Patents

Patent Trolls: A Growing Concern

By: Samantha Berner *

Barack_ObamaIn a world that thrives on new ideas and innovation, the new-age issue of patent trolls has become a concern for many, including the President of the United States. In Barack Obama’s most recent State of the Union address, he mentioned his concern for the issues stemming from patent trolls, discussing the rapid increase in patent lawsuits. Patent trolls are defined as companies who purchase patents, not because they manufactured the product, but simply to subsequently charge companies licensing fees to use the product. Part of owning a patent also gives the patent trolls the right to enforce their ownership through lawsuits and litigation if they feel they are being infringed upon. There has been an increasing number of these patent infringement suits, with Apple, Google, and AT&T each facing over one hundred of them since 2009. These lawsuits not only cost the company time, but it is estimated that for a suit with ten to twenty-five million dollars at stake, the average cost of litigation is 3.3 million dollars. Continue reading »

Doctor Thinks Pink: Cleveland Md. Develops Breast Cancer Vaccine

By: Caitlin S. Hale*

pink ribbon shotOctober 1st kicked off the start to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. One Cleveland- based doctor is doing his share of “thinking pink” with the development of a vaccine that could prevent breast cancer. Vincent Tuohy, an immunologist in the Cleveland area, developed the vaccine about three years ago, although the vaccine’s recent success in trials has brought more media attention.

The fact that a breast cancer prevention vaccine was developed years ago seems odd, since an average of 39,620 deaths still occur from breast cancer each year. It almost goes without saying that there is a catch to this vaccine: it has only been tested in mice. However, the vaccine was safe and effective in preventing breast cancer in mice, including those that were bred to have a predisposition for breast cancer. With only success in mice and also the need to pass the FDA approval process, it’s likely that the vaccine will not be available for humans for at least 10 years. Continue reading »

The Future of Translation: Intelligent Glass

By: Samantha Berner *

japanAt Japan’s Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies (CEATEC), a consumer technology trade show with over 580 companies involved, one product has become the talk of the town: Intelligent Glass. Intelligent Glass, which uses similar technology to that of Google Glass, has “normal” functions, such as checking the time or searching the Internet. Intelligent Glass, however, is gaining most of its attention because of its new, high-tech features. One of the most popular functions is the translation feature, which enables the wearer of the Intelligent Glass to see nearly instant translation of written texts; it took the prototype a little over five seconds to complete a translation. NTT Docomo, the creator of Intelligent Glass, believes the translation feature will be extremely helpful to tourists, who are not familiar with the Japanese language. It will enable tourists to see signs, directions, and even menus written in Japanese characters, to be projected on the Glasses’ screen in the wearer’s native language. The display can already translate Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean languages. Continue reading »

Battle over Search Engine Patents Heats up as Vringo Learns from Previous Lawsuits

By: Cory Howard *

Picture 1Vringo, a company known for the video ringtones it makes for mobile phones, has been a somewhat surprising, yet significant player in the patent battle over search engine software. Most of the patent litigation has been undertaken by I/P Engine, a subsidiary of Vringo, that has often been accused of being a patent troll (acquiring patents primarily for litigious, instead of development, purposes). In late 2012, Vringo sold over 9.6 million shares of stock to raise over $31 million to buy 500 patents, including the two at issue from Nokia. Although the patents were only initially worth $20 million, Vringo’s continued patent litigation strategy has increased the potential for their long-term value to increase. After acquiring patent #6,314,420 (Collaborative/Adaptive Search Engine) and patent #6,775,664 (“Information Filter System and Method for Integrated Content-Based and Collaborative/Adaptive Feedback Queries”), Vringo has successfully brought suit against Google, AOL, Gannett, IAC, and Target. The patents at issue permit the search software to match advertisements to queries run by the search engine’s users. These patents are essential to the ranking and placement of ads in search results and thus, they are integral for search engines’ marketing revenue. Continue reading »

RIM’s $65 Million Payment to Nokia Ends Its Most Recent Smart-Phone Patent Litigation Battle

By: Cory Howard *

PatentThe close of 2012 saw two technology giants, Nokia and Research in Motion (RIM), settle the most recent battle in the ongoing patent war between multi-national cell-phone makers. The proposed settlement, which includes one-time and continuing payments, with final values over $65 million, will settle a long-standing dispute over a licensing agreement the two companies executed in 2003. The original agreement provided both RIM and Nokia to use each other’s standard essential patents, which RIM interpreted to include access to Nokia’s WLAN technologies. Although it has been widely reported that Nokia’s WLAN patents were the main source of the dispute, the RIM’s alleged licensing violations touched on a variety of other important smart-phone technologies. According to SEC filings, at the center of the dispute are several different technologies including, point-to-point short messaging service, power consumption in a mobile station, and security improvement software. In exchange for payments and a new licensing agreement, Nokia has agreed to drop all pending actions in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany. Continue reading »

Patent Wars Taking their Toll on the Free Flow of Ideas

By: Cory Howard *

Picture of a Troll depicting patent trollsPatents were originally seen as legal mechanisms to protect an inventor’s creations, with the ultimate hope that this kind of protection would encourage innovation. Indeed, patents one through three, four, or even five million might have lived up to the lofty ideals that the Patent Act of 1790 envisioned. However, US Patent No. 6,599,460, a highly contentious patent that has led to a flurry of legal activity surrounding the injection molding used to make disposable plastic cups, unearths a much more sinister use of patents. Instead of being used by the original inventor to protect his creation, Patent 460 was sold to a notorious patent litigator, Sorensen Research and Development Trust, which uses the patents it buys from inventors, not to safeguard intellectual property, but to use it as a litigation tool against every party it possibly can. These companies, known as “patent trolls”, acquire patents from inventors solely for the purpose of litigating and licensing.

