Apple Patent | "Apple files face recognition patent, iPad 3 rumors persist"

By: Eileen Yu
Category: Apple Patent

Apple Patent
Apple has filed a new patent application that would allow its iPhone and iPad users to access the device via face recognition.

According to Apple Insider blog, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week published the application which detailed a low-computation tool for recognizing users via their facial features.

iOS users with a forward-facing camera device would be able to customize their profile with personalized wallpaper, apps and settings, and access this profile when the device recognizes their face.

The application added that robust facial recognition systems that worked under various lighting conditions could be taxing on an electronic device and require resources that drained battery life.

Apple's technology would reduce the impact of lighting conditions and biometric distortions on an image. In its filing, Cupertino described a "low-computation solution for reasonably effective, low threshold, face recognition that can be implemented on camera-equipped consumer portable appliances".

Instead of analyzing a user's entire face which would consume time and resources, Apple's proposed patent would depend on "high information portion" of a human face, such as the eyes, mouth and tip of the nose. It would measure the distance between a user's eyes and mouth, and reference this against the original image to ascertain the identity of the user.

Because it consumes lower power, the face recognition function could be constantly active, potentially allowing users to turn on the screen and unlock their iOS device by pointing it at their face.

According to Apple Insider, Cupertino had first filed the patent in June 2009. The Apple dedicated news site added that the iPhone maker in September 2010 was rumored to have acquired Swedish facial recognition company, Polar Rose.

Embedding face recognition functions on mobile devices is not a new concept. More recently in Chicago, U.S., over 50 bars participated in the launch of a new app that allowed smartphone users to scout the bar scene using face detection software.

Pair of iPad 3 tablets to be released?
In other Apple news, Cupertino is rumored to be prepping the launch of two versions of its next-generation iPad tablets. According to a report Thursday by Taiwanese English daily DigiTimes, the launch is slated for Jan. 26 next year at the MacWorld|iWorld conference and will feature a high-end model with 8-megapixel camera as well as a mid-range version with 5-megapixel camera.

The rumored iPads would still feature 9.7-inch screens but would have retina display with a doubled resolution of 2,048 pixels by 1,536 pixels.

DigiTimes added that the new tablets were rumored to sport QXGA resolution with dual LED light-bars to boost the brightness of the display. It said Sharp would be a major panel supplier for the display of iPad 3, while Samsung and LG would also be manufacturing some panels.

Other sites, however, have dismissed DigiTimes' claims as baseless.

Jim Dalrymple from The Loop, another news site dedicated to Apple related developments, said: "These rumors are completely false. I checked with a number of my sources today and an iPad 3 is not planned for release at Macworld. In case you're wondering, an iPad 3 won't be released at CES (Consumer Electronic Show) either."

Apple Insider also described the DigiTimes as "questionable" since Apple in 2008 said it would no longer attend the Macworld and would instead unveil products at its own media events. Cupertino was indeed a no-show at Macworld Expo in 2009.


Apple Patent | "Apple may hurt shareholders with patent war"

By: Peter Burrows
Category: Apple Patent

Apple Patent
Company should take a leaf from Google's book and license its patents broadly, say experts.

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, told his biographer that he'd rather wage "thermonuclear war" with Google than make deals to share its technology with the maker of the Android operating system.

That was no empty threat. In the 18 months before Jobs died on October 5, Apple sued HTC, Samsung Electronics and Motorola Mobility, the three largest Android users. It alleged that the phone makers stole Apple's technology and asked courts to make them stop.

Now, as rulings start coming in, it might be time for a détente that helps Apple maximise the value of its patents, said Kevin Rivette, a managing partner at 3LP Advisors, a firm that advises on intellectual property. When courts side with Apple and impose bans on infringing products, competitors can often devise workarounds; in cases where Apple doesn't win import restrictions, it would be better off striking settlements that ensure access to a competitor's innovation, he said.

"A scorched-earth strategy is bad news because it doesn't optimise the value of their patents - because people will get around them," said Rivette, whose clients include Android licensees. "It's like a dam. Using their patents to keep rivals out of the market is like putting rocks in a stream. The stream is going to find a way around. Wouldn't it be better to direct where the water goes?"

Steve Dowling, a spokesman for Cupertino, California-based Apple, declined to comment for this story.

Early victories

For a time, Apple's strategy looked sound. In October, an Australian court banned the sale of Samsung's Galaxy 10.1 tablet in that country, and the US International Trade Commission agreed to consider an import ban on sales of certain HTC devices.

Then the tide began to turn. Apple suffered a setback November 30 when a higher Australian court overturned the ruling against Samsung. On December 22, a German judge said he was unlikely to uphold an import ban on a version of the Galaxy, which Samsung had modified in response to a ban on the original design.

The ITC gave Apple only a partial victory on December 19 by ruling that HTC had violated only one of four patents Apple said it infringed. The patent covered so-called data detection, a feature that helps users make a call, send an e-mail or find an address on a map with a single keystroke.

Can't last?

HTC decided to drop the feature. That's a significant loss for HTC, since the capability has come to be an expected part of using a smartphone. Still, the ruling reinforced predictions that Apple won't succeed forever in preventing Android rivals from selling gadgets with the now-familiar hallmarks of Apple's pioneering devices. These include touch screens and app stores.

Legal history isn't on Apple's side, said Marshall Phelps, former head of intellectual property at IBM and Microsoft.

"Nobody has ever kept competitors out of any market with patents," in part because software can usually be slightly changed to find a non-infringing alternative, he said.

Exceptions, he said, include an IBM patent that characterised the basic architecture of a computer and Texas Instruments's original patent for the integrated circuit, or computer chip. IBM was ordered by the US Department of Justice to license its patent, while Texas Instruments decided to do the same, which has resulted in billions of dollars in royalties, Phelps said.

Many of Apple's patents, by contrast, relate to the look and feel of devices or particular ways of using a machine, rather than a basic technology breakthrough.

Shift ahead

The question on the minds of many patent lawyers isn't whether Apple should adapt its legal stance, but when. For now, the company's approach is costing rivals millions of dollars in fees, distracting management and preventing them from emulating Apple's products more boldly, said Ron Epstein, a former attorney at Intel who now runs patent licensing firm Epicenter IP Group.

Apple's patent portfolio remains strong compared with those of rivals, thanks both to the innovations that went into groundbreaking products such as the iPhone and iPad, and to the effectiveness of Apple's legal department in obtaining patents for those innovations, said Christopher Marlett, chairman and co-founder of MDB Capital Group, an investment bank that advises companies on buying and selling patents.

"Apple has the patents, the money and the expertise to go to war," Marlett said. "I just don't see why Apple would seek détente, since they're the clear leader. Until they're hit with an injunction by Google or Samsung, they don't need to get serious about licensing."

Right back at you

Still, as more companies pour resources into the booming mobile-devices market, Apple should eventually cut deals to ensure access to rivals' innovations as well, Epstein said.

"How long can you beat everyone else over the head before they can do the same to me?" he said.

Tim Cook, who took over in August when Jobs announced he would be unable to come back as CEO, has many other ways to take advantage of the company's patent portfolio. The company could probably collect as much as US$10 in royalties for every device sold, more than the amount analysts speculate Microsoft receives from Samsung and HTC, which use its mobile technology, said Rivette at 3LP.

Other arrangements

With US$81 billion in cash and investments, Apple has little need for more. Instead, the company could pursue out-of-court settlements that would help it take on Android in other ways, Rivette said. The company could offer to drop its more than two dozen patent claims against Samsung in exchange for an agreement to hold off using Apple technology for six months or a year, he said. Cook could also try to get price breaks or guarantees that would give it greater access to Samsung parts, Rivette said.

