March 31, 2005
Setting the On-Sale Bar - Ping!
Sparton Corporation developed and sold sonobuoys to the U.S. Navy. A sonobuoy is an electroacoustic device for listening to and locating underwater sounds, such as submarine noise.
March 30, 2005
Patent protection via diversity of portfolio
A diversified patent portfolio provides defensive strategies against patent infringement accusations and provides offensive strategies allowing a company to exploit a market advantage.
Patent litigation defendants, technology companies in particular, are increasingly turning to ex parte (external party) initiation of re-examination to dispose of patents which the courts have found them guilty of infringing. Eolas v. Microsoft and MercExchange v. Ebay are two widely watched patent cases where losing defendants have turned to the patent office in a desperate, last-ditch effort to dodge the infringement bullet.
March 29, 2005
District Court Insufficiently Boneheaded
Tranquil Prospects owns 5,222,985 and 4,636,214, about bone prostheses implants. Howmedica Osteonics, staring down the barrel of an infringement assertion gun, popped off the first shot by seeking a declaratory judgment in northern Indiana district court that the claims of both patents were invalid by reason of indefiniteness. One can only suppose that being plaintiff really carries a heavy presumption in northern Indiana.
March 28, 2005
Online Profiling and Privacy
Amazon.com has been taking flak in the press (MSNBC, Yahoo) from "privacy advocates" for its online personalization patents. "They are constantly finding new ways to exploit personal information," woofed Chris Hoofnagle of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Chris seems a wee pissed about it, but admits to having bigger fish to fry.
March 26, 2005
Death by Patent?
The effect of patents is typically money changing hands - richer, poorer, but no one dies. Often, as chronicled here and elsewhere, participants in patent disputes behave like silly weasels, more entertaining than consequential to society. Patents are seldom cast as a matter of life or death; but the issue of morality with regard to patents at the moment looms large with the passing of a new patent law in India.
The Patent Tax
Intermec Technologies and Symbol Technologies Inc. are embroiled in a patent suit/countersuit cook-out. Corporate caterwauls invariably justify themselves in a marketing spin for sympathy, and attempt to pacify understandably skittish stakeholders. In the background, Elvis Costello sings, "you never see the lies that you believe."
March 25, 2005
PubPat Spits at Microsoft
The Public Patent Foundation (PubPat), self-proclaimed patent Chicken Little, is blowing the whistle on Microsoft for 6,101,499, titled "Method and computer program product for automatically generating an Internet Protocol (IP) address", a patent granted in August 2000 that's still slumbering.
March 24, 2005
Infringement Damages Primer
Courts are willing to grant a patent holder compensation for all economic losses that are reasonably attributable to infringement, but the patentee shoulders the burden of convincing the court of the causality and measure of loss. More often than not, damage assessment is simplified to a reasonable royalty.
March 22, 2005
D.C. Patent Troll Hoedown
Patent trolls and their detractors, often the same thing, convened en masse last week in our nation's capitol to lament their own existence. The original patent troll spotter, Peter Detkin, did a fancy lexicographical dance. Only one opinion was not heard: that the U.S. patent system is thriving. Thriving, except for/because of (you decide): patent trolls.
First, a history quiz question: who was the world's most prolific patent troll?
March 21, 2005
Rambus Inc. and Infineon Technologies AG settled their long-running patent battle, agreeing to cross-license. Under the deal, German memory chip maker Infineon will pay Rambus $23.4 million a year for two years in quarterly installments, but gets to drive it away today. After that, Infineon could continue to pay up to $100 million under certain conditions. Rambus generously agreed to treat Infineon as a "most-favored customer."
March 19, 2005
Priming the Pump - Preparing for a Contingency Patent Case
Not many companies will be awoken by a phone call from a patent licensing company, offering a million dollars at a wink for a few patents, as one of my clients was. But some companies could use a wake-up call to monetizing their patents.
Ironically, given that a patent is a monopoly of usage denial, the value of a patent is in its adoption by others. To a patent holder, infringement should be sweet music. The problem is paying the tab for hiring a band to play that tune.
March 18, 2005
Sticking It In Apple's Ear
Apple Computer may soon think that iPod is an acronym for “ignominious Patents - oh dear”. Two U.S. patents are being asserted against the 21st century Walkman®: 6,587,403 and 6,665,797.
March 17, 2005
The Claim Game
A patent’s true value, to provide exclusive territory via a time-limited monopoly, appreciates or diminishes on the scope of its claims. Determining the scope of patent claims, therefore, is crucial. An opinion that, perhaps, will redefine the established guidelines of claim scope interpretation is anxiously awaited from an en banc sitting of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) in Phillips v. AWH Corp. To better understand the context of this anxiously awaited opinion, some nuances of claim construction are presented.
March 16, 2005
On the RIM and in the Heartland of Patent Infringement
A settlement in a widely watched patent infringement case - Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM), a Canadian-based maker of BlackBerry wireless e-mail devices, will pony up $450 million to NTP, a Virginia company, for infringing NTP's patents.
March 15, 2005
Who are the patent trolls?
The oddest thing about the patent game is casting moral aspersion about exercising one's legal rights.
The basic rules are simple: a patent is an alienable right of monopoly, a tradable commodity of the most flexible sort. But, the way the game is played, holding a patent is like owning an oil patch - it takes capital investment to drill for the gusher. Often the capital investment can be quite substantial, to the tune of a few million in litigation fees.
March 14, 2005
Whence The Patent Prospector
It's a little hard to imagine an attorney who wouldn't enjoy a soapbox, at least once in a while. That's what The Patent Prospector is intended to be, an open forum, for those who don't want to constantly blog, but occasionally chime in.
Handling §103 Rejections
It’s not unusual to receive a 35 U.S.C. §103(a) combination rejection applied with little more than the glib dab of glue: "it would have been obvious". Examiners often implicitly rely upon art class as a binder for justifying combination. Convenient selective quotations are applied for features that wouldn’t mesh if looking at the art holistically. Application out of context is a similar flaw: applying a prior art feature used in a specific way to a claimed invention using a similar feature differently.