Patent News | "Silicon Valley deserves a regional patent office"

By: Mercury News Editorial
Category: Patent News

When Detroit was announced as the location for the first regional U.S. Patent Office, the reaction here in Silicon Valley was: 

What? What?

Michigan leaders bragged that their coup made sense because the University of Michigan, a top research institution, averages 80 patents per year. OK. But Stanford had double that number in 2010. And Silicon Valley companies, which employ more than 160,000 engineers, submit about 900 applications, like clockwork, every single month.

The innovation capital of the world is hands down the best location for one of the three satellite patent offices that have been promised to reduce the outrageous backlog in processing applications -- now 1.2 million and counting. It takes on average a little over three years to get a patent. In Silicon Valley time, that is eons. Products and entire markets can appear, make a fortune and vanish in less.

Lots of cities want a patent office, from Phoenix to Austin to Denver. But Silicon Valley's application submitted Monday to Patent Office Director David Kappos highlights three critical factors that put it head and shoulders above the competition.

  • Silicon Valley is the No. 1 patent producer in the nation by far. 
  • It is home to an unparalleled cluster of high-tech companies and entrepreneurs; venture capitalists invest more than $5 billion here every year.
  • The Bay Area is rich in world-class research universities churning out the kinds of graduates Kappos will need to hire.
    President Barack Obama should get behind this bid. He knows the valley is doing more than any other region to lead the nation back to prosperity and to keep it competitive in the global marketplace. Why not put the office in the place best able to make the most of it?

    It's not Kappos fault that the application backlog is so embarrassing. Congress raided $800 million from his budget last year -- money that should have gone toward more examiners and improved technology. Lawmakers grandstand about helping business, but this lapse shows how little they understand the technology industry. Hitting the sweet spot in timing to release a new product is a critical factor in a company's performance.

    Kappos' goal is to cut patent processing time in half, to 18 months. The surest way to meet it is a satellite office in Silicon Valley, giving companies' engineers and attorneys easy access to examiners well versed on patent issues.

    Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino says the patent office proposal has electrified Valley leaders like few other issues in the past 15 years. More than 125 valley CEOs have signed on to support the application, along with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed. U.S. Reps. Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren are making the case in Washington.

    With Detroit already awarded one of the three planned satellite offices, and since the U.S. Patent Office headquarters are in Alexandria, Va., it's obvious that the next regional office belongs on the West Coast. And five of the top 10 cities in America for generating patents are San Jose, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, Cupertino and Fremont.

    Politics has no place in this decision. (Did we mention Detroit?) Speeding up patents will speed economic recovery, and Silicon Valley is the place to count on.

  • Patent News | "Investors watch forecasts as drug makers’ patents expire "

    By: Simon Avery
    Category: Patent News

    Pfizer Inc. (PFE-N21.48-0.15-0.69%) and Merck & Co. (MRK-N38.52-0.26-0.67%). will announce fourth-quarter results this week, but what investors will be most interested in are the companies’ forecasts for the year ahead.
    Both companies have to grapple with the expiration this year of patents on their largest products. The expirations will clear the way for generic producers to enter the market, squeeze the revenues of the big brand-name pharmaceutical companies, and spoil their fat profit margins.
    Pfizer has recently lost patent protection in the United States for its anti-cholesterol pill Lipitor. The blockbuster drug produced $10.7-billion (U.S.) in revenue in 2010, representing 16 per cent of Pfizer’s annual revenue.
    “The loss of exclusivity of Lipitor in 2011 is shaking the foundation of the company,” says Damien Conover, an analyst with Morningstar Inc. Adding to the turmoil, during the next three years, Pfizer will lose protection on several other big-revenue generators, including Geodon, which is used to treat schizophrenia, Celebrex, prescribed for arthritis, and Detrol, used to control an overactive bladder.
    Although Pfizer has more than 90 new drugs in the pipeline, most are in the early stage of development, Mr. Conover adds.
    In August, Merck will lose protection in the U.S. for its asthma and allergy treatment Singulair. The drug produced $5-billion of the company’s $46-billion in sales in 2010. Many investors are worried about the strength of the company’s drug-development pipeline after it had to unexpectedly cancel two important drug trials last year.
    The other two giant pharmaceutical companies, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly & Co., face a similar ticking clock on key patents, which will make 2012 a “trough earnings year” for the sector’s biggest players, notes Christopher Schott, of JPMorgan Chase & Co. But looking out to 2013 through 2017, he forecasts that the sector will deliver compound annual share profit growth of 7 per cent, as the rate of patent expirations slows, new products come to market and the companies use their cash flows to buy back more shares.
    Mr. Schott has “overweight” recommendations on both Pfizer and Merck. He cites Pfizer’s low price-to-earnings multiple of 9.7 times estimated 2012 share profit, the high dividend yield of 4.1 per cent and anticipated new products coming to market.
    Merck looks the best positioned among the major pharmaceuticals to boost growth in the coming years, thanks to its diabetes drug Januvia, its robust vaccine franchise and several new drugs in late-stage testing, Mr. Schott notes. Merck also enjoys one of the lowest valuations in the sector, at just 10 times estimated 2012 earnings.
    While the majority of analysts have “buy” recommendations on both Pfizer and Merck, investors aren’t so sure. The companies’ relatively large dividend yields are attractive, but the broader trends are negative.
    Big U.S. pharma stocks are trading at some of their lowest valuations in decades, as government austerity measures threaten their performance for years ahead. Western governments, which pay for the lion’s shares of health care costs, are increasing their use of cheaper generic drugs. In the U.S., for example, legislation last year vowed to cut $500-billion out of health care costs over 10 years. On top of this trend, the industry faces heightened regulatory scrutiny following some high-profile safety recalls, including Merck’s drug Vioxx.
    The new environment has thrown into question the pharmaceutical sector’s reputation as a haven for investors in volatile markets. Pfizer’s report, on Tuesday, and Merck’s, on Thursday, are unlikely to ignite a spark under the stocks. Pfizer is expected to post a 5.5 per cent decline in revenue and 56 per cent drop in profit for the fourth quarter. Merck is expected to squeeze out revenue growth of 3.4 per cent and swing to a $2.9-billion profit after a $532-million loss a year earlier.


    Patent News | "Latest Patent Volley Against Apple Could Boost Google-Motorola Merger Chances"

    By: Erika Morphy
    Category: Patent News

    Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI) has filed yet another lawsuit accusing Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) of infringing several of its patents for wireless antennae, software, data filtering and messaging technologies.
    The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida this week, follows a similar lawsuit Motorola filed in another Florida court, alleging the same patent violations.

    In the new lawsuit, however, Motorola is seeking injunctions against the sale of newer products -- namely, the iPhone 4S and the iCloud remote storage service.

    What is interesting about this case is that it must have been greenlighted by Google, which is seeking to acquire Motorola Mobility, according to IP expert Florian Mueller's FOSS Patents blog.

    The merger agreement Motorola entered with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) prohibits Motorola from taking this type of legal action without Google's consent, Mueller noted.

    Apple and Motorola did not respond to our request for further details. Google declined to provide further details.

    Practicing to Go After Apple

    The new suit, if nothing else, illustrates that Google plans to use the Motorola patent portfolio aggressively when and if it closes the acquisition, Peter Toren, a partner at Weisbrod, Matteis & Copley, told the E-Commerce Times.

    "It is clear that Google intends to go after Apple with the Motorola portfolio," he said.

    Previous Arguments Extended

    It may be a mistake to jump to the conclusion that Google was a driving force behind the new suit, Joseph R. Englander, a partner with Shutts & Bowen, told the E-Commerce Times.

    "While it has not been confirmed that Motorola has been forbidden to take action against Apple without Google's blessing, it can be argued that the new suit is merely an extension of the previous case," he noted.
    The reason for the new suit is in large part because the judge in the prior case denied a petition to include the iPhone 4S and the iCloud package as infringing goods and services, Englander said.

    Convincing the EC

    Another reason for the new suit, according to Englander -- not the main one, as he does see it as primarily a procedural extension -- is that it could help convince the European Commission to approve the merger between Google and Motorola Mobility.

    "There are already comments before the Commission stating that the merger would hurt competition," he pointed out.