Apple and Samsung also could agree to focus on different parts of the market. For example, Apple might make iPad-sised devices while agreeing to stay out of the market for smaller devices with 7-inch displays that could compete with's new Android-based Fire tablet, Rivette said.

If Apple agreed to let Samsung include Apple's proprietary iTunes software in such a device - an unprecedented and unlikely step, he said - Samsung's sales would probably increase. That would help slow gains by Amazon, whose push into hardware makes it a threat to Apple. The move also would make Samsung more reliant on Apple, lessening its dependence on Google.

'Divided loyalties'

"If I'm Apple, I want divided loyalties" from Android licensees, Rivette said. "At this point, it would make more sense for Apple to build an ecosystem that everyone can live in. If you're going to license, why not go for the big deal where you lock down supply chains, get your technologies broadly adopted and slow down competitors? That is the game."

Apple should pursue such settlements soon, before it winds up in need of other companies' technology, Rivette said. The ITC is expected to rule in September on an import ban on Apple and Research In Motion's mobile devices, for improper use of a photo preview feature patented by Eastman Kodak.

If the Commission decides there was infringement of the Kodak patent, Apple would need to settle the dispute by licensing the technology or buying some or all of Kodak's patent portfolio to continue selling its products in the US Because Kodak has been actively trying to sell its portfolio of 1100 patents in recent months, Apple runs the risk that they may be purchased by Google, Samsung or another competitor.

Google maps

While Apple is working on its own location-tracking technology, many iPhone and iPad users now rely on Google mapping tools to get directions or find the nearest coffee shop, by way of a partnership between Apple and Google that predates the rise of Android. Nokia, Microsoft and Skyhook also hold valuable patents for tools that keep tabs on a device's whereabouts. Apple has made little headway in social networking and may need deals with companies such as Facebook to add features that help users connect with one another.

"If Apple wanted to get into social networking, they'd have a big problem," said Ron Laurie, managing director of Inflexion Point Strategy, a Palo Alto, California-based intellectual property consulting firm.

Working toward settlements sooner would help Apple and its rivals maintain the fast pace of innovation that has fueled the mobile-device market, he said.

"At some point, there has to be some kind of settlement, some kind of peace," Laurie said.


Patent News | "Official: Patent licensing grows with innovation"

By Wang Xin (China Daily)
Category: Patent News

Number soars to 10,000 from just 118 agreements

As more innovation is developed and available, patent licensing is expected to show strong growth in China, according to a senior official at the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO).

Cao Donggen, vice-director of SIPO's patent administration department, told a conference in Beijing on Dec 22 that an increasingly active licensing trade has emerged due to new patent alliances and IP firms in big cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong.

In 2007, just 118 patent licensing agreements were filed with SIPO. The number has surged to around 10,000 annually since 2008.

Official: Patent licensing grows with innovation

The growing capability of companies to use the intellectual property system, as well as the rising number of applications and improved patent quality, have laid the groundwork for the licensing trade, Cao said.

SIPO received more than 391,000 patent applications last year as China moved to second place globally.

International patent filings from China under the Patent Cooperation Treaty comprised 7.6 percent of the world's total, fourth following the United States, Japan and Germany.

Internationally, patent royalty and licensing fees increased from $2.8 billion in 1970 to about $180 billion in 2009, outpacing growth in global GDP, according to "The Changing Face of Innovation", a report released by the World Intellectual Property Office in mid-November.

"There is far less data on domestic IP transactions, but selected company information confirms this trend," the report says.

The explosion in patent applications in China will help the country become the world's second largest patent market after the United States, Yuan Jiann-Jong, a senior IP consultant from Taiwan, said at the meeting.

Bargaining chip

Just as raw materials are necessary for production, entrepreneurs should accept that it is normal to pay for patents as a needed component, he said.

"While research institutions explore frontier studies, generating patents that are licensable as a business needs a clear view of customer needs."

And like antique experts who can distinguish the true article from a fake, venture capital funds undertake due diligence to recognize what patents are marketable and worthy of investment, he noted.

Firms focused on investing in patent portfolios are like "arsenals" that provide "useful resources", Yuan said, adding that patents can serve as "a bargaining chip for commercial competition and market position".

Corporate moves

Different from intermediary firms specializing in IP, industrial companies are more concerned about how to incorporate IP assets into their routine production.

Global technology powerhouse IBM Corp has made more investment in intellectual property than for tangible assets in the past decade, said Zhang Yan, legal director of IP affairs for IBM's Asia-Pacific operations.

IBM's IP tactics are at the core of its strategic development plans, Zhang said.

The company earns $1 billion a year from intellectual property, including patent transfers, licensing, and joint research and development programs, she added.

China's telecommunication giant Huawei Technologies has just set off in that direction and is generating millions of dollars yearly in patent revenue, said Fan Zhiyong, vice-director of the company's IP department.

Huawei seldom had patent deals before 2009 unless other companies came to its door seeking cross licensing.

But the attitude has now changed.

"We are now more active in exploring cross-licensing probabilities, and establishing patent pools to increase transparency and control costs," Fan said.

He cited Huawei's participation with South Korea in a transnational patent pool for wideband audio to illustrate benefits that patent operations have brought to the company. Huawei received the largest royalties of any licensing company in the program.


Patent News | "Yahoo's unit Overture Services Inc faces patent roadblock for paid-search technology"

By: Sanjay Vijayakumar & Sangeetha Kandavel
Categoty : Patent News

CHENNAI: In a setback to internet major Yahoo, the Intellectual Property Appellate Board in Chennai has rejected a patent filed for a paidsearch technology by its unit, Overture Services Inc, after opposition from India.

A victory for Yahoo would have given the company the right to legally challenge the use of similar technologies by rival websites, including Rediff.Overture's technology has been patented in the US but has failed to get clearance in Europe and now in India.

It was in 2004 that Overture first applied for a patent in India and failed. Then, it was objected to by Rediff, which said there's no novelty in the model and that it is just a computer system. The case then moved to the Intellectual Property Appellate Board.

"The ground of refusal is that the said patent is a business method and hence prohibited from being patentable under Indian patent laws," said GK Muthukumaar of GMS Law Associates, who along with Sunita Sreedharan, appeared for Rediff. "So now Rediff or for that matter any one else in India and Europe are free to use the said patent concept and it would not amount to infringement of Yahoo's patent rights," he pointed out.

Yahoo couldn't be immediately reached for comments. Feroz Ali Khader, counsel for Yahoo, had argued that similar patents have been granted to search market leader Google. But the Tribunal rejected this line of argument.

"We are not going into the question whether Google ought to have been granted the patent or not," said Prabha Sridevan, chairman, and DPS Parmar, technical member (patents). "We have found that this (Overture's) invention cannot be granted patent.

However, it cannot be disputed that there should be a uniform practice, when similar inventions come up for grant of patent." They further said, "If indeed the Patent Office had been adopting different standards, it is not desirable. If the patents granted to Google suffer from the same vice then as and when the question arises it will be dealt with." It was after it bagged patent for this technology in the US that Yahoo bought it for $1.63 billion.

As per Overture's technology, search lists are based on advertiser's bids. For example, Toyota comes top in a search, after having agreed to pay 2 cents for anyone clicking on its list. Honda, then, could choose to pay 3 cents per a click and rise above Toyota in listings. Foreign media had pointed out how Microsoft's interest in Yahoo owed a lot to what Overture brought to the table.


Patent News | "High stakes fueling patent wars"

No clear victor as firms fight it out in court

By: Hiawatha Bray
Category: Patent News

A patent lawsuit won last week by iPhone maker Apple Inc. represented a single victory in a global legal war, with giant corporations fighting for control of the technologies behind smartphones and computers, potentially resulting in less appealing devices or higher prices for consumers.

