Friday, January 28, 2005

PATENTCAFE CREATES OPEN-SOURCE SEARCH TOOLS: PatentCafe has set up a database of the 500 patents that IBM has pledged to open up to open source developers claiming its natural language-based search engine will accelerate developers' use of the patents.

However, PatentCafe warns that developers "still need to remain vigilant even if using the information in a pledged IBM patent" since their software programs "could still be found to infringe a different company's patent." So, if you find what you need in your search, don't bet the farm that you will be clear of any infringement.

PatentCafe further intends to enlarge the project to search open source software patents worldwide. Developers are supposed to be able to create a hierarchical list of the most relevant patents and find the patents most related to their software projects.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

PATENTS, PUBLIC POLICY AND COCKFIGHTING - ALWAYS A WINNING COMBINATION: A state senator has a plan for saving Oklahoma's gamefowl industry now that cockfighters are legally prohibited from pitting birds fitted with razor-like spurs.

State Sen. Frank Shurden, a longtime defender of cockfighting, is suggesting that roosters be given little boxing gloves so they can fight without bloodshed. The proposal is in a bill the Henryetta Democrat has introduced for the legislative session that begins Feb. 7.

In his search for a new way to let gamecocks fight, Shurden learned about a California man who is an attorney for Gamecock Boxing Inc., which was formed to promote a nonlethal form of cockfighting.

"The company has a patent now pending on this game and the equipment designed to score the 'hits' of these sparring live gamefowl," Californian John R. Cogorno wrote in a letter to Shurden.
Shurden said electronic sensors can record the number of hits by each gamefowl to determine which rooster won the boxing match.

Gamecocks would wear sparring muffs, which are padded gloves placed over their natural spurs.
"To me it answers everything. It saves the industry, takes blood sport out and generates revenue for Oklahoma," Shurden said.

Oh, the power of patents!

I'LL SEE YOUR 500, AND RAISE YOU 1,170: SUN HAS open sourced OpenSolaris and 1,670 of its patents and promised that more will follow in the second quarter of the year.

In a conference call to hacks, Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy declared Sun to be the largest donor of open source code anywhere on planet earth.

The release follows IBM's open sourcing of 500 patents last week. McNealy said that unlike "a lot of companies" Sun was not using open source to dispose of end-of-life code.

The initial piece of Solaris being made available now is DTrace performance analysis technology. Other Solaris source code, such as file system and security technologies, will be offered in the second quarter of this year.

NOT A GOOD TIME TO BE HYNIX: Rambus Inc., which is based in Los Altos, Calif., said Tuesday that it has sued Hynix and three other companies, alleging infringements of up to 18 of Rambus' patents relating to memory chips. The suit comes five days after Canadian firm Mosaid sued Hynix, alleging that Hynix was infringing on six of Mosaid's patents.

Rambus previously had filed suit against Hynix, claiming that Hynix was infringing on 15 of Rambus' patents. Last week, a federal judge found that Hynix was infringing on parts of four Rambus patents, Rambus said in a news release. The judge also granted Hynix' motion that nine claims relating to four patents be removed from the case. The first phase of the trial focusing on issues still in dispute is scheduled to begin March 21, Rambus said.

OVER? DID YOU SAY OVER? Nothing is over until we decide it is! The Canadian creators of the BlackBerry, the wildly successful wireless e-mail device embraced by so many Americans, say they will take their patent dispute with a Virginia company all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

And the Canadian government has also stepped into the patent infringement case, determined to protect the nation's greatest high-tech success story.

Canada claims a recent U.S. federal court ruling against Research in Motion Ltd., the Ontario-based makers of the BlackBerry, threatens to have a "troubling effect of chilling innovation by Canadian companies."

Henry Bunsow, an attorney representing Research in Motion, said the company would not settle out of court and is prepared to argue before the U.S. high court.

Research in Motion claims its BlackBerry relay server - through which all e-mails pass - is based in Waterloo, Ontario, so U.S. patent laws have no jurisdiction, even though most of its 2 million subscribers are below the 49th parallel.

