Thursday, October 30, 2008

Harvard spinout licenses "black silicon" patents

by Dylan McGrath, EE Times, (10/13/2008 3:09 PM EDT) SAN FRANCISO - Startup SiOnyx Inc. has licensed a portfolio of shallow junction photonics patents from Harvard University in exchange for an unspecified equity stake and downstream royalties. The patents cover a laser implant technique said to alter alters the photonic properties of semiconductors. This technology, known as "black silicon," was discovered by Harvard's Eric Mazur, a professor of physics and applied physics. Mazur co-founded SiOnyx (Beverly, Mass.) in 2006. According to a joint statement issued by SiOnyx and Harvard's Office of Technology Development Monday (Oct. 13), black silicon is a material that absorbs nearly twice the visible light of regular silicon and detects infrared light that is normally invisible to silicon based devices. This capability that allows for performance enhancements in applications ranging from simple light detection to advanced digital imaging and solar energy, according to the statement. SiOnyx said it is is producing devices for scalable platform for hyper-spectral imaging. The SiOnyx implant is compatible with established semiconductor manufacturing processes and introduces no new material, according to the company. SiOnyx has a patented process that employs femtosecond laser processing of the target material resulting in an extremely thin (300nm) photoconduction layer applicable to both biased (detection) and photovoltaic (power generation) applications, the company said. "Black silicon addresses the fundamental pain point in all photonics systems, the sensitivity to light," said Stephen Saylor, SiOnyx president and CEO. "By demonstrating that the black silicon process cost effectively scales within the established semiconductor device manufacturing infrastructure, SiOnyx is poised to transform the $10B+ light detection, imaging and photovoltaic markets by offering device manufactures a path to smaller, lighter and more efficient photonic systems." SiOnyx recently raised $11 million in funding from Harris & Harris, Polaris Venture Partners and RedShift Ventures. Copyright © 2008 TechInsights, a Division of United Business Media LLC All rights reserved

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Verizon has lost an infringement lawsuit against Cox

Below is a news item that Verizon has lost an infringement lawsuit against Cox, with a jury ruling that there was no infringement. The lawsuit was the classic "troll" tactic - sue a little guy (Cox) before going after the big companies. Now one reason trolls are so labeled (I prefer patent yakuzas to troll) is that they are falsely criticized for not practising the technology in the patent. But assuming that is a legitimate criticism, what do you call it when the patent tr-ll denies the technology .... TO ITS CUSTOMERS? From the article: "Verizon has been aggressively asserting its patents in Internet phone technology, despite not promoting the service to its own customers." Sounds like a tyrant to me - and thus making Verizon a tyrant troll. If one is going to engage in silly labeling of problems in the patent world. Verizon Loses Patent Lawsuit Against Cox By AMOL SHARMA Verizon Communications Inc. lost its patent-infringement case against Cox Communications Inc., signaling that Verizon may have a difficult time extracting royalties from cable providers for Internet-based telephony. A federal jury in the Eastern District of Virginia found that Cox didn't infringe on six Verizon patents related to Internet telephony. Cox, which has more than three million residential and business phone customers, said in a statement it would "look forward to competing vigorously with Verizon in the marketplace, not the courtroom." Verizon has been aggressively asserting its patents in Internet phone technology, despite not promoting the service to its own customers. Many analysts and patent lawyers said its case against Atlanta-based Cox, which was filed early this year, was a prelude to further lawsuits against bigger cable rivals. Verizon was seeking past damages from Cox of $404 million. "Despite the decision, we believe our patents were infringed," Verizon said in a statement. "We will continue to innovate and protect our intellectual property." The New York company said it hasn't decided whether to appeal the decision. Cox argued that it wasn't liable because it doesn't actually offer Internet phone service. While its call traffic is broken into digital voice "packets," it isn't routed over the public Internet, the company said. Cox said it controls the calls through its own cable network. A Verizon spokesman declined to say whether the company would target other major cable providers like Time Warner Cable Inc. and Cablevision Systems Corp. with patent lawsuits. Verizon recently reached a deal with Comcast Corp. in which both companies agreed not to sue each other for patent infringement for a period of five years. That agreement covers all patents the companies hold. Write to Amol Sharma at Copyright 2008 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 27, 2008