Technology firms like Google Inc., Samsung Corp., Microsoft Corp., and especially Apple - which is one of the most active combatants - are embroiled in about 100 patent lawsuits in at least 10 countries. The stakes are high: potential domination of the multibillion-dollar market for smartphones, tablet computers, and the software that runs them. One successful lawsuit could generate millions in patent licensing fees for the victor, or it could force a rival firm to modify the way its devices work - even removing features users treasure.

So far, no company has landed a knockout blow. But Apple, creator of the popular iPhone, has scored a number of victories over the makers of phones using Google’s competing Android software. The result: a series of small, but significant limitations on the functions of Android phones.

Last Monday, the US International Trade Commission said Taiwanese phone maker HTC violated an Apple patent covering a relatively minor feature: the ability of a user to add an e-mailed phone number to his list of contacts with one touch.

The ruling applies only to phones made by HTC, but because the feature is built into many Android phones from other manufacturers, it could ultimately cause all of them to eliminate the feature.

HTC has said it will comply with the ruling by eliminating the feature from its phones. But a Google official, speaking on background, said his company has no immediate plans to drop the feature from its Android software.

And that is one small example of what control over a single patent can mean. Apple has also sued Samsung Corp. in California over a patented iPhone feature that makes the phone’s list of contacts seem to “bounce’’ when the user scrolls to the bottom. Samsung’s Android phones used to do the same thing, but even though the case is still pending, Google has already changed the software, replacing the bounce effect with an orange glow.

In another example with far greater potential effect than the removal of a simple feature, Apple in August won an injunction in a Dutch court that would have banned the sale of several Samsung smartphones in Europe. The court ruled that Samsung had infringed an Apple patent governing the way pictures are displayed in the phone’s photo gallery. Again, Samsung had incorporated a “bounce’’ effect similar to Apple’s when users dragged images across the screen. Samsung has since changed the photo gallery software to comply with the court’s ruling.


Patent News | "Patent firm sues German retailers over HTC phones"

By: The Economic Times
Category: Patent News

FRANKFURT: Patent firm IPCom has sued German retailers for patent infringement for continuing to sell phones made by HTC, the No. 4 smartphone maker globally.

A court in Mannheim, Germany, ruled in February 2009 against HTC in a patent fight with IPCom, allowing an injunction against sales of HTC phones using UMTS technology and setting a penalty of up to 250,000 euros ($326,000) each time the injunction was violated.

All HTC smartphones use UMTS technology. After HTC dropped an appeal of the ruling, a court in Karlsruhe, Germany, in late November said the injunction against HTC smartphone sales in Germany could be enforced.

IPCom said in a statement on Thursday that it sent 100 retailers cease and desist requests on Dec. 6, asking them to stop selling HTC's 3G handsets by Dec. 20.

"Since this deadline has passed without any of the retailers complying, IPCom has sued them for infringement of patent #100A themselves," IPCom said, adding so far it has sued around 30 retailers.

The legal battle could cost HTC millions of euros and hurt its relations with retailers in one of its key markets.

The company sells around 2 million smartphones a year in Germany, some 4 percent to 5 percent of the group's total, according to research firm IDC.

"This poses another challenge for HTC in managing confidence of key distribution partners -- a further reminder of the destabalisation effect patent claims threaten to exert on the industry in 2012," said Geoff Blaber, analyst at research firm CCS Insight.

HTC said the #100a patent has never been found to have been infringed by its phones in any court of law and that it was confident the patent would be revoked at a hearing of European Patent Office on April 24, 2012.

"HTC once again confirms its position that its phones do not make use of the teaching of that patent," the company said. "HTC is committed to protecting its partners' and customers' interests."

Earlier this week HTC lost a patent case against Apple Inc in the United States, the market that generates half of its revenues. HTC said that it could soon replace phones with the disputed technology with new models.

IPCom acquired Bosch's mobile telephony patent portfolio, created between the mid-1980s and 2000, which includes about 160 patent families worldwide, including some of the key patents in the wireless industry, such as patent 100, which standardises a cellphone's first connection to a network.

Several of the top phone makers have signed a licensing deal with IPCom, but HTC and Nokia have challenged IPCom's technology patents in courts across Europe.

IPCom said by continuing to use its patents without paying a fair compensation IPCom could in the future legally refuse HTC a licence for its standard-essential patents.


Patent News | "China surpasses US, Japan in number of patents filed"

By: Liau Yun Qing
Category: Patent News

For the first time, China has emerged the top patent filing nation overtaking the United States and Japan,  and the number of patents filed in the country is expected to grow faster than others.

Citing research by Thomson Reuters, news wire Reuters reported on Wednesday that China had surpassed the United States and Japan as the nation with the the highest number of patents filed in 2011, but no details were provided for the year. Domestic patent applications in China grew to nearly 73 percent of total applications in 2010, growing from less than 52 percent in 2006. This indicated that Chinese companies were overtaking overseas companies in patent applications, said the report.

Published applications from China's patent office grew at an average 16.7 percent yearly from 171,000 in 2006 to about 314,000 in 2010, said Reuters, quoting figures from the Thomson Reuters Derwent World Patents Index. The report noted that during this period, Japan filed the most patent applications, followed by the United States, China, Korea and Europe.

Thomson Reuters projected that China in 2015 would clock almost 500,000 patent applications, while the United States would file about 400,000 patent applications followed by Japan with almost 300,000. "The striking difference among these regions is China [which] is experiencing the most rapid growth, and is poised to lead the pack in the very near future," the report noted.

China has been trying to shed its market from a "Made in China" to "Designed in China" image, with the government focusing on driving innovation in industries such as automobiles, pharmaceuticals and technology. Citing legal experts, the Reuters article said Chinese government had been providing "attractive incentives" to Chinese companies to file patent applications, regardless of whether the patent would be eventually granted.

Subsidizing patent is a "blunt instrument" as the move will produce a high number of patent filings, but does not guarantee the quality of the patents, Elliot Papageorgiou, partner and executive at law firm Rouse Legal China told Reuters. "The return, or the percentage of grants, of the patents is still not as high in China as, say, in the U.S., Japan or some places in Europe."

In February this year, Asia became the biggest patent-filing region but market observers told ZDNet Asia that businesses would benefit more if they better understood patent filing system.


Microsoft Patent | "Microsoft scores patent win over Motorola Android phones"

By: Geoff Duncan
Category: Microsoft Patent

Microsoft Patent

A judge has ruled Motorola's Android phones infringe on a Microsoft patent, marking Redmond's first win over Android. But six other infringement claims didn't stand up.

Microsoft has won a bit of a victory in its patent infringement suit against Motorola, with an administrative law judge at the U.S. International Trade Commission ruling that Motorola Android phones violated one of seven Microsoft patents. The patent in question covers synchronizing calendars and scheduling events on a mobile device, and is part of Microsoft’s ActiveSync technology. However, the administrative judge’s ruling also leaves six of Microsoft’s patent infringement claims out in the cold, meaning Microsoft gets to chalk up a win—but just barely.

Both sides were upbeat about the decision, with Microsoft asserting the ruling validates the company’s claims and its controversial Android licensing program, which currently has more than half of Android device makers paying royalties to Microsoft. Motorola’s refusal to pay license fees to Microsoft for Android devices was one of the precipitating factors in the suit.

“As Samsung, HTC, Acer and other companies have recognized, respecting others’ intellectual property through licensing is the right path forward,” said Microsoft deputy general counsel David Howard, in a statement.

Motorola spun the decision as a victory for its claims, noting the ruling cleared Motorola from infringing on six of seven claims.

