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):
From U.S. Patent No. 8,515,829, titled “Tax-free gifting.”
Google Inc. is one of the dominant corporations in the Internet industry. This company is responsible for many popular Internet-based technologies, such as Google Drive and the Android operating system for handheld electronic devices. In early September, the company announced that the one billionth Android device had been activated for use. The company has been making waves in other industries as well, and by 2017 Google hopes to have made self-driving cars commercially available.
In IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, we return to take a look at this American-based corporation to see some of the future of Internet technologies we can expect to see come out of Mountain View, California, where Google is headquartered. As always, we take a look at some patent applications and issued patents published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and assigned to Google.
A few of the patent applications from Google we’re looking at today focus on improvements to mobile devices of various kinds. One patent application would protect a system of improving security measures for a portable device based on the device’s actual location. Another application would aid the image capture process on a mobile device based on the user’s field of vision. Other patent documents we feature discuss improvements created by applied computer analysis of various network data. One patent application filed by Google would allow users to monetize pictures that they share on social networks. We also explore a patent application that gives advertisers better insight into the demographics of a certain television show’s audience. But the reference that was by far the most eye-catching was an issued patent that gives Google the right to protect a system of paying tax for the recipient of a gift card, instead of that tax being applied to the recipient’s purchases.
From its early days as an online search engine, Google Inc. of Mountain View, CA, has been very involved in developing and distributing Internet-based software products such as Google Docs, an online word processing application, and the Android operating system for mobile phones. Its worldwide scope is evidenced through much of its application development, such as its decision to add 18 available languages to users of Google programs like Docs and Slides.
As a developer of Internet technologies, Google is a common applicant at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Each week, the USPTO publishes many patent applications and issues many patent to the California-based technology manufacturer. Today our Companies We Follow series takes a closer look at some of the more intriguing documents that details Google’s innovations.
A number of interesting patent applications deal with Google’s efforts to improve online mapping applications. One such application would protect a system of downloading map tiles for offline routing. An issued patent assigned to Google protects a system of depicting multi-level buildings three-dimensionally so that browsers can view flooring plans.
Under the DMCA or Digital Millennium Copyright Act, all content published online is protected under copyright law, regardless of it having the copyright symbol on the page. Any content, no matter the form it takes (whether digital, print, or media) is protected under copyright law. The prevention of copyright infringement requires constant vigilance; even using your own material in two different places and plagiarising unintentionally can land you in trouble.
Why It Is Important to Protect Your Online Content from Being Copied:
Copyright is important in all forms of media because it provides legal ownership over the work someone produces. This allows the author, artist, etc. control over how their work is used. Without copyright laws, content could be stolen from one creator and used by someone else; thus, a profit could be made by someone other than the creator from content that they put no effort into. Since it is the copyright holder’s responsibility to ensure that a copyright has not been infringed upon, it is vital to keep a close eye on your content and how it is used by others on the internet.
There is no doubt that the Obama position will be loved by Google and other Silicon Valley technology giants that despise the patent system. Given the revolving door between the Obama Administration and Google, the long-term close relationship between President Obama and Google (see here, here and here), and the fact that patent issues don’t resonate with John Q. Public, it seems likely that the President stepping in now to allow him to tout that he is engaged with issues of importance in the minds of tech giants who will be asked for large checks later this week.
But what executive action could the President really take that would make a difference?
Google, Inc., of Mountain View, CA, develops Internet-based products, like its renowned Google Internet search engine and Gmail, an e-mail application, among many others. Google.com is one of the world’s most widely accessed websites every day. Recent corporate moves, including the announcement of Google’s partnership with NASA for the development of quantum computing, have widened the scope of the company’s future.
This week at IPWatchdog, we want to take a look at the Internet and computer technology developer’s recent published documents released by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. As the developer of the Android mobile device software, Google is heavily involved with mobile device and digital media systems development. Two recent patent applications filed by Google would protect different innovations for Internet audio systems, including a user-responsive start page for a music library and a system of allowing multiple users to rate tracks on a playlist to adjust playback.
Google is also focused on improving online search methods, as is evidenced by another patent application for a system of searching social media pages for individuals or groups. And another final patent application would protect a more secure system of offering digital media excerpts to potential customers which would prevent stealing.
A patent recently awarded by the USPTO to Google that caught our eye also protects another new search system that would provide for logo recognition.
The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) recently announced that it is joining the other cast of characters who have filed a class action complaint against Google, claiming (as the other plaintiffs have) that Google’s “Google Book Search” program violates the copyrights of several photographers and visual artists. The other plaintiffs include individuals Leif Skoogfors, Al Satterwhite, Morton Beebe, Ed Kashi, John Schmelzer, Simms Taback and Gail Kuenstler Living Trust, Leland Bobbe, John Francis Ficara and David Moser, and associations The American Society of Media Photographers, the Graphic Artists Guild, the Picture Archive Council of America, the North American Nature Photography Association, the Professional Photographers of America, and American Photographic Artists.
So what brought on this class action suit in the first place? Well, it would seem that whenever someone conducts a search using the Google Books program, that search brings up images that are contained in both books and periodicals–images that are copyright protected. And apparently, this isn’t the first time Google Books has been under fire in litigation–even the writers of some of the books and periodicals that come up when using the search have also claimed copyright infringement.