Saturday, May 30, 2009

How John swapped steel plates

steel plate for roadwork and prosthesis John was working for a utility company. One day they were burying a cable, and needed to temporarily cover an excavated pit. To cover they used what you might have seen and probably driven over - a large steel plate. John was a foreman at the site, and told his backhoe operator to start lowering the plate into place.
Except John was a diligent foreman. He liked to do things perfectly. He wanted to be sure that the steel plate would sit well over the outline of the excavation, not wobble, and not crumble asphalt and rock onto the half-finished cable interface. Just as the plate was being lowered, he decided to sneak one last peek under the plate. Except the backhoe operator was not so experienced at fine controlling the lowering function, and lowered the plate by too jerky of a motion, which squashed John the Foreman's skull. As John recollected, after almost a year in a wheel chair, and partial memory loss, the split second he felt the weight of the plate was like the worst headache, except being inside his skull bones. John is 80% normal now. He cannot drive, concentrate, remember complicated information, and has a high-tech, combination stainless steel-titanium plate replacing most of his skull dome. The upshot of it, he has not needed any psychological counseling. He doesn't remember the details of his stupid decision to regret the whole episode.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Luna Innovations cheats trade secrets, fined more than its worth

trade secrets fraud and lawsuit In a lawsuit similar to Tesla Motors vs. Fisker, Virginia-based Luna Innovations has to pay $36 million to Bay Area company Hansen Medical. The jury found that Luna had broken its agreement to help Hansen develop a robotic catheter and illegally used trade secrets to obtain a contract with Hansen's competitor instead. Hansen was represented by Morrison & Foerster. The jury awarded this large amount, despite audits attesting to the fact that Luna only had a market capitalization of $20 million, and would probably cease to exist after complying with the court's decision. National Law Journal, 27 April, 2009, page 13

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Also Christians come out against patent reform