UC Berkley to offer degrees in Financial Engineering

Next Monday, the Haas School of Business at U.C. Berkeley is having an afternoon panel lecture for business school students seeking degrees and jobs in their newly invented field of financial engineering. Is the use of "engineering" here the same as in "electrical engineering"? Or does "financial engineering" refer to doing finance while erroneously drinking lots of alcohol - "financial in-Gin-erring" (which watching Wall Street implode is a reasonable alternative). UC Berkeley is one of the leading engineering schools and one of the leading business schools, so their use of the word means much. If in their minds, and the minds of other universities offering degrees in financial engineering, is that "engineering" is being used in the same way as with "electrical engineering" and "chemical engineering", i.e., applied science, then FOR ALL YOU IDIOTS - business methods belong to a technical field of knowledge. To all of the anti-Bilski people (at least those of your whose financial firms are not bankrupt) - either learn the science and engineering or shut up. Consider the flyer for the panel lecture, and notice the words used: "The recent explosive growth and current events in quantitative finance have led mathematics, physics, computer science, economics and engineering students of all levels to wonder whether a career in quantitative finance is right for them." Notice all of the fields of students they suggest this pathway: mostly fields of science and engineering as preparation for a career in financial engineering - how can anyone (outside PTO/EPO management) deny that there is much that is technical - applied science - here? The flyer continues: "With the rapid increase in sophisticated quantitative and computational techniques employed in financial firms there has been increasing demand for students with highly quantitative backgrounds to work in the financial field." "For more information, please visit the the Berkeley MDE Master's in Financial Engineering program," So the PTO, EPO, CAFC, House of Lords, etc., all must ask themselves one question here: is this use of "engineering" the same as when the word is used in phrases like "electrical engineering"? If so, many business methods are as technical as anything else is technical. When Wall Street bond traders are using quantum field theory to calculate interest rates, what idiot denies they are not being technical - not engaged in engineering? When Wall Street traders subscribe to the montly "Technical Analysis of Stocks and Commodities", are they deluding themselves as to the relevance of "technical"? No.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Twin lawyers charged with court fraud

From New York Times, 27 September page A7: "An Italian lawyer has been charged with fraud and false representation because she is suspected of having her identical twin sister fill in for her during court hearings. The lawyer, was also a part-time judge near Milan, helping other judges with heavy caseloads. But when she had to fill both roles, she twice sent her sister, who is not a lawyer, in her place, collecting legal fees even when she was elsewhere. The sisters will be tried next month.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Supreme Court is likely to sideline patent cases

The 29 September issue of Barrons has an article by their D.C. reporter, Jim McTague, on patent issues at the Supreme Court next year. He got his gossip from Seth Waxman (author of one of the more scientifically-poor anti-Bilski briefs) of Wilmer Hale. McTague writes: ... points out that the [Supreme Court] has an unusual docket because, for the first time, there are no patent cases scheduled [for the 2008-2009 term]. Not only are patent cases a regular feature of the court's calendar - they also represent the most significant body of law for U.S. business today. Is that really true - patent law is the "most significant body of law"? If so, that's ironic, because much of patent law governs the activities of one of the most significantly mismanaged government agencies - the PTO. Maybe there would be less of a need for patent caselaw if the PTO was run by professionals. McTague writes further: ... thinks the Supremes want to give the lower courts and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office time to digest prior decisions and actions now making their way through the lower courts, including attempts to patent business processes. The Supreme Court is passing on patent cases while the justices take some remedial college courses on basic science and engineering.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A rehearsal for writing claims

In Europe , with its stuffy, literary, and sanctimonious bragging style of patent claims, characterized by refers to the point of innovation. Here in US we claim the aspect of invention by using having or featuring.

Again, first time you mention something it is always a, otherwise an examiner will return a no antecedent basis response.

Consider a dependent claim: Anything introduced there in the preamble is henceforth (in the claim or independent) the. Anything introduced after the preamble is said.

