March 28, 2014, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – A recent patent filing by the country’s leading holder of patents may be about to take the connection people feel with computers to a whole new level.  According to an application published earlier this month by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), IBM is seeking protection over technology that takes sensory input from humans and digitizes it in order to recognize and differentiate various human emotions.

The patent is entitled, “Multiple Sensory Channel Approach for Translating Human Emotions in a Computing Environment,” and was filed by three IBM inventors from Texas.  Per the particulars of the filing, the technology is encapsulated in a computer analysis program that is able to take several indicators of physiological data, including voice commands, heart rate and facial expressions, and analyze those inputs to determine whether a person is feeling happy, sad, tired, angry, confused, etc.

Specifically, the patent filing describes how these sensory inputs will be processed by means of “standards-defined sensory channels,” which will then  provide “emotion dimensional values”, which correspond to range of human emotions.   In order to get a correct read of a person’s emotional state, the system will have the ability to give certain physiological data higher priority.  That data can then be used to activate other computer functions to interact with the user in a specific way based on their detected mood.

In addition to physiological input, the technology will also factor in environmental data as well as user-generated input, all of which will be aggregated to determine the user’s emotional state.  Structurally, the patent mentions that the system will include a processor and operating system, an audio capture device and a physiological sensor, among other parts.  It further sets forth that the system is capable of operating on general purpose computers like desktops and laptops as well as other devices, which are likely to include smartphones and tablets.

Though it is uncertain at this point whether this patent application will actually be granted (IBM files hundreds of patent applications each week), its filing exposes the technology industry’s ever-increasing interest in making computers more human-like.  With added capabilities to make computer devices sensitive to what have up until now been exclusively human qualities, such as sensing and interpreting the emotions of others, the lines between what is human and what is computer may be blurring.

February 11, 2014, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – Drone Technologies, Inc., a Taiwanese company that specializes in the manufacture of remote controlled drone devices is taking Parrot Inc. to court for allegedly infringing on some of its patents.  After squabbling back and forth about the alleged infringement since 2012, Drone Technologies has decided to file a formal complaint in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh.

According to the lawsuit, the company made Parrot aware of the infringement over two years ago.  Specifically, it claims that two of its patents, which surround the use of magnetometers and accelerometers in smartphones to control drones, were infringed upon by Parrot’s FreeFlight App.  Parrot, which sells toy drones, encouraged users to download the application to use their phones and tablets to control the movements of their toys.

When it brought the infringement to Parrot’s attention, Drone Technologies claims that Parrot recognized the issue and made a temporary attempt to eliminate the infringement by modifying its application to use technology other than magnetometers and accelerometers to navigate the drones.   Once Parrot drone users started complaining that the new app did not work, however, Parrot went back to using the magnetometers and accelerometers, thereby again infringing on Drone Technologies’ patents.  Now Drone Technologies is demanding an injunction preventing Parrot from using the technology at issue, as well as compensatory damages resulting from the infringement.

Parrot has yet to issue a response of any kind to the pending case.  The French-based company, which was launched in 1994, has seen a swath of recent success, most notably with its popular AR.Drone 2.0.  It is estimated that since the original AR.Drone was released, over 500,000 have been sold, making it the post popular toy drone ever.  Its success has been much attributed to its ease of flight and sleek design.  Though with a price tag starting at $200, the toys are an expensive hobby.

In addition to its best selling, lightweight toy drone, Parrot sells an array of other innovative devices, most of which are controlled by Parrot-created smartphone and tablet apps.  Some of Parrot’s best known products outside of the drone market are headphones, stereos and GPS devices.

January 9, 2014, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – A recent patent application filed by Apple has people gearing up more than ever for the iPhone 6.   Entitled “Voice-Based Image Tagging and Searching,” the application seeks protection over technology that would let users tag and organize photos by speaking.  While iPhones have been able to sort photos by the time and location they were taken since the launch of iOS 7 in the fall of 2013, this patent takes it a step further.

The filing details how Apple users can tag photos using whatever “natural language” they want, including by naming the place, person or occasion featured.  The phone will then organize the photos based on the tags and store them in a database that is searchable by Siri.  Thus, users can easily save and recall photos in their growing photo libraries all by voice command.

The patent adds to a series of what are widely believed to be filings dedicated to technology for the next generation of iPhones.  In the past year, Apple has filed patents that reveal plans to implement a heart rate monitor into its devices and to expand the screen size.  The company has also fueled rumors of its plans to use flexible glass in its new displays and possibly add more biometric security features.

