As the 2014 annual meeting of the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) continues, IPWatchdog also continues its coverage of groundbreaking inventions coming out of the halls and research facilities of America’s top academic institutions. Today we focus on Leland Stanford Junior University, more commonly known as Stanford University. Stanford is a private research university located near Palo Alto, CA, and boasts one of the most well developed and successful technology transfer programs in the country. But to be at the top of the tech transfer rankings that means Stanford is also committed to innovation in many forms and fields.
Our featured application today is evidenced that at least some of the research being developed by Stanford aims to improve American manufacturing. This patent application would protect a device that contains a plurality of electrodes that can create an adhering force to lift and move manufactured materials without damaging them. We also discuss a couple of patent applications related to medicine, including methods of generating ear cells from stem cells as well as better treatments for pulmonary fibrosis.
The University of California is the state’s public university system and it is comprised of 10 member institutions. This system has one of the strongest research and development operations of any American collegiate system; in 2011 alone, UC was responsible for 1,581 new inventions. Today, we’re getting a closer look at the recent patent applications and issued patents assigned to the Regents of the University of California by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. We’ve found an intriguing assortment of innovations in medical and industrial fields, and even the video game industry, coming out of these academic institutions.
The featured patent application for today’s column would protect a system of better capturing video game player motion for physical activities required of games. This system would make it harder for users to cheat these games and complete tasks without completing the physical motion the game asks users to perform. Other patent applications we discovered include better systems of creating useful stem cells and a more effective topical formula for acne treatment.
EDITORIAL NOTE: Each year February is Black History Month, but this year we will also mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. With this in mind we decided to do a series celebrating the important and innovative contributions of African-Americans. Earlier this month Eric Guttag wrote The Black Edison: Granville T. Woods. What is below is part 2 of his article on George Washington Carver. To read part 1 visit God’s Scientist: George Washington Carver. Later this month we also will take a look at recent innovations coming out of historically black colleges and universities. For more on this topic please visit black inventorson IPWatchdog.com.
George Washington Carver circa 1910.
Carver received a fair degree of recognition at Iowa State College as the only African-American with advanced training in agricultural science. He also enjoyed a fairly comfortable income considering his very humble upbringing. By being the only African-American with advanced training in agricultural science, many other universities also wanted Carver as a professor in that science.
Then one day in 1896 came a letter from Booker T. Washington, President of the fledgling Tuskegee Institute (its full name then was “Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute”). Booker T. Washington was a well-known and influential African-American educator, later to visit the White House at the invitation of then President Theodore Roosevelt. Like Carver, Booker T. Washington had been born into slavery and felt that African-Americans must be educated if they were to achieve economic, as well as racial equality in American society.
The last day of 2013 is now upon us, and as we look ahead towards another year which is sure to be full of intriguing new technologies, we also want to take a look back and remember a few of IPWatchdog’s favorite innovations from the past twelve months. All year, our Companies We Follow series has diligently scoured the issued patents and patent applications published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. We’ve profiled numerous inventions from corporations like Apple, IBM, General Electric, Sony, Samsung, Google, Siemens, Qualcomm and many more of the largest corporations in the world. We have also looked at universities, like the University of California, and we have done special edition articles that focused on Green Tech as part of our Earth Day 2013 mini-seriesand the future of Blackberry.
With other publications weighing in on their top picks for 2013 inventions, we wanted to take some time to discuss some of the best innovations we spotted during the past year. With that in mind we went through the aforementioned Companies We Follow series to pick some of the year’s best. This year, we’re taking a look at both issued patents as well as patent applications in a single article. While some of what follows may not be protected yet, they indicate a manufacturer’s research and development goals.
Using no other criteria than my own, this list of the Top 10 Innovations of 2013, which may include a surprise or sentimental choice here and there, shows some technologies that will likely become ubiquitous in time. Especially social media and networking innovations, as well as a couple of inventions that are meant to improve well-being and sustainability among human beings, likely have real staying power. From multi-user touchscreens to self-healing electrical grids to a robotic system, here’s what I found to be some of this most interesting inventions we stumbled across this year.
Telecommunications has been a major growth field in intellectual property for a number of technological firms. Today on IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, we’re taking a look at AT&T to see what developments we can expect from arguably the strongest American telecommunications corporation. As always, we have a great collection of patent applications and issued patents published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to show you what’s in store.
Our featured patent application today describes a system of preventing illegal and criminal activities on gaming networks by preventing predatory users from being able to come into contact with others who are susceptible. Also, this patent application indicates that the same gaming environments could be adjusted based on local user information to resemble that player’s local terrain. Other patent applications of note include a system of targeting emergency messages to an exact geographic location for affected mobile device owners, as well as a method for transmitting high-grade video data across a cellular network.