    "Since this patent infringement case could be considered a partnership between Motorola and Google, if that case is seen as a fair fight, then Google can argue that the merger would be good for competition," Englander explained.

    "Parity in the state of the patent litigation would indicate apparent parity in the post-merger market for smartphones and remote storage services," he said. "This parity would indicate that Google and Apple would be competitive after the merger."
    At bottom, though, the new lawsuit was indeed filed as the result of a setback that Motorola experienced in the other case, Will Trueba, a founding partner with the law firm of Espinosa Trueba, told the E-Commerce Times.

    "In many federal courts, in order to streamline the issues for the case, the court will order the parties to disclose details regarding the particular 'claims' of the patent that are infringed, and which of the defendant's products infringe those patent claims," Trueba noted.

    "In the prior lawsuit, Motorola attempted to supplement those infringement contentions," he said, "but the court denied Motorola the ability to amend its infringement contentions. Thus, they filed a new suit that included the new allegations of infringement in order to seek relief for those claims not allowed in the prior suit."


    Apple Patent | "New Patent Reveals Apples Next Big Thing, Magnets"

    By: David Richards 
    Category: Apple Patent

    Apple Patent
    It sounds bizarre but Apple is looking to use magnets to lock down security on an iPad or Mac PC.
    A new patent filing reveals that Apple engineers are looking to a male/female magnet relationship to secure content on an Apple device.

    How it works is that inside the bezel of an Apple device be it a notebook or iPad will be a magnet that operates a switch, to unlock the device a user will have to have the other half of the magnet which when swiped against the Apple device unlocks the device.

    What Apple is trying to do is to use magnets as a new way of keeping content secure.
    Listed in the patent which has been lodged with the US patents office is a stylus with specially encoded magnets to securely unlock an iPad.

    Engadget said that it may sound ridiculous when you first consider it, but given the magnetic-activation of the iPad 2's smart cover, it's not as outlandish as you believe. Still, we'll believe it if we see it in a couple of years.


    Patent News | "German court rules against Samsung over patent dispute "

    Category: Patent News

    Samsung Patent
    BERLIN, Jan. 27 (Yonhap) -- A German court on Friday ruled against Samsung Electronics Co.'s claim that Apple Inc. has infringed on its technology patents for smartphones.

    The verdict handed down by a court in Mannheim, Germany marked the second ruling in a series of patent suits the two tech firms have filed against each other in the European country.

    Last April, the South Korean tech giant filed complaints with a German court against Apple, claiming that the U.S. company was infringing on three of its communications technology patents.

    The Friday ruling came only one week after the German court ruled against Samsung. The verdict on the third and final suit will come out on March 2.

    The latest ruling is widely expected to deal a blow to the Korean firm, which is seeking to strengthen its position as one of the largest smartphone makers in the world.

    Samsung and Apple have been in heated patent disputes in around 30 cases in 10 countries since April last year, when the U.S. company accused Samsung Electronics of copying its iPhone and iPad. Samsung fought back with a series of countersuits.


    Intel Patent | "Intel pays $120M for video patents, software"


    Intel Patent
    Intel is buying video patents and software from RealNetworks for US$120 million, giving the chipmaker new muscle in a market that's increasingly important but filled with intellectual-property obstacles.

    RealNetworks is selling about 190 patents, 170 patent applications, and its next-generation video encoding technology in the deal, the companies announced Thursday.

    Intel called some of the patents "foundational", indicating its belief that some are important to the ever-hotter area of digital video. Codecs such as H.264 or Google's VP8 are used to encode and decode video, a task that's crucial in videoconferencing, gaming, and entertainment. Intel gets RealNetworks' next-generation codec as part of the deal, and both companies pledged to work together for future development.

    "We believe this agreement enhances our ability to continue to offer richer experiences and innovative solutions to end users across a wide spectrum of devices, including through Ultrabook devices, smartphones, and digital media," said Renee James, general manager of Intel's Software and Services Group, in a statement.

    Intel's software group has been steadily bulking up over the years, with thousands of employees, but it focuses more on behind-the-scenes software such as game engines and programming tools than branded products ordinary people use. It's also got a stake in the operating system market through its 2009 acquisition of Wind River, which among other things helps companies build devices with Google's Android operating system. With Android phone makers and other technology companies engaged in a multitude of patent wars right now, patents have become suddenly more valuable.

    On the other side of the deal, RealNetworks gets cold, hard cash. Chief executive Thomas Nielsen said it gives the company an opportunity "to boost investments in new businesses and markets while still protecting our existing business.


    Motorola Patent | "Motorola sues Apple over patents, probably with Google's blessing"

    By: LA Times
    Category: Motorola Patent

    Motorola Patent News
    The power of mobile technology: Never before have consumers been able to hold so many lawsuits in their hand.
    Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. has just thrown another baton in the smartphone lawsuit parade that has stretched to courtrooms across the globe, as phone-makers sue one another over similarities in their mobile devices, which are packed with patent-protected circuits and widgets from dozens of companies.
    Motorola has  filed suit against Apple Inc., purveyor of the mega-blockbuster iPhone (the device lifted Apple to $46 billion in sales in its most recent quarter).  Apple is an increasingly bitter rival of Google Inc., which agreed to buy Motorola in August, a deal that is still awaiting regulatory clearance.
    As patent observer Florian Mueller noted, Google probably had to approve Motorola's lawsuit, given that part of the buyout terms appear to forbid Motorola from filing lawsuits without Google's explicit permission.  Google has not directly sued or been sued by Apple in this matter -- the two compaies are fighting their legal war by proxy.
    Phones that run Google's Android operating system have collectively outsold the iPhone, and Apple is none too happy about that.  The Cupertino electronics maker has initiated a flurry of lawsuits against Android phone manufacturers, including Samsung Electronics and HTC Corp., alleging that the companies "slavishly copied" the iPhone's signature look.
    But Apple is finding that big legal wins are hard to come by.
    Now Motorola is trying to make things even more difficult for its rival. In its second action against Apple in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida, the company wants the court to ban iPhone sales.  Motorola alleges that Apple devices infringe on six of its patents, including one for a phone with a "concealed antenna," and another about keeping data on "multiple pagers" synchronized.  Motorola, as children of the 1990s will recall, made a lot of pagers -- they still do.


    Patent News | "InterDigital Calls Off Patent Sale"

    Category: Patent News

    5:43 p.m. | Updated InterDigital confirmed on Monday that it has called off its patent sale. Terry Clontz, the company’s chairman, said in a statement: “The process over the past six months, although not resulting in an offer for the whole of the company, has helped to reaffirm our belief in the breadth and depth of the patent portfolio, the strength of the R&D team, and our technology vision for the future.

    InterDigital plans to announce Monday that it has called off a sales process for its patent portfolio, months after the wireless technology company put its holdings up for auction, people briefed on the matter told DealBook.

    The decision by InterDigital followed months of talks with several prospective buyers, following a surge of interest by tech companies in buying up patents. But InterDigital was unable to fetch an offer for the entire portfolio of 20,000 patents, one of these people said.

    That portfolio included patents that covered wireless data technology used in smartphones, including the iPhone and various Android devices. InterDigital had sought at least $3 billion for the collection, this person said. They have generated more than $3 billion in revenue through last year.

    The market had held talks with potential buyers, which have included the likes of Intel and Samsung, as recently as this weekend, this person said. But the bids from suitors, some of whom had teamed up, came in below expectations.

    InterDigital and its advisers decided that the company was better served by ending the auction and focusing on selling off pieces of the portfolio, this person said. Any such deals are still weeks away from completion, however, and those transactions are likely to fetch only low hundreds of millions of dollars at most.
    At the same time, the company will seek to strike cross-licensing arrangements for those patents, this person added. That process had also been held up by the sales process, as potential partners awaited the fate of those patents.

    As InterDigital collects proceeds from patent sales or licensing agreements, the company may turn around and buy additional patents for newer wireless technologies, this person said.

    InterDigital said last summer that it had hired Evercore Partners and Barclays Capital to run a sale of the patents, hoping to seize on growing interest in intellectual property. Last July, the bankrupt Nortel Networks sold more than 6,000 patents to a group led by Apple and Microsoft for $4.5 billion in cash. And in August, Google agreed to buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, in large part for the phone maker’s horde of patents.

