Thursday, July 29, 2004

Microsoft Antes Up:  Microsoft will continue to ramp up its patent filing and intellectual-property licensing efforts, chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates said today in a meeting with financial analysts at the company's Redmond, Wash., campus.
Microsoft plans to file more than 3,000 patents in fiscal 2005 compared to "something over" 2,000 patent filings the previous year, Gates said. The company's planned "cycle of innovation" includes securing intellectual-property rights on Microsoft products and licensing that technology to other companies, signing license agreement to use other companies' software within Microsoft own products, and providing indemnification protection to customers. Gates says Microsoft is still in the early stages of its licensing program.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Germany: New Developments in German Domain Name Case Law

Signs That You May Have a Problem Client (a.k.a. "Alternatives To Appeal in Patent Litigation"):   former Silicon Valley chief executive was indicted Tuesday for allegedly plotting to kill a San Francisco federal judge at the same time he was serving time in Santa Rita jail for trying to flee the country to evade perjury charges.

Amr Mohsen, the founder and former CEO of Sunnyvale-based Aptix, is accused of soliciting a hit man to murder U.S. District Judge William Alsup, whom he blames for his criminal troubles and the loss of his once-promising high-tech company.

Alsup had served as judge in a civil suit brought by Aptix against a rival valley firm three years ago, and took the unusual step of triggering a perjury probe by asking prosecutors to review whether Mohsen and Aptix falsified documents and lied in the nasty patent fight. 

Mohsen's problems stem from allegations that he fabricated critical evidence to support Aptix's long-running, high-stakes patent lawsuit against San Jose-based Cadence Design Systems over chip design technology. Alsup, in the midst of a civil trial between the two companies in 2001, dismissed Aptix's case after concluding that Mohsen and possibly other executives falsified documents.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Cars Have Feelings Too:  Yes, I know - this has been making the rounds in the last few days, but what the heck:

The expression "road rage" usually refers to infuriated drivers who lose control of their temper and lash out at other motorists. But what if a car could also express anger, crouching low on its wheel base and glowering with red headlights like a lion about to pounce?

Four inventors working for Toyota in Japan have won a patent for a car that they say can help drivers communicate better by glaring angrily at another car cutting through traffic as well as appear to cry, laugh, wink, or just look around.

The inventors explain in the patent that they want drivers to have more than a one-note horn and on-off headlights to signal other drivers. The horn sounds the same, they write, whether a driver is "asking for permission to cut in front and in showing gratitude for having been allowed to cut in front," so other people often do not know what the honking is about.

That was not good enough for the inventors - Kenji Mori, Naoto Kitagawa, Akihiro Inukai and Simon Humprhies - who work for Toyota Jidosha Kabushiki Kaisha of Japan, which owns the United States patent issued last month. In it they describe a car with an antenna that wags, an adjustable body height, headlights that vary in intensity, and hood slits and ornamentation designed to look like eyebrows, eyelids and tears, all of which could glow with colored lights to create moods and physical features.

-  I don't know about you, but I have found that semiautomatic firearms help drivers to communicate very well, thank you . . .



I Scoff At Thee!  A patent expert has scoffed at fears from the open source community that a recently exhumed memo from a high ranking HP exec foretells an imminent legal campaign against the software community based on patent claims.

In a two-year-old memo sent by Gary Campbell, then vice president of strategic architecture, to a number of other HP execs, he said he feared 'Microsoft could attack Open Source Software for patent infringements against OEMs, Linux distributors, and least likely open source developers.'

However Greg Aharonian, a patent expert who run the patnews service said: 'The memo was written two years ago, and not much has happened, not surprisingly. The memo does say that Microsoft will wait three years, and then strike, but I would not bet my money on that. Additionally... Microsoft is planning to return $75bn to stockholders over the next few years. When you have that much cash, tactical battles with patents are a pointless business.'

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Patent Busting Statistic Update:  EFF responds to Acacia's boast that the chances of busting their '992 patent was "remote".  CNN initially reported that "only 614 of the nearly 7 million existing patents have been revoked, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Some 3,927 patents have been narrowed since the agency began conducting re-examinations in 1981. The hardest part for challengers is qualifying for a re-exam at all."  However, statistics from the United States Patent and Trademark Office show that 90 percent of reexamination requests are granted.   They also show that 72 percent of granted requests result in either revocation or narrowing of patent claims.