“We are very pleased that the majority of the rulings were favorable,” said Motorola Mobility senior VP and general counsel Scott Offer, in a statement. “The ALJ’s initial determination may provide clarity on the definition of the Microsoft 566 patent for which a violation was found and will help us avoid infringement of this patent in the U.S. market.”

The ruling is preliminary, with a final ruling from the full six-member ITC panel not expected to come down until April 20, 2012, after which there’s another 60-day review period where Motorola could take its case directly to President Obama. Even if the infringement claim holds up, the delay before the final ruling gives Motorola Mobility plenty of time to retool its Android devices to avoid infringement claims and keep its devices on sale on the United States. Markets outside the U.S. won’t be affected by the ruling either way.

Motorola is also suing Microsoft for patent infringement in several markets, including claims against Exchange, Outlook, Messenger, Bing maps, Wi-Fi, video encoding, and graphical password technologies used in the Xbox 360. Those claims have yet to be adjudicated.

Google is in the process of acquiring Motorola Mobility, ostensibly to bring Motorola’s patent portfolio on board and protect Android from first patent infringement claims.


HTC Patent | "HTC Has Workaround for Feature that Violates Apple Patent"

By: Paul Mozur
Category : HTC Patent

TAIPEI—HTC Corp. Chief Executive Peter Chou said the company has developed a workaround for the feature on its smartphones that the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled had violated an Apple Inc. patent.

The workaround for the feature—a common function on smartphones that allows users to extract information such as phone numbers and addresses from emails to make phone calls or look up a locations on a map—suggests the Taiwanese manufacturer of phones that run on Google Inc.'s Android operating system won't suffer a decline in sales as a result of the ruling. The trade commission had given the firm an April deadline to remove the feature or develop a workaround.

HTC shares closed up by the 7% daily limit at 509 New Taiwan dollars (US$16.83) as the ruling lifted much of the uncertainty that was weighing on the shares—which had declined about 60% since April—and was a better result for the company than investors had expected.

The Android platform faces a rash of legal challenges from Apple against suppliers such as HTC and Samsung Electronics Co., and it remains to be seen whether the ITC will rule that a more fundamental feature of Android violates Apple patents in other cases.

Mr. Chou said the company had already removed the feature from its phones following the ruling Monday.

The executive made the remarks at a joint news conference with Google Mobile Senior Vice President Andy Rubin, who said the ITC decision was encouraging because Apple's complaints that more fundamental parts of the Android operating system had violated its patents weren't upheld.

"The majority of these patents [in Apple's complaint against HTC] were claimed in the operating system itself, but actually in this case what was some user interface feature of an application, not the operating system itself, so that's why I'm very optimistic in basically my desire to achieve patent peace on the overall platform," Mr. Rubin said.

He added that the ruling is just the beginning of a battle over intellectual property that will extend for several years and that he doesn't believe the patent system in the U.S. works for software innovation.


Apple Patent | "Apple scores limited victory in smartphone patent war"

By: Clare Jim and Poornima Gupta
Category: Apple Patent

Apple Patent
(Reuters) - Apple Inc scored a narrow victory against Taiwan's HTC Corp in a patent lawsuit over smartphone technology that will set the stage for further battles between rival makers in the fiercely competitive market.

In a case seen as a proxy for a larger fight between Google Inc's Android operating system and Apple's iOS, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that HTC infringed on one of four patents Apple had disputed and imposed a sales ban on some of the Taiwan maker's phones.

While the ruling is unlikely to hurt HTC as much as initially feared because it will have time to work around the offending technology and has until April before the ban becomes effective, it offers Apple ammunition to pursue other makers it believes infringe on its technology.

"This is one skirmish in one battle, which is forming a much larger war and each side has got some ammunition left," said David Wilson, a London-based partner at the intellectual property group with Herbert Smith LLP.

The patent in question, '647, relates to technology that helps users clicking on phone numbers and other types of data in a document, such as an email, to either dial directly or click on the data to bring up more information.

As it is widely used in almost all smartphones, industry experts foresee similar rulings should Apple bring other cases.

"With this ITC ruling, I think other phone companies are all scratching their heads now as to how to resolve the same technology they are using," said Melvin Li, a Hong Kong-based patent agent and counsel consultant at U.S. IP law firm Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesitic PC.

Li said he expected courts in other jurisdictions such as Canada, Australia and Europe to rule similarly on the patent.

Smartphone and tablet technology has already spawned a wealth of patent litigation.

HTC has countersued Apple and is also fighting a patent case in Germany. Microsoft Corp and Motorola Mobility also have lawsuits against each other.

Apple's battle with Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, which also uses Android software and is a supplier as well as competitor, has been especially bitter, with some 30 legal cases in 10 countries.


Apple's founder, the late Steve Jobs, was quoted in his biography as saying that he was going to "destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."

But the Android system dominates the Asia-Pacific ex-Japan smartphone market with a 53 percent share this year versus 15 percent for Apple's iOS, according to technology research company IDC, and Android is not likely to lose much ground.

"We still expect a lot of momentum around Android and especially with Ice Cream Sandwich out now," said Bryan Ma, a Singapore-based analyst with IDC, referring to the name for the latest version of Android. "It's not really a lawsuit issue. Those are going to continue on the background anyway."

Apple had initially accused HTC of infringing 10 patents, but six were dropped from the case. The ITC judge then issued a preliminary ruling that HTC infringed two of the remaining four before issuing the final ruling on one patent.

The U.S. trade agency imposed a formal import ban on any HTC phones that infringe on the patent, starting April 19, 2012. HTC gets almost half its revenue from the U.S. market, but may not be hurt too much because the ruling gives it time to launch products that avoid the technology in question.

"It's a limited victory for a variety of reasons," said Peter Toren, an intellectual property litigator and partner with the Shulman Rogers law firm in the United States.

"It gives HTC plenty of time to implement a design-around, which I understand they are already working on," he said. "The order does in fact take effect in April, but the practical impact won't be felt for some months after that."


Shares in HTC rose by the daily maximum allowed 6.97 percent in Taipei trading on Tuesday, also helped by a company announcement that it would buy back 10 million of its shares.

HTC said the ruling was a win for it.

"We are very pleased with the determination and we respect it. However, the '647 patent is a small UI experience and HTC will completely remove it from all of our phones soon," Grace Lei, HTC's general counsel, said in a statement.

Apple spokeswoman Carolyn Wu said of the ruling: "We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."

But HTC may not be fully out of the woods yet.

It has struggled recently after slashing its fourth-quarter revenue guidance due to stiff competition and concerns still linger over whether it can convince investors it sill has the innovative streak that catapulted it from an obscure contract maker to a top brand.

"I have a negative and bearish view (on HTC)," said Yuanta Securities analyst, Bonnie Chang. "I expect its first quarter will still not be good because U.S. phone operators will worry about the injunction and will not pull in inventory until HTC's new models are approved."

She said the new phones have to prove competitive enough to regain market share because rivals Samsung and Motorola Mobility are selling very well in the fourth quarter.


Samsung Patent | "Samsung expands patent row with Apple in Germany"

By: Ju-min Park
Category: Samsung Patent

Samsung Patent
(Reuters) - Samsung Electronics has filed new claims in its patent war with Apple Inc over alleged patent infringements in Germany, a spokesman for the company said on Monday.

The tech giant added four patents to its ongoing infringement case related to the telecommunications standard technology WCDMA for 3G mobile handsets, which was filed in April, the spokesman said.

The four new complaints, including use of emoticons, come as the worldwide patent battle between Apple and smartphone rival Samsung continues to escalate.

"(Samsung) made four more claims; two are standard-related patents and the other two are utility patents. And a court said it would make these claims separate from the April lawsuit," the spokesman said.

