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.
Recently in the news you may have read that some are questioning the success, viability and wisdom of Universities owning patents, pushing back against University patent rights in order to raise a debate over the usefulness of the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980. While perhaps predictable it is rather sad given the unquestionable truth that Bayh-Dole has been extraordinarily successful. The Economist wrote: “Possibly the most inspired piece of legislation to be enacted in America over the past half-century was the Bayh-Dole act of 1980… More than anything, this single policy measure helped reverse America’s precipitous slide into industrial irrelevance.” Economist Technology Quarterly, Dec. 14, 2002. Lofty praise indeed, but the facts back up the claim.
The facts are overwhelmingly on the side of those who know and understand that Bayh-Dole has been a thorough and profound success. Indeed, if you actually look at the facts no one could ever objectively question whether Bayh-Dole is succeeding or has been good. Yet, year after year supposed experts and scholars choose to ignore the objective data and question whether we should go back to the way it used to be — back when no University technology was commercialized due to the enormous red-tape involved.
This isn’t just a philosophical debate. There is a right and a wrong answer, and to think that the New England Journal of Medicine would aline themselves with the clear and objectively wrong answer would be astonishing if it weren’t so predictable. The agenda of those who despite patents and the progress of science thanks to incentivizing behavior knows no boundaries.
Of course it would be wonderful to live in a world where self-interest takes a back seat to humanitarian efforts and altruism on all occasions; where financial incentives are not required to promote the greater social good. That, however, is not the world we live in and the regimes where this economic philosophy has been tried have unanimously faltered or failed. If we want maximum good for society pursuing a path that results in maximum good ought to be the agenda, not some pollyannish pursuit of the impossible because it feels better or fits into some pre-ordained social narrative that some deem acceptable. Failure for an altruistic reason is still failure, and when we are talking about the economy, jobs and hundreds of life saving treatments and cures the right thing is to do the most good. It is truly a pity that some would choose not to maximize social good simply because it means someone else will make money in the process.
One of the world’s foremost developers of home appliances and electronics systems is the Samsung Group, a conglomerate of many subsidiaries that is headquartered in the South Korean city of Seoul. The company has struck hard times of late, with Reuters reporting that the corporation plans to meet with shareholders to discuss strategies in the face of a 13 percent reduction in stock prices. However, its presence in the electronic device market has been strong as of late, and the company recently announced its plans to release a smartwatch device during the fall of 2013.
The IPWatchdog Companies We Follow series has profiled this South Korean electronics developer in the past, and we’re returning today for another check into the corporations recent operations. We’re profiling a collection of patent applications and issued patents from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office that discuss their various appliance developments that will likely be available soon in the consumer market. What we find is an eclectic mix of computer systems, display devices and even an automated vacuum cleaner.
Improved display devices are featured in a number of USPTO patent applications that we discuss in today’s column, and are an important focus for Samsung. One particular application would protect a display that is capable of providing a cleaner three-dimensional image, while another application would protect an LCD screen that can display a wider viewing angle for users. Other patents and applications we explore show the wide scope of Samsung’s development activities. One patent application describes a motorized robotic floor cleaner that can better clean under furniture. Another patent application has been filed for a system of providing personal health records to medical professionals in a way that better benefits patients. Finally, we look at a recently issued patent that gives Samsung protections over a system of simultaneously translating a voice message into a different language.
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.
Foreign manufacturers of automobiles include many companies with respected brand names within the industry. In fact, the top three automobile manufacturers based on number of vehicles produced in 2011 were Germany’s Volkswagen, Japan’s Toyota Motor Company and South Korea’s Hyundai. As these companies grow in strength and size, many of them, including Toyota and Germany’s Bayerische Motoren Worke, or BMW, are currently contemplating increasing factory operations in North America, especially in Mexico.
Last week we took a look at recent patents of the Big Three U.S. Automakers. Today, as part of our Companies We Follow series, we’re taking a look at a few foreign car makers to get an idea of what we can expect in upcoming vehicle models from overseas. We’ve researched patent applications and issued patents from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office to get some sense about the newest technologies coming from Toyota, BMW and Audi, also of Germany.
Some of these developments aid drivers and improve their routing while out on the road. An issued patent from the USPTO gives BMW rights over a system of broadcasting traffic data to inform drivers about optimal speed based on stoplight schedules and other drivers. An Audi patent application protects an adjustable front-facing camera that can scan various ranges in front of the car to determine obstacles. A Toyota patent application would protect a system of improving routing results based on road work or other road obstacles.
The American auto industry has dealt with trying times recently, most notably with the announcement of Detroit’s Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy. The state of Michigan is home to the group of auto manufacturers known as the Big Three: General Motors in Detroit, MI; Chrysler in nearby Auburn Hills, MI; and Ford, headquartered in Dearborn, a close suburb of Detroit.
However, these companies have been reporting strong gains in the face of larger economic problems plaguing their region. General Motors, having spent a year away from Super Bowl advertising, will be returning to that very recognizable collection of major marketing campaigns during the 2014 game. Current estimates are pricing a 30-second commercial spot at $4 million, up from $3.8 the year prior. Ford has also been showing off its corporate strength, especially in the European market, where a bounceback from corporate losses sustained last year has been increasing hopes for the company.
Today at IPWatchdog in the Companies We Follow Series, we’re looking at the Big Three to see what developmental goals these companies are planning for the future. Many deal with better systems of obtaining vehicle repairs. Ford has been issued a patent pertaining to online service scheduling for vehicle repair. As well, General Motors has filed a patent application for a system of vehicle repair that provides better resources than a typical service manual.