Dennis Crouch from Patently Obvious gives a nice demonstration on his blog.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

CHINESE DVD MANUFACTURERS SUE 3C PATENT GROUP: Two Chinese-based DVD manufacturers, Wuxi Multimedia Ltd. and Orient Power (Wuxi) Technology Ltd., have filed a lawsuit against the 3C Patent Group in the United States, alleging that it violated US laws, leading to unfair competition.

The 3C group is a consortium owned by Sony, Philips and Pioneer that manages DVD patent rights. Patent fees of around US$20 per unit are currently levied on manufacturers of Chinese DVD players, accounting for some 20 to 30 per cent of their production costs. However, US manufacturers' patent fees are much lower, only 3 to 5 per cent of their production costs.

The plaintiffs claim that the International Trade Commission ruled in March last year that the patent pool arrangement of Philips and Sony violated several provisions of the Sherman Act. The arrangement is virtually identical to the 3C patent pool.

The high patent fees have hit Chinese DVD manufacturers hard, with exports of Chinese DVD players falling sharply last year.

Friday, January 21, 2005

RAMBUS SAVORS THE WIN (AND SO DO THEIR ATTORNEYS): Last Wednesday, the Los Altos company's stock fell 16 percent Wednesday after it reported disappointing earnings. Then Thursday, Rambus' shares soared 13 percent after the designer of memory-chip technology won a ruling in a San Jose patent-litigation case.

The legal ruling issued Thursday came in a patent dispute with South Korean memory-chip manufacturer Hynix Semiconductor, the second-largest maker of dynamic random access memory chips, or DRAMs. The chips are used in everything from video-game machines to computers.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte ruled that no trial was necessary on 29 of 59 of Rambus' patent claims because it was clear Hynix violated them.

If upheld, the judgment would mean Hynix could owe damages and royalty payments on a big chunk of its annual $4 billion revenue in DRAM chips. The ruling is good news for Rambus, but it's just one of many legal cases involving its technology.

The litigation cost Rambus about $23 million last year. At stake is whether Rambus can collect royalties on revenue for the $26 billion DRAM industry.

-- I just did some math - assuming that $20 million of the $23 million figure reflects the legal services charged by the firms representing them (yeah, I know that's wrong, but it's convenient), it would take 20 attorneys billing 2000 hours at $500/hr apiece to reach that amount in a year . . . not bad for a year's work.

HEWLETT-PACKARD AND INTERGRAPH SETTLE A WHOPPER: HP has decided to pay $141 million to Intergraph to settle a patent dispute that stretches back two years.

The settlement marks the end of all Intergraph litigation against computer manufacturers related to its Clipper patents, which cover memory management within computer systems. Intergraph filed suit against Dell, Gateway and HP in late 2002 and subsequently reached a settlement with Dell and Gateway last year. Intergraph also settled a related case with Intel last year that resulted in the chipmaker's payment of $225 million to Intergraph.

The HP settlement was announced Friday morning. Both companies will dismiss all pending litigation, and HP will pay Intergraph $141 million during the first quarter. The two companies will also enter into a cross-licensing agreement.

During the past two years, Intergraph has extracted $860 million (!!!) in pretax income from the protection and enforcement of its intellectual property. The Huntsville, Ala.-based company used to make computer workstations based on its own chip and graphics technologies. It now specializes in software and related services in industrial and government applications.

Intergraph will log $11 million in legal expenses in the first quarter.

-- Now, I'm not sure if that $11 million number is the cumulative total that was reached in the first quarter, or if the number was the amount spent in ONE quarter. If the latter is the case, there are some law firms out there laughing all the way to the bank . . .

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

JURORS AVAILABLE FOR LITIGATION IN TENNESSEE: a little off-topic but very funny : Defense attorney Leslie Ballin called it the "jury pool from hell." The group of prospective jurors was summoned to listen to a case of Tennessee trailer park violence. Right after jury selection began last week, one man got up and left, announcing, "I'm on morphine and I'm higher than a kite."

When the prosecutor asked if anyone had been convicted of a crime, a prospective juror said that he had been arrested and taken to a mental hospital after he almost shot his nephew. He said he was provoked because his nephew just would not come out from under the bed.

Another would-be juror said he had had alcohol problems and was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover officer. "I should have known something was up," he said. "She had all her teeth."