Tired of Compulsory Web Registration?  Here is a great website that allows users to bypass sites (such as online newspapers, magazines, etc.).  Just cut and past the link and it produces a log-in script to allow registered viewing.

Let's Get Metaphysical:  The Fed. Cir. granted a petition today to rehear en banc the appeal of Phillips v. AWH Corp., which addressed the use of dictionaries in claim interpretation.  The questions to be answered are:

1.  Is the public notice function of patent claims better served by referencing primarily to technical and general purpose dictionaries and similar sources to interpret a claim term or by looking primarily to the patentee’s use of the term in the specification?   If both sources are to be consulted, in what order?


2.  If dictionaries should serve as the primary source for claim interpretation, should the specification limit the full scope of claim language (as defined by the dictionaries) only when the patentee has acted as his own lexicographer or when the specification reflects a clear disclaimer of claim scope?  If so, what language in the specification will satisfy those conditions?  What use should be made of general as opposed to technical dictionaries?  How does the concept of ordinary meaning apply if there are multiple dictionary definitions of the same term?  If the dictionary provides multiple potentially applicable definitions for a term, is it appropriate to look to the specification to determine what definition or definitions should apply?


3.  If the primary source for claim construction should be the specification, what use should be made of dictionaries? Should the range of the ordinary meaning of claim language be limited to the scope of the invention disclosed in the specification, for example, when only a single embodiment is disclosed and no other indications of breadth are disclosed?


4.  Instead of viewing the claim construction methodologies in the majority and dissent of the now-vacated panel decision as alternative, conflicting approaches, should the two approaches be treated as complementary methodologies such that there is a dual restriction on claim scope, and a patentee must satisfy both limiting methodologies in order to establish the claim coverage it seeks?


5.  When, if ever, should claim language be narrowly construed for the sole    purpose of avoiding invalidity under, e.g., 35 U.S.C. §§ 102, 103 and 112?


6.      What role should prosecution history and expert testimony by one of ordinary skill in the art play in determining the meaning of the disputed claim terms?Consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370 (1996), and our en banc decision in Cybor Corp. v. FAS Technologies, Inc., 138 F.3d 1448 (Fed. Cir. 1998), is it appropriate for this court to accord any deference to any aspect of trial court claim construction rulings?  If so, on what aspects, in what circumstances, and to what extent?

 

Let the good times roll . . . . 

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Eolas hits back at Microsoft in patent battle:  The University of California has hit back at Microsoft in its pitched patent battle over fundamental Web browsing technology.

UC and its one-man software spinoff Eolas on 16 July filed a brief with the US Court of Appeals for the federal circuit to counter Microsoft's request for an appeal in a patent infringement case that has rattled the Web, from site authors to browser vendors to standards groups.

Last year, Microsoft got socked with a $521m (£279m) judgment after a jury found it guilty of infringing on Eolas's system for running plug-ins, applications like Macromedia's Flash animation software and Adobe's Acrobat document reader that run inside the Web browser.

The General Public License:  Phil Albert does a good summary of of GPL's and their application in the marketplace.  There is no question that the GPL is an important product. It enjoys a huge portion of the license market relative to other licenses. Out of all the distinct software packages available today, a large percentage are licensed using the GPL, and except for "licenses" that simply put the software into the public domain, it is probably the most commonly used.

HP Readies For War:  What appears to be a leaked internal memo from HP shows that the company expected Microsoft to launch a full legal assault on free open-source software (FOSS) using patent law. The document, dated two years ago, details concerns at the highest levels within HP that "basically Microsoft is going to use the legal system to shut down open-source software".

According to Newsforge, HP in the US has confirmed the memo's legitimacy. A spokeswoman for HP in the UK was not immediately able to comment.

The memo goes on to say that HP would seek ways to "reduce our exposure" to open source and "lower our profile" while still shipping products. Although HP was covered by cross-licensing deals up to 2001, the memo said, patents filed after June 2001 that year would not be included.
"Microsoft could attack open-source software for patent infringements against OEMs, Linux distributors, and least likely open-source developers. They are specifically upset about Samba, Apache and Sendmail. We believe Samba is first, and they will attempt to prove it isn't covered by prior patent cross as a so called "clone" product carve out in the previous agreement," the memo said. "OEMs that don't have a cross (like SUN), or OEMs like HP that they force a change in their cross licence to exclude open-source software are probably the first target. Intel, Red Hat, SuSE, UBL, Oracle are probably in the first wave as well."

