During the summer months, beaches are major tourist destinations across the country. Americans take almost two billion trips to beaches every yearand spend billions in beach communities, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection agency. All of these beach visitors look for a variety of ways to enjoy their time near or in the water.
Today in IPWatchdog’s continuing Summer 2013 Fun series, we want to look at some very intriguing patent applications and issued patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office regarding fun at the beach. A number of these documents describe active games for many participants that involve a lot of physical activity. One issued patent protects a safe game for young children who rush out to plant a flag in the coast while avoiding incoming waves. Another issued patent describes a portable tennis court for beach use.
Three other patent applications featured here encourage more passive forms of play and recreation. A first application would protect a style of beach golf where players can easily build a small course. Another patent application describes a portable beach toy kit that builds a more complete play environment, including a castle and a moat. Finally, we take a look at a patent application that would protect a board for a seashell collection game.
On July 18, 2013, at the US Chamber of Commerce, the Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) hosted an event, “India: International Outlier on IP.” The two-part event began with Congressmen John Larson (D – CT) and Erik Paulsen (R – MN) giving keynote speeches about the concerning status of IP law in India. A panel discussion followed consisting of David Torstensson, Senior Consultant, Pugatch Consilium; Manisha Desai, PhD, Assistant General Patent Counsel, Eli Lilly; and Michael Schelsinger, Counsel, International Intellectual Property Alliance.
The GIPC previously released its International IP index, Measuring Momentum, on December 11, 2012. Pugatch Consilium ranked nations based upon intellectual property rights (IPR) to provide a global overview. Various factors included patent enforcement, fairness of compulsory licensing, copyright term of protection, and membership to international treaties. Not surprisingly, Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRIC) comprised the bottom of the list. While most would expect China to be ranked last, India was ranked last overall and in almost all individual categories, including Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), Research and Development Spending, and Membership and Ratification of International Treaties. David Torstensson of Pugatch Consilium noted that while IPR in China are lacking, some legislation does in fact exist, which helped its ranking. Notably, India is the only country in the study that is not a signatory for any international IP treaties, such as the Patent Law Treaty (PLT) and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Internet Treaties.
Fables are nice, but rarely reflect reality. We understand that this series of papers will not be accepted by some with open arms, as it does not correlate with their visualization of reality, a reality that has been in the making for a long time by very good story tellers. It is comfortable to have an enemy to blame, and it is nice to be the good guy as well as the victim. The reality of life, however, is much different than each of us just wearing a black or white hat.
Much of what is reported here makes perfect sense. Why should we not expect that a non-inventor-based NPE would be selective in their purchase of patents so as to result in a portfolio that is as good as, if not better than, those of producers themselves? (That is, why are we so sure that patent assertion entities do not have the intelligence to find the gems that others are leaving by the wayside?) How many of us would enter a monster-truck rally with a 1985 Yugo GV, considered by some to be one of the worst engineered cars of all time? Isn’t it logical that the patents asserted by independent inventors and their companies might not fare as well as those patents of producing companies and the other NPEs, particularly given that many belonging to this group are generally not able to afford the best legal work in the initial preparation and prosecution of their patents, and often are relegated to use any attorneys that will take their litigation on contingency? Why wouldn’t we expect that a company that is buying patents would likely try to monetize them, particularly when the company to which we sell a patent (or set up a royalty agreement) is not in the business of what the patent claims? Aren’t we being disingenuous when we decry a NPE patent owner for not practicing an invention in a patent, and yet allow Producers to obtain and enforce the same patents even if they do not practice the invention in the patent themselves?
Myth 6: There are a growing number of NPE bad actors since passage of the AIA.
Truth: The number of cases filed by NPEs can be said to have increased ONLY if one takes into account the AIA’s requirement to file separate cases against each defendant. There has been no substantial increase if one looks at Unique NPE filers and cases filed on the same day. The percent of Unique NPE filers remains the same as Pre-AIA.
Some authors maintain that the number of NPE bad actors has continued to rise post-AIA. See Milone, Cheryl , “It’s Not Just the Tolls, It’s the Patent Quality,” Corporate Counsel, June 10, 2013. The basis of this purported rise is said to be unknown.
Myth 3: Independent inventors and independent inventor companies set up to license their patents have had little impact on the Troll story.
Truth: Independent inventors have a great impact on the NPE story, with independent inventors and independent inventor companies set up to license their patents filing considerably more suits under the joinder rules of the AIA on the average than non-independent inventor based NPEs. Their patents also fare significantly worse in both litigation and reexamination proceedings.
