Friday, April 30, 2004

USPTO - 1, Tensilica - 0 : Tensilica's configurable and extensible 32-bit Xtensa microprocessor core is some pretty heavy-duty stuff, and the patents covering the technology are licensed to many of the "big boys" in the business (for an overview of the technology, click here). However, a prickly (and anonymous) third-party has requested a re-examination of their keystone 6,477,683 patent recently, and the Examiner rejected all 104 claims. May ARC International be behind this? In at least one previous comment (made right after the patents were issued), a representative of the company stated that "I believe that most claims in this field would find a considerable body of prior art, much of which would be ours."

Ouch.

Hackers Take Note:

A University of Nebraska professor has developed robotic cones and barrels that can move out of the way, or into place, from computer commands made miles away.

They can even be programmed to move on their own at any particular part of the day, said Shane Farritor, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Nebraska.

For example, if workers arrived at 6 a.m., the cones could move from the shoulder to block off the lane at that time, then return to the side of the highway at the end of the day.

- I can't wait to see the results once these things crash . . .

Is Viet Nam ripe for technological investing? It seems that Viet Nam is making greater efforts to buttress IP protection, pursuant to their desire to join the WTO. Recently, the Viet Nam National Assembly’s Standing Committee passed an Ordinance to protect domestically developed new plant varieties. Also, the Ho Chi Minh City Centre for Science and Technology Information (Cesti) will raise the number of on-line patent applications to 5 million in mid-2004 to make it easier to research patent information. Also, the Asian Development Bank is predicting that Vietnam is likely to obtain the highest GDP growth rate in Southeast Asia, reaching 7.5 percent in 2004 and 7.6 percent in 2005.

Verrrrrry interesting . . . . .

Check, Please: It's mind-boggling when you think about Microsoft and the $60 billion in cash reserves it has to pay off legal settlements and other expenses. Recently, Microsoft has been running through a lot of printer ink to settle patent infringement cases. Microsoft reached a $440 million legal settlement and licensing deal with InterTrust this April, which came less than two weeks after the company agreed to pay Sun $1.6 billion to drop an antitrust suit against Microsoft and clear up patent disputes between the two companies. While it may be true that "if you build it, they will come", it is also apparent that "if you pay them, they will go away."

Ironically, Microsoft's generous check policy apparently doesn't extend to 19-year-olds that discover security holes in the Jet Database Engine - which if exploited would have let hackers take control of a user's PC and spread nasty viruses.

More law firm mergers in DC? After Wilmer Cutler Pickering's merger with Boston's Hale and Dorr, pundits are lining up to predict who may be next. The D.C. market, of course, is no stranger to law firm unions. It has been a prime target market for expansion -- second only to New York -- for the past several years. From 1996 to July 2003, there have been 38 mergers involving D.C.-area firms.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Senate panel votes to end diversion of patent fees :

This is good news for the USPTO, but I wonder if this is going to make any difference in the long run. At least MSNBC thinks that more funding will equal quicker turnarounds . . .

BATTLE OF THE TITANS: In my opinion, one of the classic fights between behemoths - Fujitsu and Samsung are pounding each other over PDP (plasma display panel) technology. In the fourth quarter of 2003, Samsung SDI was the world’s second-largest PDP maker with 22% of total global shipments. Fujitsu is the owner of key pieces of PDP IP. All PDP manufacturers in Japan are paying royalties to Fujitsu in return for access to its fundamental patents.

Recently, Samsung (who is from South Korea), got dinged when Japanese customs officials suspended the import of Samsung panels in response to Fujitsu's April 6 lawsuit filed in the Tokyo District Court and the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, which accused Samsung of patent violations.

In the immortal words of Chief Wiggum, "this is going to get worse before it gets better"

Biological computer developed in Israel can identify and destroy cancer. I'd like to think it is true, but haven't we heard this before?