Earlier this month the Brazilian House of Representative outlined proposed changes to Brazil’s patent law in a report by the Center for Strategic Studies and Debates, titled Brazil’s Patent Reform: Innovation Towards National Competitiveness. Current efforts to amend existing intellectual property legislation in a number of emerging markets, including India, Brazil and South Africa, are mistakenly heralded as steps toward “fixing” the patent system. Prominent in the discussions of proposed changes are arguments against protecting incremental or improvement innovation. Couched in the pejorative language of “evergreening”, the arguments fail to recognize that all innovation is valuable, both breakthrough discoveries as well as improvements to existing therapies.
The proposed changes are misguided from a legal perspective as well as from a public health standpoint. Two widely-propagated fallacies must be countered: the patents protecting incremental innovations are not legitimate patents and that improvement innovations delay generic competition. Legally, improvement innovations must meet all patentability standards. Patents for improvements to existing technologies are only granted if they meet all of the legal requirements for patentability, as determined by a trained patent examiner. All patents require advances that are novel, useful and non-obvious. Clearly these characteristics may describe both incremental innovations as well as groundbreaking advances. Patents protecting incremental innovations are not an abuse of the intellectual property rights system, rather they protect valuable discoveries.
Moreover, patents for innovative improvements do not delay or prevent generic competition. The patent system allows for the production of generic copies of the initial innovation, even while the improved innovation is protected. Importantly, incremental innovations are usually launched at a discount and the resulting competition across drugs in a therapeutic class results in lower prices. In a 2000 study, DiMasi examines twenty new drugs, accounting for half of U.S. sales, launched between 1995 and 1999. The study shows that all but one of the follow-on drugs were discounted and sold at prices up to 70% lower than the pioneer drug.  Incremental innovation does not stymie competition; instead it has the potential to enhance it. In that context, it is important to recognize that improvement innovations may emerge from the original innovator, competing firms, or generic producers.
The Johns Hopkins University is a private university with heavy research operations that is headquartered in Baltimore, MD, with partner campuses in Singapore, China, Italy and Washington, DC. Medical research is a major focus for the institution, and in late September the university will hold its first annual Forum on Emerging Topics in Patient Safety. Recently, Johns Hopkins has risen to the 12th overall spot among national universities on U.S. News & World Report’s most recent college rankings, and its biomedical engineering program was ranked first overall among that degree program.
As students all over the country are getting back into the swing of things at school, IPWatchdog is taking some time to look at some of the best innovations coming from many of these national universities. Recently we looked at patent activity at the University of Californiaand patent activity at the University of Texas. Today, we’re taking some time to check out some of the most intriguing recent patent applications filed by the Johns Hopkins University with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Although the U.S. government holds certain rights in some of these developments because of funding, each of the following is assigned solely to the Johns Hopkins University.
The medical research university is heavily involved with developments for medical diagnostics, as many of the following applications show. One patent application describes a system of searching for similar images within a medical imaging database to aid in diagnosing issues. Another patent application would protect a system of developing a personalized library of tumor development indicators for cancer patients to determine if a cancer recurrence is forming. A third application discusses a method of analyzing albumin/peptide compounds in a patient’s plasma to determine if a blood flow issue exists.
The University of Texas System, headquartered in the state capital of Austin, is a network of nine academic campuses and six health institutions catering to more than 200,000 students. The UT System is currently looking to expand upon its existing medical facilities, having recently announced that a merger between two system campuses, the University of Texas at Brownville and the University of Texas-Pan American, and will break ground on construction of a new medical school in the Rio Grande Valley.
Member institutions of the University of Texas System are regularly involved with the development of technological inventions, especially those related to biomedical industries. Today at IPWatchdog, we’re taking some time to study the UT System’s recent patent applications and issued patents published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Some of these developments have received federal funding, giving the U.S. government some rights, but each of the following are solely assigned to the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System.
Many of the University of Texas’s medical developments involve the use of synthetic materials to aid in treating patients. One patent application would protect a scaffold for tissue engineering that biodegrades and delivers treatment over time. Another application describes a system of using nanoparticles to stimulate hyperthermia to treat tumors. A third application discusses an improved bioadhesive for sealing tissues together. Other patent application filings profiled below pertain to improved systems of diagnosing and treating diseases that usually cause a poor prognosis in patients. One patent application deals with a system of analyzing gene expressions to determine a patient’s susceptibility to renal cell carcinoma. A final application we feature provides for a more effective course of treatment for most gastrointestinal tract infections.
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