Given the ever-increasing competition between Apple and its chief rival, Samsung, Apple has also made recent attempts to file patents to differentiate the two brands’ devices.  Chief among this is one that looks to improve the hovering recognition technology already implemented in Samsung’s Galaxy S4.  While Samsung beat Apple to the punch in equipping its devices with the ability to allow users to hover their fingers over the screen to display additional information or to preview a link on a website,  Apple’s recent patent builds on this technology and streamlines the process of hover recognition.  In comparing Apple’s hover gesture patent with the hover technology already featured in some Samsung devices, commentators have noted that the Apple filing seems to shore up several problems that the Samsung products have had in differentiating the hover gesture from a traditional touch.

Though the next iPhone, already being called the iPhone 6, has no official release date, it is almost certain to make its debut in 2014.  With regard to what the official name of the new device will be, many have suggested that Apple might divert from its numerical naming system as it did with the recent iPad Air (chosen in lieu of iPad 5).  No matter what it ends up being called, with the flurry of patents packing it with new and exciting technology, the next iPhone is certain to impress.

November 26, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – After years of red tape and uncertainty, officials from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Alexandria, Virginia, finally announced that a West Coast-based office will soon open in California.  The new office will be based in San Jose, inside the recently constructed City Hall in the middle of the tech-driven city of almost one million people.  According the statement, the office is set to open in late 2014.

The announcement is a welcome break for West Coast politicians, corporations and other supporters who have been championing the need for an additional patent office in the heart of America’s Mecca of innovation and technology.  An estimated 1 in 8 patents originates from Northern California and until this announcement, backlog at the East Coast office had made it time consuming and inefficient for California patent filers to get through the system.

With the opening of the new office, inventors from all over the West Coast and Pacific Rim can save the time and trouble of traveling to the East Coast to argue their patent filings.  Future director of the Silicon Valley satellite office, Michelle Lee, pointed out how important this is, especially for small startup companies who may not have the money to fund the expense of going to Virginia to handle their patent matters.  CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Carl Guardino, echoed this view, calling the opening of the branch “phenomenal news.”

The new office space will be provided rent-free for the first two years of operation and for a reduced rent for the three following years.  When that time runs out, the USPTO will pay regular market rent rates to the City of San Jose.  The space, which will be housed in San Jose’s ultramodern looking City Hall building, will expand over 40,000 square feet and will include several hearing and interview rooms.  The new office is expected to create new jobs as well, with 60 new patent examiners and 20 hearing judges to be brought on between now and the date the office opens.

The new branch comes in the wake of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act.  Enacted in 2011, the law mandates that the USPTO establish at least three additional branches outside of the main Virginia hub.  The California office will mark the second satellite office to be implemented, behind the Detroit branch, which opened its doors in July 2012.   The USPTO has already begun plans for other new branches to open in Dallas and Denver.

Posted in: Patent Law
October 22, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – Apple scored a huge break this week as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) changed its mind and confirmed the patentability of a sought-after patent now dubbed the “Steve Jobs Patent.”  The ruling came almost a year after the PTO initially rejected all twenty of the cited claims.   After months of reconsidering, however, it finally stated this week that, “No amendments have been made to the patent.  As a result of the re-examination, it has been determined that the patentability of claims 1-20 is confirmed.”

The patent at issue is for the multi-touch technology implemented in Apple’s touch screen devices, such as the iPad and iPhone.  It is formally named “Touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics.”  However, due to the fact that it lists Steve Jobs as its lead inventor, it has come to be known simply as the “Steve Jobs Patent.”  The claims, while relatively technical in language, all generally have to do with the scrolling features of Apple touch screen devices.

The recent ruling based on the USPTO’s reconsideration found that the prior inventions and technologies invented before this patent neither anticipated the Steve Jobs Patent’s claims nor rendered them obvious.  As such, all twenty claims were given the green light as patentable subject matter.  This gives Apple a major boost in its fending off of Samsung and Google, the three of which have been battling over patents for years.

With the patent now confirmed, the Cupertino based company has made it much more difficult for its competitors, who will have to work around the claims in order to avoid infringement.  The situation is complicated further by the fact that this is one of two patents that Apple previously accused Samsung of infringing, which led to a US import ban on some Samsung devices.  In light of the new finding by the PTO, Samsung will have to make sure to steer even more clear of all of the claims mentioned in the Apple patent.  Given the tense war that has sprung up between the tech giants, Apple supporters have begun to theorize that the aptly named “Steve Jobs Patent” is the company’s late founder’s final way of making sure that Apple wins out.

July 17, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – Car manufacturer Mazda Motor of America, Inc. was hit with a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Delaware on July 9, when Activision TV, Inc. filed a complaint alleging patent infringement.

Activision, a Delaware Corporation, claims that Mazda infringed its patents for electronic displays in its new line of vehicles.  The patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 7,369,058 and 8,330,613 are both titled “Remote Control Electronic Display System” and were granted in 2008 and 2012, respectively.  Activision develops flat-screen displays with computers fully integrated into the screen.

