UPDATE: Apple and Samsung Patent Wars

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May 25, 2018

Yesterday, after nearly a week of deliberations, a jury returned a verdict in favor of Apple requiring Samsung to pay $539 million for copying three U.S. design patents. This is an increase of $140 million from the previous amount, and shows the risk Samsung took by continuing to fight.

While Samsung has not indicated whether another appeal will follow, they have stated that the "decision flies in the face of a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in favor of Samsung on the scope of design patent damages" and they "will consider all options."

Below are some interesting articles on the topic:

Apple and Samsung Continue the Patent Wars in a California Federal Court

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May 15, 2018

Apple and Samsung meet, yet again, in a California Federal Court. This time to determine how much Samsung owes Apple for infringing three of Apple's U.S. design patents.

This case began in 2011 when Apple filed multiple lawsuits around the world accusing Samsung of infringing various patents. By August of 2011, Apple and Samsung were litigating 19 ongoing cases in 9 different countries in a dispute commonly referred to as the smartphone "patent wars."

One of the U.S. cases is still pending and currently underway in San Jose, California. While Samsung has already been found to infringe Apple's patents, the remaining issue to decide is how to calculate the damages owed.

In 2012, a jury awarded Apple $1.05 billion (with a "b") in damages, although that amount was ultimately reduced to $548 million in December 2015. A large portion of that amount -- $399 million of it -- was attributable to the total profits made by Samsung under the additional remedy avaialble for infringement of a U.S. design patent.

The following design patents are involved in this case:

The damages were initially calculated based on Samsung's sales of the entire smartphone, even though only minor (in Samsung's view) portions of the smartphone were found to infringe the design patents (i.e., the front face, raised rim, and colorful icons).

In October 2016, the Supreme Court decided that, in the case of a multi-component product, the relevant "article of manufacture" for purposes of damages calculation for infringement of a design patent under 35 U.S.C. 289, can, in some cases, be a component of the product, rather than the entire product. The case was then remanded for further proceedings consistent with this holding.

The question now presented in this case is whether the $399 million owed under the original calculation can be reduced to the value of the offending individual parts of the smartphone, rather than the entire smartphone.

Whatever the outcome, it will surely impact damages in future design patent infringement cases.

Presidents' Day and the Foundation of the U.S. Patent System

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February 19, 2018

Today we celebrate Presidents' Day, also known as George Washington's birthday, which is a federal holiday held in honor of all of the U.S. presidents. Although Washington was born on February 22, 1732, Presidents' Day is celebrated on the third Monday in February, which can occur anywhere between February 15th and February 21st.

Included on George Washington's long list of celebrated accomplishments is the founding of the U.S. patent system. On April 10, 1790, almost immediately into his first presidential term (which was between 1789 and 1793) and about one year after the U.S. Constitution was ratified, President George Washington signed a bill -- the Patent Act of 1790 -- that paved the way for today's patent system in the United States. This bill marked the first time in American history that granted an inventor the "sole and exclusive right and liberty of making, constructing, using, and vending to others to be used" of his invention. The Patent Act of 1790 defined the subject matter of a U.S. patent as "any useful art, manufacture, engine, machine, or device, or any improvement thereon not before known or used."

Although the Patent Act of 1790 has since been amended several times, the underlying goal of promoting the progress of science and the useful arts remains intact.

The very first U.S. Patent, issued on July 31, 1790 to Samuel Hopkins for the improvement in "the making of Pot ash and Petal ash by a new Apparatus and Process" can be accessed here.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Press Release #02-26
"George Washington Founds the U.S. Patent System," Historyofinformation.com

Happy New Year!

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December 29, 2017

In the next few days, many of us will celebrate the new year with fireworks, confetti, and champagne. As you prepare for this Sunday night, keep in mind that many of the celebratory New Years Eve products are, in fact, patented innovations. Below is a short list of some New Years patents that we found to be fun and interesting.