    The Motorola deal was in some ways bad news for InterDigital, however. It removed Google as a potential bidder, limiting the impetus for other players to bid up for the InterDigital patents, this person said. And unlike Nortel, whose asset sale had a specific timetable imposed by the bankruptcy process, InterDigital could not wield the cudgel of a hard deadline against potential buyers.

    Shares in InterDigital were down 2.9 percent in late afternoon trading on Monday, at $44.63. They have fallen nearly 39 percent over the last six months, as investors grew pessimistic about the chances of a patent sale. As of Monday afternoon, the company had a market value of about $2 billion.


    Patent News | "Rock River Valley sets record for patents in 2011"

    By: Alex Gary
    Category: Patent News

    ROCKFORD — PBC Linear, like most businesses, was hit hard by the Great Recession, with orders dropping sharply for the Roscoe company that makes linear bearings, linear actuators, profile rails and cam rollers.

    Its leaders found themselves facing a delicate choice.

    “When you are in a downturn, companies can hunker down and hope their cash reserves carry them through or try to find new customers and new markets,” said Jonathan Schroeder. “Our philosophy is, you really need to innovate and develop new products.”

    PBC Linear, known as Pacific Bearing Co. in the local market, focused on research and development, and the efforts began to pay off in 2011.

    Between 1991 and 2009, the company received six utility patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It hadn’t applied for one since 2005.

    In 2008, the company filed four applications, then nine in 2009, five in 2010 and three in 2011. In 2011, the patent office granted four to PBC Linear, including one for an “anti-backlash nut and lead screw assembly.”
    “That’s a new business segment for us,” said Schroeder, the company’s business development manager. PBC Linear’s workforce fell as low as 120 during the recession and has rebounded to more than 150.
    Fortunately for the Rock River Valley economy, PBC Linear wasn’t alone in deciding that innovation was the best way to survive the recession. The number of patents won by local researchers, engineers and inventors set records in 2011.

    Residents in Boone, Ogle and Winnebago counties were awarded 193 patents in 2011, according to the U.S. Patent Office. The previous high recorded by the Register Star was 165 in 1999, according to a Register Star database dating to 1996.

    “Increasing patents means that new products are under way. New products are key to what fuels organic growth at a company,” said Janyce Fadden, president of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council. “Keeping our local companies relevant and modern to their competitors will bode well for our local companies’ results and our potential employment.”

    The Register Star began tracking patents after several manufacturers — and their research departments — moved out of town. Patent data from 2005 showed evidence of the exodus. The number of patents issued in Boone, Ogle and Winnebago counties that year fell to 107, and again in 2009, when there were just 109 awarded to local inventors. Patent awards turned upward in 2010, climbing to 145 before soaring in 2011.
    Patents typically take two to four years to be awarded so the patents won last year reflect the amount of critical research going on in 2007, 2008 and 2009, in the depths of the Great Recession.


    Samsung Patent | "The latest news from the continuous court battle between Apple and Samsung: Apple claims Samsung infringe slide-to-unlock utility model on the Galaxy Nexus Android smartphone"

    By: Olav Hellesø-Knutsen
    Category:  Samsung Patent 

    Apple Samsung Patent
    The two electronic giants are having a war going on in the courts in Germany. Samsung recently lost one out of seven infringement claims they have against Apple in Germany. These are patents related to 3g/UMTS functionality.

    There have been three court hearings where the slide-to-unlock invention was discussed. One in December where Apple's raised a slide-to-unlock patent lawsuit against Samsung. The second one is a case where Apple fought against Motorola over the same patent. And now the case by Apple against Samsung with a utility model. We are far from expert in intellectual property law, but if we have understand this correctly the utility models are a registration of a claimed invention without an examination if the invention already is registered.

    The interesting here is that Apple is going after the "Google Phone" Galaxy Nexus made by Samsung without suing Google. They slide-to-unlock functionality is one out of many ways to unlock an Android smartphone, so the most logically step is to target the infringement claims against Google which are responsible for Android. Apple has not done that. They are for some reason going after Samsung and Motorola.

    The independent intellectual property analyst Florian Mueller runs the blog Foss Patents which are following the Samsung vs Apple cases closely. He is quite bussy these days, with several updates daily with news from the German court house. If you wish to follow Samsung vs Apple on a daily basis we recommend you to read his blog.

    We are sometimes wonder if anyone cares about these court battles. Do you?
    Anyway. The court will make a decision on March 16.


    Patent News | "Kodak: Patents Worth Up to $2.6 Billion"

    Category: Patent News

    In a packed, standing-room only courtroom at a federal bankruptcy court in Manhattan, a lawyer representing Eastman Kodak Co. called Kodak "a digital company, not a film company." Seventy five percent of Kodak's revenues are now digital, he said, at the first hearing after the company's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing early Thursday.

    "The transformation of Kodak at an industrial level is nearly complete," lawyer Andrew Dietderich told Judge Allan Gropper, noting Kodak had cut tens of thousands of employees over the past several years.

    "We're here for liquidity," said Mr. Dietderich, a lawyer with Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. He said Kodak had reaped $3 billion in licensing fees since 2003. That cash pipeline stalled in 2011, he said, because Kodak had difficulty "enforcing rights" against "well capitalized [patent] infringers."

    Kodak had difficulty selling its patents outside of bankruptcy because "buyers had concerns about the finality of the transaction," he said.

    Kodak believes the trove of patents are worth between $2.2 billion and $2.6 billion, Mr. Dietderich said.
    Kodak's chief financial officer as well as Dominic Di Napoli, its new chief restructuring officer and a vice chairman at FTI Consulting Inc., were at the hearing.

    Judge Gropper expressed some concerns over Kodak's request for an immediate $700 million cash infusion under its bankruptcy-financing agreement.

    "Interim financing is permissible for emergency purposes," Judge Gropper said. He said he was told before the hearing that Kodak "really needed the money today."

    Mr. Dietderich said there were licensing transactions on the table "as early as yesterday that would have obviated the need for a filing."

    Marshall Huebner, a Davis Polk & Wardwell lawyer representing Citigroup Inc., said efforts to syndicate Kodak's bankruptcy loan had just begun and the bank for the moment is the company's sole debtor-in-possession lender. Such a lender provides financing to help keep a company afloat during bankruptcy proceedings.

    A meeting to form Kodak's official unsecured creditors committee is set for Jan. 25 at a downtown Manhattan hotel.


    Patent News | "Kodak Says Samsung's Galaxy Tab Infringes Patents"

    By: Nancy Gohring 
    Category: Patent News 

    Struggling Eastman Kodak Co. on Wednesday charged Samsung with infringing five of its patents in the Galaxy Tab.

    Samsung is well aware of at least one of the patents, since it previously agreed to pay Kodak US$550 million for its use. That's the amount Samsung agreed to pay after Kodak accused it of infringing the patent in the U.S. International Trade Commission in 2008. However, that complaint was settled before Samsung started selling the Galaxy Tab.

    The other patents in the new suit cover things like automatically transmitting images from an electronic camera to a service provider, capturing digital photos to be transferred to an email address, and transmitting photos from a digital camera over a cellular or Wi-Fi network.

    The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.
    Kodak, which is rumored to be working on filing for bankruptcy protection, said it has licensed its digital imaging patents to more than 30 companies including LG, Motorola and Nokia.

    But it's still arguing with others. Last week Kodak filed complaints against Apple and HTC with the ITC and in court. Kodak alleges that smartphones and tablets from both companies infringe its patents related to transmitting images.


    Motorola Patent | "Motorola fends off Apple's patent attack, Microsoft next"

    By: Ed Oswald
    Category: Motorola Patent

    Is Apple a victim of its own success? After a considerable string of patent wins in the courts against Android through much of 2011, the tide has turned. The International Trade Commission ruled that Motorola Mobility does not infringe on three patents that Apple sued over in October 2010.

    Motorola filed an ITC complaint at that time targeting the Macbook, iPad, and iPhone. Apple retaliated by filing a suit of its own, accusing the Libertyville, Ill. phone manufacturer of infringing on its own patents, two of which deal with touchscreen technology.

    Administrative Law Judge Theodore Essex wrote in a notice that he had found no infringement by Motorola on the referenced patents, which effectively ends the case. Apple may appeal the ruling, but with an outright rejection it appears unlikely that the company will have much success.