Microsoft embarked on a campaign last year to increase its revenue from patents and enlarge its intellectual property portfolio. It has received patents on a wide variety of apparently elemental computing components such as to-do lists, double clicking and storing documents in XML format, and had another 5000 applications in the pipeline as of November 2003. Last year, Microsoft also hired IP guru Marshall Phelps -- previously architect of IBM's $2bn-a-year IP strategy. He is on record as saying that Microsoft intends to spend $7bn annually on IP issues.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Some Sobering Facts About EFF's Patent-Busting Effort:  A small company called Acacia Research Corp. went after some of the biggest names in broadcasting last month, suing nine companies for about $100 million for allegedly violating its patent on streaming video.
That earned Acacia a spot on what the Electronic Frontier Foundation considers a top-10 list of intellectual property ignominy: patents the online civil liberties group is seeking to strike down as unwarranted and harmful to innovation.  
 
"Good luck," said Paul Ryan, Acacia's chief executive. "Their chances are pretty remote."

Part fighting words. Part truth.

Only 614 of the nearly 7 million existing patents have been revoked, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A total of 3,927 patents have been narrowed since the agency began conducting re-examinations in 1981.   The hardest part for challengers is qualifying for a re-exam at all.

A challenger must find written evidence, called "prior art" in patent parlance, showing others developed the technology before the patent application was filed -- a formidable task that consumes a cottage industry of patent researchers and lawyers.

One-time startup BountyQuest set out in 2000 on such a quest. It wanted to debunk questionable patents by letting interested parties offer rewards of $10,000 or more for hard-to-find prior art. But there were few takers and the business failed.

The EFF is similarly relying on volunteers -- but without offering rewards. That's a surefire recipe for limited success, said Bradley Wright, a patent lawyer with Banner & Witcoff Ltd. "There are not a lot of people willing to spend free time to research for prior art."

Even when prior art is presented, re-exams are rare. The patent office held only 6,136 between the time the agency was authorized to do so in July 1981 and the end of March 2004, said Brigid Quinn, a patent office spokeswoman.

The Acacia patent the EFF objects to is on "the transmission of digital content via the Internet, cable, satellite and other means."

Another on its list, owned by Clear Channel Communications Inc., covers the distribution of digital recordings right after concerts.

"These companies are trying to claim a monopoly on the tools of free expression," said Jason Schultz, staff attorney at the foundation.

The group's list, chosen from 200 suggestions solicited through its Web site, focuses on patents it contends are being unfairly used to demand licensing fees from rivals or individuals.
Acacia and Clear Channel defend their patents and their right to seek royalties for intellectual property they say they spent millions to develop or buy.

Clear Channel bought the so-called Instant Live patent two months ago. It plans to charge an "extremely small" licensing fee -- $1 per event in some cases -- to artists who want to distribute freshly minted CDs after their concerts.

Acacia's digital media patents, granted to the founders of Greenwich Information Technologies in the 1990s, weren't enforced until Acacia bought them in 2001. Acacia has since secured dozens of licensing deals with companies ranging from adult entertainment sites to The Walt Disney Co. It sued the large cable and satellite providers for patent infringement last month.

Schultz and other patent busters hope their crusade will raise awareness about concerns the patent office is issuing baseless patents, because it lacks the resources to thoroughly investigate patent claims.












