UPDATED Friday, March 29, 2013 at 3:30pm ET (see comment #1)
International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) is an international business technology consultant and developer headquartered in Armonk, New York. As the top patenting company for the last 20 years, every week you can expect to see at patents on computer systems and other technologies where IBM is the assignee. This past week IBM received over 120 patents, which is a fairly typical week for the company. Below are a few of the patents and patent applications that caught our attention for one reason or another.
Task management has increasingly become a digital job as it becomes more productive to employ remotely isolated workers on the same job or project. Media and data such as job instructions, video or even computer code for computer-controlled machines can keep business activities going without requiring all workers to be physically present.
IBM looks to improve the access to knowledge for task management applications by creating a system for identifying a task creator and likely task participants. Once these participants are identified, the computer system works to selectively delegate tasks and information to the members that the system deems most likely to participate in a specific activity.
Electronic device developer and manufacturer Apple Inc. has recorded another big week with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. On Tuesday, the California corporation was issued 36 patents, and the USPTO published another 32 patent applications on Thursday. Many of these prospective patents focus on better responses to user interactions, including new methods of music library visualizations and smarter microphone response to ambient sound. One of the patents issued to Apple protects a fiber optic cable connection that is self-cleaning.
Optical signals between electronic devices can be transmitted through fiber optic cables connecting the two devices. For example, a television can play DVDs if a DVD player has been connected to the television through a cable plugged into the proper jack input. With time, however, the plug can degrade in quality through scratches or from the buildup of dirt and other organic debris, affecting the signal transmitted through the cable.
The patent awarded this Tuesday to Apple protects a new design for a fiber optic cable connection that is not only cleanable but also self-cleaning. The ejector of this new plug connector pops the plug out of the jack with enough force that any debris remaining in the connector is also expelled. The new configuration is also designed to reduce scratching on the optical element of the cable connection, protecting the signal quality:
With only 11 patent applications published last week by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, this marks a meager week for Apple Inc. Of the patent applications published by the USPTO, three are interrelated applications for managing access to rights-protected digital media. Other patent applications pertain to improvements to internal computer systems, including temperature control and serial bus connectivity.
Digital rights management, or DRM, has long been a major concern among computer systems manufacturers. The pervasiveness of digital media content, and the ease with which media files can be shared among computers, has made it difficult to adequately compensate media creators for their digital products. In some cases, computer developers have created DRM software that restricts access to a single user.
Once again, 38 patents have been issued to the giant electronics manufacturer Apple Inc. of California. After a few slight weeks, Apple has enjoyed at least three weeks where they’ve been issued about 40 patents or so from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.
This week’s patents include a design patent awarded for a flat-screen monitor display, improvements to voicemail retrieval systems and digital image processing improvements that help retain image detail. Apple also has a very intriguing collaborative media playback patent that would allow multiple people to affect the music choices in a room directly from their electronic device.
The only design patent issued this week to Apple protects the shape of a flat-screen computer monitor for Apple’s iMac computer series. These computers function as desktops that include all of the hard drive and processing components within the monitor; only the mouse and keyboard components are external.
I am in New York City this week taping the new patent bar review course, which is a part of our effort to bring the course current with the latest changes in the law and rules that will begin to be tested starting April 2, 2013. After a long day of lecturing and preparing materials and writing questions, I had dinner and found myself sipping a drink at Randolph’s, which is the bar attached to the Warwick Hotel, where I stay when in New York City. Unwinding from the day I decided to catch up on news – for me that means reading Politico or The Hill typically. I learned that Rand Paul engaged in a filibuster over drone strikes and Jeb Bush is on a book tour and folks are speculating about whether he will run for President in 2016. But I also learned that the self-appointed anti-patent billionaire idiot – Mark Cuban – was at it again. I quietly asked for the check and excused myself from an otherwise enjoyable evening of relaxation. Mark Cuban is an idiot!
Mark Cuban, the flamboyant owner of the Dallas Mavericks, has said some truly ridiculous things about patents. Recently, he complained to Tech Crunch about patent lawyers that “make too much money,” which is something that only a truly out of touch billionaire could rationalize. Really? A capitalist billionaire complaining about anyone making too much money ought to be a bridge too far for anyone. But Cuban doesn’t stop there, he talks about “dumbass patents,” and how patents on things that others later figure out ought to be invalidated. As if hindsight doesn’t make everything obvious in retrospect. Seriously, if he really holds these thoughts it has to be a complete accident that he managed to become a billionaire.
But this time it wasn’t that Mark Cuban made this idiotic and completely indefensible statement about the patent system that got me started. Nevertheless, he is still to blame. You see, Julie Samuels is the “Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents” at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. What a title! The Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents? And folks are actually supposed to take this seriously?
In January 2013, Taiwan’s InnoLux Corp. filed an appeal with the Federal Circuit, requesting the Court to overturn an award of enhanced post-judgment (“ongoing”) royalties that appeared to be enhanced, at least in part, because the trial judge took offense at an out-of-court remark made by the defendant’s CEO, after losing at trial.