On Friday, a regional German court in Mannheim held a hearing on the April case, saying it would announce a ruling on March 2, the Samsung spokesman said.

Samsung won a round of its bruising global patent fight when an Australian court lifted a ban on the sale of its Galaxy table computer earlier in December.

But the South Korean tech giant's victory was tempered by a setback the previous day in Paris, where another court turned down its bid to block sales of Apple's iPhone 4S in France.


Apple Patent | "Apple, Samsung Face Hurdles in Patent Suits, Judge Says"

By: Karin Matussek
Category: Apple Patent

 (Updates with hearing details starting in seventh paragraph.)
Apple/ Samsung Patent

Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co., which sued each other in a German court over technology used in tablets and mobile phones, both face hurdles in showing the patents they assert cover the methods used, a judge said.

Samsung sued Apple over mathematical coding procedures in processors. Apple sued Samsung over features for unlocking touch screens. Each may have trouble showing the other is violating the patents, Presiding Judge Andreas Voss in Mannheim, Germany, said today at two hearings.

“What you call an ingenious mathematical solution doesn’t seem to be reflected in the patent,” Voss told Samsung’s lawyers. To Apple’s he said, “Your patent speaks of a displayed pre-determined path on the touch screen, but where’s that displayed in the Samsung devices?”

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, and Samsung, the world’s largest maker of mobile phones, are clashing in German courts over smartphone devices. Apple, the world’s largest technology company, won a temporary ruling earlier this year banning sales ban of its competitor’s Galaxy 10.1 tablet, invoking a design right.

Both will also meet next week when a Dusseldorf appeals court hears the Galaxy 10.1 tablet case. A lower court is scheduled to hear another suit by Apple seeking a ban on sales of a Galaxy tablet model.

Qualcomm Processors

Samsung told the court today that it didn’t want its suit to extend to Qualcomm Inc. processors. Apple reacted by asking the court to consider that move as dropping part of the suit. The court hasn’t decided on that motion.

Earlier today Samsung expanded its suit by introducing two additional patents into the case. The court decided to handle them separately as two additional cases.

Apple may not be in violation of Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung’s patents because its devices read numbers from a table to get the same coding effects, Voss said, adding that the Samsung patent speaks about “generating” a code.

Apple’s patent protects screen saver designs that are used to unlock devices. Voss said the patent requires that the design follow a path that is displayed. Holding up a Samsung Tablet 1, the judge said the device uses two triangles that need to be connected by a swipe and no pre-determined path for that is displayed.

“Apple argues that those two points are the start and the finish so they are determining such a path,” he said. “Well, that’s like pointing from the parking lot at the start of a hiking trial to the top of a mountain and saying: now you know your hiking path, because you know the start and finish.”

The court scheduled a ruling in Samsung’s suit for March 2 and in Apple’s suit for Feb. 17.

Today’s cases are LG Mannheim 7 O 326/11 (Samsung v. Apple) and 7 0 247/11 (Apple v. Samsung).


Google Patent | "Google Patents 'Landing Strip' for Self-Driving Cars"

By: Mark Hachman
Category : Google Patent

Google Patent
Google has successfully patented a "landing strip" technology for its self-driving cars, providing a method for the cars to automatically slip into autonomous mode and find parking spots.

The "landing strip" appears to be little more than an embedded sensor in the ground, whether it be a radio, QR code, or some other means of transferring information to the car. The key, however, is the information and how the car uses it.

The patent, first noted by TechRadar, was approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Dec. 13.

Google first disclosed its self-driving car in Oct. 2010, already in an advanced stage of development. In October, Google's Sergey Brin, who is overseeing the autonomous car as part of his focus on developing research, said that technical challenges remain, as well as simply gaining permission from states to allow self-driving cars across their roadways.
Google Self-Driving Car Landing Strip Patent

Brin reported in October that his teams have already driven more than 1,000 miles without the need for a driver to manually take control of the vehicle, but that an aggregate total of 1 million miles was necessary. Sebastian Thrun, who leads the dedicated car team at Google, wrote that Google's cars have driven more than 200,000 miles without an accident.

Google's latest patent suggests a scenario where the car would actually stop and transition from an autonomous mode to a user-controlled mode. An image accompanying the patent suggests Google would use a giant QR code that could be painted on the roadway and scanned optically, although the patent text suggests that a RF, cellular connection, or other medium could be used. Google's cars use GPS technology to orient themselves, but in certain cases a GPS signal may not be accessible.

The landing "strip" could also be a parking spot, where an electric vehicle could charge.

Google also suggests that the landing strip could either contain a request to download new instructions, or communicate new data within the strip itself. Although Google uses lasers and other devices to detect objects and determine its own location, the patent suggests that it could update its databases, or receive instructions to move 100 feet forward, turn left 20 degrees, and proceed forward 100 feet.

"For example, the autonomous vehicle may be used as a virtual tour guide of Millennium Park in Chicago," the patent states. "In the example embodiment, the vehicle may have an instruction to drive to the Cloud Gate (Silver Bean) sculpture at Millennium Park. When the vehicle arrives, the autonomous instruction may tell it to wait in the location for a predetermined amount of time, for example 5 minutes. The instruction may then direct the vehicle to drive to the Crown Fountain at Millennium Park and again wait for 5 minutes. Next, the instruction may tell the vehicle to drive to the Ice Rink at Millennium Park and wait for another predetermined amount of time. Finally, the vehicle instruction may tell the vehicle to return to its starting position."

"In some embodiments, the vehicle instruction may be a fixed instruction telling the vehicle a single route and timing for the route," Google's patent added. "In another embodiment, the autonomous instruction may be a list of possible instructions presented to a human in the vehicle. The human may be able to select a point of interest and the vehicle will responsively execute the associated autonomous instruction. In a further embodiment, the vehicle instruction is a single command telling the vehicle to drive itself to one specific location."

One aspect that the patent apparently does not cover: using the landing strip as a transition from a self-driving region to a region where the user would need to take control of his or her own vehicle, such as a transition off of a freeway into a residential neighborhood.


Apple Patent | "Apple-HTC patent case faces further delay at ITC"

By: Don Reisinger
Category: Apple Patent

Apple Patent
HTC will be forced to wait a bit longer to hear what the US International Trade Commission has to say about its case with Apple.

The handset maker said on Wednesday that the ITC has delayed handing down its ruling until Monday. Wednesday's court date was set after the ITC delayed a ruling on 6 December. The Wall Street Journal was first to report on the delay.

Apple first filed suit against HTC in March 2010, alleging the company copied technologies found in the iPhone. HTC quickly followed that up with its own lawsuit, claiming Apple violates its own patents.


Patent News | "Patents and the Public Interest"

Category: Patent News

On Wednesday, in a case closely watched both by analysts and retailers, the International Trade Commission will decide whether the handset maker HTC should be allowed to import its products into the United States. The controversy? A claim by Apple that HTC infringed on two of the estimated 250,000 patents covering smartphone technology. If the commission agrees, it is likely to issue an “exclusion order,” which would in effect say “keep out” (of the United States) to HTC’s Android phones during the Christmas season.

It’s cases like this that have many people concerned that soon judicial decisions, rather than consumers, will decide what products make it onto Santa’s sleigh. While smartphone patent disputes are being waged around the world, with injunctions in play on several continents, the I.T.C. ruling has the potential to be the most significant one to date, given the size of the United States market. As patent law experts who appreciate the efficiency of the I.T.C.’s decision-making, we believe that a small change in how the commission does its job could yield big dividends for competition and consumers by reducing the disruption an exclusion order can wreak.

But first, some background.