Even when prior art is presented, re-exams are rare. The patent office held only 6,136 between the time the agency was authorized to do so in July 1981 and the end of March 2004, said Brigid Quinn, a patent office spokeswoman.
The Acacia patent the EFF objects to is on "the transmission of digital content via the Internet, cable, satellite and other means."
Another on its list, owned by Clear Channel Communications Inc., covers the distribution of digital recordings right after concerts.
"These companies are trying to claim a monopoly on the tools of free expression," said Jason Schultz, staff attorney at the foundation.
The group's list, chosen from 200 suggestions solicited through its Web site, focuses on patents it contends are being unfairly used to demand licensing fees from rivals or individuals.
Acacia and Clear Channel defend their patents and their right to seek royalties for intellectual property they say they spent millions to develop or buy.
Clear Channel bought the so-called Instant Live patent two months ago. It plans to charge an "extremely small" licensing fee -- $1 per event in some cases -- to artists who want to distribute freshly minted CDs after their concerts.
Acacia's digital media patents, granted to the founders of Greenwich Information Technologies in the 1990s, weren't enforced until Acacia bought them in 2001. Acacia has since secured dozens of licensing deals with companies ranging from adult entertainment sites to The Walt Disney Co. It sued the large cable and satellite providers for patent infringement last month.
Schultz and other patent busters hope their crusade will raise awareness about concerns the patent office is issuing baseless patents, because it lacks the resources to thoroughly investigate patent claims.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

A Funny Dig at Microsoft: (*SATIRE*) Redmond, WA - The US patent office awarded US patent 9,724,341 to Microsoft for its unique method in creating massive vulnerabilities in its software using Internet Explorer and ActiveX.

"The patent office recognized that Internet Explorer and ActiveX are a unique innovation in operating system insecurity," shouted Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. "Once again our innovations are being recognized, and our competitors, mainly Linux, will not be able to copy our security holes. Yes!"

Ballmer also screamed that Microsoft would leverage this patent to "charge excessive license fees to our competitors who also want to create insecure software."

Microsoft has used the technology on a smaller scale in its Office productivity suite, but plans a wider scale rollout among its other product lines, including its game titles, and even to its popular hardware lines. Microsoft's Vice President of Hardware Products, Kevin Torgo said, "Our popular mice and keyboards will be riddled with vulnerabilities in their next versions. I can't wait to see what we can do with this on the Xbox and Xbox Live."

Is Your Trademark a Time Bomb? Picking the wrong name for a business or product could land you on the receiving end of a costly suit

When To File for Patent Protection Overseas - a brief primer on foreign filing and the considerations that businesses need to make before filing.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Acacia Update: On July 12, U.S. district judge James Ware announced the first results of the Markman hearings in the Acacia Media Technologies v. New Destiny Internet Group, et al. patent infringement case. While the Markman Order does not invalidate Acacia’s Digital Media Transmission (DMT) patents, it shows weak spots in patents that some regarded as bulletproof.

In patent litigation, Markman hearings are used for claim construction. Typically, the plaintiff and defendant set out a list of claim terms whose definitions are in dispute. To clarify the meaning of these terms (and subsequently the scope and validity of the patents), a trial judge weighs evidence and definitions as presented by the plaintiff and defendant and makes a ruling in the form of a Markman Order.

According to experts, the news for both Acacia and the defendants, all part the adult entertainment industry, was mixed. "Acacia got the construction on remote locations that they wanted," says Marc Kaufman, a patent attorney from Washington, D.C. firm Nixon Peabody who sat on the the Acacia panel at this year’s Streaming Media East. "On the other hand, they did not get the construction they wanted on identification and sequence encoding. It doesn’t strike me as a huge victory for either side."

Out of the19 disputed terms, Robert Berman, executive VP of business development and general counsel for Acacia, says, "For seven of the terms, the court adopted Acacia’s proposed definition; for five they adopted the defendants’. For three, the court said that they needed more information from experts. For four they came up with their own definitions."

One of the most significant passages in the order addresses the definition of "identification encoding means." The order states, in part: "The Court invites the Defendants to file a motion for summary judgment that the term `identification encoding means’ is indefinite, rendering claims 1, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, and 11 of U.S. Patent 5,132, 992 to be invalid, respectively, pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 112." Thus, if a motion were made to move to summary judgment, it would mean that the patentee (Acacia) would have to give a full and adequate disclosure of the patent and what it covers, which is something that is initially determined by the patent office. "If the patent office deems that the patent satisfies 35 USC 112—i.e., to contain an adequate disclosure of the invention—most courts will defer to that," says Kaufman.

Of course, Acacia has its own take on the Markman hearing . . .

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Jenkins & Gilchrist Broiling Over Patent Licensing Program: In a dispute arising out of a multimillion-dollar patent licensing program, Jenkens & Gilchrist is asking a state court to block two attorneys formerly with the firm from disclosing "trade secrets and confidential information" that Jenkens alleges belong to the firm and an unnamed client.