Identification is a noun. Identifying is a verb. Steps in a method claim are verbs.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Examiner's hard drive crash costs him his job

Also in the September issue of the PTO Examiners' Union's newsletter: Examiner fired after computer crashes When managers in Technology Center 2700 offered next to no catastrophic time after the hard drive crashed and burned for a probationary examiner who was producing at 100 percent, the examiner's production unsurprisingly suffered and the USPTO fired him because he had "not progressed at the expected rate". Maybe the examiner could have progressed at the expected rate with a crashed hard drive if the examiner was working from a beach in Hawaii. Any patent reform that does not start with an overhaul of PTO management is corrupt patent reform.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Law professor Maria Pollack, whom I have criticized in the past for not understanding, science, engineering or patent law, HAS written an interesting article on how aspects of copyright law violate the "progress" clause of the Constitution. Her paper is titled "What is Congress supposed to promote? Defining 'progress' in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, of the United States Constitution", and appeared recently in the Nebraska Law Review. Her conclusion:
This Article uses linguistic evidence to disprove a long standing assumption about the Progress Clause, which gives Congress "the power ... To Promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts by securing for limited times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries". The word "progress" is not a reference to the Enlightenment Idea of Progress and, thus, an anachronistic bias incapable of cabining Congress. The word "progress" means "spread". Congress does not have the power to create any intellectual property regime it thinks will increase the Gross National Product, campaign donations from holders of large copyright portfolios, or world harmonization. Any right to exclude others from use of writings and discoveries must promote the spread of knowledge and technology. This clarification of the constitutional language warrants court overthrow of both the circumvention limitations in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and the twenty year subsidy provided copyright holders by the Copyright Term Extension Act.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Another lesson in writing claims

In patent claim language, comprises and includes mean the same. The use of comprises is acceptable between preamble and body of an independent claim. Further comprising is also OK in the independent claim.

In dependent claims, however, the language must use include and not comprising unless it uses further comprising.

In method claims (for ex. a. adding to database; b. associating data; c.parsing data groups), a, b, c do not imply order unless:

the claim language specifically mentions that "wherein step d is effected before step c"


the preamble of the claim leads into the body of the claim with comprising the steps, and not comprising steps.

Friday, October 17, 2008


The August 25th San Francisco Chronicle, page A5, had an ad (one in many other newspapers, I suspect), from the for their proprietary process for treating performance dysfunction for those men for which the new pills don't work. One sentence caught my eye: "The secret to Boston Medical Group's success lies in The BMG Method, a proprietary treatment process for Urecktyle Dysfunction that recently received a U.S. patent. The group is the only physician network known to have acquired such a patent, ..." But what is the patent number? The ad doesn't mention it, I couldn't find it on the BMG Web site, nor could I find any patent assigned to Boston Medical Group, or two of its doctors mentioned in the ad - Barry Buffman and Alan Sperber. I am always suspicious of small companies touting patents in medical ads, because the existence of the patent means little medically, and it is all the more suspicious when it is so hard to find the actual patent.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Speaking of which, Reuters reports that Procter & Gamble is suing the IRS, asking to have $435 million in patent donations reinstated. The news is from In 2005, the IRS audited P&G's tax returns for 2001 through 2005, with the IRS in 2008 sending P&G a letter asking for extra taxes and interest, which P&G paid upfront without agreeing with the IRS assertions. Now P&G is suing to protest the extra taxes, which it wants back. From the article: "P&G said the IRS asked for more money after looking into tax credits the company claimed for technology donated to colleges and universities, as well as artwork donated to the Cincinnati Art Museum and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The IRS also denied certain credits related to spending on patent work and research, among other items."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tax reform kills used car donations