The Apple-HTC dispute isn’t the only one at the I.T.C. with a potentially huge impact on consumers. Makers of GPS devices and flat-screens, and most major smartphone makers, are also embroiled in disputes there, all of them hoping that the I.T.C. will not prevent their products from being on the United States market.

How did this once-obscure trade court become one of the most important battlegrounds of consumer technology? The answer lies in part in the speed of the I.T.C., but even more so in the power it has to keep products out of the United States.

In 2006, the BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion was almost blocked from making its phones when NTP — a “patent troll” whose sole business is profiting from patents — sought to enforce some patents. Though a jury had awarded just $23 million in damages, R.I.M. agreed to pay NTP what later amounted to $613 million in licensing fees to avoid having its phones shut down by the court.

Later that year the Supreme Court’s eBay decision made it harder to impose such “holdup” fees by doing away with the practice of automatically awarding an injunction. After eBay, a court must consider the harms to the parties and the public that an injunction would present before deciding to grant one. This new case-by-case standard has gone a long way to solving the holdup problem that had beset the patent system.

But in the wake of eBay, both patent trolls and product companies like Apple have flocked to the I.T.C., where a federal ruling held that eBay’s new equitable test does not apply. The commission’s caseload has more than doubled, from 29 cases in 2005 to 64 and counting this year. And while the injunction grant rate in district courts has declined to around 75 percent for companies that make products and much lower than that for trolls, the I.T.C.’s injunction rate has held steady at 100 percent. The result has been to undo much of the desirable effect of eBay.

Although the I.T.C. is supposed to consider an exclusion order’s impact on competition and consumers relating to the effect of any exclusion order, it hasn’t given these so-called “public interest” factors many teeth. But it should. The I.T.C. has the power to tailor the remedy to fit the crime, for example delaying an injunction to allow a defendant to redesign its product, or even refusing to exclude the imports at all.

Tailoring remedies makes sense. When a patent holder doesn’t compete in the market or risk irreparable harm, fast-tracking the case to a district court to assess damages may be the better option. But when the dispute is between competitors, or involves a start-up or university seeking to commercialize its invention, an exclusion order should be the default.

Even in such cases, shutting out imports of an infringing product is not always the right answer. If the patent covers a small part of the product, the defendant could design around it, and if the defendant’s infringement was inadvertent, the I.T.C. could award an exclusion order but delay its start. During the delay period, the infringer could pay remuneration through a bond, allowing the patentee to get paid but not holding up a large product because of a small patent.

A delay would allow companies and consumers to adjust to the ruling. The alternatives — for companies to change their products every time they are sued, no matter how meritlessly, or to shut down production altogether — would drive up costs unnecessarily. (As is often said: companies can manage bad news, it’s the bad surprises that they hate. Just ask Samsung and HTC, which have had to design around patent injunctions in Germany and Australia.)

Congress could require the I.T.C. to consider these options. But it shouldn’t have to. The I.T.C. has proven to be adaptive to changing competitive conditions. The agency has the power to make fair, case-by-case decisions on whether and how to block products from entering the country. It should use that power.


Apple Patent | "Apple says Motorola patent win won't deter holiday sales"

By: Michael Grothaus
Category: Patent News

Apple Patent
Last Friday Motorola won a default judgment in Germany blocking the sale of iPad 3G's and all iPhones before the iPhone 4S in Germany. The court sided with Motorola after the company successfully argued that Apple violated one of its 3G patents. The ruling was a blow to Apple, especially since Germany is the largest EU market for iOS devices.

However, as AllThingsD point out, the ruling isn't as devastating to Apple in the short term as it has been made out. First, Apple is immediately appealing the ruling. Second, if they don't win the appeal they could possible license the 3G patent from Motorola. But most importantly, the ruling won't have much of a material impact (if any) on Apple's holiday sales in Germany. That's because the ruling only applies to the importation of new iOS devices into the country. Any iOS device inventory that is already in the country can still be sold.

No doubt with the holidays here Apple already made sure that Germany had a healthy inventory of iOS devices on hand, and if they believed there was a possibility that they would lose the case they probably stocked up inventory in the country more than usual. As an Apple spokesperson told AllThingsD, "We're going to appeal the court's ruling right away. Holiday shoppers in Germany should have no problem finding the iPad or iPhone they want."


Motorola Patent | "Motorola wins German patent case ruling against Apple "

By: Reuters
Category: Motorola Patent

Motorola Patent
Motorola Mobility (MMI.N) won a preliminary injunction against Apple Inc (AAPL.O) in Germany, which could bar the sales of iPhones and iPads in the country.

A regional German court in Mannheim ruled on Friday that Apple Sales International — European sales subsidiary of Apple in Cork, Ireland — must stop selling or distributing mobile devices that infringe certain Motorola patents.

The ruling, which relates to cellular communications patents, could bar the sales of all Apple products that use the patents such as iPhone 4 and iPad 3G, Germany-based patent expert Florian Mueller said.
“The ruling targets Apple’s European sales organization but relates only to that entity’s sale to German customers,” Mueller added.

Motorola Mobility said it has been negotiating with Apple and offering the company “reasonable licensing terms and conditions since 2007.”

Motorola Mobility “will continue our efforts to resolve our global patent dispute as soon as practicable,” it said in a statement.

To enforce the injunction, Motorola Mobility has to pay about 100 million euros as bond.
Apple, which has other patent infringement cases pending in Germany, said it plans to appeal.

“We are going to appeal the court ruling right away,” Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said. “Holiday shoppers in Germany should have no problem finding the iPad and iPhone they want.”


Apple Patent | "Apple suffers major patent setback in Germany"

By: Reuters
Category: Apple Patent

Apple Patent
Motorola Mobility won a preliminary injunction against Apple in Germany, which could bar the sales of iPhones and iPads in the country.

A regional German court in Mannheim ruled on Friday that Apple Sales International - European sales subsidiary of Apple in Cork, Ireland - must stop selling or distributing mobile devices that infringe certain Motorola patents.

The ruling, which relates to cellular communications patents, could bar the sales of all Apple products that use the patents such as iPhone 4 and iPad 3G, Germany-based patent expert Florian Mueller said.

"The ruling targets Apple's European sales organisation but relates only to that entity's sale to German customers," added Mr Mueller, who works as a consultant and is currently doing a study for Microsoft.

Motorola Mobility said it has been negotiating with Apple and offering the company "reasonable licensing terms and conditions since 2007".

Motorola Mobility "will continue our efforts to resolve our global patent dispute as soon as practicable," it said in a statement.

To enforce the injunction, Motorola Mobility, which is in the throes of being taken over by Google, has to pay about 100 million euros ($US133.8 million) as bond.

Apple, which has other patent infringement cases pending in Germany, said it plans to appeal.

"We are going to appeal the court ruling right away," Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said. "Holiday shoppers in Germany should have no problem finding the iPad and iPhone they want."

Apple is locked in mobile patent infringement battle with a number of companies, including Samsung Electronics and HTC, in many countries. It recently failed in a court bid to stop US and Australian sales of Samsung's Galaxy line of products.

In its case against Motorola Mobility, Apple offered to license the patent.

"But Motorola rejected the offer as Apple sought to limit the amount it would have to pay for past infringement," Peter Misek, an analyst with Jefferies & Co said, adding that the key issue is the penalty size for Apple's infringement for the past four years, which may run into hundreds of millions of dollars.


Patent News | "Fight over human genes patents goes to the US Supreme Court"

By: Karen Barlow
Category: Patent News

MARK COLVIN: The fight over human genes and whether they can be patented for medical research has gone to the US Supreme Court.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation filed their appeal today.

They argue that genes are products of nature and cannot be sequestered by private companies.