    "We are pleased with today's favorable outcome for Motorola Mobility", general counsel Scott Offer says in a statement.

    All is not necessarily lost for Apple. It did win a mixed judgement from the ITC over its patent claims, and is waiting for additional rulings against HTC as well as Samsung.

    Motorola finds itself still entangled in a patent battle with Microsoft. There, Motorola is accused of not paying royalties for licensed technology. Both companies filed claims with the ITC, and an administrative judge found last month that Motorola infringes on one Microsoft-held patent while clearing it of claims on seven others.

    Both companies are appealing the decision. A judgement for the Redmond, Wash. company will give Microsoft a stake in almost every Android phone sold today: it holds licensing agreements covering 70 percent of current devices on the platform.

    That said, with Google's purchase of Motorola Mobility, Android's patent position has become considerably stronger. Motorola holds one of the strongest mobile patent portfolios in the industry, and has so far successfully used these patents to fend off Apple and Microsoft's patent attacks.

    Now with the courts siding with the company, Motorola's position becomes stronger. Is it Apple's and Microsoft's patent Waterloo?



    Motorola Patent | "ITC gives Motorola the early win in patent fight with Apple"

    By: Jacqui Cheng
    Category: Motorola Patent

    Apple has suffered an early loss in its patent suit against Motorola. An administrative law judge (ALJ) with the International Trade Commission (ITC) issued an initial ruling late on Friday, saying that Motorola did not violate three of Apple's smartphone patents. The decision signals potential trouble for Apple, though it still faces the approval of a six-person ITC panel.
    Apple and Motorola have been embroiled in a series of lawsuits both in federal court and with the ITC since 2010, when Motorola first accused Apple of violating a wide range of its patents covering 3G, GPRS, and 802.11 technologies, antenna design, proximity sensing, and device synchronization, to name a few. As is typical for these patent disputes, Apple immediately responded with its own countersuits, claiming that Motorola's Android-based smartphones were infringing on Apple's own intellectual property.
    Friday's ruling isn't yet the final word from the ITC, and the panel doesn't always rule the same way as the ALJ. Still, the decision is an indicator that Apple's IP fight against Android may not be as easy as former Apple CEO Steve Jobs might have hoped when he said he hoped to "go thermonuclear war" against the platform. Though Apple has not commented publicly on the initial ITC ruling, Motorola was quick to send out a victorious statement for its early win.
    "We are pleased with [Friday's] favorable outcome for Motorola Mobility," Motorola Mobility general counsel Scott Offer said in a statement. "Motorola Mobility has worked hard over the years to develop technology and build an industry-leading intellectual property portfolio. We are proud to leverage this broad and deep portfolio to create differentiated innovations that enhance the user experience."
    This is the second recent setback Apple has faced when it comes to its mobile patents and Motorola—the first one came in December when a German court issued an injunction against Apple over one of Motorola's cellular data transmission patents. Apple did, however, recently win an ITC ruling against another Android smartphone maker, HTC, with the manufacturer facing a potential import ban on its Android-based devices starting in April of this year. Still, HTC claims it has already figured out how to remove the offending features in its devices, so it's unlikely that HTC's smartphones will actually be banned from import into the US anytime soon.


    Microsoft Patent | "Microsoft reaches patent deal with LG"

    Category: Microsoft Patent

    Microsoft Patent
     San Francisco: Microsoft Thursday announced a patent licensing agreement with LG Electronics covering tablets, smartphones and other consumer devices running Google's Android or Chrome operating system.

    Microsoft said it marks the 11th deal with a device manufacturer leveraging Google's operating system platform.

    "More than 70 percent of all Android smartphones in the US are now receiving coverage under Microsoft's patent portfolio," Xinhua quoted a press release from the Microsoft as saying.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed. So far, Microsoft has struck major cross-licensing patent agreements with HTC, Samsung and Acer, among others.

    Last September, Microsoft announced a broad patent deal with Samsung. US media reports cited South Korean media as saying that Microsoft had wanted Samsung to pay $10-15 for each Android device.

    The booming mobile market has been harassed by acrimonious legal battles over patent infringement. Being an open source operating system, Google's Android has become a major target of patent suits.

    Microsoft has been going after companies that make phones and tablets running Android, rather than directly against Google.

    But the two tech giants are still engaged in public spats over the issue after Google's top legal officer posted a scathing blog last August accusing Microsoft and other companies of waging "a hostile, organized campaign against Android".

    Motorola Mobility, which Google announced to acquire in a $12.5 billion deal last August, currently is the last major Android device vendor that refuses to take a license from Microsoft.

    Frank Shaw, Microsoft's head of communications, used Twitter to taunt Google Thursday, twitting "Hey Google -- we are the 70 percent" with a link to their press release.

    Brad Smith, Microsoft's executive vice president and general counsel, also tweeted "it's time to recognize that in patent world, lawsuits are the 1 percent; license agreements are the 99 percent".

    Google so far has made no comments on the Microsoft-LG patent deal.


    IBM Patent | "IBM wins most patents 19th year in a row"

    By: Boomerang 
    Category: IBM Patent

    NEW YORK: International Business Machines Corp won a record number of US patents in 2011, its 19th straight year on top, as some Asian competitors advanced in the rankings at the expense of Microsoft Corp and Intel Corp.

    IBM, the world's biggest computer-services provider, gained 6,180 patents last year, researcher IFI Claims Patent Services said in a statement. Samsung Electronics Co was second, its growth outpacing IBM, and Canon Inc. replaced Microsoft as third. Panasonic Corp moved up to No. 4 and Toshiba Corp advanced to fifth spot.

    A patent portfolio spanning from computer memory to online shopping provides Armonk, New York-based IBM with licensing revenue and protection against intellectual-property infringement lawsuits. That means IBM is spending less time in courts than competitors, Manny Schecter, IBM's chief patent counsel, said in an interview before the numbers were released.

    "Everyone knows that if they attempt to bring their patent portfolio against us that they will be met with an equal and opposite force -- and it will be formidable," Schecter said.

    IBM also uses its patents to affect trends in technology: If it wishes to promote certain standards, it may tell other companies it won't sue anyone innovating in that area even if its patents are infringed. So far, the strategy has attracted clients for consulting on intellectual property management and requests to testify before Congress, Schecter said.

    Asian surge
    Still, IBM's reign may be threatened in coming years by Asian rivals, IFI said. Samsung's 8 per cent growth in patents outpaced IBM's 5 per cent, and in the number of patent applications Samsung has eclipsed IBM for two years, the researcher said. Patent applications are an indication of future patent grants, IFI said.

    "IBM seems to have a successful strategy that keeps them in a very prominent position," Mike Baycroft, IFI chief executive officer, said in an interview. "It may not last. As the Asians file more and more, especially large companies like Samsung, there is a possibility that they will take over that No. 1 position."

    Samsung, based in Suwon, South Korea, gained 4,894 patents last year, while Canon won 2,821. Microsoft dropped to sixth place in the rankings, while Intel fell to 16th from eighth. There were eight Asian and two US companies in the top 10.

    In all, the US issued a record 224,505 patents in 2011, up 2 per cent from 2010, Madison, Connecticut-based IFI said.

    Perforating machine
    Patents are part of IBM Chief Executive Officer Virginia "Ginni" Rometty's strategy as the company seeks to expand in areas such as emerging markets, cloud computing and analytics. Rometty, the first woman at the helm in IBM's 100-year history, took over from Sam Palmisano January 1 and tries to meet a goal of adding $20 billion in new revenue between 2010 and 2015. Analysts on average estimate IBM will report $107.2 billion in sales for 2011.

    The company invests about $6 billion in research and development each year, and makes about $1 billion in licensing revenue, said Chris Andrews, a spokesman. IBM has a 250-person team managing its patents, and it provides training for more than 8,000 inventors. They record about 20,000 breakthroughs annually, and only some are submitted for patents.

    IBM rose 0.6 per cent to $182.32 at the close in New York. The stock reached a record in 2011 and advanced 25 per cent for the year.

    IBM won its first patent for a perforating machine on July 25, 1911. Since then, the company's inventors have received more than 70,000 patents, 34,000 of which are active, Andrews said. The company patented DRAM cells, which became the standard for computer memory, in 1968. There are also non-computer inventions, like a laser technique that went on to become the foundation for LASIK eye surgery.