The 10 September Wall Street Journal, page D3, reports that far fewer people are donating their automobiles to charities after the tax laws were changed so that donors could only deduct the sales price of the automobile after the charity sold the car, not the book value. In 2004, under the old rules, 901,000 taxpayers claimed the deduction for a total amount of $2.4 billion, while in 2005 under the new rules, 297,000 people claimed the deduction for a total amount of $470 million, a two billion dollar difference. This tax law change came about in part because large U.S. companies were donating patents to universities, and similarly claiming large values for the patent (see the relevant post), even if the recipient did nothing economically with the patent. Under the new tax law, companies donating patents can only deduct whatever the recipient earns from the patent, much like with the automobile deductions. And I suspect much like the automobile deductions, there has been significant drops in the number of companies claiming large deductions for their donated patents. In both cases, the taxpayers were being scammed.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Einstein's Mistakes Were The Human Failings of Genius

Norton has published a new book by Hans Ohanian titled "Einstein's Mistakes - The Human Failings of Genius". A Wall Street Journal book review had an interesting sentence: "Mr. Ohanian finds that four out of five of the seminal papers that Einstein produced in the so-called 'miracle-year' of 1905, when we was working as a patent inspector in Zurich, were 'infested with flaws'". Question: if important these important scientific works of Einstein were written sloppily, how about his Office Actions during this period? And if Einstein can't examine a patent application, can anyone? But as Ohanian points out, Einstein is a classic, if not general, example of learning from your mistakes. Something PTO management is utterly incapable of in any frame of reference.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Electric iron + MP3 player=Video gravestone=insanely obvious and unfit to file

