Google is one of the stalwarts that we feature regularly on IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, and our research into Google’s innovations always manage to unveil a great crop of unique inventions. The recently published patent applications and issued patents assigned to Google by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cover a vast field of innovation involving computing technologies, many of which improve systems of providing meaningful data to end users for various means.
A specialized type of content management system for brokering knowledge between experts and individuals who need various kinds of technical help is the focus of today’s featured patent application. Google is trying to protect a system for requesting know-how from an expert in return for virtual credits. Other patent applications have been filed to protect systems for better ranking of news stories as well as methods for providing contextual definitions of selected text within a document.
Google is a favorite among the corporations profiled here on IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series because of its development of interesting consumer technologies. As we check back in for our latest round with the company, we see that it hasn’t slowed its activities with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. We found an intriguing assortment of new technologies created by this company, especially those related to Google’s mobile device innovations.
The featured patent application for today highlights a novel system of using mobile devices to improve something millions of Americans do every day: order out for food. This Internet-based system of ordering enables more precise delivery, better estimation of arrival times as well as secure payments for food and other items. We also profile some patent applications pertaining to speech recognition technologies and online searches for flight itineraries.
SimpleAir, an inventor-owned technology licensing company, holds eight issued U.S. Patents and several pending patent applications in the areas of wireless content delivery, mobile applications, and push notifications. SimpleAir has licensed its inventions to many leading technology companies, including Apple. See also Apple, others settle with patent troll SimpleAir. Google decided not take a license and/or otherwise settle a patent infringement litigation brought by SimpleAir and now has been found to infringed one of SimpleAir’s patents.
A federal jury in the Eastern District of Texas returned a verdict on Saturday, January 18, 2014, following a week-long trial presided over by the Judge Rodney Gilstrap, finding that Google infringed SimpleAir’s U.S. Patent No. 7,035,914. The ‘914 patent covers a system and method for connecting on-line networks with on-line and off-line computers. The system provides for broadcast of up to the minute notification, which thereby provides an instant call to action for users who are provided with the ability to instantaneously retrieve further detailed information. The notification is wirelessly broadcast to wireless receiving devices attached to computing devices. The services accused of infringing the ‘914 patent were the Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) and Android Cloud to Device Messaging (C2DM) services. Those services are used by Google to process and send instant notifications for Android applications, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail.
The jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision on the amount of damages to award for Google’s infringement. The damages issue will be decided by a separate jury in a second trial limited to the issue of damages. SimpleAir has announced that they will seek damages in excess of $125 million for Google’s infringement in the damages retrial.
Spherix Incorporated (NASDAQ: SPEX), a Tysons Corner, Virginia intellectual property monetization company, recently announced that it has entered into a series of agreements with Rockstar Consortium (US) LP in which Spherix Incorporated acquired over 100 patents and patent applications. The newly acquired patents cover among other things, numerous aspects of access, switching, routing, optical and voice communication network devices.
In addition to the 100 patents/application acquired will complement the Rockstar patents previously acquired by Spherix and will further support Rockstar’s current licensing efforts. Rockstar will also share usage information with Spherix for the transferred patents, and will assist Spherix in working with the patents’ inventors, to assist Spherix’s commercialization efforts.
With the enormous media focus on the so-called problem of patent trolls one might start to think that any patent owner can easily stand up to and take on industry giants to obtain lottery like winnings. Not so fast! The great irony is that if you want a larger entity to fold like a cheap suit and settle quickly you would be better off filing a frivolous patent infringement lawsuit using a dubious patent. You see, the great irony is this: Only when large entities get sued on completely frivolous patent claims do they settle right away. Now I’m not advocating that course of action, rather just observing the truth of the matter asserted.
On the other hand, if you have a strong patent that covers real technology, perhaps pioneering technology, and there are substantial damages, the tech giants you sue will vilify you as a patent troll in the media and do whatever they can to make sure that they never pay you a dime. This is particularly true when the small company is building upon a base technology already owned by one of those technology giants.
Many large companies are happy to pay nuisance value on frivolous claims, but they are never going to pay meritorious claims if they can avoid it using any and all techniques and procedural machinations. The reality that frivolous claims get settled and meritorious claims get litigated has to make you wonder whether the so-called patent troll problem is really a problem or whether it is something that they actively perpetuate in order to achieve the “reforms” they continually ask Congress to adopt.
Take a quick listen to the many conversations that have been taking place in the computing world over the past year and you’ll likely notice one term being thrown about fairly often: cloud computing. This new form of computer networking is fraught with possibilities that would completely transform the idea of computing, whether in the home or in the workplace.
Even as more of us are becoming acquainted with the idea of the cloud, many of us are still woefully ignorant of what the term actually means. For example, a survey by cloud software developer Citrix Systems showed that 54 percent of respondents did not believe that they used cloud-based computing, even though 95 percent of them actually did. Almost as many respondents confused the cloud metaphor, believing that stormy weather could actually interfere with cloud systems.
Cloud computing is set to take a much more prominent role in our technologically savvy society. Providing advanced computing applications through networking channels severely reduces the IT needs of homes and businesses who want to use more powerful software programs without installing them on a client computer. With more than $131 billion in economic activityfor the cloud computing sector in 2013, more business infrastructure and software services should be taking to the cloud than ever before.