Besides undermining the aims and objectives of patent law and forcing the United States Patent and Trademarks Office to reconsider a significant number of patents, patent trolls cause serious economic problems for established corporations and other businesses alike. In fact, recent studies on patent litigation estimate that patent trolls cost the U.S. about $29 billion last year, with one quarter of all costs being legal fees. This is a substantial amount of money that could otherwise be used to fund innovation and development, but is instead being used to pay often-times unnecessary legal fees, with large companies paying an average of $7.27 million per lawsuit and small companies averaging $1.33 million for every suit brought by a troll. Continue reading »

General Electric Chasing the Wind

By: Rebeca Echevarria *

Chart from General ElectricGeneral Electric, has been issued a patent to develop a spinner for wind turbines. The patent lists Stefan Herr from Greenville, S.C. and Peter Gauchel from Munster, Germany as the architects of the new turbine, which could prove significantly more efficient than present wind-turbine designs. In a time when crude oil resources are diminishing, green technologies, such as wind-energy, are being heavily invested in for the future. General Electric has been a major player in the green technology movement for many years now and it is no surprise that this company is seeking ways to improve on current “green” technologies available.

Although General Electric’s invention is not entirely new, U.S. Patent Statute, 35 U.S.C. 101 expressly states that improvements to previously patented inventions can be patentable. In the 2007 case, KSR v. Teleflex, the U.S. Supreme Court said that a patent application for an improvement of an invention must list the claims that demonstrate how the improvement is not only new and useful, but is not obvious to someone having ordinary skill in that particular technical field. GE’s application made 20 such claims. Continue reading »

Verizon and TiVo Reach $250 Million Patent Settlement

By: Lena Mualla *

Tivo LogoTiVo, which has been struggling in recent years, has found at least one source of revenue in the short run: patent settlements. Specifically, TiVo had alleged in its mid-2009 suit that Verizon infringed on three of its patents: its “multimedia time warping system,” “system for time shifting multimedia content streams,” and “automatic playback overshoot correction system.” These refer to the TV show recording technology which was once synonymous with TiVo. With the advent of TiVo, viewers were excited to gain unprecedented control over their ability to watch TV. Digital video recording meant that viewers could record shows and play them back at any time, even while they are being recorded. TiVo was the first company to make such technology commercially available, getting its start in 1999 and first breaking a profit in 2005. It didn’t take long after TiVo took off for cable providers to join in on the action, offering TiVo-style technology to its patrons; in 2008, Engadget reported: “Now that DVRs [digital video recorders] have really hit critical mass, just about everyone and their brother makes one.” That overlapping of ideas (which some might assert is infringement) eventually led to TiVo’s current position, where it is well-suited to take advantage of possible infringements to extract multiple settlements. Continue reading »

Patents: the Ultimate Weapon Among Smartphone Companies

By: Stephen C. Pritchard *

Nexus cell phoneBeneath the flashy advertisements, network speed comparisons, and ever-changing features of smartphones, there is a war being waged among the greatest tech companies in the world over the most essential components of any smartphone, patents. In the United States, the federal government protects patent owners for a specified length of time by granting a monopoly on a design or invention, allowing the owner to fully realize the benefits of his or her work free of competition from others. In return, after the time period has lapsed, the patent is made available to the general public, thus promoting overall growth and advancement for everyone.

Smartphone patents, the source of every “ooh!” and “aah!” over a new phone, are vital assets in a way that no other resource owned by a smartphone company can be, and have become an asset class all of their own (it is estimated that over 250,000 current patents are related to smartphones). While property holdings, equipment, employees, and other assets are all important to a company, those in the smartphone business could never exist without their patent portfolios. This realization has led to fierce competition in research and development, patent purchasing and licensing, and in courts around the world. Continue reading »

iPatents: A Look at the Possible Future of Apple Devices

By: Rebeca Echevarria *

In the dark recesses of the Apple patent dungeons, there lie many ideas that will likely never see the light of day, but it is from those crypts that Apple pulls the spectacular features to include in products. Apple’s recent patent applications are in no way a guarantee of what we will see in the next generation of Apple products, but they can certainly shed some light on where Apple is headed.

Since the first iPod, Apple has maintained the 30-pin standard for charging and data transfer on most of its devices. That is why many of us wept to see that our many glorious Apple accessories, which are on the legacy 30-pin standard, are now incompatible with the iPhone 5’s much smaller lightning pin standard.Apple Charger Continue reading »