The case concerns Myriad Genetics - a biotech company that holds patents on two genes which can help reveal susceptibility to breast and ovarian cancer.

There's concern that their monopoly position stymies research and restricts patient access to tests and treatment but the biotech sector and patent lawyers say there are safeguards.

Karen Barlow reports.

KAREN BARLOW: If there's a good news story about breast cancer it's usually about genetic testing and research.

It's the great hope for a prevalent and debilitating disease.

But behind the scenes the genes that trigger some of those cases have been patented by the private company Myriad Genetics and public advocacy groups say that's going too far.

LUIGI PALOMBI: What happens is if you have a patent on the gene you can control everything that happens with that gene.

KAREN BARLOW: Luigi Palombi is an ANU visiting fellow and consultant on intellectual property law.

LUIGI PALOMBI: So you can control its use in research, you can control its use in the development of a medicine, you can control its use in the use of a diagnostic etc. etc. And yet all you've done is discovered a link between a gene and either a disease and some sort of other ailment or its function in the human body.

KAREN BARLOW: Luigi Palombi says that's not good enough to qualify as an invention and he says that's what the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation is asking the US Supreme Court to rule on.

LUIGI PALOMBI: The whole argument revolves around whether the removal of the human gene puts the gene into a different state to the point that it can be claimed as an invention.

All of the scientific evidence suggests that it shouldn't be. I mean what the scientists are saying is that a gene inside a human body and that same gene outside of the human body is essentially the same thing.

KAREN BARLOW: The Supreme Court filing is in part an appeal against a lower US court ruling in July that companies can take out human gene patents.

It also mirrors Federal Court action in Australia against Myriad Genetics, which is due to begin in February.

Myriad's Australian legal counsel has been sought for comment. In the meantime, the Institute of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys is backing Myriad's claim to patent human genes.

The institute's Tania Obranovich.

TANIA OBRANOVICH: The issue I think of whether somebody owns some limited right over a gene or not is less important, what is important is that no-one can abuse that monopoly and secondly that the public does have access or that if someone tries to abuse that monopoly that there are safeguards in place.

What would be a greater tragedy would be if there is no possibility of monopoly and then no-one develops the technology and then no-one has access at all.

What would be a greater tragedy or the greatest tragedy would be if that test had never been developed because there had for example not been patents allowed over the technology; that would be a catastrophe for the community.

KAREN BARLOW: There's also been an effort to change Australian law.

Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan is trying to outlaw human genetic patents.

But a senate inquiry earlier this year recommended against a private members bill that would stop gene patents.

Senator Heffernan says supports today's legal action and is still hoping legal change will happen in Australia.

BILL HEFFERNAN: Well everyone will say they have sympathy with what we're on about but don't want to take the step because they say it will dismantle research. Well in fact it'll encourage research and if you're a researcher at Westmead Hospital locked up in a room on a six month contract doing research and you run into someone else's patent on a gene, you haven't got the resources to take them to court etc.

And so we took evidence during the inquiry that it in fact was impeding research but of course the bankers and lawyers and the gold seekers don't agree with that, they want the party to continue, which is for 30 odd years as the American government said in the recent court case in America that they've misinterpreted the law. Clearly the law says you can't patent discovery, hence no-one patented the moon when they discovered it.

KAREN BARLOW: The US Supreme Court case load is heavy and it may be some time before the human gene patent appeal is heard.


Patent News | "When prescription drug patents expire, the market is flooded."

By: Jim Lewis
Category: Patent News

Millions of people use prescription medications daily for a wide array health issues from asthma to high cholesterol to migraines. And the cost of those medicines is about plummet.

When drug companies develop a new drug, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), typically grants exclusive rights to the company for a set period of time. When that time expires, other companies are able to make the same drug and the end result is an influx of cheaper generic versions.

A generic drug is defined as “a drug product comparable to brand/reference listed drug product in dosage, strength, mode of administration, quality and performance as well as intended use.” Simply put, a generic drug is a branded drug that uses a different name.

The key benefit is that generic drugs are less expensive than branded versions by 20 to 80 percent.

Over the coming months, seven of the world’s best-selling medications are scheduled to go “off patent.” In doing so, brand-name drugs lose out to generic versions which slashes costs in favor of patients. In fact, a flood of generics is expected to continue for the next decade, as more than 100 brand-name prescription drugs lose market exclusivity.

A prime example involving a patent expiration is the drug Lipitor – a cholesterol lowering drug – which lost patent protection just last week. Pfizer plans to aggressively market the drug in the first six months of competition against generic manufacturers. Ranbaxy Laboratories and Watson Pharmaceuticals (WPI) are both offering a generic form of Lipitor. Only two generics are permitted during the first 180 days. When other generics roll out, around June, prices are really going to drop.

In the coming months other popular drugs including Lexapro (anti-depressant), Singulair (asthma) and Plavix (blood thinner) will also lose their patents.


Apple Patent | "Court Redaction Error Shows Apple Licensed Scroll Patent to Nokia"

By: Bryan Chaffin
Category: Apple Patent

A redaction error in court documents released on Monday revealed that Apple licensed its ‘381 scrolling patent to both Nokia and IBM. The licensing deal could make it harder for the company to collect an injunction against Samsung’s Android devices, even if they are found to infringe on the patent.

Most of Apple’s and Samsung’s legal filings and briefings have been filed under seal, but Judge Lucy Koh has released some of those documents with small and large passages redacted. What happened over the weekend is that a PDF of a document was released that contained a major flaw: Though the document appears redacted, viewers could copy and paste the contents of the file into a text editor and see all of the redacted material…


…which is what both The Verge and Reuters did. Both organizations got a copy of the document before it was corrected and were able to read the whole kit and caboodle.

Key among the state secrets intellectual property revealed is the nugget that Apple licensed the ‘381 patent to Nokia and IBM. This is somewhat of a surprise in that Apple claimed a recent cross-licensing deal between itself and Nokia retained the “the majority of the innovation that makes the iPhone unique.”

Even more surprising was the revelation that Apple had offered Samsung licensing terms on the patent as recently as November 2010, five months before it filed its suit against Samsung. There was no indication of why those licensing negotiations were terminated, who terminated them, or the terms Apple was seeking.

The ‘381 patent cover’s Apple’s method of allowing a list or other screen to scroll off the edge of a touch-interface device and then snap back into place once the user releases his or her finger. Apple has long held that this is one of the crown jewels of its iOS patents that make iOS what it is, but a licensing deal with Nokia and IBM effectively tells the courts that Apple is willing to play ball and allow others to pay for the right to use the concept.

Samsung’s Android devices use that same method for scrolling, but Android itself doesn’t. Google used a different method to indicate the end of a screen with the stock version of Android—a bar flashes at the end of the screen when you reach it—in part because of the strength of Apple’s ‘381 patent.

Samsung and HTC decided to modify Android on their devices to forego Google’s default end-of-the-scroll method and use something Apple has claimed violates ‘381. Apple then brought complaints against both firms to the U.S. International Trade Commission, as well as this civil lawsuit in the U.S.

Last Friday, Judge Koh declined Apple’s request for a preliminary injunction against Samsung based on design patents Apple has claimed Samsung infringes upon, and the redaction error occurred on documents released in that case.


Apple Patent | "Report: Apple offered Samsung a license on key iOS patent"

By: Edward Moyer
Category: Apple Patent

Apple Patent
Despite Apple's apparent intellectual-property war on iPhone and iPad lookalikes, it appears the company has licensed at least one key iOS software patent to Nokia and IBM--and that it offered a license to current court rival Samsung as well.

