Happy Easter

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April 16, 2017

In celebration of Easter Sunday, below is a short list of some intesting U.S. patents and patent applications with Easter themes:

Easter Egg Coloring Kits
U.S. Patent No. 5,074,239: "Easter Eggs Decorating and Coloring Kit"
U.S. Pub. Patent App. No. 2007/0210594: Egg Dipper for use in Egg Decorating Kit"

Easter Candy
U.S. Design Patent No. D657,527: "Confection" (Godiva Easter Bunny Chocolate Candy)
U.S. Pub. Patent App. No. 2014/0193545: "Caramel, Confection Comprising the Caramel and Method of Making the Confection" (Mars Chocolate Egg)

Easter Decorations
U.S. Patent No. 4,124,135: "Hinged Plastic Easter Egg"


Step 1: Conduct A Patent Search Now

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April 1, 2017

If you have a new idea or invention, the first step in the patent process is often to have a patent search conducted. The results of a thorough patent search can help answer some important initial questions concerning your invention - answers that can help you decide what to do and where to go next.

For exmaple, is your invention new or unique? Does your invention have any specific features or advantages that are different than existing patents or prior art? What features of your invention are important to you, the consumer, or the industry? Where is the industry heading?

Oftentimes, the results of a patent search can be somewhat eye-opening, at least initially. When you receieve the results, analyze them, review the prior art, and attempt to distinguish your invention from those found in the search. This can assist the patent attorney in preparing a more defined or focused patent application -- for instance, one that is directed more toward the features and functions that set your invention apart from others.

You may even realize that, after the results of the patent search become available, your inveniton may change, evolve or improve as you continue to to fine-tune the details and build towards a stronger invention with more unique features and functions.

Again, the patent search is often the first step in the direction of protecting your invention or some of the unique portion(s) of your invention.

Contact us today to get started or to answer any questions that you may have.


Technology Giant, Apple, Continues to Increase its Patent Portfolio at a Significant Pace and is Granted 48 Patent This Week

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In the last three years, Apple has increased its U.S. patent portfolio in a significant manner -- perhaps in an attempt to bolster its position in the intellectual property wars against Samsung and other like technology companies. Apple has grown its U.S. patent portfolio by about 25% every year for the past three years, and currently holds nearly 11,000 U.S. patents.

In a single day this week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted a series of 48 patents to Apple, Inc., covering inventions directed to optical connectors, methods of improving a search, a multipoint touchscreen, a design for an Apple Watch table drawer, etc.

In comparison, Samsung owns over 55,000 U.S. patents -- more than any other company or entity -- and IBM owns ths second largest U.S. patent portfolio, with a total of about 44,000 U.S. patents.

While it appears that the patent litigtation wars between these companies are winding down, their patent portfolios are continuing to increase at a steady and significant pace.

See the following articles for more information on this topic:

The Telegraph

Patently Apple


Supreme Court Relaxes Standard on Enhanced Damages for Patent Infringement

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On June 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States decided a case (Halo Electronics, Inc. v. Pulse Electronics, Inc.) that surrounds the potential for patent infringement damage awards up to three (3) times the amount found as actual infringement damages. This extraordinary damage multiplier arises under Federal Law (35 U.S.C. 284) and is meant to punish egregious infringement behavior. In order to enforce this law, the Federal Courts previously adopted a two-part test for determining whether such egregious or willful infringement behavior was exhibited, and thus an enhanced damage award would be appropriate.

In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that the two-part test adopted by the Federal Courts is inconsistent with the Federal Law. Specifically, the Supreme Court declared that the test is unduly rigid and impermissibly encumbers the degree of discretion that should be provided to the Courts. The Supreme Court also rejected the two-part test because it inappropriately requires the elevated evidentiary standard of "clear and convincing evidence," as opposed to the lower "preponderance of the evidence" standard.

The result of this case is to lower the burden on patent litigation plaintiffs to obtain triple damages against a defendant who exhibits egregious infringement behavior, even when the infringement is conducted without an "objective" recklessness to the conduct of the infringing party.

An additional article on this topic can be found here.