    * The Top 10 US Patent Winners of 2011: IBM: 6,180, Samsung: 4,894, Canon Inc: 2,821, Panasonic Corp: 2,559, Toshiba Corp: 2,483, Microsoft Corp: 2,311, Sony Corp: 2,286, Seiko Epson Corp: 1,533, Hon Hai Precision: 1,514, Hitachi Ltd: 1,465 


    Patent News | "Kodak’s Latest Apple, HTC Lawsuits May Goose Value of Patents"

    By: Susan Decker
    Category: Patent News

    Jan. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Eastman Kodak Co., seeking to sell or license a portfolio of more than 1,100 patents, sued Apple Inc. and HTC Corp. in an expansion of a legal strategy that may help boost the value of its inventions to fund a turnaround.

    Two infringement lawsuits filed yesterday in federal court in Rochester, New York, accuse the smartphone makers of using without permission Kodak technology for image transmission, including a way for users to share images directly from cameras. Kodak also claims HTC is infringing an additional patent for a preview feature, which is at the center of a U.S. International Trade Commission case against Apple and Research In Motion Ltd.

    “They’re trying to generate value for their patent portfolio,” said Ron Epstein, chief executive officer of patent brokerage Epicenter IP Group LLC in Redwood City, California.

    Kodak, which is predicted by analysts to report its fourth straight annual net loss, has put the Rochester-based company’s digital-imaging patents up for sale to help fund changes to its business. CEO Antonio Perez, who is now betting on digital printers for publishers, packagers, advertisers and households to lift Kodak, has said that the Apple-RIM trade commission case could generate $1 billion in new revenue from settlements.

    Kodak, which didn’t say how much the new Apple and HTC cases could be worth, also filed companion complaints at the trade commission yesterday in Washington, seeking to block imports of products including Apple’s iPad and iPhone, and HTC’s Flyer tablet and Wildfire S phone.

    Bankruptcy Risk
    “This is an important part of ongoing operations to get them through the transition,” said Erin-Michael Gill, chief intellectual property officer for MDB Capital Group LLC, a Santa Monica, California-based investment bank. “A bad sign would be them sitting on their hands and waiting for these to sell.”
    Kodak said last year it hired Lazard Ltd. to help it sell the patents and retained Jones Day among advisers helping on strategic options.

    The Apple-RIM trade commission case filed in 2010, involving the single image-preview patent, has met with delays including the retirement of the judge handling the case, and a final decision isn’t scheduled until September.

    Moody’s Investors Service on Jan. 5 cut ratings on about $1 billion of Kodak debt with a negative outlook, citing “a heightened probability of a bankruptcy over the near-term” as liquidity deteriorates, making a patent sale more challenging.

    Portfolio Perceptions
    Adding four new patents into the mix “helps, even without litigating any of the issues, to counteract the impression that there’s only one good patent” in the portfolio, said Ron Laurie, managing director of Inflexion Point Strategy LLC in Palo Alto, California, which counsels companies on intellectual property purchases. Kodak “wanted to defuse that impression.”

    The four patents asserted against Apple and HTC have as co- inventor Kodak researcher Kenneth Parulski, who has more than 190 patents and is “recognized as a pioneer in numerous digital camera technologies,” according to the complaints.

    Kodak claims infringement by Apple’s iPad 2, iPhone and iPod Touch, and by HTC’s tablets and phones, including the Flyer, EVO View 4G, Jetstream, Vivid, Amaze 4g, Desire, Hero S, Rezound, Rhyme, Sensation 4G and Wildfire S.

    “We’ve had numerous discussions with both companies in an attempt to resolve this issue, and we have not been able to reach a satisfactory agreement,” Laura Quatela, Kodak’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “Our primary interest is not to disrupt the availability of any product but to obtain fair compensation for the unauthorized use of our technology.”

    HTC, based in Taoyuan, Taiwan, had no comment on the complaints. Officials with Cupertino, California-based Apple didn’t reply to a request for comment.

    Stock Market Value
    Selling patents and debt will help determine “the company’s ability to continue its operations” in the next 12 months, Kodak said in a quarterly regulatory filing in November. Kodak said then it would pursue licensing opportunities for the patents if unable to sell them at “an appropriate price.”

    Kodak, which lost 88 percent of its stock market value last year, has struggled since demand for photographic film began evaporating as the world embraced digital cameras. Kodak’s cash and equivalents fell to $862 million at the end of its third quarter from $1.4 billion a year earlier. The company is scheduled to report fourth-quarter results Jan. 26.

    Management Changes
    Kodak rose 50 percent yesterday, to 60 cents, after saying it was adjusting its management structure and creating a chief operating office to reduce costs as its sales decline and cash reserves dwindle. The chief operating office will be led by Quatela and Philip Faraci, both presidents at Kodak. Faraci will focus on the commercial segment and sales and regional operations, and Quatela will lead the consumer segment and certain corporate functions, Kodak said.

    The company’s $162 million market value “is lower than the potential damages” the company could generate from litigation, Epstein said.

    “They’re looking at the mobile device companies and saying, ‘The brilliance of your user interface and product integration does not detract from the fact that you have integrated my innovation into your product and you owe me something for it,’” Epstein said.

    The new case against Apple is Eastman Kodak Co. v. Apple Inc., 12cv6020, and the case against HTC is Eastman Kodak Co. v. HTC, 12cv6021, both U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York (Rochester).


    Microsoft Patent | "Microsoft patent may help pedestrians avoid crime-prone areas"

    By: GMA News
    Category: Microsoft Patent

    Smartphones and mobile devices with software from Microsoft may soon help pedestrians avoid ghettoes and potentially crime-prone areas.
    Microsoft has been granted a patent that allows its mapping software to get up-to-date information about a neighborhood, including crime statistics.
    "The system ... can produce a direction set that is specifically tailored to pedestrian travel. A gather component 102 can obtain information related to pedestrian travel. Example information related to pedestrian travel include maps (e.g., extracted from a database), user history, weather information, crime statistics, demographic information, etc.," it said in its patent with the US Patent and Trademark Office.
    Such a feature is likely to be integrated in Microsoft's Windows Phone gadgets.
    Under the patent, the system will have a search component that locates at least one information source, retains pedestrian history from and addresses of at least one information source that has a history of providing reliable information.
    The gather component will obtain information related to pedestrian travel including information on security, weather and terrain.
    An analysis component determines an importance of the information to a user, estimates how likely the information is to change, and chooses if the user should reach a destination through a pedestrian route and/or through a conventional route.
    The system also hints that ads can be inserted into the presentation of routes.
    "Various features can integrate with route presentment, such as integrating an advertisement targeted to a pedestrian with a direction set," it said.
    Inventors of the patent, which was filed as early as December 2007, included Ivan Tashev, Jeffrey Couckuyt, Neil Black, John Krumm, Ruston Panabaker, and Michael Lewis Seltzer.
    A separate article on tech site CNET, however, said it is not immediately clear what kind of crime statistics the system may choose to use.
    "It's one thing to avoid areas where there might have occurred physical assaults and gunfire. It's another to avoid, say, places where burglaries are popular, as one suspects quite a few allegedly nice areas are subject to burglars' desires," it said.
    Also, it questioned if the system integrating ads can take pedestrians to areas with specific ads.
    "Is this suggesting that Windows Phones will give pedestrians a route that will take them past specific ads? What a curious and slightly mind-altering thought.
    One wonders whether those who use the system might also be offered an 'avoid ads' option," it said.


    Microsoft Patent | "Microsoft's Pedestrian Navigation Patent Dubbed 'Avoid Ghetto.' Really?"

    By: David Murphy
    Category: Patent News

    Microsoft Patent
    It's "pedestrian route production," not the "avoid ghetto" toggle, but various pundits have already miscategorized Microsoft's latest patent for a feature that would allow Windows Phones to create more user-friendly route navigation for those on foot.

    So where does the "ghetto" part come into play? Presumably, right in the first line of Microsoft's description of patent No. 8,090,532: "As a pedestrian travels, various difficulties can be encountered, such as traveling through an unsafe neighborhood or being in an open area that is subject to harsh temperatures."