Jenkens and L. Steven Leshin, a shareholder in the firm, filed the suit on June 25 in Dallas' 162nd District Court. The firm and Leshin allege in their petition in Jenkens & Gilchrist and L. Steven Leshin v. Stuart D. Dwork and Roger Maxwell that Dwork and Maxwell "drafted and threatened to file legal papers" that would cause "substantial harm" to the firm and an unnamed client.

Dwork was formerly of counsel at the firm, and Maxwell was a shareholder unitl the firm severed ties with him after he suffered a disabling stroke.

Acacia Update: Acacia Research Corporation announced today that the United States District Court for the Central District of California has issued a Markman Order giving the Court's construction of some of the disputed patent terms and phrases, and inviting further briefing or motions with respect to other patent terms that are in dispute in Acacia's ongoing litigation involving Acacia's DMT(R) patents against adult entertainment companies. The Court set a telephonic case management conference for August 17, 2004 at which time the Court will set a schedule for additional motions and briefing on Markman related issues.

Here's an interesting article on technology licensing theory - worth a quick read.

Target: RFID - RFID's promise of low-cost tags for asset tracking seems set to sour thanks to a patent lawsuit that is casting a cloud over standards work in the previously harmonious RFID world. Barcode supremo Intermec Technologies has sued RFID tag and reader maker Matrics, basing its claim on four patents.

"This could open up a world where who has what IP is what counts," said Erik Miehielsen, director of ABI Research. "It is not a disaster, but it could put up the cost of RFID systems, and delay the standards."

Intermec's lawsuit is strange because the company has showed little sign of litigation before, despite a lot of high profile activity and plenty of products in the field, and a solid set of patents, which include one for the basic idea of a thin, cheap, flexible radio beacon. Also, the patents could equally apply to virtually all the other vendors in the emerging RFID market, including giants such as Texas Instruments and Royal Philips Electronics, and new startups such as Alien Technology, yet the company is suing just one competitor, Matrics.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Adobe Blasts Back at Patent Holding Company: Information Technology Innovation (ITI) filed suit against Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE) in U.S. District Court in Colorado on June 2, 2004, seeking unspecified damages and an injunction against one of the biggest names in imaging software. Adobe made this information public in its SEC 10-Q filing on Thursday. In the filing, ITI alleges Adobe has infringed upon U.S. Patent Number 5,892,908, entitled, "Method of Extracting Network Information." ITI also is claiming that Adobe is infringing on this patent by the production and sale of its Acrobat product line. Adobe's Acrobat products create documents in the Acrobat portable document format (PDF) that then may be edited within Acrobat Standard or Professional, and viewed with its free Acrobat Reader.

Michael Gartenberg, vice president and research director at Jupiter Research, said that ITI's suit provides another example of why patent reform is necessary in the technology sector, where vague and ambiguous patents have generated wasteful litigation.

For his part, Gartenberg believes that to some degree, people need to consider the source of the lawsuit. He pointed out that Adobe is an industry heavyweight reporting profitable earnings, while the plaintiff, in contrast, is an unknown.
"You don't sue poor people and poor companies. However, it is hard to imagine Adobe not prevailing in this case," Gartenberg said.

- Sounds pretty confident to me . . . .

Samsung Gets Slapped in Patent Dispute With Mosaid: Mosaid Technologies, which is in a patent dispute with Samsung, said Thursday that a U.S. court has imposed sanctions against Samsung for its failure to hand over certain documents and failure to destroy e-mail evidence related to the case. As a result of the decision, Mosaid said, when the case reaches trial the jury will be instructed that it should draw an adverse inference from Samsung's actions.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Katz Patent Under Re-exam: For those "in the know", Katz is a counterpart to the illustrious Lemelson, and have caused quite a few sleepless nights for the telecoms. People have been trying to ding his portfolio for quite some time now, but there has been little success.

