Patent Application

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.

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.

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.

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.

January 12, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – For the 20th year in a row, International Business Machines Corp has been named the number one assignee of patents in the United States, according to IFI CLAIMS Patent Services’ list of the 2012 Top 50 US Patent assignees.

IBM leads the chart with 6,478 patents granted in 2012, which is more than 20% more than its next closest competitor.  IBM brings in an estimated $1 billion a year from licensing its patent portfolio.  In addition to the income, IBM uses its portfolio of patents to protect itself from litigation brought on by competitors and patent-holding firms.

Not surprisingly, Samsung Electronics Co made the number two spot with 5,081 patents granted last year.  The top ten is rounded out with other technology giants, such as Sony, Panasonic, Microsoft, Toshiba and other popular electronics brands.

However, there are a few names that surprisingly did not come close to the top ten.  Apple Inc came in at number 22, with only 1136 patents granted in 2012.  Google, Apple’s patent war rival, came in just ahead in the number 21 spot with 1151 patents granted.   Though the technology giants are lower on the list, the two companies made the biggest climb from their rankings last year.  Apple jumped from the 39th to 22nd spot and Google made an astounding jump from the 65th to 21st spot.

Google’s numbers were likely boosted by its purchase of Motorola Mobility in May of last year.  However, it is clear that Google and Apple both see their patent portfolios as a major business tool, as seen by their jump in the rankings and their ongoing patent wars around the globe.

However seriously these companies may take their patent portfolios, they could still learn a thing or two from IBM.  Dr. Michael Karasick, a vice president and computer scientist at IBM, says he credits the company’s impressive portfolio to its diverse range departments, each of which is filled with employees with varying skill sets.

Dr. Karasick also credited IBM’s success to its ability to invent and patent technology that can be used in different disciplines.  One example is the patent it was granted last year which covered the technology used in the IBM Watson computer, which beat the human “Jeopardy!” champions in 2011.  The same technology is currently being tested as an automated assistant for physicians to aid in diagnosing diseases.

With strategies like that, it is no wonder IBM has been able to hold the number one spot for the 20th year in a row.

November 26, 2012, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – US Patent and Trademark Director Dave Kappos defended the patent system against critics, such as Google, who have been claiming the system is broken.

Google and other technology giants have long criticized the patent system, particularly when it comes to the handling of software patents.  Many issues in the debate were summed up in an opinion piece written by Kent Walker, senior vice president and general counsel for Google, which was posted yesterday on Wired.

Walker claimed that patent trolls are taking advantage of holes in the patent system, costing technology giants billions of dollars each year.  He called the government to action, claiming they need to get rid of bad software patents that have been issued, prevent bad software patents from being issued in the future, and provide “clearer rules for damages and awarding costs.”  Walker claimed that bad software patents include overly broad patents and business method patents.

The patent trolls are not only bad for businesses, Walker claims they are bad for consumers as well.  He claimed that fighting abusive litigation takes time and resources away from research and development in large companies and completely devastates small companies and start-ups, resulting in quashed competition and suppressed creativity.

These views are shared among many critics of the software patent system, but Kappos claimed in a speech this morning at the Center for American Progress that the software patent system is functioning the way it should be.

The patent office conducted a study of many different software patent lawsuits and found that the courts had found 80 percent of the patents in question valid, according to Kappos, thus getting rid of bad software patents would make little difference in the amount of software patent litigation.  He stated that the software patent wars are not a sign that the patent system is broken, but rather a sign that the patent system is working.

Kappos also claimed that the America Invents Act will take care of many of the issues critics are complaining about, but they have not yet given the AIA time to take effect. Among other things, Kappos said the AIA will help weed out business method patents and bad software patents.

His last major claim against his critics was that technology continues to develop very quickly, so he claims that critics who say development is being harmed by the litigation have no standing.

Regardless of whether the software patent system will end up being reformed or not, it appears that software patents will continue to be a hot topic.

September 27, 2012, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office unveiled a patent application continuation Thursday that Apple Inc. filed earlier this year seeking a patent for its Siri voice assistant feature on the iPhone.

The patent application, originally filed in June and titled “Intelligent automated assistant,” describes a system that engages with the user in an integrated, conversational manner using natural language dialogue, and invokes external services when appropriate to obtain information or perform various actions.

The system can be implemented using any of a number of different platforms, such as the web, email, smartphone or any combination of those platforms.

In one embodiment, the system is based on sets of interrelated domains and tasks, and employs additional functionality powered by external services with which the system can interact, according to the patent description.

In various embodiments of the invention, an intelligent automated assistant is implemented on an electronic device to facilitate user interaction with that device, and to help the user more effectively engage with local and remote services.

The invention can be used to discover, investigate, select among, reserve, and otherwise learn about things to do, places to go, places to eat or drink, times and places to meet others, and any other source of entertainment or social interaction which may be found on the Internet, the patent description says.

“Today’s electronic devices are able to access a large, growing, and diverse quantity of functions, services, and information, both via the Internet and from other sources,” the patent background says. “Many users may have difficulty even discovering what functionality and/or information is available on their electronic devices or on various websites; thus, such users may become frustrated or overwhelmed, or may simply be unable to use the resources available to them in an effective manner.”

“Existing systems are often difficult to use and to navigate, and often present users with inconsistent and overwhelming interfaces that often prevent the users from making effective use of the technology,” the patent background says.

