As we get deeper into the month of April, the Companies We Follow series here at IPWatchdog wanted to take a little time to review the databases of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for inventions from this corporation. Over the past month or two, we’ve found many intriguing patent applications and issued patents describing a wide array of new technologies. We’re noticing some real activity on behalf of GE regarding medical and wind energy generation, among other developments.
Today’s featured patent application would protect a novel system of addressing power outages when a utility network doesn’t receive notification of the event directly from customers. This system allows a utility network to scan social media posts for relevant information about outages, and then turn those posts into instructions for maintenance crews. We also discuss a few inventions related to wind turbines, including a new method for measuring lightning strike damage on wind turbine blades, and a couple of patent applications filed to protect medical monitoring technologies.
General Electric, known popularly by the acronym GE, is a multinational conglomerate corporation headquartered in the American city of Fairfield, CT. GE’s corporate offerings are incredibly diverse in both the consumer and industrial markets, and as this video from Bloomberg suggests, the corporation is almost impossible to define because of its wide degree of product offerings. The company has long been associated with American technological ingenuity, and with recent reports indicating an optimistic upturn in corporate profits, it’s likely that this technology developer will continue to be an innovator to watch for years to come.
IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series has highlighted General Electric before, and once again we’ve decided to head back to this major American corporation to profile its recent inventions. Every week, these intriguing new technologies are the subject of patent applications and issued patents published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. We’ve featured technologies related to many industrial sectors and alternative energy development in the past from GE, but January finds this corporation focused more on transportation systems and home appliances.
The featured application today discusses a novel GE system of flight management that has the potential to create great savings in costs incurred by airlines on a flight-by-flight basis. This system can respond dynamically mid-flight to changes in weather conditions and other parameters that affect fuel usage and other costs. Additional patent applications we discovered involve improvements to dosimeters and other chemical sensors as well as a newly designed dishwasher heating element that can improve user safety.
General Electric has also been the happy recipient of a number of issued patents that protect a series of interesting inventions related to electronic appliances. Two of these discuss methods of using energy more cheaply by drawing it off a grid at non-peak hours, both within the appliance and through a control module that interfaces between appliances and a smart home electrical system. Finally, we focus on a couple of patents that describe improvements to diagnostic and communication systems for locomotives.
The General Electric Company is a multinational conglomerate headquartered in Fairfield, CT, which is involved heavily in various technology sectors, including energy, consumer electronics and technology infrastructure. Recently, the company has been profiled for its development of what some have called an “Industrial Internet,” which supports large streams of data for the automation of industrial machines in manufacturing settings. Even as the company plans to downsize by 400 workers in Upstate New York, including at facilities at the corporation’s former headquarters in Schenectady, many believe that the company will be a major player in the resurrection of American manufacturing.
General Electric’s operations in various sectors of the technology industry make it a regular fixture at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, where many of the company’s developments are submitted as patent applications and protected through patents issued by the USPTO. This week on IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, we return after a few months’ hiatus to see what GE has been up to at it’s research facilities.
We’re noticing right away a great deal of patent applications and issued patents pertaining to medical technologies. Today, we feature one application that discusses an improved system for detecting the location of surgical instruments during a medical procedure. This improvement over image-guided surgery, which relies on video feeds from surgical instruments, informs medical professionals of the exact location of an instrument within a patient. We also look at an application for an improved pulse oximeter that provides a higher degree of portability over current devices, which are largely tethered to hospital settings. We also look at applications discussing systems of predicting cloud movement and an eco-friendly dishwasher that cuts down on current water and energy usage by half.
The General Electric Company of Schenectady, NY, is a major American innovator, involved with the development of technology infrastructure, energy systems and many consumer technologies. The wide scope of this business’s activities makes them a regular feature in IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series. See General Electric articles for our features on GE.
Recent reports from multiple news outlets announced that General Electric was moving on from plans to develop solar energy power plants by selling it’s solar technology to First Solar Inc., an American developer of solar panels. At the same time, GE is looking to increase its presence in the aviation industry. The early August acquisition of Avio Aero, an Italian developer of military and civil aircraft systems, is a step in this direction for the corporation.