"To Protect Bankruptcy and the Useful Arts" : seems that a new study from the UK thinks that going broke may be good for business. They also correlate patent activity with economic progress. Sounds like we are going to have a banner year . . .

- - - - - - -

IT IS almost a business truism that when an entrepreneur goes bankrupt in America it is seen as part of a learning curve that makes him or her more eligible for backing next time, but when someone goes bust here they are never trusted again.

Now, John Armour and Doug Cumming of the Centre for Business Research in Cambridge have found a real-world correlation between bankruptcy law and the demand for venture capital, having studied the legal regimes and entrepreneurialism of 15 countries.

They found that having the right legal climate is just as important in creating the right conditions for new business as is the overall level of economic growth, or the level of patent activity.

From this, they suggest, the less-onerous bankruptcy laws that came into effect in Britain this month should provide a boost to business formation and increase demand from entrepreneurs for venture capital.

It may be self-evident but it is also encouraging, to have it empirically confirmed that 'investor-friendly' regimes create a supply of, and a demand for, venture capital greater than exists in more hostile environments.

What is interesting, though, is how specific proposals make a real difference - as in the severity of bankruptcy laws and the reluctance of people to take the plunge.

Germany, where it takes six years to get discharged from bankruptcy, has one of the lowest incidences of entrepreneurs seeking private equity finance.

This seems to have been recognised in the reform here which, in allowing people to be discharged within 12 months, sought to 'aid rehabilitation and business start-ups and re-starts'.

So now the Government can claim, in answer to all the complaints about red tape, that it has created in Britain one of the best places to go out of business.

Arrowhead Snags John Miller

Arrowhead Research Corporation, an emerging company in the field of
nanotechnology, announced today that John C. Miller, one of the leading
authorities on nanotechnology business and and legal policy in the country, has agreed to join the Company as Vice President, Intellectual Property.

In his new capacity, Mr. Miller will help guide Arrowhead Research in the
area of business development, as well as patent and intellectual property
issues.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

In Case You Haven't Heard (Or Heard Peripherally and Promptly Forgot):

In support of its 21st Century Strategic Plan goal of increased patent e-Government, beginning in June 2004, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (Office or USPTO) will begin the phase-in of its E-Patent Reference program and hence will:

(1) provide downloading capability of the U.S. patents and U.S. patent application publications cited in Office actions via the EPatent Reference feature of the Office’s Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR) system; and

(2) cease mailing paper copies of U.S. patents and U.S. patent application publications with office actions except for citations made during the international stage of an international application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

In order to use the new EPatent Reference feature applicants must:

(1) obtain a digital certificate and software from the
Office;

(2) obtain a customer number from the Office; and

(3) properly associate patent applications with the customer number. Alternatively, copies of all U.S. patents and U.S. patent application publications can be accessed without a digital certificate from the USPTO web site, from the USPTO Office of Public Records, and from commercial sources.

The Office will continue the practice of supplying paper copies of foreign patent documents and non-patent literature with Office actions. Paper copies of cited references will continue to be provided by the USPTO for international applications under the PCT during the international stage.

Deployment of E-Patent Reference System

The USPTO will deploy the full E-Patent Reference program starting in June of 2004. In accordance with the schedule shown below, paper copies of cited U.S. patents and U.S. patent application publications will cease to be mailed to applicants with Office actions in the indicated Technology Centers (TCs). Paper copies of foreign patents and non-patent literature will continue to be included with office actions.

Schedule

June 2004 - TCs 1600, 1700, 2800 and 2900

July 2004 - TCs 3600 and 3700

August 2004 - TCs 2100 and 2600

Rambus Patents - The $3 Billion Dollar Question

(From Wired News)

Computer chip designer Rambus could pocket up to $3 billion in royalties and raise prices for consumers of all manner of computing devices if an administrative law judge's ruling in its favor is allowed to stand, the Federal Trade Commission argued in an appeal.