The inventors are listed as Thomas Robert Gruber, Adam John Cheyer, Dag Kittlaus, Didier Rene Guzzoni, Christopher Dean Brigham, Richard Donald Giuli, Marcello Bastea-Forte and Harry Joseph Saddler.

Kittlaus is a co-founder of the company that originally developed Siri, which Apple bought. Kittlaus left Apple in 2011 after the debut of Siri on the iPhone 4S.

September 11, 2012, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles — Nike Inc. was issued patents last week for golf clubs that include digital measuring equipment and shoes equipped with data transmission systems to track their use and send the information to a computer or other device.

U.S. Patent Number 8,258,941, issued Sept. 4 and titled “ Footwear products including data transmission capabilities,” covers a shoe with a transmission system that transmits data to a remote system. Such footwear systems may also include activation systems for activating the transmission or display systems.

The transmitted data may be used for various purposes, such as identifying a user of the article of footwear, activating targeted advertising or product information, or confirming the user’s presence at a specific location or at a specific time.

The data may also be used for determining start, finish or intermediate split times for a specific user, confirming athletic equipment usage, providing data for a game or reward program or registering the user for an event or competition, among other possible uses, according to the patent abstract.

U.S. Patent Number 8,257,191, titled “ Golf clubs and golf club heads having digital lie and/or other angle measuring equipment” and also issued Sept. 4, covers golf club heads with sensors configured to measure one or more swing parameters. The golf club head may include several gyroscopes and accelerometers.

In one embodiment, the club head contains three gyroscopes that measure angular rate data along different orthogonal axes. At least one gyroscope may be an analog gyroscope, while accelerometers may provide data regarding the three orthogonal axes associated with the gyroscopes.

The club head may also include software or hardware that perform computer-executed methods for determining one or more swing parameters. Club heads could also include a display device for displaying an output of the swing parameters.

Further aspects of the invention relate to novel methods and algorithms for calculating measurements relating to the swing parameters.

August 29, 2012, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Google Inc. was issued a patent on Tuesday covering technology allowing for automatic recognition of large objects in videos without any need for a user’s assistance, pointing the way to possible new online video applications on YouTube or elsewhere.

U.S. Patent Number 8,254,699, titled “Automatic large scale video object recognition,” involves an object recognition system that performs a number of rounds of dimensionality reduction and consistency learning on visual content items such as videos and still images. This results in a set of “feature vectors” that accurately predict the presence of a visual object represented by a given name within a visual content item.

The feature vectors are stored in association with the object name which they represent and with an indication of the number of rounds of dimensionality reduction and consistency learning that produced them. Consistency learning involves comparing a feature vector to other feature vectors, such as those for the same object name, and those for different object names, and calculating a score based on the comparisons.

The feature vectors and the indication can be used for various purposes, such as quickly determining a visual content item containing a visual representation of a given object name, according to the patent description.

“Currently, automated recognition within a digital video of images of real-world objects of interest to a user, such as people, animals, automobiles, consumer products, buildings, and the like, is a difficult problem,” the patent description says. “The use of unsupervised learning techniques, in which the explicit input of human operators is not required to learn to recognize objects, has not yet been achieved for large-scale image recognition systems.”

“Conventional systems rely on direct human input to provide object exemplars explicitly labeled as representing the object, such as a set of images known to include, for example, dogs, based on prior human examination,” the patent description says. “However, such human input is expensive, time-consuming, and cannot scale up to handle very large data sets comprising hundreds of thousands of objects and millions of images.”

This is particularly a problem in the context of video hosting systems, such as Google Video or YouTube, in which users submit millions of videos, each containing numerous distinct visual objects over the length of the video, according to the patent.

Inventors Ming Zhao of San Jose, California and Jay Yagnik of Mountain View, California filed the application for the patent in February 2009.

July 19, 2012, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – Some might call this a year of innovation for Apple, as the pace of new and improved products seems to be increasing. New smartphones, head-mounted computer display devices, a sophisticated new stylus, and new technology abounds as the California company further increases its market share and pushes its stock price even higher.

Smartphone cases were one of the more recent innovations that were both functional, practical, and allowed users to express their personalities with a variety of colors and designs. Apple’s most recent contribution to its patent portfolio is a noise-canceling iPhone case. The newest patent involves a “windscreen”, designed to reduce distracting background sounds that are usually picked up by the device’s microphone and result in decreased sound quality. The patent is also good for all portable electronic devices that enable two-way conversations in real time.

Originally filed January 11, 2011, patent application number 20120177239 shows a diagram with a windscreen over the microphone, which is specially designed to reduce wind noise, air blasts and any other noise that may negatively affect call quality. The patent includes a diagram that shows a “windscreen” sealed across the opening of the case, aligned with the device’s microphone port.

The new product would effectively allow intelligible speech despite background noise and without requiring the user to increase call or voice volume. According to the patent application, the case will be formed from plastic, acrylic, polycarbonate, silicon, or rubber. The screen will likely be of mesh, foam or a feather-like material. And like the current products, the new noise-reduction cases will be available in different colors and designs. A release date for the new iPhone case has not been determined yet. However, judging by the shape of the case in the diagram, it appears that iPhones will remain the same size and shape or the new case will be released prior to any changes down the road for iPhone designs.

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