Analysis of US Patent application 20080926, Electric iron + MP3 player, and US Patent Application 20040085337, Video enhanced grave marker. I recently came across a patent application that at first glance seems completely obvious to the extent that it could be unethical for the lawyer involved to have accepted money to file the application. The application is 2007/218960, "Combined electric iron and audio device", and that's pretty much the invention - sticking something like an MP3 player inside the housing of an iron. Abstract and claims below. Claim 1 attempts to proclaim: 1. A combined iron and audio device, comprising: an electric iron having a housing; an audio device configured into the housing; a control system for the audio device, said control system being configured to operably control said audio device; and a power source to power the audio device. First question - where's the new useful synergy between the iron and the audio device, other than one of X being housed in Y? There isn't any, and most of the submitted claims deal with the functionality of the audio device, and not with any "functional" (whatever that means - the PTO continues to illegally refuse to define the term despite using it in its examination guidelines and for rejections) interaction between the iron and the audio device. What might a functional interaction be? For example, "... wherein the output of the audio device is connected to the heating element of the electric iron", that is, instead of the iron providing a steady level of heat, the iron's heat output is modulated by whatever music is playing. Admittedly, that's idiotic as well, but at least its functional (a more practical version of this is Apple's upcoming patent application for a vibrator-shaped iPod :-). But as is, I see no interaction, in particular, no new useful result. The iron still irons, the audio device still audios - the whole does not exceed the sum of its parts - there is nothing greater than expected. I argue the invention, as so claimed, flunks paragraph 101 of the US Patent law. One claim does suggest some interaction: 10. The combined iron and audio device of claim 1, in which the power source comprises a power converting circuit, the circuit converting the electrical power used by the iron into a form suitable for use in the audio device. but then this seems completely obvious to any consumer electronics engineer - tapping a main unit's power supply to supply a secondary unit - done all the time in personal computers, with peripherals drawing power from the main power supply. So I argue this claims flunks 103. And if I search around, I suspect I can find some 102 prior art. This patent application, if it manages to somehow issue, will never be successfully asserted against anyone. Making it a waste of time and money to file. And I argue that these claims so blatantly fail 101 and 103 that the lawyer should have refused to file the patent application on the inventor's behalf. The inventor is just wasting his money, and this application is yet one more that clogs the system to the detriment of all (though the big companies clog the system with orders larger amounts of crap applications). I argue there are times when lawyers should refuse to file crap, explaining why to the inventor (starting with "What's the new useful result here?"). Or not. What do you think? And this is not an isolated example. An earlier filed patent application swaps out the iron, and swaps in a tombstone: United States Patent Application 20040085337 Video enhanced grave marker I claim: 1. A tombstone for communicating audio and visual data related to the deceased from the tombstone to a user, the tombstone comprising: an indicia bearing and viewing portion; a visual display; an audio transmitter for communicating sound waves to a user; data related to the deceased, the data comprising audio and visual images of the deceased, the data stored within storage media; and means for reproducing the audio and visual images of the deceased from the data related to the deceased utilizing one or more players, readers or drivers for the one or more of the storage media. Again, what's the new useful result achieved by the audio device being embedded into the tombstone? Besides, there is an old episode of "Star Trek" which has such a device, I think, an audiovisual projection of some dead person is triggered when the Star Trek crew walked by.
United States Patent Application 20070218960 Combined electric iron and audio device Abstract A combined iron and audio device is described, having an audio device incorporated into the housing of an electric iron. The audio device can be any audio playing device (e.g., an AM/FM radio receiver, a satellite radio receiver, a radio, cassette player, USB audio player, and an MP3 player, etc.). The controls of the audio device may be located on one of the exposed surfaces of the housing and/or the audio device may be controlled by a wireless remote controller. _________________________________________________________________ Inventors: Bernardino; Noel Nunez; (Bacolod City, PH) Correspondence Name and Address: BAY AREA INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY GROUP, LLC PO BOX 210459, SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94121-0459 _________________________________________________________________ Claims _________________________________________________________________ 1. A combined iron and audio device, comprising: an electric iron having a housing; an audio device configured into the housing; a control system for the audio device, said control system being configured to operably control said audio device; and a power source to power the audio device. 2. The combined iron and audio device of claim 1, in which the audio device is selected from the group consisting of an AM/FM radio receiver, a satellite radio receiver, a radio, a cassette player, USB audio player and an MP3 player. 3. The combined iron and audio device of claim 1, in which the control system comprises controls, which controls include a volume control, a on/off control, a tuning control, or a play/stop control. 4. The combined iron and audio device of claim 3, in which at least one control of the controls is disposed in or on an exposed surface of the housing. 5. The combined iron and audio device of claim 1, in which the control system comprises wireless remote control receiver operable for receiving control commands from a corresponding wireless remote control transmitter. 6. The combined iron and audio device of claim 1, further comprising means for protecting the audio device and all its components from water damage. 7. The combined iron and audio device of claim 1, further comprising a jack to plug in headphones and wireless headphones. 8. The combined iron and audio device of claim 1, in which the power source is a battery. 9. The combined iron and audio device of claim 8, further comprising a battery compartment operable for safely holding the battery in cooperation with the housing. 10. The combined iron and audio device of claim 1, in which the power source comprises a power converting circuit, the circuit converting the electrical power used by the iron into a form suitable for use in the audio device. 11. The combined iron and audio device of claim 1, in which the audio device is located in the back side of the iron housing. 12. The combined iron and audio device of claim 1, further comprising an audio output unit that is configured to receive output audio signals from said audio device, said audio output unit being operable to communicate to a user audio signals based on the output audio signals. 13. The combined iron and audio device of claim 12, in which said audio output unit is a speaker configured into the housing such that the audio output of the speaker can be made audible to the user. 14. The combined iron and audio device of claim 12, in which said audio output unit is a wireless speaker configured such that the audio output of the wireless speaker can be made audible to the user. 15. The combined iron and audio device of claim 1, in which the control system is configured to control the audio device in response to usage of the iron. 16. A combined iron and audio device, comprising: an electric iron having a housing; means for configuring an audio device into the housing; means for controlling said audio device; and means for powering the audio device.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New York Times' David Brooks on patent reform

In a Sept. 12 op-ed piece in the New York Times, conservative columnist David Brooks criticizes the financial market policy engineering of the Bush Administration. At one point he writes, and correctly so, "A Republican administration intervened gigantically in the market to handle the Bear Stearns, Freddie and Fannie debacles. But it has no conservative rationale to explain its action, no language about the importance of social equilibrium it might use to justify itself." A good way to describe this Administration's patent reform initiatives. And let's just say that if the PTO had a tradeable stock, it would be at the top of the new you-can't-short-losers stock list. And once again I urge the CAFC, in the Bilski case, to ignore any arguments from all of the bankrupt and bailout-recipient financial companies. Their operations are as incompetent as their Bilski arguments.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Law Firm Uses Bogus Trademark Claim in Attempt to Silence Online News Site