In the filing, the FTC legal staff said the judge's ruling was "fatally flawed" as well as based on factual and legal errors. In February, McGuire, who is the agency's chief administrative law judge, dismissed charges that Rambus (RMBS) had lulled chip makers into including its patented technology in their standards.

The filing warns that any Rambus royalties collected by chip makers would ultimately be paid by consumers who buy personal computers, gadgets and a variety of other devices that rely on silicon-based memory.

------------

It's going to be interesting to see how the FTC proceeding plays out. Rambus seems to have acquired a license to print money from their patent portfolio. But sometimes, if you live by the sword, you die by the sword.

How to Download PDF's of Patents From the EPO

For those of you who have marveled at the complexities involved in downloading PDF files from the EPO, a "cheat" was recently revealed, courtesy of the Patent News Service:


If you know the WO or EP number of the application you require, go to:

http://ofi.epoline.org/view/GetDossier?dosnum=&lang=EN

and then enter the EP or WO publication or application number (you
need to be careful with the format used by their user-unfriendly
interface - but it's pretty easy once you get the hang of it).
You are then presented with the full file history, including the
published application.

By selecting the published application (tick box on the right hand
side) and then clicking the "save" button (a floppy disc icon just
above the listed documents), you can download and save multipage PDF
documents in one go - and deprive Derwent of their profits ;-)

Fight the power . . .

Patent litigation is a growth industry. According to the American Intellectual Property Law Association, in cases where between $1 million and $25 million is at risk, a patent owner should expect to spend more than $2 million to litigate a patent through trial and appeal. Where more than $25 million is at risk, costs climb above $4 million. All this, to litigate a patent that an attorney likely wrote in a week or two, and that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office probably spent less than 20 hours examining.

But the specter of such costly outlays of time and money has not seemed to stem the tide. During the twelve-month period ending September 9, 2003, U.S. patent owners filed 2,788 patent infringement lawsuits, a 13 percent increase over the same period five years earlier. Similarly, in 2003 the United States issued 187,487 patents, a 22 percent increase over 1999. Patent litigation has become the sport of kings.

Law.Com Scrutinizes PPP

Some say it's ruined the profession. Others say it's lost all meaning as a measure of success.

Yet per-partner profits -- or PPP -- still stand as a sort of shorthand for a law firm's status. PPP remains a staple of The American Lawyer's annual list of the country's top-grossing law firms. The data is devoured by law firm leaders, lawyers, consultants and recruiters looking for market intelligence.

The magazine is gearing up to run its latest rankings in June, so American Lawyer Media reporters, including some at The Recorder, have been discussing the numbers recently with industry leaders.

Most say that the metrics the magazine uses to rank firms -- profits per equity partner, revenue per lawyer, average compensation of all partners -- shed needed light on the relative performance of the nation's largest law firms. But some also say the numbers are imprecise, and can be influenced by a host of variables. PPP is seen as especially open to manipulation.

the money quote of the article:

Wetmore questions what he sees as a shortsighted focus on partner
income, noting that the performance of other industries isn't based on
how much money their senior executives earn.

"Is Colgate or Johnson & Johnson better run depending on the
average compensation of those labeled as senior vice presidents and
above?" he said. To continue to obsess on how much the average
partner makes "is increasingly anachronistic."

Who says legal fees are out of control? Recovering Dutch supermarket group Ahold last year shelled out €170m (£114.2m) in advisory fees, with the lion’s share going to White & Case, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek and Wilmer Cutler & Pickering. It's good to be the king . . .

Last year, the SEC’s Division of Corporate Finance released a review of 2002 filings by Fortune 500 companies. Of particular note was the conclusion that intellectual property and other intangible asset and goodwill impairment tests were among the critical disclosures that either conflicted significantly with SEC rules or were "materially deficient in explanation or clarity." This finding clearly illustrates that two years after the issuance of FAS 141 and 142 by the Financial Accounting Standards Board1 ("FASB"), a large number of companies still do not understand the proper way to treat goodwill, intellectual property, and other intangible assets acquired in business combinations.