Entire corporations have begun to narrow their focus on cloud computing. IBM has been developing cloud-based solutions for business needs for a few years now, and Google’s cloud options for Internet users include online file storage and document creation. It is against this backdrop that we want to take a quick look back at 2013 and celebrate what some could call the Year of the Cloud, during which the concept began to truly enter the mainstream consciousness.
The man with the electronic throat tattoo. Figure 3 from U.S. Patent Application 20130297301.
File this in the “you have to be kidding me” category if you like, but U.S. Patent Application No. 20130297301, which published November 7, 2013, shows that Google has applied for a patent on a system and method of coupling an electronic skin tattoo together with a mobile communication device. It seems that this particular electronic tattoo incorporated circuitry within the tattoo that enables the picking up of acoustic sounds that emanate from the throat region of the body when said tattoo is applied in close proximity to the throat region.
Essentially, Google is trying to patent a throat microphone that is embedded in a tattoo.
With this patent application it seems to me that Google has officially jumped the shark, and has lost all credibility in the patent debate they seem so desperate to influence in an anti-patent way. Google representatives constantly preach that they don’t need patents, they don’t want patents, the world would be a better place without patents, and that the only reason that they obtain patents is for defensive purposes. That specious argument never rang true, particularly when they would pivot from “we only get patents for defensive purposes” into complaining about the injustice they suffer at the hands of patent trolls, as if to tie the two wholly unrelated matters together.
Once again, IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow is returning to Mountain View, CA, to focus on Google Inc., one of the premier names in online technologies throughout the world. In mid-November, the corporation received a major legal victory when the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the company’s Google Books service is protected under the “fair use” principle of copyright law. Google’s Android system is still very strong in the mobile device market, which the corporation is hoping to improve with the recent launch of its low-cost Moto G smartphone.
Google is a major player in the American patent system, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark System regularly churns out bunches of issued patents and patent application publishings which are assigned to the company. This week, we’re profiling a number of interesting technologies for mobile devices and online software applications that this multinational corporation is either seeking to protect or for which they’ve earned the rights already.
Today’s column starts with a thorough profile of one patent application that seeks to converge content from social networks with the news feed that a person sees when browsing a news aggregator service. Google wants to patent a system that analyzes a user’s social media feeds to pull up relevant media or comments that may enhance the value of browsing through news stories. Other patent applications protect better routing systems, both for public transportation as well as personal vehicles, and one discusses an interesting system of providing instant text translations between two foreign parties on one tablet computer.
Tech sector giants have been crying and moaning about how the patent system has run amok and needs to be scaled back, and continually beg for patent reform that would gut the patent system and weaken patent rights. Immediately after successfully lobbying for the America Invents Act (AIA), they are back at it again supporting new legislation aimed at making it more difficult to enforce patent rights pending in Congress. If they prevail with the passage of the Innovation Act, they will be back at it again no doubt. The longer term goal is to strip the International Trade Commission of its patent jurisdiction, which would make it impossible to stop the importation of infringing goods prior to entering the country. See Will the ITC Lose Its Patent Jurisdiction and Are Some Patent Holders More Equal Than Others?
The grumbling of the tech giants is increasingly being picked up by patent abolitionists who say “see, even Microsoft thinks there should be no patents,” which only adds to the hysteria. Of course, Microsoft is one of the top patenting companies year after year and they aggressively pursue software patens themselves. So while some of Microsoft’s public statements suggest that they do not like software patents, they aggressively seek them and then aggressively pursue licensing strategies. So it seems that Microsoft may talk a good game about software patents being undesirable and a real scourge, but when push comes to shove they will get as many patents as they can. Quite curious if you ask me!
So why do the tech giants want to make it hard for small businesses and individuals to get patents? Do you remember when “Wang” was synonymous with “computer,” or at least “word processor”? Perhaps not, but once upon a time it was indeed. The story of Wang is the story of technology companies generally speaking. What has always been true is that technology companies that reach the top are only passing through on their way down; to be replaced by smaller, leaner companies that pursue appropriate strategies and have solid and expandable innovations in demand.
Even mighty Microsoft couldn’t maintain their monopoly, and only the foolish would anticipate Google, Facebook and other tech giants to be on top indefinitely. That isn’t how the tech sector works, or is intended to work. But if a vibrant, robust and strong patent system is not there for start-ups today they will never become the giant, innovation shifting, growth companies of the future. That would be terrible for the economy, lead to stagnant innovation and guarantee that slothful, giant companies that have lost the ability to innovate would remain dominant rather than going the way of the dinosaur.
Recently U.S. Patent No. 8,515,829(the ‘829 patent) came to my attention. It is a patent issued to Google, which is titled Tax-free gifting. See Google Patents Tax-Free Gifting. The invention is interesting in its own right, but as I reviewed the patent I noticed an interesting figure — Figure 14 really caught my attention. Before proceeding to discuss the importance of Figure 14, allow me to provide some background information about this particular patent.
Generally speaking, the invention relates to a system and related techniques for gifting, and paying for, digital content, including media, such as audio and video. The core of the invention, as suggested by the title, relates to giving someone something tax-free. While the title may suggest the invention is potentially nefarious, or at least aimed at exploiting some tax loophole, that is not the case. The government is not going to be cheated out of collecting taxes. Instead, the invention relates to a method that allows for the giver of the gift to pay for the tax imposed by the jurisdiction where the gift (i.e., gift card) is redeemed.
Indeed, Claim 1 in the ‘829 patent specifically includes a limitation specific to the payment of the tax that would otherwise be imposed when the gift is redeemed. Claim 1 recites (emphasis added):