    The fix, suggests Microsoft, is to combine an assessment of a user's behaviors with the user's upcoming tasks and some relevant external data sets. For example, Microsoft's mobile route-generation system could "learn" that a user leaves work at 5 p.m. each day and heads to a common location – home. Since the system's pedestrian-focused, it could design a route that a vehicle couldn't navigate to give the user the quickest possible walk home.

    "In addition, unexpected results can take place through practice of the disclosed innovation," reads Microsoft's patent. "As an illustration, a pedestrian could arrive at a location faster than if she traveled in a vehicle by taking more direct paths, yet a vehicle commonly travels much faster. Due to detailed route planning, a direction set can be created that allows a user to take more diverse paths that can compensate for a general lack of speed."

    But that's not all. The system could also take a user's history into account ("paths previously taken by a user, available paths, user experiences upon the paths, etc.") as well as any potential stops that might otherwise alter a user's normal route on a given day – like a calendar appointment that would force a user to stop somewhere after work on the way home, for example.

    As for the "avoid ghetto" bit, Microsoft also indicates that its pedestrian route navigation system could take database information into account when planning one's walking route, which could include weather information, crime statistics, and demographic information. But the specific crime statistics or demographics that Microsoft's system might consider, and what the threshold might be that would deem a route "unsafe" by the system, wasn't specified.

    The crux of Microsoft's patent is that it wants to build a real-time navigational system that gives users the best possible walk home, using a combination of a walker's preferences, third-party data, and the specific choices a person makes during the walk itself (like the benefits of switching to public transit mid-way, for example). The "avoid ghetto" tag is a bit of a misnomer; Microsoft seems to want its users to be able to avoid any and all transit headaches.


    Patent News | "Fun Patents of the Week: "HyperLight Speed Antenna" and More..."

    By: Daily Tech
    Category: Patent News

    Patent News
    Apparently the U.S. Patent Office has an answer for everything, even breaking the speed of light

    The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is an interesting system.  Unlike some other global patent offices, it isn't sustained by any sort of tax allotment.  Rather, it sustains itself with the fees it charges.  The system essentially creates a fun game for the USPTO in that the more patents it grants, the more patents are filed.  And the more patents that are filed the more fees are collected.  Hence, the more patents that are granted, the more fees that are collected. 

    Of course the patents office can only review so many patents.  So if it wants to grant more patents than it has employees to handle, it will need to simply approve patents that aren't thoroughly reviewed.  Granting insufficiently reviewed patents should help to increase the number of bad patents.

    I. Modeling the Number of Bad Patents as a Constraint Satisfaction Problem

    Constraint satisfaction problems or CSPs are used to model everything from financial decisions to sports season scheduling.  The quality of the model is dictated by your constraints.  It is easy to over-constrain or under-constrain.  Model quality is also determined by how well you estimate linear constants based on various experiments.

    So let's look at the above description of how the USPTO can profit off bad patents, but put it in reasonable math terms.

    Model in Symbolic Logic:

    Max(R = F - B)

    1. F = a * G
    2. B = r* L + b * S
    3. P >= ( G - c * A )
    4. P >= 0
    5. S >= d * e * (G-P) + e * P
    6. S >= 0
    7. L >= k * l * (G-P) + l * P
    8. L >= 0

    Goal in Words:
    You seek to maximize revenue (R), which is increased as you take in more fees (F) and decreased by backlash (B) against the patent office in terms of lawsuits, patent review requests, etc. 

    Constraining equation 1 in words:
    Fees (F) increase as the patents granted (G) increase.  (a) is a constant coefficient representing a modeled relationship between the number of granted patents and how many extra fees are collected due to increased filing if companies and individuals know they're more likely to receive a grant.

    Constraining equation 2 in words:
    Backlash (B) comes from the number of granted silly (or your other favorite "S" word, e.g. stupid, etc.) patents (S) plus the number of granted patents with incorrect literature reviews (L).  (r) and (b) are constants representing the scaling of public backlash for the two types of bad patents.  The more r*L + b*S the USPTO puts out, the more backlash (B) will be generated.

    Constraining equation 3 in words:
    Poorly reviewed patents (P) are found by taking the number of patents granted (G) and subtracting the number of Attorneys (A) times the number of patents each attorney can review (A)

    Constraining equation 4 in words:
    The number of poorly reviewed patents is at least (0) as a negative number of poor reviews is nonsensical.

    Constraining equation 5 in words:
    The number of silly patents (S) (typically an non-novel patent) is equal to the frequency of silly filings (e) times the number of poorly reviewed patents (P).  As some well reviewed silly patents may be granted on accident, a constant (e) is utilized to indicate how likely a reviewed silly submission is accidentally granted.  So an additional number of silly patents is added for the frequency of silly filings (e) times the frequency of grants of reviewed silly filings (d) times the number of well reviewed patents (G-P).

    Constraining equation 6 in words:
    The number of granted silly patents (S) is at least (0) as a negative number of grants is nonsensical.

    Constraining equation 7 in words:
    The number of patents with incorrect literature reviews (L) (e.g. prior art goes unnoticed) is equal to the frequency of filings that ignore existing literature (l) times the number of poorly reviewed patents (P).  As some earnest reviews may miss prior art on accident, a constant (k) is utilized to indicate how likely a review is to miss prior art in the case of a bad patent.  So an additional number of incorrect literature reviews is added for the  frequency of filings that ignore existing literature (l) times the frequency actual reviewed patents are approved accidentally ignoring literature (d) times the number of well reviewed patents (G-P).

    Constraining equation 8 in words:
    The number of granted patents with incorrect literature reviews (L) is at least (0) as a negative number of grants is nonsensical.

    Overall Justification of Model:
    This is a pretty simplistic model in that everything has to scale linearly and it operates under the assumption that the USTPO's goal is to maximize earnings (fees-backlash).  But it seems reasonably accurate, given the patent office's inherent business-like operation and the assumption that the goal of every business is to produce maximum profits.

    There is one important flaw in the model.  The frequency of filed silly patents (e) and filed patents that ignore prior art (l) should increase as the number of grants increase.  However, if additional constraints were added to relate (e) and (l) to (G) by a scaling relationship, it would make the CSP non-linear.

    Ultimately this could result in more patents being filed (if backlash is exceeded by the  gains in fees) or less patents being filed (if the fees are exceeded by the backlash).

    This model offers two key observations:

        The model has a tendency to accept a lot of bad of patents, depending on the state of the office and public.
        The ony thing holding it back from accepting all bad patents (hence obtaining the best case maximum on profits) is the amount of public backlash.

    II. "Silly" Patents

    Alright enough math, let's take a look at some interesting patents...

    Today we present to you some jewels from the USPTO.  Remember, these folks are the law of the land and decide whether it's legal or not for someone to build something:

    Patenting the slingshot...
    "Handheld Water Balloon Catapault" (U.S. Patent 4,922,884)
    Filed: Mar. 1989 Granted: May 1990

    Now at this point you're probably thinking "How is this thing a catapault?  It has no cranked tension!  Isn't this essentially just a plastic slingshot, a crude precursor to the bow and arrow?"
    Well silence your skepticism at its slightly misleading terminology and prepare to be amazed at the novel contribution:
    "...implementing a yolk of greater clearance, thus allowing an enlarged projectile puch to be attached.  These features allow projectiles, of greater mass such as water balloons... Combined with... a guard which protects the fingers from the occasional contact which may occur during projectile launch."

    Now at this point you're probably thinking they've somehow made a catapault out of hardened egg yolks. No, they have not.  It appears that the author meant to put "yoke", as in "handle", but instead put "yolk" as in "yummy egg".  This occured a good five times in the patent.  And he was patenting a slingshot.  It smells like a lawsuit against Dennis the Menace and Bart Simpson may be incoming.

    Patenting nature...
    "A Jumping Snail" (U.S. Design Patent 435,610)
    Filed: June 1999 Granted: Dec 2000

    Quite literally what it sounds like, this patent is a stuffed animal resembling a snail, which is poorly drawn in a series of imaginative images by someone whom we're guessing never had any formal college background in art.  We're not sure if snails are in violation of this design, but should human laws be applied to gastropods they're going to be crushed in court, particularly after they don't show up as a result of their general snailish qualities.  But seriously if there's one thing the Japanese horror film Uzumaki taught us, it's that snails are not suitable children's toys as they quite possibly might be trying to kill you.

