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Posts Tagged: "famous inventors"

Great Inventors are Industry Outsiders and Must be Protected

Every once in a while, a new invention changes an industry and sometimes even the world. In grade school, we all learned about some of these great inventions – the cotton gin, the lightbulb, the telephone, etc. Today, like no time in history, we are witnessing an explosion of innovation in every facet of life. Many of these inventions change the way we live our lives. But most of today’s great inventions are hidden behind touch screens or in the bowel of data centers. They are often not well understood, nor well known.

Lack of Internet Access Threatens American Innovation

As we celebrate World IP Day this week, the theme of which is “IP and SMEs [small and medium enterprises]”, we must remember that – from its founding – the United States’ economic success has depended on fostering an environment where innovators and entrepreneurs can dream big and achieve success. But that success is now at risk because our nation is lagging behind others in ensuring that everyone, everywhere, can access the most important tool of our time – the internet.

US Inventor Backs SCOTUS Petition to Clarify Claim Construction Principles

Inventor advocacy group US Inventor has filed an amicus brief in support of a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court asking the justices to clarify “[w]hether the Federal Circuit’s “heavy presumption” line of cases or its “holistic” line should govern claim construction. The petition was filed in December by Akeva, LLC, owner of a portfolio of athletic footwear patents, and is an appeal from a July 2020 nonprecedential Federal Circuit decision, Akeva, LLC v. Nike, Inc. In that case, the Federal Circuit upheld a district court’s grant of summary judgment of noninfringement to a number of defendants—including Asics, Nike, adidas America, Inc., New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc., and Puma North America, Inc.—finding in part that the district court had “correctly construed the claim term ‘rear sole secured’ to exclude conventional fixed rear soles.”

How Patents Helped Sprout the World’s First Plantable Pencil

It has likely been a while since most of even used a pencil – but would we use them more if they grew flowers, trees and herbs? Enter, Sprout World, a company founded on the concept of sustainability that credits patents as playing a large part in its success. In late 2012, Michael Stausholm, the company’s founder, happened upon a Kickstarter campaign launched by three MIT students for a pencil one could use and then plant in the ground to grow flowers, herbs, vegetables and even trees. “I saw it and thought it was a wonderful idea,” Stausholm says. “I had been working in sustainability for many years and everyone was talking about it, but what was it actually? The pencil was a wonderful way of illustrating the concept.”

Getting a Patent: The Devastating Consequences of Not Naming All Inventors

Naming the correct inventors is critical when drafting a U.S. patent. Patents must have all inventors properly named. Deciding who is an inventor is a complicated task and great care must be taken to not add or omit people who are not inventors. It is possible that failure to properly name the inventors could result in losing your patent or its value. If inventors have been improperly added or omitted, the patent must be corrected or it could be declared invalid.

The U.S. Patent System Works! Kind Of

Not too long ago, independent inventor Josh Malone finally received a settlement for willful infringement of his patents. He won in court and at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), and from what I’ve read, I know it was a long, hard fight, and the cost to litigate was in the tens of millions of dollars. But, he did it, and his product Bunch O Balloons continues to be a number-one hit summer toy. Licensing his invention to one of the fastest growing toy companies in the world (ZURU) clearly had its advantages for Malone. But what about the rest of us independent inventors? For the last decade or so, the patent system has not been in favor of the independent inventor. But has it ever been? I don’t think so.

An Inventor’s Guide to Enforcing Patents on a Budget

Patent litigation and enforcing patents can be cost prohibitive for many individual inventors and smaller businesses. Hourly rates at large firms may be out of reach for those with “not so deep pockets,” and most litigation funding companies either avoid patent litigation altogether or require a case valuation in the tens of millions of dollars. Enforcing your patent rights can be an expensive endeavor, but affordable options do exist.

This Thanksgiving: What Is the IP Community Thankful For?

This year has included many twists and turns for IP stakeholders, particularly on the patent side. Most recently, the Federal Circuit’s decision in Arthrex has called into question the constitutionality of Patent Trial and Appeal Board decisions, and perhaps the Board itself. Elsewhere, Congress has been—unsuccessfully—attempting to step in and clarify U.S. patent law since early in the year, while the courts have continued to muddy the waters of patent eligibility law. The Federal Trade Commission’s case against Qualcomm, and Judge Lucy Koh’s decision in the case, have further called into question the United States’ ability to compete on the innovation front going forward. And yet, there have been some wins in other areas this year, including at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and there remain many reasons to be hopeful about the year ahead. IPWatchdog asked some IP experts to share what they have to be thankful for on the IP front this Thanksgiving, despite all the uncertainty. Hopefully, as those of you who celebrate the holiday enjoy your Thanksgiving dinners, these sentiments will inspire you to be thankful too.

Separating Fact from Fiction in United States v. Levandowski

In August, the United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the Northern District of California charged a pioneer of self-driving car technology, Anthony Levandowski, with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets from Google under 18 U.S.C. § 1832 of the Economic Espionage Act (EEA). According to the indictment, Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 files containing critical information about Google’s autonomous-vehicle research before leaving the company in 2016. The indictment alleged that Levandowski then made an unauthorized transfer of the files to his personal laptop. Some of the files that Levandowski allegedly took from Google included private schematics for proprietary circuit boards and designs for light sensor technology, known as Lidar, which are used in self-driving cars. Levandowski joined Uber in 2016 after leaving Google when Uber bought his new self-driving trucking start-up, “Otto.” Levandowski has repeatedly asserted that he never disclosed the download, nor made use of the information while he was at Uber.