hi-tech cross and electronic crucifix
A group of generally conservative Christians have written to Congress, opposing this year's patent reform bill:
- "To put the matter plainly, this bill is written to devalue patents" - "We cannot afford to jeopardize what is in effect America's balance sheet with an ill-advised, special-interest bill, particularly in the midst of a severe economic crisis." - "The proposed system [post-grant review] would expose patent holders to a perpetual threat of abusive, serial attacks, and, as a result, undermine the benefits of patent ownership for patent-holders and their financial backers." - "In effect, the bill invites an infringe-now-and-(maybe)-pay-later business strategy [the effect of apportioned damages], which destroys the "exclusive use" given to the patent ..."
(From Opposition Mounts to Patent Reform Act of 2009, Kevin L. Kearns, March 18, 2009) Dear Senators Reid and McConnell, Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Boehner: We are writing to ask you to strongly oppose the passage of The Patent Reform Act of 2009, S. 515 and HR. 1260, legislation sponsored by Senator Leahy and Rep. Conyers, respectively. These bills, under the mantle of "reform", will actually severely damage U.S. international competitiveness and threaten most American businesses - along with the jobs they create - by undermining America's historically strong intellectual property rights. This legislation will threaten America's smaller inventors, large and small domestic manufacturers, venture capitalists, agricultural entities, biotech and pharmaceutical firms, non-profit research consortia, and research universities, among others. Downgrading patent rights - which are fundamentally property rights - will seriously constrict innovation and the ability of domestic manufacturers to turn good ideas into products consumer want, and thus good jobs for working Americans. A series of U.S. Supreme Court and Federal Circuit decisions have already shifted the legal balance of power to favor patent users, tightening standards of patentability and narrowing patent rights and remedies. These judicial reforms eliminate any need for sweeping legislative changes to the patent system. Foreign interests, who for years have been trying to slow America's innovation engine through measures to weaken and devalue patent rights, are very happy with the proposed changes. In fact, commentary by patent experts in the Chinese and Indian press indicates they believe that intellectual property theft will be much easier under the proposed bill. Unfortunately, these foreign experts are correct in their assessment. Yongshun Chen, former Senior Judge and Deputy Director of the Intellectual Property Division of Beijing High People's Court China, said this about the patent bill: "This bill will give companies from developing countries more freedom and flexibility to challenge the relative U.S. patent for doing business in the U.S. and make it less costly to infringe.... The bill will weaken the rights of patentees greatly, increase their burden, and reduce the remedies for infringement" (Intellectual Property News, November 2007). This bill will lead to many additional American factories and jobs, even entire industries, being lost to overseas competitors. During this economic recession, more market uncertainty is the last thing that our economy needs. To put the matter plainly, this bill is written to devalue patents - to the detriment of almost every industrial, service, and financial sector of the economy. Certain high-tech companies who are pushing this bill want to make it cheaper and easier to infringe others' patents. But Congress should safeguard innovation as the backbone of our economy and reject this legislation. The patent system is rooted in the Constitution. Congress is charged with "securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective discoveries". The Founders understood that protection of intellectual property was vital to innovation and progress. James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers, "The utility of this power will scarcely be questioned." Yet, today it is being threatened in the Congress. Small enterprises often drive innovation. About one-third of all patent applications are made by independent inventors, small companies, universities, and nonprofit research groups. Small businesses produce more patents per employee than larger businesses, and small-firm patents are more "innovative" and technologically important than large firm patents. Because small firms must work with others to commercialize and manufacture their innovations, they need strong patents to realize a return on investment. American manufacturers do about 65 percent of the R&D in this country and hold 60 percent of the patents. Over the last 40 years, we have witnessed a startling transformation of our economy. Whereas previously about two-thirds of a company's wealth was in physical assets, such as land, buildings, and machinery, now the opposite is true. The vast majority of a company's worth is in its intellectual property, not its physical assets. We cannot afford to jeopardize what is in effect America's balance sheet with an ill-advised, special-interest bill, particularly in the midst of a severe economic crisis. The legislation creates a new, expensive quasi-judicial system within the USPTO to challenge the validity of a patent throughout its entire life. The proposed system would expose patent holders to a perpetual threat of abusive, serial attacks, and, as a result, undermine the benefits of patent ownership for patent-holders and their financial backers. In addition, it would create even greater operational challenges within the USPTO. Incentives to seek patents would be weakened, and venture capitalists, who supply the life blood of the patent system with their investment monies, would face far higher risks when backing new ideas. The Leahy bill raises multiple barriers to independent innovation. The pending legislation would also make it harder for patent-holders to enforce their rights or win just compensation from those who steal their ideas. Under the bill, it would be harder to prove "willful" infringement, which serves as an important deterrent to deliberate theft. Perhaps, most significantly, the bill strikes at the very core of the patent system by changing the way infringement and resulting damages are treated. Instead of restoring the pre-infringement parity between the patent holder and the potential licensee, the bill calculates damages in an after-the-fact manner that lessens the value assigned to patents in most products. It throws out the window the venerable Georgia Pacific case and with its time-tested factors in determining a patent's value. In effect, the bill invites an infringe-now-and-(maybe)-pay-later business strategy, which destroys the "exclusive use" given to the patentee by the Constitution and the risk/reward ratio that has so successfully driven American innovation for over two centuries. According to a recent study, the proposed damages amendment would reduce the value of U.S. patents by as much as $85.3 billion; reduce R&D expenditures by up to $66 billion per year; and potentially cost the U.S. economy 298,000 manufacturing jobs. This bill is bad for American businesses; it is bad for American workers; it is bad for American inventors; it is bad for American research universities; thus it is bad for America. We ask that you oppose this legislation, protect the property rights enshrined in the Constitution, and preserve a patent system that for over 200 years has provided great technological advances, material progress, and a high standard of living for all Americans. Thank you for your serious consideration of our views. Sincerely, Kevin Kearns, US Business and Industry Council David Keane, American Conservative Union Rev. Lou Sheldon, Traditional Values Coalition Jim Backlin, Christian Coalition of America Susan Carleson, American Civil Rights Union Jim Martin, 60 Plus Association C. Preston Noell III, Tradition, Family. Property, Inc. Harry Valentine, Capitol Hill Prayer Alert Barrett Duke, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention Gary Aldrich, CNP Action, Inc John Kwapisz, VA Coalition for Common Sense on Climate Change Phyllis Schlafly, Eagle Forum Morton Blackwell, Conservative Leadership PAC Frank Gaffney, Center for Security Policy Colin A. Hanna, Let Freedom Ring Ron Pearson, Council for America Jeffrey Gayner, Americans for Sovereignty Alex St. James, AARLC Organization Connie Marshner, American Family Business Institute Jim Backlin, Christian Coalition of America Carmen Mercer, Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. Mark de Bernardo, Council for Employment Law and Equality Laszlo Pasztor, National Federation of American Hungarians Kevin L. Kearns is President of The United States Business and Industry Council. Prior to joining USBIC in 1993, he was a Senior Fellow at the Manufacturing Policy Project, a Washington, DC think tank. For 13 years before that he was a U.S. Foreign Service Officer with overseas assignments in Germany, Korea, and Japan, where he witnessed firsthand the operation of highly cartelized, mercantilist economies.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