5,259,023, Reexam. C.N. 90/007,058, Requested Date: Jun.
02, 2004, Cl. 379/088.9, Title: TELEPHONIC-INTERFACE STATISTICAL
ANAYSIS SYSTEM, Inventor: Ronald A. Katz, Owners of Record:
Ronald A. Katz Technology Licensing, L. P., Beverly Hills, CA,
Attorney or Agent: Reena Kuyper, Esq. & Byard Nilsson, Esq., Los
Angeles, CA, Ex. Gp.: 2645, Requester: Donald E. Stout, Arlington, VA

China Rescinds Viagra Patent: China yesterday defended its decision to overturn Pfizer's patent for Viagra in a ruling seen as a setback to protection of intellectual property rights in the country. The US makers of the top selling erectile disfunction drug were in breach of China's intellectual property rights (IPR) law when they failed to accurately explain "technological" uses of Viagra's key ingredient, an official with the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) said.

What a joke - this is my favorite quote - when talking to an official at SIPO, the official said:

"We did grant the patent to Pfizer before, but that does not mean that we are really giving it to you"

Great.



It doesn't get any dumber than this

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Software Patents in the EU are in Trouble: the Dutch are starting to get cold feet, and now it looks like others may be backing out, where officials in a number of European countries say that votes cast by ministers during the meeting to hammer out political differences did not reflect the position of their governments. Messy, messy, messy . . .

Now Microsoft Has Ergonomic Keyboards to Worry About - Encinitas inventor William Louis has been fighting Microsoft Corp. since 1998 over patents for ergonomic keyboards – with very little success.

Yesterday, he finally had something to smile about.

A federal appeals court resurrected Louis' long-running federal lawsuit accusing the software company of patent infringement.

In the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the court said a U.S. District Court judge in San Diego made a mistake when she ruled that patents held by TypeRight Keyboard Corp. for V-shaped keyboards with wrist rests were invalid. Louis co-founded TypeRight in the early '90s.

Although the appeals court didn't take a stand on whether TypeRight's patents are valid, it did say evidence Microsoft presented to the San Diego court was less than ironclad.

"The federal circuit found that this issue should be decided by a jury, that juries are supposed to resolve factual disputes," said Matthew Herron, a San Diego patent lawyer who represents TypeRight.

The case is likely to be sent back to San Diego, although Microsoft still has time to ask the appeals court to reconsider. Microsoft and its lawyers did not return telephone calls.

Europe Upholds Patent on Altered Mouse - The European Patent Office on Tuesday upheld a Harvard University patent on a mouse genetically altered to develop cancer, but restricted its wording so that it applies only to mice and not to all species of rodents.

The pan-European patent, granted in 1992, protects the method of producing the animals. But the ruling, which closes a years-long legal battle with environmental groups, added further qualifications to a 2001 ruling that limited the patent to rodents, rather than mammals in general.

The patent office acknowledged concerns about ethical questions and animal rights, but also said the medical uses of the patent must be weighed.

A collection of church, environmental and animal protection groups, among them Greenpeace, had argued for the patent to be canceled, saying that it violated the dignity of living beings. After the 2001 ruling, six organizations filed an appeal.

Greenpeace spokesman Christopher Then welcomed the restriction as an "important partial success," but expressed regret that the European Patent Office hadn't backed off recognizing patents for mammals.

The development of the mouse was intended to ease research and treatment of tumors in humans.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted a patent to the Harvard mouse in 1988, the first "transgenic" animal patent to be granted.

The patent from the Munich-based European Patent Office is valid in 11 European countries.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Timing Is Everything, Isn't It? The next time you wave a key card to unlock the door to your office building, think of Charles Walton. Walton's patents on radio frequency identification, or RFID, spawned those electronic door keys. Now the technology Walton — one of Silicon Valley's unsung inventors — pioneered in the 1970s and 1980s is poised to change the way billions of products are tracked.

Prodded by Wal-Mart and the Pentagon, manufacturers will soon be tagging everything from diapers to combat boots with RFID chips. The chips transmit information about products' location and use over radio waves to a central computer. Libraries are using RFID to keep tabs on books while hospitals embed radio chips on pharmaceutical bottles to make sure drugs are not misused. A Barcelona nightclub scans RFID chips implanted under patrons' skins when they want to pay for a drink wirelessly.

For Walton, industry's embrace of RFID is bittersweet. Back in the 1970s, the bar code was a 25-cent solution that beat out Walton's $1.75 RFID cards as the identification system for goods scanned over supermarket checkout scanners. Now RFID may well eliminate the ubiquitous bar code.