Independent Inventors have long distinguished themselves from “Patent Trolls” arguing the term would soon be used by large companies to stop independent inventor activity. See Chad Vice, Edison Nation Forums, forum post entitled The Patent Trolls’ Lie and The War on Independent Inventors, June 23, 2013. Unfortunately, so-called “experts” in the troll story have consistently been including independent inventor activity in the “troll” category for at least over a decade. In fact as our figures slow, there is no conceivable way of getting anywhere near a majority of troll suits post AIA unless one is counting all independent inventor suits, and suits by their alter ego companies, into the mix. While some may think this unfair, it is simply a fact.
To our knowledge, this is the first study that looked at the effects of independent inventor, and, in particular independent inventor company (that is, companies that we determined were just the alter ego of the individual inventors themselves) were having on the overall NPE numbers. That is, we looked behind the NPE to decide whether a company was just an alter ego of an independent inventor.
For all of us mystery buffs, what makes a good story is learning at the end who is ulti-mately responsible for the skullduggery set forth at the beginning of the yarn. Were all the prob-lems due to Colonel Mustard and his ineptitude with the candlestick, or do we have another case of “the butler did it?” And so, we set up our response to the many fables swirling around the so-called “Patent Troll” to lead us to whom we now believe is ultimately responsible for the rise in litigation by such entities. In this regard, we will look at numerous statements that have been asserted in the past with respect to the “patent troll,” and see how such statements stack up against the data. By following our responses to the various “myths” of the patent troll, we be-lieve most will themselves detect the “power behind the troll” long before we specifically un-cloak the same (no, it is not the Romulans! ) But just in case, we do the unmasking at the end of the paper.
There are many myths that are attached to the fable of the so-called “patent troll.” Acting like the MythBusters, we probed some of them, and set forth our findings below.
Editor’s Note: This is part 1 of a 5 part series written by Steven J. Moore and with the assistance of Marvin Wachs and Timothy Moore, also of the Kelley Drye & Warren Patent Department.
PROLOGUE : On the Isles of the White Knights and the Lowly Bridge Trolls
Once upon a time, long, long ago, in a land far, far away, there existed an island kingdom called Inventis, a legendary land of technologically advanced people. Inventis was composed of many small islands, each separated by raging rivers of hot lava said to have spewed from the mouths of dragons. The only way to move from one island to the next was by way of a bridge of stone. Several bridges had been built in the past, in each case unlocking unanticipated riches on the bridged island. While it was thought that more riches were on the other islands, because of the effort and danger of building a stone bridge over hot rivers of lava, most of the islands of Inventis remained inaccessible. This was a problem for the King as the population of Inventis was growing rapidly, and the people simply needed more room. The King, looking to promote the progress of bridge building, promulgated an edict whereby any bridge builder was granted, for a time, the exclusive right to any new and useful discovery made on any previously isolated island. To assure that any bridge built would be sound, the King restricted such exclusive right to bridge builders who fabricated their bridges to exacting engineering specifications. He placed the responsibility to assure these provisos were met in the hands of his Ministry of Bridge Patency (“Patency Office”) which also provided administrative mechanisms for anyone wishing to challenge any asserted exclusive right.
On the main island there lived two distinct groups of artisans who were adept at bridge building. One group, the Commercializers of the Enclave of Corporate, sold many products and services to the public. Among their number were some large and sturdy White Knights. The other group, the Non-Commercializers of the Enclave of NPE, were known as dreamers who paid little immediate heed to making money through commerce. Although among their number were independent thinkers, new entrepreneurs, failed commercializers, university scholars and basic researchers, there were also some hideous, slinking creatures who had polluted waters of the mainland by making a living dredging up the wreckage of the past, and marketing it as valuable. Because of these slinking creatures, the Knights referred to all those coming from NPE as “Trolls.”
With droves of people flocking to the beach, the role of the beach lifeguard becomes much more important. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, which certifies open water lifeguards, USLA lifeguards completed a total of 69,070 rescues during 2012, about half of which were rip current rescues. USLA lifeguards also completed a total of 307,893 medical aids during that year.
Today in IPWatchdog’s 2013 Summer Fun series, we’re taking a look at patents that recognize the importance of safety at the pool or beach. A number of patent applications and issued patents published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office that we feature in today’s column describe systems and tools to aid lifeguards in their work. One patent application explains a buoy system that can wrangle multiple distressed swimmers and provide them with a flotation line. One issued patent protects a rescue tube with a recessed extension strap for safer use. A second issued patent protects a system of detecting rip tides through computer analysis of video.
Two other documents we’re discussing here create safety systems for swimmers when there are no lifeguards present, or if a lifeguard can’t detect a problem. One issued patent is for an alarm system that sounds if it detects that a swimmer is in danger. Finally, one last issued patent discusses an emergency contact system for putting poolside rescuers who aren’t trained to react to emergencies in touch with emergency personnel.