Nilay Patel at The Verge reports that a court order released last week contains confirmation of the Nokia, IBM, and Samsung information. The Verge was apparently shown the text behind blacked-out portions of the court order, which denied Apple's request for a preliminary injunction against the sale in the U.S. of a clutch of Samsung devices Apple claims are essentially knock-offs of the iPhone or iPad.

The court order presents the licensing information as a point in Samsung's favor, quoting a previous legal case as saying, "...the fact that a patentee has previously chosen to license the patent may indicate that a reasonable royalty does compensate for an infringement...".

In the case, Apple claims Samsung is infringing the very patent it previously failed to license, a patent that covers the iOS operating system's "scrollback" feature, which governs how an iOS device visually indicates when a user has scrolled beyond the limits of a Web page.

Patel points out that at the time of a patent settlement with Nokia last summer, Apple said it had maintained control over "the majority of the innovation that makes the iPhone unique" but that scrollback is one of iOS' most distinctive features.

Patel notes that it remains unclear why the November 2010 Apple-Samsung settlement talks that included the scrollback licensing offer to Samsung fell apart, or which company may have put the kibosh on the deal. It's also not clear if the two companies are currently engaged in settlement talks.

The willingness to license such a feature would seem to run counter to Steve Jobs' desire to "go thermonuclear war" on makers of Android-based devices, Patel says, and would seem to suggest a less draconian attitude on Apple's part toward its stewardship of iOS and the iconic devices that are powered by it.


Patent News | "Program to cut costs, length of patent cases"

By:Thomas Olson,
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Category: Patent News

Executives at Calgon Carbon Corp. didn't envision a decadelong court fight in 2001 when the Robinson-based company sued a competitor for infringing on its patent.

And they certainly didn't expect the federal court in Chicago to declare Calgon Carbon's patent invalid, nor to go on and settle the competitor's counter claims for $4.3 million last January.

"The lawsuit was a big distraction for management and cost us in time and money," said senior vice president and general counsel, Richard Rose. "Part of the reason we decided to settle was to avoid another couple of years of litigation."

If that patent litigation were filed today in Pittsburgh, however, the case would not drag on for years and rack up expensive attorneys' fees. That's because of a patent pilot program recently instituted here.

The Western Pennsylvania federal court was among 14 in 10 states selected for the program by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, from among the nation's 94 federal court districts. The court began hearing patent disputes in October under the program authorized by Congress in January.

"The idea of the pilot program was to develop courts around the country where judges would develop expertise in patent litigation," said Chief District Judge Gary Lancaster, who heads the program here.

Under the program, he and three other Western Pennsylvania federal judges will hear patent cases whenever one of the district's other nine judges randomly assigned to them opts out. Previously, judges generally could not decline to hear cases.

The patent expertise the four judges develop at the Downtown court could become a magnet for patent cases, which otherwise can be filed in any jurisdiction where a patented product or device is sold. The court's program also could grow the city's stable of patent attorneys and add to the city's economy.

"In patent cases, attorneys come in from New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington," said Lancaster. "And they come in groups, which adds business for our hotels, restaurants and taxicabs."

The judge noted that visiting attorneys hire local counsel from Pittsburgh law firms to stay abreast of case developments, which should add to local firms' patent attorney ranks and revenue.

Patent judges oversee the process of attorneys asserting their claims and counter-claims. Juries decide whether a patent is valid and has been infringed upon, as well as any damage amounts.

Patents are important for corporations and other holders to protect, especially those engaged in high-technology fields, such as drug or chemicals manufacturing, experts say.

For instance, Bayer Corp. in Robinson holds about 38,000 patents worldwide. Its crop science business sued Dow AgroSciences in federal court in Delaware in early November, claiming Dow infringed on seven Bayer patents for herbicide-tolerant plants.

"(Patent) protection is essential for Bayer's crop science and material science businesses, which require research and capital investment, manufacturing scale and long lead times to reach full production," spokesman Bryan Iams said.

When Westinghouse Electric was a multi-industry conglomerate years ago, it employed 26 in-house patent attorneys in 1986 and more than 40 in the 1970s, said Vaughn Gilbert, spokesman for the Cranberry-based company that now focuses on nuclear power. The old Westinghouse owned the third-highest number of patents in the country for much of the 20th century, Gilbert said.

Most patent lawsuits end with the two parties agreeing to a settlement, but patent litigation typically drags on for about two years regardless of how it's resolved, said attorney James Singer, an intellectual property partner at Pepper Hamilton LLP's office, Downtown.

"Patent litigation is very expensive because it requires a lot of technical analysis" involving paid technical experts, such an engineers and scientists, said Singer, who's been a patent attorney for about 13 years.

The process of discovery — during which each party requests factual information from the other — adds to the time and money spent on cases, he said, especially because parties usually object to providing information they believe will reveal competitive advantages.

"These cases involve highly technical trade secrets, and neither the defendant nor the patent holder wants to disclose their trade secrets in court," said attorney Alan Towner, head of the intellectual property practice at Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti, Downtown. So the parties "stonewall" each other's requests through time-consuming legal maneuvering.

The patent pilot program expedites the usual court hang-ups through "local patent rules," which the Western Pennsylvania federal court adopted in 2005. They were the main reason the court was among those chosen for the program.

"Local patent rules automatically impose a protective order, which protects each party's confidential information" from being discussed in open court, Towner said.

The rules also place time limits on the parties, said Pepper Hamilton's Singer. For instance, a patent holder must assert its specific claims within 30 days of a case's initial conference with the judge, then the defendant must reply within 14 days.

"So you get right to the meat of a case, rather than spending months arguing about procedures," Singer said.

For example, Singer represented a large-screen television maker in 2008 that brought a patent-infringement lawsuit in the Western Pennsylvania court against a competitor. Held to the local patent rules, the parties resolved their difference by settling in about a year.

"The case could have gone on for another six months," he said.


Apple Patent | "Apple wins small victory in patent battle as Australian court extends ban on Galaxy tab sales"

By: Kristen Gelineau
Category: Apple Patent

Apple Patent
SYDNEY - Apple Inc. won a small victory on Friday in its global patent battle with rival Samsung, after Australia's highest court temporarily extended a ban on sales of Samsung's Galaxy tablet computers in the country.

Samsung Electronics Co. is desperate to begin selling the Galaxy in Australia in time for Christmas sales, but the High Court's decision means the device can't go on the market until at least Dec. 9.
Apple  took Samsung to court in Australia after accusing the Suwon, South Korea-based company of copying its iPad and iPhone. In October, a Federal Court judge ordered Samsung to halt sales of the device ahead of a trial. Samsung appealed, and on Wednesday, a full bench of the Federal Court threw out the earlier ruling and said Galaxy sales could resume on Friday.

But Apple immediately appealed that decision to the High Court, which on Friday said the temporary injunction against sales would be extended for another week while it considers Apple's latest arguments.

"Samsung believes Apple has no basis for its application for leave to appeal and will vigorously oppose this to the High Court," Samsung said in a statement.

The legal back-and-forth is all part of a larger, international battle over the technology giants' competing tablets. Cupertino, California-based Apple struck first when it sued Samsung in the United States in April, alleging the product design, user interface and packaging of the Galaxy "slavishly copy" the iPhone and iPad. Samsung hit back with lawsuits accusing Apple of patent infringement of its wireless telecommunications technology.

The companies have now filed lawsuits in 10 countries. Courts in several nations, including Germany and the Netherlands, have issued rulings that favour Apple.

Apple spokeswoman Fiona Martin declined to comment on Friday's ruling, instead issuing a general statement blasting Samsung.

"It's no coincidence that Samsung's latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging," Apple said in the statement. "This kind of blatant copying is wrong and, as we've said many times before, we need to protect Apple's intellectual property when companies steal our ideas."