The allegedly infringing use has to do with Mazda’s “digital signage systems” which are located in its car dealerships across the country.  Mazda is a Japanese-based car manufacturing company with American headquarters in Irvine, California.

Activision claims that it notified Mazda of the infringement on February 7 and claims that all continued use of the infringing technology beyond that date constitutes willful infringement.  It argues that such willful infringement entitles the company to payment of enhanced damages by Mazda.

In the complaint, the company claims that it suffered irreparable injury from Mazda’s infringement, which can only be remedied by a court injunction.

Activision has been on a tear in district court as of late, bringing patent infringement lawsuits against Harley-Davidson, Inc., CenturyLink, Inc., and Build-A-Bear Workshop, Inc. all in the past month.  All of the related cases claim patent infringement for the same two patents, Nos. ‘058 and ‘613, which are also  named in the case against Mazda.  While the lawsuits against Harley-Davidson and Build-A-Bear were filed in Delaware, the case against CenturyLink will proceed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas.

Mazda claims that it obtained the infringing technology from a supplier not affiliated with the company, and would expect Activision to resolve its claims with the supplier directly.

This is not the only patent infringement claim currently pending against Mazda.  The automaker was named along with other major American automakers, including Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan North America, Inc. and Ford Motor Co. in a patent infringement lawsuit by Rydex Ltd. in 2011.  That lawsuit is now pending in Federal Circuit court.

Activision is demanding a jury trial as well as judgment against Mazda that includes payment of damages and legal fees.

June 20, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles –  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in a landmark case Thursday that natural human genes cannot be patented.  The case, Association for Medical Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, was originally brought in federal court in the Southern District of New York in 2010, but made its way through appeals to the nation’s top court.

The ruling came in a contentious battle over two genes that were identified as markers for increased risk of breast cancer and patented by biological research company Myriad Genetics.  Myriad Genetics held a patent for both the natural form of the gene isolated from the rest of the genome, and also the synthetic version of the gene, known as cDNA.  The justices ruled that while Myriad Genetics could continue to patent synthetic versions of the genes they isolate, patents for naturally occurring genes in the body could not be enforced.

This decision by the Justices has broad implications, as more than 20 percent of the human genome has been patented in the last 30 years.  This decision has helped to update the parameters for determining what is eligible for patent protection in the advanced field of biotechnology where there is an increasingly fine line between what is natural or synthetic.

This fight over gene patents was particularly contentious because Myriad Genetics’ patent meant that no other companies could pursue research on these genes.  From its research into the genes, Myriad has developed two tests to identify potential abnormalities of these genes that could lead to cancer.  The company’s patent meant that no other companies could develop tests of their own.

Myriad Genetics’ two tests consist of one basic test, BRAC, that is widely available and BART, a more advanced test that can cost thousands of dollars.  Plaintiffs in the case alleged that this second, more advanced test was only available if the patient had a strong history of cancer, or had the ability to pay for the test out of pocket.

Actress Angelina Jolie recently spoke out about her decision to undergo a double mastectomy after the results of her BART test showed that she was genetically disposed to breast cancer.  Advocates argue that this test should be more widely available so that all women at risk could have the opportunity to take this test, regardless of their ability to pay.

The Supreme Court’s ruling means that the field is now open for other companies to develop their own, potentially cheaper, versions of the test.

The scientific community has long been divided over the role of patent protection for inventions versus discovery for the public good.  Myriad Genetics argued that it spent years and millions of dollars pursuing this research, and having patent protection would have helped to recoup its costs and would justify further expenditures.  Genetics corporation advocates fear that this decision could stymie future genetics research because of the enormous cost and lack of protection over the results.  Other genetic researchers, however, are excited for the opportunity to research these genes that had long been off-limits due to patent protection.

June 4, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – Keurig, Inc., a Massachusetts corporation well known for its single-serve coffee makers and cartridges, was dealt a blow in Massachusetts federal court Friday when its patent infringement lawsuit against Rogers Family Company was dismissed.  The dispute was over patents held by Keurig for its single-serve coffee cartridges, which the company claimed Rogers copied.

Rogers Family Company, a San Francisco-based LLC, designed a single-serving coffee cartridge for use in Keurig brand coffee making machines.  Rogers has been selling its OneCup line of coffee pods under its San Francisco Bay brand since Fall 2011.

The lawsuit, filed in November 2011, claimed that Rogers’ coffee cartridge infringed on three of Keurig’s patents, one for design and two utility patents related to methods.

U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV made an unfavorable ruling against Keurig on the case brought against JBR, Inc., the holding company for Rogers Family Co.  With respect to the design patent, he reasoned that the coffee cartridges were different enough that they did not rise to the level of infringement.  He further found that the method patents could no longer be enforced.