Walton, 83, made about $3 million from patenting RFID technology. But his last royalty-bearing RFID patent expired in the mid-1990s, meaning that he won't share in the potentially gigantic windfall that will be generated as Wal-Mart and the Defense Department begin to require their largest suppliers to put RFID tags on millions of warehoused goods.

Europe's patent office hears genetic rodent appeal

The European Patent Office began hearing Monday an appeal against a patent issued for a genetically modified rodent that its inventors claim can be useful in cancer research.
The appeal against Harvard University's so-called Oncomouse patent, the first ever granted for a transgenic animal, was launched by six organisations from Austria, Britain, Germany and Switzerland.

Using the Oncomouse technique, scientists can alter a gene in the rodents and make them more likely to develop tumours, which means they can be used to test whether a material might contain carcinogens.

The six groups claim that the patent is "contrary to public order and morality" and that it does not meet some of the requirements of patent law.

The environmentalist group Greenpeace, which is not involved in the appeal, also staged a protest as the first day of the oral hearings got underway at EPO headquarters in Munich, southern Germany.

Nintendo Gets Targeted by EFF: It has today been reported that Nintendo are amongst one of ten patents that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is looking to overturn because they claim the patent is “too sweeping” or generalised.

Claiming to be amongst the “biggest threats to the public domain”, the EEF claims Nintendo are amongst 10 of the worst software-related patents in the US, because they are threatening and filing suits against small businesses, individuals and non-profit organisations.

Friday, July 02, 2004

European Patent Organization Forms an "Academy": With a view to fostering the development and harmonization of patent-related intellectual property law and practice within its member states, the European Patent Organization has adopted regulations setting up a European Patent Academy. The new institution will be managed by the European Patent Office (EPO) and will have its seat in Munich. In close co-operation with national, European and international institutions and organizations, its main task will be to develop a Europe-wide training and education scheme for the benefit of the European patent system. The Academy is expected to commence functioning in the course of 2005. The creation of the European Patent Academy reflects the need to improve intellectual property-related training and education structures in Europe.

Troubles on the Rising Sun Horizon? This case is the latest in a series of court disputes in Japan regarding the transfer of patent rights to companies by inventors on their payrolls. A former Sharp Corp employee has sued the consumer electronics maker for 500 mln yen over key technology he claims to have developed for use in flat screen products, while in January the Tokyo District Court ordered Japanese firm Nichia Corp to pay a record 20 bln yen to the inventor of the revolutionary blue light-emitting diode (LED).

10 MOST WANTED: Start forming your patent-busting posses! Today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Patent Busting Project announced which patents the organization will target first in its campaign to rid the world of frivolous patent infringement lawsuits.

After sifting through dozens of software and Internet-related patents submitted to its patent busting contest, EFF targeted ten whose crimes have made them enemies of the public domain. All the most-wanted patents are dangerously overbroad; many pose a threat to freedom of expression online. And every single one of the targeted patents is held by an entity that has threatened or brought lawsuits against small businesses, individuals, or nonprofits.

Target number one is Acacia, a company that has litigated relentlessly against small businesses to enforce patents that it claims cover a broad array of technologies used to send and receive streaming media online. Victims of Acacia's legal threats include websites that host home videos and several "mom-and-pop" adult media companies.

Other offenders include Acceris, which claims that its patents cover any technologies (such as Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP) that allow people to make phone calls over the Internet, and ClearChannel, which has been threatening artists and small CD companies that record live concerts and burn them to CDs for fans at the end of a show. Another target is Test.com, which has a patent on a method for taking and scoring tests online, and has been sending threatening letters to universities with distance learning programs.

"Patents are meant to protect companies against giant competitors, not to help them prey on folks who can barely afford a lawyer," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz, who leads the Patent Busting Project. "We hope our project will not only assist the victims of these abusive patents but also help make the case for global reform of the patent system."

With its targets in sight, EFF's team of lawyers, technologists, and experts will now begin to research and collect prior art. Prior art is hard evidence that a patent is "obvious" because it is based on a commonly known idea or because the claimed "invention" actually existed before the patent was filed. Once the team has gathered enough prior art on a given patent, EFF will submit a petition to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in a legal process known as "reexamination." If the USPTO finds the prior art compelling, it will formally revoke the patent and release the idea back into the public domain, where it belongs.

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