Can Patents Benefit Your Start-Up Company?

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An interesting article published by the National Law Review identifies 9 reasons start-up companies can benefit from a patent.

Among other items, the article notes that patents can help stop the theft of innovations, can bring prestige and influence, and can increase the chances of acquisition or obtaining venture capital. For instance, in a 2010 study, 80% of start-up companies that received venture capital owned one or more patents. From a marketing perspective, consumers can oftentimes percieve patented products or technology to be of a higher caliber than products or technology that do not have patent protection.

The original article from the The National Law Review can be read here.


Another Patent Issues for Google's Self-Driving Vehicle

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A new patent that was issued to Google yesterday provides an interesting account on how and when its self-driving vehicle will take control from the driver. For example, when the driver is ready to relinquish control to the autonomous driving system or computer, the driver may press a button or pull a lever (similar to activating cruise control.) However, before taking control of the vehicle, the computer will assess the safety of the situation, for example, by identifying the GPS location of the vehicle or detecting whether there are a large number of obstacles in the area. When the computer is ready to take control, a light or indicator is activated and the driver may release his or her hands from the steering wheel.

In order to accomodate for emergencies, this patent provides a number of pressure sensitive controls or devices located at different locations in the vehicle, for example, on portions of the steering wheel and/or brake and acceleration pedals. Thus, in the case of an emergency, a driver may grip the steering wheel in order to activate the pressure sensitive controls and instantly re-obtain control of the vehicle. However, in order to prevent returning control to the driver in every case of contact, the pressure sensitive controls may be calibrated to prevent accidential transferring control to the driver, for instance, in the case of an accidential bump.

The figure below, taken from the issued patent (U.S. Patent No. 9,134,729), shows a driver on his phone while the vehicle is in a self-driving or autonomous mode.


Toyota Offers Royalty-Free Use of 5,680 Fuel Cell Vehicle Patents

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To accompany the recent announcement of Toyota's fuel cell vehicle (FCV), called the Mirai, Toyota opens up use of its 5,680 fuel cell patents on a royalty-free basis. In order to power the motor of a vehicle, fuel cells capture and use electricity released from the combination of oxygen and hydrogen molecules.

Although Toyota announces plans to open 12 hydrogen-fueling stations in the Northeastern United States, there is very little infrastructure around the country to support FCV on a mass production basis. The release of its patents is an apparent attempt to get other automakers to build FCV and help open up new hydrogen-fueling stations and infrastructure.

The caveat is that the royalty-free use of Toyota's patents will expire in 2020 for automakers, although companies involved in hydrogen production and supply will be able to use the patents royalty-free for an unlimited amount of time.

This announcement by Toyota follows a similar announcement made by Tesla Motors in June of last year offering its patents to its competitors for "good faith" use.

Some additional articles on this topic: Engadget.com and CNet.com.


Computer Software Patents Face Supreme Court Challenge

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In less than a week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Alice Corporation v. CLS Bank International, a case that could impact the patentability of computer software and business methods. Although an outright ban on the patentabilty of software is unlikely, the Court is expected to focus more on what constitutes an unpatentable "abstract idea."

The "abstrat idea" test is nothing new to the Supreme Court, however, previous decisions such as the one issued in the 2010 Bilski case, which failed to articulate definite boundries of an abstract idea, have proven to be unsatisfacory.

Critics argue that software-based and business method patents tend to be vague, directed to obvious inventions and hinder innovation by simply covering abstract ideas and mathematical expressions. Proponents, however, including Microsoft, point out that software-enabled inventions are "the modern-day heirs to mechanical inventions" and that by viewing computers as merely calculators is "disconnected from the reality of where innovation is occurring today and where most innovation will occur in the future."

With arguments scheduled for March 31, 2014, a final decision from the Supreme Court is not expected until late June 2014.

Some additoinal articles on this topic: PatentlyO.com and Nature.com.


Happy Veterans Day

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To commemorate the end of World War I, Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11, 1919 as Veterans Day (initially called "Armistice Day"). Since then, Veterans Day has been held on every November 11th to honor U.S. veterans and victims of all wars.