120 AC to 12 DC, an RV, a lamp chord and a child

dumb behavior leading to death This warning sign is unintentionally appropriate to this case. Since I am an investigator, I usually have no idea what an insurance company is hoping to find out when they ask me to look into a case. My job was to check over the location and have the law enforcement that was involved in the investigation to corroborate the circumstances of the accident. I have posted minor details of this case on forums, but here I am providing the account in its entirety. A man takes his family to a Winnebago camping site. After long winter, the engine was a bit hard to start and that caused the battery to go weak. He arrives at the site, hooks up his Winnebago to the site's utilities, and remembers to charge up the battery. Except he is totally ignorant of electrical basics. As he recounted to a sheriff's deputy, he believed that he could charge the battery (12 DC) from the power company outlet (120 AC), because someone told him that "AC and DC don't matter" since "the difference is canceled by the RMS voltage." (not true, since Root Mean Square voltage is only an aspect of AC current). Thus he genuinely believed that 120 volts would charge a 12 volt battery in a giffy. All he needed was a small capacitor converter that "would stop sparks" when he would connect the battery to the lamp chord he had ready. Except he left the lamp chord plugged into the wall socket, and live. One lead was touching the aluminum molding on the Winnebago's Masonite interior. By this time the man's teenage son was already done dipping in a pond that was less than 10 feet from his Winnebago. Barefoot, he stepped onto the metal running board, got electrocuted, spasmed and staggered backwards into the 3-foot deep water, and drowned. When his son had been missing for more than 4 hours, the electricity genius father and his wife called the county sheriff's office. The deputy asked simple questions, retraced the man's story and within 15 minutes found the boy in the water.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Cross Coalition and Its Star Chamber Letter About Patent Battle

Cross Coalition: The Star Chamber of Chamber of Commerce?
This is an interesting turn in the patent reform battle: The Cross Coalition, a group of companies doing business in green and environmental technologies wrote to Congress opposing the proposed patent reform bill. The Coalition is made up of big biochem companies, startups and similar environmental technology operations. The self-hype about anything green in Washington, the Cross Coalition might just succeed. This is similar to a letter that 430 bio and green companies wrote to Congress in 2007, also opposing the patent reform bill. These patent reform bills should be dumped until a new PTO Director can be installed and can put together respectable consensus within the patent world. The text of the Cross Coalition's letter:
We write today regarding the importance of the United States patent system to our transition to a clean energy economy. Our companies and those we represent are committed to nurturing the innovation pipeline and subsequent domestic manufacturing capacity that will build the next generation of energy efficient, renewable energy, and renewable fuel technologies, creating thousands of American jobs in the process. However, we are concerned with recent legislative proposals to make fundamental changes to the US patent system that we believe would weaken, rather than strengthen, patent protection, putting this innovation pipeline and subsequent American manufacturing capacity at risk. The patent reform legislation that has been introduced would reduce penalties for patent infringement by changing the law of damages. This change would elevate the importance of one of the factors now considered in calculating patent damages. By giving this one factor - apportionment - a preeminent position in damage calculations, proponents of the legislation would have achieved the goal of reducing damage awards. This type of reduction in the value of intellectual property rights could adversely affect the future of our industries in the United States in two ways. First, in order to meet the demands of a low-carbon energy future, the need for innovation in the areas of energy efficiency, energy crops, advanced biofuels, renewable energy, renewable fuels, carbon capture and storage, and environmental technologies is great. Our ability to rapidly innovate in these sectors is critical to ensuring that we and others will be able to effectively meet our mutual goals of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, thereby reducing the impact of global climate change and reinvigorating the American economy with the creation of green jobs. A significant reduction, or elimination of much of the value of the intellectual property that will be generated through this process will have an effect on the availability of the venture capital required, decreasing the speed at which innovation will occur. Second, we anticipate that our economy will flourish as innovation in environmental and climate technology sectors drives the creation of green jobs. Our companies and our members create these jobs as we manufacture and market our patented products and technologies to domestic and international customers. If the current patent system is modified, making it less costly to infringe on existing or future patent rights, we anticipate that our competitive advantage in the global marketplace will be reduced, impacting the creation of green jobs. As proposals are made to change the U.S. patent system, we encourage you to take into account the impact of these proposals on the viability of our burgeoning green economy and its associated green jobs, as well as our ability to attract the capital required to innovate at the necessary pace to effectively combat global climate change. Drastic changes, such as reducing penalties for patent infringement, will only discourage innovation, resulting in reduced investment and lost jobs at a time when the country can least afford it. We believe the American patent system is the best in the world and we look forward to working with you to ensure that it becomes even stronger. Thereby we can continue to encourage the kind of investment, product creation, and job creation that has been the hallmark of our economy for decades, and will ultimately drive our ability to meet the challenges posed by global climate change. Thank you for considering our views on an issue of fundamental significance to innovation in America.
Members of the coalition include: American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) - Washington, DC Biomass Coordinating Council - Washington, DC Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition - Darnestown, MD EESTech Inc. - Chino Valley, AZ Southwest Windpower - Flagstaff, AZ Ceres, Inc. - Thousand Oaks, CA Fallbrook Technologies Inc. - San Diego, CA Viryd Technologies Inc. - San Diego, CA Mendel Biotechnology, Inc. - Hayward, CA IP Checkups, Inc. - Berkeley, CA Environmental Energy Solutions - West Hartford, CT GreenWorld, LLC - Arvada, CO DuPont - Wilmington, DE EarthLinked Technologies - Lakeland, FL International Applied Engineering, Inc. - Marietta, GA Unicoi Energy Services - Marietta, GA Industrial Resource Group, LLC - Schererville, IN Konarka Technologies, Inc. - Lowell, MA Syngenta - Golden Valley, MN Monsanto - St. Louis, MO Solutia Inc. - St. Louis, MO Energy and Environment Research Center (EERC) - Grand Forks, ND Greentech Capital Advisors - New York, NY ECR International, Inc. - Utica, NY ArborGen, LLC - Summerville, SC PetroTex - Cedar Hill, TX The Stella Group, Ltd - Arlington, VA Powered Green LLC - Madison, WI Terra Moya Aqua, Inc. - Cheyenne, WY