Today, we check in with General Electric to see what technological systems it’s trying to protect through the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many of the published USPTO documents we feature here discuss improvements to energy systems. These include two patent applications, one that would protect smart energy storage for in-home water heaters and another that would protect a system of monitoring damage to power cables. An issued patent discusses GE’s development of a self-healing electrical power grid.
We also take a look at two other patent applications that showcase General Electric’s activities in other areas of consumer and industrial innovation. One application is filed to protect a detachable dishwasher door that makes it easier for technicians to provide maintenance. One final application we include discusses a system of trapping gaseous carbon dioxide exhaust from power plants in a solid state.
In this last column in our Earth Day 2013 series, IPWatchdog wants to take a look at some of the research and development coming out of one of the industry leaders in wind energy technology, General Electric Company of Schenectady, NY.
GE Wind Energy is a branch of General Electric Company that is involved with the development and manufacture of wind energy turbines. As of 2009, General Electric was the world’s 2nd largest wind turbine supplier, according to Reuters. Wind energy has gained a lot of attention in the alternative energy world because it is renewable and can create electricity without fossil fuel emissions.
These patents and patent applications, published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, outline General Electric’s goals to increase efficiency and reduce manufacturing costs for its wind energy systems. Recently published patent applications include documents filed to protect a more efficiently designed turbine blade and an electronic sensor that can determine if corrosive forces have damaged a turbine blade. Another application is for a light reflective substance that can help warn birds away from turbine blades, which may at first seem insignificant but a major obstacle in the adoption of wind energy are complaints from environmentalists relating to the number of birds killed each year.
On Friday, July 6, 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a decision in General Electric Co. v. ITC. The Federal Circuit, per Judge Newman with Chief Judge Rader and Judge Linn, did not give GE a total victory, but victory enough over Mitsubishi. The Federal Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the original decision of the ITC, and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with the decision.
GE appealed the decision of the United States International Trade Commission, which held that certain variable speed wind turbines imported by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas, Inc. (together “Mitsubishi”) did not violate section 337 of the Tariff Act, 19 U.S.C. §1337. The patents at issue were U.S. Patent No. 7,321,221, U.S. Patent No. 5,083,039 and U.S. Patent No. 6,921,985. On February 1, 2011, the ’039 patent expired, and the Federal Circuit dismissed that portion of the appeal as moot, vacating the Commission’s rulings relative to the ’039 patent. The appeal continued relating to the ’221 patent and the ’985 patent, which were the subject of this latest Federal Circuit decision.
Earlier this year we learned that General Electric (NYSE:GE) paid no taxes for 2010. See G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether. Yes, the largest corporation in the United States had a very good 2010. They booked over $14 billion in profits, with over $5 billion coming from U.S. operations, yet they paid not a dime in taxes to the Federal Government. To add insult to injury, General Electric was able to claim a tax benefit of $3.2 billion for 2010, making its effective tax rate for 2010 substantially negative.
But General Electric was not the only large U.S. corporation not to pay taxes. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, General Electric had some company. In fact, American Electric Power, Dupont, Verizon, Boeing, Wells Fargo, FedEx and Honeywell all had tax rates between -0.7 percent and -9.2 percent for the stretch between 2008 to 2010. See Study finds many corporations pay tax rate of effectively zero.
On the other hand, the United States Patent and Trademark Office continues to have user funds siphoned off, making the USPTO a much larger taxpayer than the largest U.S. corporations.
On June 16, 1980, 30 years ago today, the United States Supreme Court issued its landmark patentable subject matter decision in the case of Diamond v. Chakrabarty, which held that living matter is patentable subject matter if it is created by man. This decision revolutionized the biotechnology industry in the United States, and since has been the basis of much scorn, held up to ridicule by those who feel that living matter should not be patentable as a matter of policy. Chakrabarty was quite clearly the turning point for the biotech industry and that is emblematic of the need for an expansive view of what is patentable subject matter.
There is some irony that on the day we mark the 30th anniversary of the decision that launched the modern biotechnology industry we are still awaiting a decision on a patentable subject matter case — Bilski v. Kappos. Bilski has the potential to not only kill business methods, but also the software industry, the biotechnology industry and much of the medical innovation we see growing by leaps and bounds. So for today I toast the Supreme Court decision that launched the biotech industry, created millions of jobs and has lead to innumerable cures and treatments. I just hope that tomorrow (or whenever the Supreme Court issues its Bilski decision) it is not all for naught.