    Patenting use of a playground apparatus...
    "Method of Swinging on a Swing" (U.S. Patent U.S. 6,368,227 B1)
    Filed: Nov. 2000 Granted: April 2002

    If you're wondering, yes this patent describes playing on a swing.  While it's hard to fault the author St. Paul, Minn.-resident Steven Olson (for the record, he's probaby one of these guys) for engaging in such a nostalgic activity, one might worry that someone might challenge this patent given that Mr. Olson didn't really provide much in the way of prior art for his novel play "technology".  A prior art claim seems especially likely if 18th century French Rococo artist Jean-Honore Fragonarde (see above) returns from the grave.  But fortunately the USPTO cleared that up for us. See that "B1"?  That means it's the first of its kind, or as the USPTO, "No previously published pre-grant publication."

    Well if you were worried this patent was going to turn out to make the USPTO look willfully incompetent, thankfully they cleared it up for us by examining the issue and concluding that no one had ever "invented" swinging on a swing before.  Clearly Mr. Fragonard needs to get right back in his time machines, head straightaway to his own era, and stop stealing the 20th century's ideas.  That's some USPTO justice there!

    Warp speed 10 on my Mark...
    "Hyper-Light Speed Antenna" (U.S. Patent 6,025,810)
    Filed: Oct 1997 Granted: Feb. 2000

    While all these patents concerned modern technology somewhat indirectly as:
    a) They covered "technology" inventions.
    b) They show the likely quality of the approvals process for more serious invention claims.
    They don't cover any sort of hard tech.  That's why we've saved the best to last.  You see, the USPTO has verified that Einstein was wrong and that one of the most fundamental laws of physics: E=MC^2 was just a bunch of baloney.

    Meet the patent on the hyper-light speed antenna.  That's right, the author claims to have found a way to send electromagnetic waves at a speed faster than light.  He does not mention whether this is in a medium or not, so clearly he's shattered the speed of light in any setting, including the absolute speed of light in the vacuum.  Guess what skeptics, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office says he's right.  It took them three years to verify his claims, but now they've gave resounding approval to the filing.  Goodbye fundamental law of physics.

    Some mistakenly believed that the patent was assigned to a U.S. Doctor in Aurora, Colo.  That's understandable as the patent assignee is David L. Strom, while there's an orthopedic surgeon named David E. Strom.  But it appears that the filer is instead possibly a real estate agent in the town whose middle initial matches that of the filer.  That's right, it may be a real estate agent who trumped all those stuffy physics professors who told you about all that laws of physics hooey.  Looks like we can finally go Star Trek on the universe, assuming we find enough dilithium crystals to power this sophisticated gadget.

    And yes, for the record, these are all real patents, follow the links.  Hopefully this inspires you to file some good patents of your own.


    Apple Patent | "Patent signals that Thunderbolt port coming to iOS devices?"

    By: David Morgenstern
    Category: Apple Patent

    Apple Patent
    Summary: It was understood previously that Apple’s participation in the development of the Thunderbolt interconnect was a backseat collaboration with Intel. However, according to a recent Apple patent application, the company appears to be taking a greater hand in Thunderbolt development. The result may be faster sync and faster power charging.

    Common knowledge was that Apple was taking a backseat participation in the development of the Thunderbolt interconnect — used on the latest Macintosh models technology and on the Apple Thunderbolt Display — called a technology “collaboration” with Intel. However, according to a recent Apple patent application, the company appears to be taking a greater hand in Thunderbolt development. The result may be faster sync and faster power charging.

    The Patently Apple site this week discussed a patent application for the use of Thunderbolt on mobile devices. It would require a new cable and physical connector, which will be reliable and handle heat.

        Before going into the details of this main patent in their series of three, it should be noted that Apple states in their secondary patent application that “the present invention, connection may also be a new type of connection.”

        For example, “a connection may be provided between a portable media player and a display, a computer and a portable media player, or between other types of devices.” Of course if this is to apply to future iOS devices, as suggested in the quote above, Apple will have to reengineer the connector to be flat enough to fit a USB-type of device slot. The good news is that transferring data to and from an iOS device will be lighting fast as will recharging.


    Patent News | "Google adds more IBM patents to tech arsenal"

    By: Agence France-Presse
    Category: Patent News

    SAN FRANCISCO - Google on Wednesday confirmed that it has added more IBM patents to its technology arsenal as smartphone rivals increasingly battle in courts over innovations.

    Google bought 188 patents and 29 patent applications related to mobile phones from IBM but did not disclose how much it paid.

    Last year, IBM sold Google 2,000 or so patents ranging from mobile software to computer hardware and processors.

    Google has been strengthening its patent portfolio as the fight for dominance in the booming smartphone market increasingly involves lawsuits claiming infringement of patented technology.

    The California Internet powerhouse behind Android mobile device software last year transferred a set of patents to smartphone titan HTC Corp. to help the Taiwan-based company in an intellectual property clash with iPhone maker Apple.

    Technology giants have taken to routinely pounding one another with patent lawsuits. Apple has accused HTC and other smartphone makers using Google's Android mobile operating system of infringing on Apple-held patents.
    Some of the patents that HTC got from Google had belonged to Motorola Mobility, which Google is buying for $12.5 billion in cash.

    Motorola Mobility's trove of patents was a key motivation for Google, which is keen to defend Android.

    "Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google's patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies," Google chief executive Larry Page said when the Motorola Mobility buy was announced.

    Motorola Mobility chief executive Sanjay Jha told financial analysts the US maker of smartphones and touchscreen tablet computers has over 17,000 issued patents and another 7,500 pending.


    Patent News | "AT&T settles TiVo patent suit for at least $215 million"

    The settlement comes a few months after TiVo settled with Dish Network and EchoStar
    By: John Ribeiro
    Category: Patent News

    DG News Service - AT&T will pay TiVo at least US$215 million to settle pending patent litigation relating to digital video recorder technology.

    TiVo in Alviso, California filed in August, 2009 a patent infringement complaint against AT&T in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall division, in which it stated that AT&T infringed three of its patents, including U.S. Patent No. 6,233,389, entitled "Multimedia time warping system".

    The settlement comes a few months after TiVo settled with Dish Network and EchoStar in a similar case that involved TiVo's time warp technology which allows the user to store selected television broadcast programs while simultaneously watching or reviewing another program.

    Under the terms of the settlement announced Tuesday by TiVo, AT&T has agreed to pay TiVo an initial payment of $51 million, followed by recurring quarterly guaranteed payments through June 2018, totaling $164 million, which together will yield a minimum of $215 million.

    AT&T will in addition pay incremental recurring per subscriber monthly license fees through July, 2018 should AT&T's DVR subscriber base exceed certain levels, TiVo said.

    AT&T could not be immediately reached for comment.

    As part of the settlement, TiVo and AT&T have agreed to dismiss all pending litigation between the companies with prejudice. The parties also entered into a cross license of their respective patent portfolios in "the advanced television field", TiVo said.


    Patent News | "Petrol engine drives Volt 'electric' car ... sometimes"

    By: Barry Park
    Category: Patent News

    A patent filing shows direct link between a petrol engine and wheels, casting more doubt on the Volt’s credentials.

    Is the Holden Volt an electric car, as the company claims, or is it just a hybrid car with spin?

    The answer appears no closer to resolution, with Holden’s US parent, General Motors, casting further doubt on the car maker’s claim that the Volt is, first and foremost, an electric car with a range-extending petrol engine.

    A GM-sourced patent submitted by the car maker’s research arm, GM Global Technology Operations, to the US Patent and Trademark Office in December describes an electric vehicle drivetrain that is very similar to that used in the Volt.

    However, the patent filing goes into great detail to summarise the various operating conditions of the system — which includes a pair of electric motors, a bank of batteries and a petrol engine — including one described as a ‘‘direct mechanical path between the engine and drive wheels’’.

    The filing refers to an ‘‘extended-range electric vehicle’’ with ‘‘an engine having an output shaft, a planetary gear set having a node driven by the output shaft of the engine when the engine is on, and first and second electric machines’’.

    ‘‘The first electric machine is connected to another node, and operates as a generator when the engine is on. A one-way clutch is connected to the remaining node,’’ it reads.