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Germany rejects Saudi's cruel chip patent

cruel Moslem reality The whole concept of patents is to benefit public, to make people's lives easier and to help advance progress. This patent application for something altogether opposite. News across WWW and print say (like here, for example) that last Friday the German Patent Office rejected a patent application from a Saudi inventor which claims implanted semiconductors under the skins of visitors to the kingdom, and remotely killing them if they misbehave. The chip also tracks immigrants using a GPS module to locate any visa violators. The crowning touch of the patent application is the chip's cyanide releasable by remote control to kill people if they become a security risk.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The anatomy of chainsaw respect fail

this is an impressive chainsaw master This recent incident with a chain saw (a Michigan man accidentally hits his wife with a chainsaw, his sheriff's deputy neighbor is quick to responds to the scene, but it was too late) resembles the poor judgment using a chain saw in one of my cases: A man was doing minor yard work using his lightweight chain saw. After his was done, he realized he always wanted to trim unsightly boards protruding from his patio and abutting the side of his house masonry. He thought he could just nip the boards with the round end of the chain saw. Except he underestimated that physics of the chainsaw. As soon as he revved it up and touched a board, in a blink of an eye that chainsaw's round end bit the board, climbed onto the masonry and hit the man on his face, to the side of his nose. He was very lucky that he and his family agreed to the full reconstructive cosmetic surgery, which was very professional. It has bee less than a year and he has very little marks left that would testify to the violent accident. He says he never suspected chainsaws to have the unpredictable tendency to kick back.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

MUZIIC, the new music tool that streams music from Youtube videos

 Muziic strips and streams music from Youtube videos throws a curve ball in the copyright wars by offering a simple to use interface to all of the music in videos posted to YouTube. You can use Muziic to stream music without having to view videos. Let's sit back and see how long it takes YouTube and the music studios to assault this enterprise. Enjoy it while it lasts, though!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

How a senator blocked a Nevada businessman from trade marking the phrase "Last Best Place."

Baucus inserted language in the fiscal year 2009 Omnibus appropriation bill that would prohibit the slogan "Last Best Place," which is an unofficial motto of Montana, from being trademarked.
"Trying to trademark "The Last Best Place" is as ludicrous as someone trying to patent a Montana sunset," Baucus said. "If I have to insert this provision for the next 20 years, I will because that is how important this saying is to our state."
He and the businessman have slugged out over the trademark since 2002, when Nevada businessman David Lipson tried to gain exclusive rights to the term for his Paw's Up lodge in the Blackfoot Valley. Baucus' provision would prohibit using any funds to approve the trade mark, effectively killing any chance of the slogan being trademarked. Baucus has included similar provisions in past appropriations bills.
"When you walk down a main street in any Montana town, or have a good conversation at a coffee shop, you know Montana truly is "The Last Best Place," Baucus said. "And folks should be free to use that to describe our great state."
Senator Jon Tester supported Baucus' measure. "As a third generation Montana farmer, I know that folks in our state treasure our status as The Last Best Place," said Tester. "Montana's slogan isn't for sale."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Greeks put up their Museum of Hellenistic Inventions in a port for love boats

International Travel News is a low-profile but very informative monthly travel newspaper. It has reported on the Museum of Ancient Greek Technology, which has two floors of models of early Greek inventions, located in the Ilia region of the Peloponnese Archipelago of Greece, in the town of Katakolo, the port call for cruise ship day trips to Olympia.