Keurig claimed in the lawsuit that Rogers’ pod was too similar to its protected design.  Keurig was issued its design patent, U.S. Patent Number D502,362, in 2005 for “an ornamental design for a disposable coffee cartridge.”  Judge Saylor disagreed with Keurig’s argument, stating that the Rogers’ cartridges look different enough that an ordinary person could tell them apart and therefore that they did not violate Keurig’s patent.

The other issue raised in the lawsuit was Keurig’s claim that by designing a pod to use in Keurig coffee makers, Rogers violated the method patents held by Keurig. The method patents, U.S. Patent Numbers 7,165,488 and 7,347,138 both titled “Brew chamber for a single serve beverage brewer,” describe the process of inserting the Keurig cartridge into the coffee machine and operating it.  Keurig argued that its method patents should prevent other companies from designing a product for use in a Keurig brand coffee maker.

Judge Saylor flatly denied this claim, arguing that once Keurig began selling their brewing machines, they exhausted their method patent.  Accepting Keurig’s logic, he argued, would mean that any customer who bought the machine would be liable for patent infringement if they did not use a Keurig brand cartridge to brew coffee.

Los Angeles – Once again, Apple Inc. is the target a patent infringement lawsuit concerning its FaceTime app.  The Plaintiff is National Cheng Kung University in Tainan City, Taiwan.  The claim is based on U.S. Patent No. 7,561,078, issued in 2009, which relates to a system “for compressing a video data set” that provides a “coding strategy with parameter searching” which optimizes performance.  National Cheng Kung University believes that FaceTime, among other similar applications, is an infringement.

Apple’s  FaceTime is a downloadable software application for iOS devices such as iPhones, iPads and Macs which allow users to videoconference through a built in camera on the device.  According to National Cheng Kung University, FaceTime uses “block-oriented motion compensation video compression” which infringes on its patent.

This is not the first time that Apple has been accused of patent infringement regarding FaceTime.  Last year Apple lost out in a long and drawn-out lawsuit filed in Texas by VirnetX Holding Corporation and was ordered to pay $368 million in damages related to patent infringement.  Apple also lost its attempts to appeal the verdict and have the judgment reduced.  Then VirnetX came after Apple again hitting it with another lawsuit citing the same patents, but targeting Apple’s newest product models.

This also is not the only patent infringement lawsuit that National Cheng Kung University has filed against Apple.  In another case also filed in Texas federal court, the charges against Apple concern the voice-recognition software application it developed called Siri.  Siri, also designed for iPhones, iPads and Macs, acts as an intelligent personal assistant.

Apple has been no stranger to litigation since its inception by Steve Jobs who established the company in Cupertino, California in 1976.  Most of the court battles involve either protecting or defending the company’s Intellectual Property rights.  The most notable of the recent cases is an ongoing patent battle with Samsung.  Also, for 30+ years Apple has had continual trademark disputes with Apple Corps, founded by the Beatles rock group.

National Cheng Kung University currently owns over 100 different patents registered in the United States.

April 22, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Elizabeth LaPorte recently ruled that Avocet Sports Technology Inc. waited an unreasonable amount of time, 6 years, to initiate a patent infringement case against Polar Electro, Inc.  Thus, she dismissed the case due to the doctrine of laches.

Avocet Sports Technology Inc., a Palo Alto, California company, tried to convince the Judge that the 6-year delay was due to a lack of funds needed to pursue litigation, but the Judge dismissed the excuse as having “no authority” to uphold it.  She further stated that Avocet’s claim of lack of knowledge was unjustified because Avocet Sports should have taken action sooner if it knew of possible infringing activity by Polar Electro.

Avocet Sports filed the complaint a year ago against Polar Electro in a California federal courtroom alleging that Polar infringed on one of its patents.  The patent at issue, U.S. Patent Number 5,058,427, issued in 1991 for “Methods for selectively accumulating altitude changes”.  The patent involves a strap-on device which Avocet Sports developed as a GPS-type of monitor which tracks a hiker, cyclist, or runner’s variations in altitude while on a trek.

Avocet Sports has been an innovator of outdoor sports products including compact cycling computers, altimeters, heart rate monitors and other related equipment since 1977.  Avocet Sport’s complaint against Polar Electro claimed the two companies had discussed the possibility of a partnership or license to the technology, but that Polar Electro had branched out on its own, copied the design, and then sold its own similar device.

Polar Electro, which focuses on sports, physiology and electronics has been developing heart rate monitors since 1977.  It now sells its products in over 80 different countries, employing 1200 people.  Polar Electro has been aggressively marketing and selling the elevation-tracking device since 2004, spending significant sums of money, unaware they may have been infringing on Avocet Sport’s patent.  Because of this, the Judge felt Polar Electro would be unduly prejudiced by Avocet’s long delay in filing an action against it.

Now that the case has been dismissed, it may never be determined if Polar Electro had in fact infringed the patent.

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