And just how do you start valuating your patents and your patent portfolio? This article provides a head start. Unfortunately, my actuarial skills aren't up to snuff this morning . . .

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Over a billion people AND e-filing? Look out IBM, the Chinese are coming . . .

Tornado in a can? Yeah, whatever . . .

The USPTO is negotiating with National Treasury Employees Union Chapter 245 (which represents trademark lawyers at the USPTO) for a proposed performance appraisal plan, where computer downtime is built into the work appraisal model by which trademark attorneys would be rated. Current rules let USPTO managers take attorneys off the clock when systems are down for a couple of hours.

ahh - holding companies and patent litigation . . . a match made in heaven.

Forgent Networks Sues 31 Companies for Patent Infringement

By: Press Release

Sunday April 25 2004, 18:48:29

Forgent(TM) Networks (Nasdaq:FORG) announced today that its wholly owned subsidiary, Compression Labs Inc., has initiated litigation against 31 companies for infringement of United States Patent No. 4,698,672 (the '672 Patent) in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division.

Over the last two years, Forgent's intellectual property business has generated approximately $90 million from licensing the '672 Patent to 30 different companies in Asia, Europe and the United States. Forgent has sought to reach agreements on numerous occasions with all these companies, but as of today, none of the defendants have chosen to license. Forgent has retained Jenkens & Gilchrist, a national law firm, and The Roth Law Firm, of Marshall Texas, to represent it in the litigation.

The defendants are: Adobe Systems Incorporated (Nasdaq:ADBE), Agfa Corporation, Apple Computer Incorporated (Nasdaq:AAPL), Axis Communications Incorporated, Canon USA, Concord Camera Corporation (Nasdaq:LENS), Creative Labs Incorporated, Dell Incorporated (Nasdaq:DELL), Eastman Kodak Company (NYSE:EK), Fuji Photo Film Co U.S.A, Fujitsu Computer Products of America, Gateway Inc. (NYSE:GTW), Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ), International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM), JASC Software, JVC Americas Corporation, Kyocera Wireless Corporation, Macromedia Inc. (Nasdaq:MACR), Matsushita Electric Corporation of America, Oce' North America Incorporated, Onkyo Corporation, PalmOne Inc. (Nasdaq:PLMO), Panasonic Communications Corporation of America, Panasonic Mobile Communications Development Corporation of USA, Ricoh Corporation, Riverdeep Incorporated (d.b.a. Broderbund), Savin Corporation, Thomson S.A. (NYSE:TMS), Toshiba Corporation and Xerox Corporation (NYSE:XRX).

The '672 Patent relates to digital image compression, and fields of use include any digital still image device used to compress, store, manipulate, print or transmit digital still images such as digital cameras. However, the '672 patent extends beyond digital cameras and includes many digital still image devices such as personal digital assistants, cellular telephones, printers, scanners and other devices used to compress, store, manipulate, print or transmit digital still images. Forgent has the exclusive right to use, license and enforce all the claims under the '672 Patent in all fields of use involving digital still image compression.

"Forgent is committed to developing all of its assets and technologies to maximize shareholder value. We believe we will prevail in this litigation as the '672 Patent is valid, enforceable and infringed," said Richard Snyder, chairman and CEO of Forgent. "It's unfortunate that despite the many opportunities these companies have had to license the patent, they have all declined to participate, leaving us no alternative but to litigate."

About Forgent
Forgent(TM) Networks provides a spectrum of scheduling software that enable organizations to streamline the planning and execution of their meetings, helping to increase productivity and reduce costs. Forgent's offerings include Network Simplicity's Meeting Room Manager, which provides room scheduling, and ALLIANCE(TM), which provides unified scheduling of all meeting logistics using the corporate calendaring platforms of Lotus Notes and Microsoft Outlook. Forgent also generates and licenses intellectual property related to collaboration technologies. For additional information visit www.forgent.com.

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