EFF Urges Judge to Dismiss Baseless Lawsuit San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF, see another relevant post )and Public Citizen, joined by Public Knowledge and Citizen Media Law Project, urged a federal judge in Chicago Friday to dismiss a law firm's baseless trademark claims, which were apparently aimed at quashing speech by an online news site. The firm of Jones Day filed the lawsuit against the real estate news site, alleging that using its trademark "Jones Day" to refer to the firm in a headline and linking to the Jones Day website could lead to confusion over the sponsorship of the site. In its amicus brief, EFF and Public Citizen argue that these routine references to Jones Day are well-established fair uses of a trademark and clearly protected by the First Amendment. "The claims are absurd -- Blockshopper was simply reporting accurately on the activities of two lawyers who happen to be Jones Day employees," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "That reporting is protected under trademark and free speech law, and Jones Day should know that. If Jones Day had its way, any trademark holder could use trademark claims to restrict news and commentary related to its business and any of its employees." "Jones Day alleges that the public could be confused by the references to its name and links, but Internet users know that websites generally link to other websites, independent of any official affiliation," said Paul Alan Levy, attorney with Public Citizen. "That's why it's called the World Wide Web." This amicus brief is part of EFF's No Downtime for Free Speech Campaign, which works to protect online expression in the face of baseless intellectual property claims. Robert Libman of Barnhill, Miner & Galland assisted in filing the brief. The full amicus brief is at This release is from

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Apple stealing ideas from iPhone developers

from 19 September 2008 @ 4pm in Opinion, News Apple sparked controversy in mid-2004 when it demonstrated Dashboard, a feature included with Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger), which shipped the following year. Dashboard delivered always-on, mini-applications in the form of "widgets" that could be quickly accessed via a keyboard command or other invocation. Such functionality has since been implemented in Windows Vista and elsewhere, but at the time, it was the domain of of a tool called Konfabulator. Dashboard's feature set and operation were so similar to Konfabulator's that some developers and users cried infringement. If recently filed patents materialize as actual software, Apple may spark similar contention with a forthcoming iPhone update. As expounded by MacRumors, a recent Apple patent application calls for an "At a Glance" notification screen that would show calls, SMS, Voicemail, and possibly other data - in detail - on the iPhone's unlocked home screen. The planned functionality, as depicted in the patent application, bears striking resemblance to an extant iPhone application, dubbed IntelliScreen, which is available exclusively for jailbroken iPhones. Jonathan Zdziarski, author of the book iPhone Open Application Development and developer of the popular NES emulator for jailbroken iPhones, is among the developers already charging Apple with feature-theft. He says "Apple appears to be using ideas from commercial software already being sold and attempting to patent the concepts as their own. Apple has recently filed a patent application for a notification screen on the iPhone. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that this is a clear rip-off of the commercial Intelliscreen product. The case here isn't a simple hijacking of an idea however - Apple is attempting to patent Intelliscreen's concept, which could be detrimental to the original manufacturer of the software, who is actively selling it for Jailbroken iPhones. This raises some serious questions about whether Apple is being unlawfully anti-competitive: by policy, they have banned Intelliscreen from being sold on the AppStore, so the original manufacturer has to sell it on their own." Zdziarksi's commentary is, to some extent, hyperbole. Apple already uses a locked-screen notification scheme, showing the names of callers and text message senders, but no further detail. The new patent describes direct interaction with locked-screen notifications (calling listed contacts, responding to listed text messages, etc.); IntelliScreen offers this functionality in robust fashion. In fact, IntelliScreen lets users view, read and delete emails and SMS messages directly from the locked screen. Still, one might reasonably call Apple's proposed changes (perhaps third-party-inspired) feature expansion rather than feature theft. Muddling the issue, however, are Apple's strong-arm tactics to prevent iPhone developers from duplicating its own functionality in their applications. Per our sister site, Apple rejected Podcaster - an iPhone application that lets people download podcasts directly to their devices without going through iTunes - from the App Store. The developer of the application said that Apple told him the application "duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes", apparently making it unfit for the App Store. As such, a fairly creepy precedent could emerge: Apple is free to duplicate functionality created by third-party iPhone developers, while said developers are explicitly banned from duplicating Apple's. Thoughts? Post to the comment section below

Is Mickey Mouse evil?