Coincidentally, on that very same day, November 11, 1919, U.S. Patent No. 1,364,388 was filed for a toy consisting of one of more military figures which are movable to simulate certain military actions and gestures.

Happy Veterans Day -- Thanks to all who have proudly served our country!


Small Emerging Tech Company Sells Voice Recognition Patents to Google

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SR Tech Group, LLC, a privately held small virtual company which focuses on the development of emerging technology, computer software, and speech recognition, announced this week that it sold a patent portfolio of voice recognition technology to Google. The portfolio included U.S. Patent No. 7,742,922 entitled "Speech Interface for Search Engines," and U.S. Patent No. 8,056,070 entitled "System and Method for Modifying and Updating a Speech Recognition Program." The terms and details of the transaction were not released.

This new transaction will compliment Google's patent portfolio of nearly 50,000 patents worldwide. Google has been investing in speech recognition technology for quite some time now, with "conversational speech" already implemented on many of its mobile devices.

The Press Relases for this story can be accessed here.


Microsoft Patent Application Uses Human Body Parts for Data Transmission

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Microsoft's newest patent application explains various "Biological Entity Communication Channel Techniques," which is essentially the use of human body parts to transmit data from one electronic device to another.

Particularly, the invention requires a first electronic device, which may be wearable by the user, for example, around the user's wrist. This device can communicate data to a second electronic device, with a simple touch, by transmitting the data from the first device, through the user's arm or hand, and to the receiving device.

Microsoft mentions a few practical and interesting uses of the technology, including transferring purchase credential (e.g., credit card number, expiration date, etc.) to a terminal in order to purchase goods or services. Another potential use may include communicating access credentials for the user to access a building, certain portions of a building, or in order to operate a vehicle.

The published patent application (U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2013/0149965) can be accessed here.


Happy Memorial Day

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For this Memorial Day, we searched the U.S. patent records for some patriotic patents and found plenty.

Here are just a few examples:

U.S. Patent No. D507,843 entitled "American Flag Lantern"
U.S. Patent No. D606,127 entitled "US Patriotic Cube Puzzle"
U.S. Patent No. D515,628 entitled "American Flag Duct Tape"
U.S. Patent No. D459,869 entitled "American Flag Hat"

Have a safe Memorial Day!


Microsoft Gains Upper Hand in XBOX Licensing Fight

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Last week, Microsoft prevailed in a patent licensing fee dispute with Motorola Mobility over technology used in Microsoft's XBox gaming consoles. Motorola Mobility initially sought $4 Billion from Microsoft as a licensing fee for incorporating technology covered by "standard-essential" patents owned by Motorola Mobility.

A "standard-essential" patent is one which covers technology used in international standards (such as the 802.11 WiFi standard and H.264 video-encoding standard) which ensures that various products are capable of working together. Licensing fees for "standard-essential" patents are often at the core of patent disputes between various technology companies like Microsoft and Google.

The Court ultimately ruled that Microsoft must pay approximately $1.8 Million per year, which amounts to a nominal per-unit licensing fee. The decision is good news for consumers who oftentimes bear the costs of patent licensing disputes through increased sales prices. The low per-unit fee is a promising sign that technology covered by "standard-essential" patents will remain affordable with minimal price increases.


Nintendo Receives Patent for Embedding Wii Contollers in Toys

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Yesterday, the United States Patent & Tradmark Office issued U.S. Patent No. 8,414,349 to Nintendo Co., Ltd. of Japan for controlling the movement of a toy via an embedded Wii contoller.

Particularly, as shown in the figures, the Wiimote is embeeded in to the frame of the the toy, which can then interact with a game simultaneously displayed or played on the Nintendo Wii. In the case of a robot toy, the communcatons between the Wii console, the Wiimote, and the toy can cause the toy to move about the room in response to certain actions in the game.

In some embodiments, multiple robots or toys may interact with each other and the environment, and can also be controlled by multiple players or users. Certain accelerator and/or gyro informatoin gathered by the controller relate the relative position of the robot with respect to the environment and other robots to the console for processing.