U.S. Patent No. 8,936,503
Mobile Celebration Device
January 20, 2015

Have you ever seen the prominent ball drop in New York's Times Square on New Years Eve, either on television or in person? Well, now you can carry your very own celebratory ball everywhere you go this New Year's Eve with the Mobile Celebration Device disclosed in this patent. An illuminated, timed decending ball is mounted to a base that can take the form of a pair of eye glasses, a hat, tiara, or ring. An electrical motor will control the decent of the ball down a post via batteries and mechanical drive assemblies. The device can visually resemble the Times Square ball and can be synchronized to drop at midnight on New Years Eve. Other features, such as colored or flashing LED's, decorative elements including stationary lights assembled to form numbers representing a year, such as 2018, or letters to form celebratory words, such as 'Happy New Year, ' can be incorporated to enhnance the device.

U.S. Patent No. 6,572,435
Controllable Confetti Launcher
June 3, 2003

I think we can all agree that no New Years Eve celebration is complete without confetti! This patent discloses a Controllable Confetti Launcher that includes a housing for storing the confetti, a rotatable actuator attached to the housing, and a spring biased movable member disposed within an interior of the housing for ejecting the confetti. The movable member is positionable between a locked position and a position where it is free to move. Upon actuation, a spring releases its stored energy on the movable member, thereby ejecting the confetti from the housing. For example, in order to discharge the confetti, as shown in the drawing, a user will rotate the actuator relative to the housing until the spring is released, thereby displacing the movable member. This applies a force to the confetti and results in the confetti being ejected from the housing, perferably in celebratory fashion on New Years Eve, of course.

U.S. Patent No. 8,376,161
Novelty Associated with Beverages
February 19, 2013

This patent is directed to a fun novelty cork or stopper that will almost certainly enhance any celebration, particularly on New Years Eve. The stopper can be used to seal just about any type of pressurized bottle, including, for example, a bottle of sparkling wine or champagne. In some instances, confetti, ribbon or other like material is stuffed or packed inside a hollow chamber within the bottle stopper. The bottom of the hollow chamber is temporarilty closed or sealed off with a disk made of natural cork material to isolate the confetti from the beverage. As shown in the drawings, when the stopper is removed from the bottle, the cork disk will separate, and the confetti or other material will be ejected from the hollow chamber.

U.S. Patent No. 9,409,100
Confetti Popper
August 9, 2016

This patent describes another confetti launcher or "Confetti Popper" that begins with a quantity of confetti (e.g., confetti paper, strings, sparkles, tissue paper, reflective items, streamers, etc.) stored within a elongated cylindrical or other shaped body. In this device, an expandable membrane, such as a balloon, is inflated within the body until a certain amount of pressure is developed. In many cases, an air pump is either permanently or removably attached to the balloon at its inflation end, allowing for manual inflation of the balloon via a hand or foot pump. As the balloon is inflated, it grows or expands on the inside of the body, increasing the pressure with each pump. The increased pressure will eventually cause a cover to be forcefully released, ruptured or broken from the body, while simultaneously ejecting or popping the confetti.

Facebook's Patented Technology Spies Through Your Camera and Responds to Your Expressions

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August 22, 2017

Earlier this year, Facebook, Inc. patented a new technology that watches its users through device cameras, such as front-facing cameras commonly found on cell phones and other mobile devices, to detect the user's emotions and facial expressions as the user browses content on Facebook's social network. The patent (U.S. Patent No. 9,681,166) was issued on June 13, 2017 and is titled "Techniques for Emotion Detection and Content Delivery."

The technology is described as being capable of detecting the emotions of a user by watching and analyzing facial expressions as the user scrolls through content on Facebook. The application can use the detected emotion to "tag" the content or to decide what content to display next.

For instance, detected emotions from a number of different users can be used to determine crowd-sourced emotional responses to content. As an example, when a certain amount of users (such as 75%) exhibit laughter when viewing an article, the article may be automatically tagged as being funny.

A user's detected emotional state may be used by the social network to determine what content or advertisements to display next. For example, if a user's facial expression is detected as being bored, Facebook may automatially display funny content or interactive advertisements in an attempt to capture the user's attention. As another example, if a user appears sad, uplifting and happy content or advertisements may be displayed on the user's network feed.

It should be noted that just because a piece of technology is patented, that does not necessarily mean that it is being implemented in the real world. So, while there is no indication that Facebook is currently using the patented emotion detection technology today, similar technology may be or will be implemented soon.

You can access other articles on this topic by the Consumerist and The Daily Dot.

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.