Specifically, in the case of Mondis Technology v. ChiMei InnoLux Corp., et al., No. 2:11-CV-378 (E.D. Tex. Sept. 30, 2011), a jury found InnoLux liable for infringing certain computer monitor patents and ordered it to pay $15,000,000 in damages, plus royalties of 0.5% per monitor sold in the final months prior to judgment, for which sales figures had not yet been available.
Following the verdict, the defendant’s CEO was quoted in a Taiwan newspaper as having said, “The issue of patent infringement is being taken too seriously sometimes.”
This week Apple had a total of 34 patents issued, including four design patents and a number of patents focusing on improvements to user interfaces on various Apple devices, such as a design patent on an icon (see bottom). Other patents obtained by Apple protect a new method of removing blemishes while still maintaining image quality and an illuminable laptop latch.
This patent represents a fairly substantial improvement to image editing processes, which has long been a staple of Apple systems. Graphic designers are able to retouch images in a number of ways already through computer software. However, removing unwanted marks and other blemishes from an image can be a burden as current blemish removal tools do not distinguish between different textures within an image. A user can take out a mark from an image, but if that mark crosses the boundary between two colors, those colors typically blend together and negatively impact image clarity.
On Thursday, February 31, 2013, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published 23 patent applications filed by California electronics development and manufacturing leader Apple Inc. Efficiency seems to be a buzz word this week, as many of the patent applications seek protections for methods of either more efficient component manufacturing or different computer-based methods of using system resources effectively, including IP address allocation. Also, one notable digital media patent application shows how Apple plans to improve video playback quality by reducing the bumps and jostles of handheld recording.
Camera lenses for video recording are practically ubiquitous among electronic devices manufactured today. These tools make up a large part of a device’s functionality, and many users spend a lot of time taking photos and video and uploading them to social networks or website servers like YouTube. Although these cameras are high quality and may include many megapixels, which increases the clarity of the resulting image, video captured on these devices typically shows a lot of unwanted camera motion, as the device is typically held in a user’s hands and not placed in a tripod.
This Thursday was a relatively quiet day for Apple published patent applications, as the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office only released 16 of the documents, which is a fair amount less than usual. Many of the applications listed here focus on improvements to media processing and storage, an area of computer systems which has long been a focus for Apple. Other patent applications include improvements to Mandarin Chinese language translations and methods of grading display screens for light leakage.
Language conversion software has been available for years and is widely accessible through the Internet. Current models of language conversion between any two written languages relies on statistical models of probability that help the software identify probable word combinations based on language used in the corpus, or a large body of texts used as a basis for proper language use in one language.
Two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, Bowman v. Monsanto and Association of Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics have much in common. Both involve companies that played by the rules using the patent system to develop products providing great social benefits. Both innovators find themselves in high stakes law suits with plaintiffs credited with representing the broad public interest whose bottom line is gaining cheaper access to important discoveries without being hampered by patents.
And both cases have ramifications for our nation beyond the interests of the targeted companies.
Bowman v. Monsanto involves a farmer who figured out how to get Monsanto’s patented seeds cheaper from a grain elevator than from the company. I won’t attempt to delve into the intricacies of the litigation or the doctrine of patent exhaustion, but do want to consider a larger point. What happens if our innovators lose confidence in the patent system? Some apparently believe this is a desirable outcome.
This week brought another large number of patents issued by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and assigned to Apple Inc. In fact, 38 patents were added to the Apple patent portfolio this week alone. A few of these patents relate to the efficient use of device resources, both system processing power and display screen space. Also, Apple finally receives a patent for one of its portable media players that has been on the market since 2010.
This patent protects Apple’s 4th-generation iPod Shuffle, originally introduced by the electronics device manufacturer back in September 2010. The application for this patent was originally filed as of late August 2010.
The patent’s background section describes many of the difficulties faced by Apple in the development of their line of iPod Shuffles. The Shuffle is designed to be an electronic device contained within a very small housing while fitting in the proper media player components. Even without a display screen, these components can become fairly cumbersome within a small device. The Shuffle has a click wheel that users may use to operate the device, instead of the touch-operated display found on many of Apple’s other items.
The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published 20 patent applications on Thursday, January 31 that are assigned to Apple Inc. Some very intriguing upgrades to digital media collaboration systems and cash transaction networks are among the many pieces of intellectual property that Apple is hoping the USPTO will protect. Also included is an easy accessory port to improve iPad usage and a system for associating images with geographical locations for easier map indexing.
Digital payment methods let people carry on their daily business without using much cash, sometimes going a few days with debit or credit cards. However, not all businesses can accept these cards as the fees for processing credit card payments can sometimes be prohibitive. Also, cash is also helpful when trying to split a dinner check or otherwise transfer money for personal transactions between friends.
The network described in this patent application processes cash transactions between two parties without needing any actual money present. The first party sends a cash request to a cash-dispensing server, which verifies that the user has the cash in a linked account and forwards that cash digitally to a recipient. A linked account for the second party is credited with that amount. A service fee could be charged to the party requesting the fund transfer as well.
How to Write a Patent Application is a must own for patent attorneys, patent agents and law students alike. A crucial hands-on resource that walks you through every aspect of preparing and filing a patent application, from working with an inventor to patent searches, preparing the patent application, drafting claims and more. The treatise is continuously updated to address relevant Federal Circuit and Supreme Court decision impacting patent drafting.
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