Patent Registration

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.

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.

February 13, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – Tela Innovations Inc. filed a lawsuit against Nokia Corp, LG Electronics Inc., and several other companies with both the U.S. International Trade Commission and the Delaware federal court accusing the companies of infringing seven patents owned by Tela that cover technology related to integrated circuit manufacturing processes.

In addition to Nokia and LG, Tela filed separate lawsuits against Motorola Mobility LLC, HTC Corp., and Pantech Co. Ltd. in Delaware federal court and a joint complaint against all five companies with the ITC accusing the companies of copying Tela’s technology for optimizing the layout of integrated circuits in its smartphones without a license from Tela.

“Tela has, and continues to, create technology to address critical technical and economic challenges facing the semiconductor industry.  Our products enable designers to achieve the best performance, area and power characteristics possible as semiconductor processes continue to scale,” Scott Becker, CEO of the California-based Tela, said in a statement.  “Given the significance of our company’s investment in this technology and associated products, it was necessary to take legal action at this time.”

Tela, which is headquartered in Santa Clara County, said its patents protect improvement for the manufacture of integrated circuit chips, which are utilized in nearly all electronic devices including smartphones, tablets and laptops.  The manufacturing techniques allow manufacturers to perfect printing of a circuit layout on tiny chips.

In the complaints, Tela claims that each of the five companies have imported and sold smartphones or tablets that contain integrated circuits that infringe some combination of seven patents held by the company.

“Tela has been irreparably harmed by the defendants’ infringement of its valuable patent rights,” the complaint said. “Moreover, defendants’ unauthorized and infringing uses of Tela’s patented technology have threatened the value of this intellectual property.”

In the lawsuits filed in federal court, Tela is seeking damages and an injunction to prevent the companies from importing goods in the future that infringe its patents.  The ITC complaint is seeking a declaratory judgment that the companies have imported infringing goods and therefore have breached Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930.  If the ITC rules in favor of Tela, it could result in an exclusion order banning the companies from importing their devices into the United States.

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.

October 24, 2012, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – The Federal Circuit on Tuesday called for more clarity in determining the proper standards with which it should weigh claim construction decisions made in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board, with a majority panel opinion that asked for en banc review of its own decision.

The immediate case on appeal involved a bid by Flo Healthcare Solutions LLC to overturn a PTAB decision that upheld a PTO examiner’s rejection on reexamination of numerous claims of its patent for a mobile computer workstation intended for use in medical care environments. Flo originally sued Rioux Vision Inc. in Georgia federal court for infringing the patent, and Rioux initiated the reexamination proceeding that led to the current appeal.

The Federal Circuit affirmed the board’s conclusion, but got there by a different route, saying the board’s analysis was incorrect.

“Based on our review of the record, we are satisfied that the factual determinations underlying the board’s decision are supported by substantial evidence, and that the board came to the correct legal conclusions based on those facts,” the majority opinion, authored by Circuit Judge S. Jay Plager, said.

The decision, though, intentionally elided the question of the standard of review the Federal Circuit should apply to the board’s claim construction decisions, Judge Plager said.

“Whichever way this court’s review rule should be cast, and for whatever reasons, it is perhaps time that the court definitively decide en banc on an agreed review standard, one that provides clear direction to the PTO and the inventor community,” he said in additional views filed alongside the three-judge panel’s opinion.

Although the review standard may not always dictate the result, as a matter of basic law there should be one standard uniformly applied by the court to Board claim constructions, Judge Plager said.

“When, as here, there exists an unnecessary lack of clarity in our rules, I believe we have an obligation as a court to address the problem and, if possible, correct it,” Judge Plager.

One of the principal purposes behind the creation of the Federal Circuit was to provide national uniformity in patent matters, and a uniform standard for review of claim construction matters, regardless of the forum whose decision is being appealed, would be consistent with that purpose, he said.

Circuit Judge Pauline Newman agreed in her own additional views, saying that the goal of uniformity underlying the Federal Circuit’s genesis “is being undermined by a hodgepodge of procedural rulings, inferences, and presumptions that ignore the routine mechanisms of patent examination, that confound the standards of review, and that misapply the principles of administrative deference.”

“The loser is the technology community, whose incentive for innovation and commerce the patent system serves,” she said.

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.

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