In many IP circles, Disney is viewed as evil for their successes in getting copyright term extensions. One [false] rumor is that Disney wants to tie copyright term to the proton decay rate (which is ten to the zillion years). One true statement reflecting another form of idiocy is a statement last week from a Sunni cleric in Saudia Arabia announced that children should not be allowed to watch Mickey Mouse, labeling the cartoon character a "soldier of Satan" who should be killed.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


ANTI-TR-LL COMPANIES CREATE A TR-LL FUND TO BUY PATENTS Patent startup gains high profile backing - RPX already purchased $30 million in patents Rick Merritt (09/17/2008 12:52 PM EDT) URL: SAN JOSE, Calif. - A startup that claims it has a better approach for helping high tech companies deal with the rising costs of patent litigation and licensing has gained backing from two large venture capitalists. RPX Corp. announced it has received an undisclosed amount of equity investments from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Charles River Ventures. The startup is one of a growing number of companies sprouting up to address the problem of trolls, also known as non-practicing entities whose sole business is in acquiring and asserting patents, typically against large product companies. As many as 20 percent of the estimated 1,500 patent lawsuits filed in the first half of the year came from such companies, according to John Amster, co-chief executive of RPX. Intellectual Ventures (Bellevue, Wash.), launched by former Intel and Microsoft executives in 2000, is said to be among the first and largest of the group of companies formed in part to address the troll issue. Investors in the company are reported to include Intel, Microsoft, Nokia and Sony. In June another startup, Allied Security Trust, came out of stealth mode to describe its plan to buy, license and sell patents for its corporate investors including Cisco Systems, Ericsson, Google, Hewlett-Packard and Verizon. At that time, industry observers predicted it would be the first of many such collaborations. A report in the Wall Street Journal suggested Intellectual Ventures is itself becoming troublesome for some large companies because it is demanding increasingly high licensing fees for a growing treasure trove of patents it has acquired. The article said RPX will try to carve out a business as an alternative, setting fixed fees for companies to license its patents. John Amster, one of two former Intellectual Ventures executives that formed RPX, said he will not detail the company's business model or customers until October. However he did say RPX will acquire patents in a broad range of technology and e-commerce areas, especially when the patents are being asserted or involved in litigation. "That's the area of most pain for companies," said Amster, who left his position as general manager of strategic acquisitions and licensing at Intellectual Ventures to form RPX. RPX will not assert patents against other companies, but generate revenues from licensing and selling the patents it buys, Amster said. The startup does not expect to seek other direct equity investments either from venture capitalists or high tech companies. The model of a "patent-buying cooperative" set by Allied does not optimally align the interests of potential customers, something RPX will address, Amster said. The startup also aims to help companies reduce personnel time and costs spent defending patent suits. Amster quoted figures from a 2005 survey by the American Intellectual Property Law Association survey which estimated litigation costs were approximately $4.5 million per case, not including the costs of any settlement. RPX aims to buy as much as $100 million in patents and patent applications in 2008. To date it has spent $30 million acquiring about 100 U.S. patents and 50 patent applications including a portfolio that applies to mobile communications and Internet search and another on RFID and distribution of goods. "They have important implications for existing and emerging applications that could create problems for a wide range of companies," Amster said. The startup has been building its staff, hiring Paul Saraceni, an associate general counsel for intellectual property strategy at Yahoo as the startup's Chief IP Officer. Joe Chernesky, president of IPotential (San Mateo, Calif.), a patent consulting and brokering firm said RPX could do well, in part due to its founders' backgrounds at Intellectual Ventures. "This is one that I think will be interesting to watch," Chernesky said. Chernesky was less bullish on Allied which he said has struggled to purchase patents in the face of stiff competition from Intellectual Ventures. "Intellectual Ventures has a huge presence and they have been buying everything up," he said. "They can have an offer on the table within three weeks, and Allied didn't have the procedures in place to do that," he added. Brian Hinman, former chief executive at Allied, said Intellectual Ventures was "a very aggressive competitor," but he said he expects Allied to be successful. In his 18 months at Allied, Hinman said the company grew its staff and tapped into multiple sources of patents. "Some strategic patent portfolios were purchased," said Hinman. "When I joined in March 2007, there was nothing in place except a few companies, a concept and a strategy," he added. "The execution was left to me." Hinman joined Verizon, an Allied member, in August of 2008 as vice president of intellectual property