    ‘‘The second electric machine is connected to an output side of the one-way clutch, with a shaft connecting the drive wheels to the second electric machine.

    ‘‘A controller provides a forward electric-only (EV) mode, a reverse EV mode, power-split mode(s), and series mode(s).

    And then there is the clincher: ‘‘The series mode(s) provide a direct mechanical path between the engine and drive wheels, with the one-way clutch overrunning in the forward EV mode,’’ the filing says.

    Holden energy and environment director Richard Marshall hosed down speculation at an Australian preview of the Volt last week, backing up GM’s claim that the car doesn’t have a direct link between the front wheels and the petrol engine.

    GM admitted to Drive last year that the Volt would in some high speed situations directly link the engine to the wheels, claiming it was only done because in that particular situation it was found to be more efficient than first converting the energy to electricity to be used by the electric motor power the wheels.

    US automotive website Edmunds Inside Line stirred up a storm late last year, claiming that under certain conditions the Volt ‘‘at times be directly driven in part by its internal combustion engine’’.

    ‘‘In fact, the Chevy Volt is a plug-in hybrid and it has more in common with conventional 'series-parallel' hybrids like the Toyota Prius than the marketing hype led us to believe,’’ the website said in an expose just before the Volt’s US launch.

    ‘‘There are circumstances in which the Volt operates with the internal combustion engine directly driving the front wheels. That's right, like a Prius.’’


    Patent News | "Inventors: Take Heed Of The Revised U.S. Patent Law"

    By:Eric Savitz
    Category: Patent News

    The America Invents Act, signed into law in September, will transition the patent application process from the first-to-invent system, to the new first-to-file system. With the increased emphasis on the speed of filing, and the opportunities for innovation, the stakes are high for those who fail to understand and take action.

    According to the White House, the law was passed with good intentions – to aid in speeding up the unreasonably long waiting times for U.S. patents, and to level the global playing field for U.S. innovators by adopting a first to file system. However, for this to work, the government has to get the word out, and businesses need to get involved and help Washington implement the changes.

    Commentary on the law has so far been focused on what the reform doesn’t do, or how it will favor high-volume patent filers and even “patent trolls,” over smaller businesses. The details of the reform, however, read differently. From discounted filing fees to a fast-track option for ‘growing businesses’, the law’s authors tried to address some basic needs of both large and small companies and individual inventors.

    From our discussions with senior officials, the administration seems to be doing some things right:  arranging brainstorming/listening sessions with tech companies, and studying ways to increase both speed and quality within the patent examination process.  However, there is still much more to do in terms of communication and outreach.

    Here’s what everyone should know:

    Speed really matters

    Under the new “first to file” system, the patent game has become a race. This is why the stakes are high for those that fail to pay attention. All inventors must now ensure that they are the first out of the starting gates when planning to file for a patent, or they’ll risk losing out to a competitor – large or small.

    One expected outcome, therefore, from the shift to first to file, is an increase in the volume of provisional patent applications. A provisional patent application allows for a slimmed down anticipatory patent claim, that establishes “first to file,” without a formal patent claim, oath or declaration. It also allows the “Patent Pending” label to be applied to commercial descriptions of the invention for a year, pending filing of a non-provisional application.

    It has been widely predicted that this reform will encourage more provisional patent filings. But, to make this work, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)  has to make filing provisional patents easier.  A major step in the right direction is the Electronic Filing System-Web (EFS-Web), that offers businesses the ability to file patent applications at a substantially lower cost than paper filings. In fact, effective November 15, 2011, everyone who files on paper must pay an additional $400, reduced to $200 for small entity filers.

    Cost reform means discounted fees for some

    Encouraging for smaller businesses, the AIA creates a new category for so called “micro entities,” making them eligible for discounted fees. Qualifying businesses, with fewer than four previously filed patent applications and a gross income less than three times the median household income, are entitled to a 75% saving on the filing fee, the search fee, the examination fee, the issue fee, appeal fees, and maintenance fees. That’s moving fees in the right direction.

    Fast-Track available

    Getting a patent issued can be the difference between life and death for some businesses, and start-ups especially. For example, access to investors and capital can improve dramatically with a patent grant.  According to the USPTO’s own data, however, the average time from initial filing to issuance of a patent is just under three years (33 months).  Many entrepreneurs just don’t have enough capital to wait so long before knowing that their invention has the competitive advantage of patent protection.

    So, now the good news:  there is a new fast-track processing option for growing companies. As of September 26, 2011, the USPTO now offers expedited patent application review, for a fee. All regulators have to do now is organize effectively so as to come good on this promise.

    Small entity and independent inventors receive a 50 percent discount on the $4,800 fee for this new fast track option. Once the agency is able to set its own fees, micro-entities can also receive the 75 percent discount on this fee. If implemented well, this provision should enable “growing companies,” the opportunity to have important patents – defined by Washington as those “likely to create good jobs right away” -reviewed within 12 months. That’s quite an improvement, if it is well executed.

    Where the fees go and improving quality

    The contentious issue of fees and quality affect everyone involved in the patent system. Mallun Yen, VP of Corporate Development for RPX, says. “Providing appropriate funding is critical to giving USPTO Director (David Kappos) the tools needed to improve the speed and quality of patent examinations, including the new post-grant review procedures.” She’s right. Although annual appropriations will be necessary to approve PTO spending, the hope is that PTO fees will no longer be subject to diversion, and the USPTO will finally get the resources it needs.

    What about the supposed tension between large and small business?

    Patent attorney Steve Nielsen believes that the argument in Washington has been so focused on the battle between big business and small business that it has failed to see the big picture: “with more disclosures, society as a whole wins.” The simple fact is that this new law should greatly encourage and aid innovation. More filings should equal more disclosure of good ideas and, thus, more innovation.

    Ultimately, the underpinning of the entire patent system is the recognition that innovation is the result of iteration.  With more ideas publicly disclosed, there will be more stuff for inventors to work with, leading to rapid commercialization and incremental improvements – all benefiting job creation and the economy.

    But, until the patent office obtains guaranteed funding to hire more examiners and improve examiners’ training, it is hard to imagine how the goals of the AIA can actually be achieved.


    Apple Patent | "New Patent Suggests Apple Might Incorporate Facial Recognition Software Into The iOS"

    By: Joe White
    Category: Apple Patent

    Apple Patent
    A recently filed patent application suggests that future iOS devices and MacBooks might be able to recognize their owner, and respond accordingly. Though many Apple patents amount to nothing, this new patent (which builds upon two previous applications) describes a kind of facial recognition that sounds workable, useful and altogether possible.

    The patent application (depicted above) came to our attention via Patently Apple. According to the website:

        On December 29, 2011, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals one of the next chapters for device security. In 2009, Apple’s presence detection patent first came to light in relation to future MacBooks. Then in November of this year, Apple revealed a heavy duty 3D face and object recognition system that could be used for home and enterprise security applications. In today’s revelations, Apple introduces us to a more down to earth and practical security system for our portable devices. For simple home or personal use, the system could be setup to recognize your presence and face to quickly turn on your device. This would bypass the need for entering a password or even having to touch the home button to get to your homepage. For use at work, the facial recognition system could be set to higher levels of security. All in all it sounds like a very promising security system is in our future.

    Already, Google has dabbled with this kind of technology and has included a facial recognition unlock in Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). However, as PCMag notes, a still image of the handset’s owner can unlock the Android-powered smart phone, and legitimate attempts to unlock via facial recognition don’t always work.

    However, Apple’s facial recognition software would work quite differently, Patently Apple explains:

        Particular implementations of the subject matter described in this specification could be configured to realize one or more of the following potential advantages. The techniques and systems disclosed in this specification could reduce the impact of lighting and emphasize skin variance. By acquiring images with the appliance’s own image capture device, the approximate location and orientation of face features could be pre-assumed and could avoid the overhead of other face recognition systems. The disclosed methods could ignore face biometrics, and rather use feature locations to normalize an image of a test face. Further, the face recognition techniques are based on a simple, weighted difference map, rather than traditional (and computationally expensive) correlation matching.

    This would be great with a Siri-powered iPad – just imagine: the tablet, if shared between family members, could recognize who is using it and adjust settings (and greet that person) accordingly.

    We’ll keep you posted on the status of this patent and will let you know if more news becomes available. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.