trustee is tasked with liquidating the company’s assets for the benefit of creditors.
Howard Berke, chairman, president and CEO of Konarka, said, “Konarka has been unable to obtain additional financing, and given its current financial condition, it is unable to continue operations. This is a tragedy for Konarka’s shareholders and employees and for the development of alternative energy in the United States.”
While this is certainly bad news for shareholders, employees and creditors, it is an all to common occurrence for alternative energy companies. Yes, the allure of renewable energy is irresistible, but the technology is just not where it needs to be yet in order to make renewable energy a mainstream alternative to more cheaper, conventional forms of energy. Even exciting science and a strong patent position is not enough to hold back the economic realities of the marketplace.
The mobile app economy is estimated to have created nearly 466,000 jobs in the United States alone as of the beginning of 2012, up from zero jobs in 2007. See New ‘App Economy’ Creates Nearly 500,000 Jobs. Further, mobile app downloads are expected to hit 76.9 billion in 2014. This growing technology based industry, like so many other similar growing industries, is facing increased threat of patent infringement claims, which are hampering the process of bringing new mobile innovations to market.
In order to attempt to combat the use of dubious patents against mobile app developers, Article One Partners (AOP), the world’s largest patent research community, today announced the formation of a partnership with the Appsterdam Legal Foundation, a global trade organization for mobile software developers.
Typically I am not one to say that patent infringement lawsuits are responsible for stunning the growth of an industry, but with respect to mobile app developers there is something quite different than what we have witnessed in the past. Many mobile app developers are individuals or truly small businesses. When faced with threats of patent litigation or demands to pay licensing fees, many of these mobile app developers leave the market. Still more are simply not entering the marketplace out of fear.
It has come to my attention that earlier today in his e-mail newsletter Hal Wegner has once again attempted to take a cheap shot at yours truly. Yes, I know that truth and accuracy are not the hallmarks of Hal’s newsletter, and normally I do look the other way when I learn of cheap shots by Hal, which are a dime a dozen. When Hal challenges my business and makes blatantly inaccurate statements I do find it necessary to respond.
In his newsletter Hal takes issue with my Invent + Patent System™, which is an innovative approach to the patent process on which I have my own patent pending. See U.S. Patent Application No. 20090307004. Hal writes: “[IPWatchdog.com] touts a do-it-yourself drafting system that promises a pro se inventor one (1) hour preparation time for a complete provisional application…” Again, I do realize that Hal Wegner is not known for his investigative accuracy, and he seems to not let facts get in the way of telling the story he wants to tell. Notwithstanding Hal’s need to cut down everyone and everything, whether deserved or not, I would expect that even Hal would be able to appreciate that what he wrote is inaccurate and unfair. In fact, the inaccuracies and lack of due diligence suggest that Hal’s comments may rise to the level of intentional malfeasance.
Although a patent application is not a sales pitch per se, most inventors will find it quite helpful to list as many descriptive objectives of the invention as is possible. As a general rule you should, however, stay away from laudatory language and puffery (e.g. “the best gadget known to man” or “the perfect solution” or “using this tool is unquestionably the choice any professional would make”). When you puff the tendency is to skimp on the descriptive details, which are essential to an appropriate patent application. Further, is anyone really likely to take your word for it being “the best”? That is why infomercials demonstrate the functional capabilities of an invention. In a patent application you need to describe the functionality and leave the selling to the salespeople later.
By way of example, many times inventions are not one of a kind, but rather they are improvements upon existing solutions. In this situation it is common that the advantage of the new invention lies in that it is cheaper to make, easier to use, more efficient, less noisy, easier to clean, more durable, stronger, faster, more resilient, etc. etc. These are things that you should include in your disclosure, but frequently this type of patentably relevant information is not conveyed with as much detail as possible and appropriate.
Given the sluggish economic recovery and continued budget pressure on IP departments, it makes sense to consider new strategies for lowering the steep costs related to international patent filing. Translations can account for up to 50% of the cost of national stage entry, so cost-cutting strategies could make a significant difference in the bottom line. Strategic costs savings can then be used to stretch a diminishing budget, or offer opportunities to expand patent protection into other countries without busting your budget.
Before moving into discussion about ways to cut cost it is important to focus on the end goal. It is one thing to cut costs, but to borrow a popular political phrase – you want to cut with a scalpel, not a cleaver. Thus, keeping in mind the ultimately end goal at every step will allow you to engage cost cutting strategies without compromising your patent project. Of course, the end goal is to obtain the broadest, strongest patent portfolio; obtaining patents in a variety of jurisdictions where meaningful business opportunities exist.