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bacardi: the battles of the family

Viking Press has released a new book titled "Bacardi and the long fight for Cuba", by Tom Gjelten, which chronicles the Bacardi rum dynasty and its relationship with Cuba. Part of the book covers Bacardi's trademark battles with the Cuban government and Pernod Ricard (when Castro seized power, one thing his government did was nationalize the company's Havana Club brand, which Castro then directed by marketed in partnership with the French company Pernod Ricard). The battles involved a fair amount of dirty IP battles in Washington. Fun reading over a few shots of rum, or your favorite liquor.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A very Bilski (non-technological, non-patentable) patent claims

A patent that issued in 2000 that has a nice set of "non-technological" claims. Ignoring the 102 and 103 (the US patent law paragraphs requiring novelty and non-obviousness) problems this patent has, it is a good example of how general might processes be to be patentable, since they claims can be done purely by humans. By the way, the following patent is completely utterly idiotic from a 102 and 103 point of view, since the state of Massachusetts, in conjunction with church bingos, were doing much of the claimed steps in the early 1990s). I highlighted or italicized idiocy. United States Patent 6,102,395 Method for conducting a lottery game Filed: May 1998 Abstract In a method for conducting a lottery game having a plurality of ticket sets, a master party sells the ticket sets to organizations. Each organization sells tickets from ticket sets to customers. Each ticket has hidden indicia which, when revealed, may entitle a customer to instant winnings paid by the organization that sold the ticket and/or may entitle the customer to eligibility for a sweepstakes prize. The sweepstakes prize is funded by the master party from proceeds of ticket set sales to organizations. Claims I claim: 1. A method for conducting a lottery game having a plurality of ticket sets, wherein each ticket set has a plurality of tickets and wherein each ticket, when opened, reveals hidden indicia, some of which (non-patent language, vague) will entitle a customer to instant winnings and/or eligibility for a sweepstakes prize, comprising the steps of: a) selling, by a master party for proceeds, a ticket set to each of at least two organizations; b) allowing each organization to issue individual tickets, from the ticket set sold to that organization from the master party, to customers, and allowing each organization to redeem awards for instant winnings on a ticket issued by that organization; and c) retaining by the master party a portion of the proceeds from selling ticket sets to organizations as a pool from which to finance the sweepstakes prize, thereby allowing said master party to exclusively redeem awards for a sweepstakes prize on a ticket issued by an organization by awarding at least a portion of the pool. 2. The method according to claim 1 wherein at least one organization sells, prior to issuing, tickets to customers. 3. The method according to claim 1 further including the step of receiving directly from customers those tickets which make the customers eligible for the sweepstakes prize. 4. The method according to claim 1 further including the step of determining a winner of the sweepstakes prize from the tickets received and providing to the winner an award from the proceedings. 5. The method according to claim 1 further including providing to the organizations a flair explaining the game rules. 6. The method according to claim 5 further including providing to the organizations a poster for displaying the sweepstakes prize and a last date for receipt of sweepstakes tickets at a drawing location. 7. The method according to claim 1 including providing to the organizations means for transmitting the sweepstakes entry to a drawing location. 8. The method according to claim 7 wherein the means for transmitting is comprised of a mailing envelope and an entry form for transmitting the qualifying ticket and the name and address of the customer holding that qualifying ticket. 9. The method according to claim 1 wherein the organization may be any one from a group comprised of a charitable organization, a club and a tavern. 10. The method according to claim 1 wherein the master party may be any one from the group comprised of a distributor, end user or manufacturer.