Congress Must Work to Understand the Language of Inventors

One of the more dramatic moments in my $20 million dollar patent brawl occurred in the pivotal preliminary injunction hearing at the courthouse in downtown Tyler, Texas. I learned that Walmart was coming to monitor the proceedings. I think they were curious to meet the crazy inventor who dared to sue the largest retailer on the planet. The proposal on the table was that I dismiss the suit with prejudice (i.e., drop the suit and waive all my rights) or else Walmart would never buy another product from my exclusive licensee, Zuru—no balloons, no robotic fish, no dart guns. Distraught, I hid in a side room and didn’t show for the meeting where my lawyers had advised me to capitulate. Curiosity heightened; the Walmart attorney unexpectedly suspended all demands and invited me to sit down and explain my point of view. I pointed to the infringing spiral-faced Battle Balloons and told her they were selling my invention without permission, thereby harming me and my family. The Walmart attorney was flummoxed and suggested that I didn’t understand how the patent system worked and was overreaching. Here I was claiming to have invented this apparatus that looked different than mine. It had a spiral face and mine was flat. This is the problem with our patent system; it is run by people who don’t understand invention. Think about it, we have to use this bizarre legal document not only to describe our discovery but to describe the boundaries of it. For inventors, there are no boundaries—why would we stop applying and extending our discoveries? We do our best to describe it, but in the end, non-inventors write and interpret the laws that determine our rights.

Seven Steps to Success in Business or Entrepreneurship

There really is no one-size-fits-all approach entrepreneurs and business executives can follow, and there is no roadmap to success that will work in all cases. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a number of things that can and should be understood, appreciated, and truly internalized if you are going to pursue any kind of economic engagement as more than a hobby, or to do more than merely punch a clock for a paycheck every other week. This is not to say that there isn’t anything wrong with making a few extra dollars as the result of a hobby, or being happy where you are, doing your job and then punching out at 5 o’clock. But if you want more, if you have hopes and dreams of building something from the ground up that is your own and will become your business, or climbing the corporate ladder to become a C-suite executive, you need to treat each business endeavor with an entrepreneurial mindset from the earliest stages. If you don’t, it will create all the wrong habits, and worse, it will create the wrong mindset. A mindset is a very difficult thing to change, and patterns become easy, comfortable and difficult to break.

Senate IP Subcommittee Witnesses Offer Solutions for Finding ‘Lost Einsteins,’ But Miss Opportunity to Discuss Broader Patent Problems

On the afternoon of Wednesday, April 3, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property held a hearing titled Trailblazers and Lost Einsteins: Women Inventors and the Future of American Innovation. The day’s discussion on the U.S. Patent and Trademark’s recent report on gender disparity in patenting rates covered much of the same ground as the House Intellectual Property Subcommittee’s hearing on the same topic from the previous week, although a new witness panel was able to provide some fresh perspective on the issues. However, there were arguably some instances where the witnesses either supported or acquiesced to policies that damage the patenting prospects for at least some female inventors.

First House IP Subcommittee Hearing of 116th Congress Addresses Ways to Increase Female Inventorship

Today, April 3, the Senate Subcommittee on Intellectual Property held a hearing titled Trailblazers and Lost Einsteins: Women Inventors and the Future of American Innovation—a topic that also was considered last Wednesday by the House Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet in their first hearing of the term. The House hearing was titled, Lost Einsteins: Lack of Diversity in Patent Inventorship and the Impact on America’s Innovation Economy and, like today’s Senate hearing, focused on a recent report on female inventorship released by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and featured testimony on how to improve rates of female inventorship from a collection of women in fields having strong ties to the U.S. patent system. Susie Armstrong, Senior Vice President of Engineering for Qualcomm, Inc., said that, for companies like hers that were trying to take the lead in 5G mobile networks and other areas of innovation, more great tech minds from underrepresented communities were needed. An inventor herself who helped create single packet data communications that allowed cell phones to access the Internet for the first time, Armstrong said that Qualcomm had produced educational initiatives like the Thinkabit Lab, which partners with school districts and libraries to encourage students to innovate in the Internet of Things (IoT) sector.

USPTO Report: Only Four Percent of Patents Name Women-Only Inventors Over the Last Decade

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) released a report on Monday that paints a rather dire picture for women inventors. The report, “Progress and Potential: A profile of women inventors on U.S. patents,” outlines trends in women inventors named on U.S. patents from 1976 to 2016. As of 2016, 21% of U.S. patents included at least one female inventor. In the 1980s, it was 7%. The picture is much worse, however, when considering patents where the only inventor is female, or where a group of all women are named. According to the report, “In the last decade, all-female invented patents constituted only about 4% of issued patents. Accordingly, the growth in women inventorship, as measured by the share of patents with at least one female inventor, is almost entirely due to women’s participation on gender-mixed teams.”

Keeping a Good Invention Notebook Still Makes Good Sense

It is worth remembering, however, that an invention notebook is not just for proving when you invented aspects of your invention, which will rarely if ever be necessary for the overwhelming majority of inventors now that the U.S. follows first inventor to file laws. An invention notebook or invention record is comprised of a collection of notes that will be critical for you as you progress down the invention path. While we might all like to flatter ourselves with how capable our memories are, you are likely to try so many different things that either fail or succeed to varying levels that days, weeks or months later you will not be able to remember every aspect of your efforts. This can and will lead to a need to recreate the wheel. So, keeping a good invention notebook is far more useful as a personal reference than it is for evidentiary reasons.