Once again, it is time to catch up on the news from the pharmaceutical industry. And so, here is the latest monthly compendium in which we attempt to highlight some of the more noteworthy and fascinating news with a focus on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), preemption and the Supreme Court.
1. FDA to Allow Generic Drugmakers to Update Labeling
The FDA is following through on plans to issue a proposed rule to revise regulations to allow generic drugmakers to update labeling. The rule would update current regulations that prevent generic drugmakers from doing so, even if they become aware of a potential risk not mentioned in labeling. By contrast, brand-name drugamkers can update warnings and precautions on labeling before obtaining FDA approval.
The moves comes in response to a US Supreme Court ruling two years ago that generic drugmakers are not required to strengthen product labeling, even when alerted to side effects, so long as the same change has not been made to the labeling for the branded medicine. The decision sparked an outcry that product labeling would be insufficient to warn patients about the risks associated with numerous medications.
The summer months are a great time to enjoy a wide array of outdoor activities, like swimming, running or different types of team sports. However, even just a few hours outside with unprotected skin can create a sunburn that’s not just uncomfortable but possibly damaging.
A person with fair skin can develop a sunburn in 30 minutes, even when the ultraviolet (UV) index is at low levels. However, many don’t protect themselves like they should with clothing and sunblock lotion. In fact, a study conducted by Macmillan Cancer Support found that 40 percent of those in Britain that sunbathe for a tan purposefully continue until they’ve gotten a sunburn, even when many know that this increases their risk of contracting skin cancer.
Today in IPWatchdog’s Summer Fun series, we’re looking at a series of patent applications and issued patents protecting systems of improving protections from UV radiation. A number of these documents regard new systems of determining unsafe levels of radiation. One patent application has been filed to protect an apparatus that detects the level of sunburn developing on a person’s skin. Another application protects a reactive dye that changes color to indicate UV radiation levels. An issued patent protects a test strip kit that can also indicate unsafe UV levels prior to going outside.
Treatments for sunburn are another major focus for developers of UV radiation protections. One issued patent protects an orally administered treatment that helps prevent against sunburns. A final patent application featured here has been filed to protect a topical ointment that can either prevent or treat sunburns while improving on prior chemical compositions for sunblock lotion.
From U.S. Pat. App. 20130133202, for fire resistant thermoplastics.
As a leader in the development of commercial airliners, The Boeing Company of Chicago, IL, is greatly involved in improving safety systems for their aircraft. In recent days, the perception of unsafe aircraft has been hurting the airplane manufacturer.
A recent fire onboard a Boeing Dreamliner at London’s Heathrow Airport refocused concerns on the recently developed cruise liner, which was maligned with battery fire issues earlier this year. In early July, a high-profile Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco involving a Boeing 777 airliner has also troubled the company, although the investigation seems to befocusing on pilot error in that case. Still, when dealing with air transit there is zero margin for error. When errors do occur when an airplane is in use they frequently are catastrophic, so the search for safer technologies is a never ending pursuit.
Today in our Companies We Follow series, we’re taking another look at Boeing, especially taking a look at their efforts to develop even safer systems of airborne transportation. Some of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office documents we feature here highlight Boeing’s improvements to emergency systems on aircraft. One Boeing patent application would improve flame-retardant windows so that they create fewer toxic emissions during a fire. One issued patent details Boeing’s creation of a system for detecting suitable areas to land an aircraft away from an airport, in case of emergency.
Other USPTO published documents detail Boeing’s development of better safety detection systems. Two patents we take a close look at describe improvements to electrical wire inspection to detect degradation in wire insulation and a sensing circuit for detecting a properly attached seat buckle. Finally, one patent application filed by Boeing would provide a system for detecting volcanic ash within a jet engine.
In the United States, attorneys, judges and others have struggled for decades to determine when, if ever, computer programs or software should be eligible for patent protection. In the 1960’s the U.S. Patent Office declared that software could not be patented. Since then, a series of court decisions have rejected that view and established that one may definitely patent software in the U.S., although the exact requirements remain unclear and critics increasingly demand that it should not be patentable.
As a starting point, 35 U.S.C. §101 provides that any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or new and useful improvement thereof, is eligible for patent protection, subject to other requirements of the Patent Act (that is, §101 is just the threshold test for patentability). Congress has never stated any limitations to the patentable categories of §101 and case law has only recognized three categories of exceptions – subject matter that may not be patented: laws of nature, physical phenomena and abstract ideas. Computer software is often found to be ineligible on the ground that it comprises abstract ideas, but courts have struggled to provide a precise formula or definition for abstract ideas.