Another prospect volunteered he probably should not be on the jury: "In my neighborhood, everyone knows that if you get Mr. Ballin (as your lawyer), you're probably guilty." He was not chosen.The case involved a woman accused of hitting her brother's girlfriend in the face with a brick.

Ballin's client was found not guilty.

HOLD YOUR PATENT OR JOIN A WORKING GROUP? Jose Cortina has an interseting article about companies working in industry standard groups and potential conflicts that may arise when patent portfolios clash with the interests of the group.

Standards organizations such as ANSI, IEEE, NISO and others have traditionally encouraged members of “working groups” who are active in developing industry standards to provide early disclosure to the technology community of those patents that may be essential for the use of the standards being developed. Industry giants that invest large sums in protecting their research and development must strike a balance between the benefits to be gained by enforcing their patent rights, and the benefits to be gained from being a participant in working groups that are setting standards.

If a patent appears to be of great value, and a company wants to maximize its return from that patent, the company may have to reevaluate its participation in working groups to avoid jeopardizing its ability to fully exploit the patent. As development of standards continues, companies must strike a balance in deciding whether or not to participate in such development if maximizing returns from patents is a significant goal.

COMPUTER SCIENCES CORP. LANDS USPTO CONTRACT: Information technology company Computer Sciences Corp. received a systems development and integration contract from the federal Patent and Trademark Office for up to $280 million - one of the largest IT agreements awarded by the office, the company said Tuesday.

Under the contract, which has one base year and seven one-year options, CSC will provide systems design, development, implementation, integration, maintenance, testing and training and assess performance effectiveness and provide feedback to the patent office to help improve processes and enterprise architecture.

- Lets see where this leads us one year from now . . .

Friday, January 14, 2005

BEATING A DEAD ONE-CLICK PATENT: I wonder when practitioners will stop using Amazon's "one-click patent" as the default whipping post when dumping on the USPTO. It seems any article that criticizes the US patent system can't be written with at least ONE reference to the aforementioned patent. And enough with the "silly patent" stuff - sure it may be silly, but silliness is never a bar to patentability. In fact, it appears that the patent is still alive and kicking. Since it's been almost 5 years since the patent started making the rounds, you'd figure someone would have invalidated it by now, assuming that the patent is as obvious as everyone says it is.

Anyways, the patent is being dragged around again by people in the US who appear to have a sympathetic eye towards the nonsense going on in the EU with regard to software patents. Enough already.

THE FUTURE OF LICENSING: Electronic News sat down to discuss the future of licensing intellectual property with various experts, and have published excerpts of the conversation. Among the questions answered were:

What’s different about licensing IP versus other types of licensing?

Where are the hot spots in the intellectual property world?

What happens with a system on a chip, where the intellectual property is coming from a variety of vendors and being built by subcontractors of subcontractors?

and

Is there a way to write contracts to minimize problems surrounding an extended supply chain?

CONGRATULATIONS! YOU'RE THE ONE MILLIONth CUSTOMER! Since the PCT system started in 1978, Companies around the world have filed applications for 1 million international patents, the U.N. agency for intellectual property said Friday.

The United States currently dominates the applications, filing 205,286 applications since 2000, said Samar Shamoon, spokeswoman for the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Japan is in second place with 72,891, followed by Germany with 70,513, Britain 25,916 and France 24,278.

TESTA HURWITZ VOTES TO DISBAND: The law firm of Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault , located in Boston, has voted to disband it's practice. The firm had over 300 attorneys and over 60 people working in its IP department. Very sad day indeed. Best of luck to all of the people affected by the dissolution.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

AND IF YOU THOUGHT THE RIAA WAS A BIG THREAT TO P-2-P: A US peer-to-peer tech company called Altnet Inc. is hawking its patent portfolio around the file-sharing community looking for licensing deals. The company has mailed numerous companies claiming their services infringe patents around the use of hashing.

The technology appends a hash code to files on these distributed networks. When a file is downloaded and made available elsewhere on such a system, the hash goes with it. Thus, when the software searches for copies of a given file, it only has to check for the hash rather than scan the entire file, to verify its identity, which greatly speeds up searches.

Altnet says it has already reached a preliminary agreement with Sharman Networks, owners of the massive KaZaA network. It is now approaching the smaller players and nascent commercial industry, who are not so forthcoming.

FEEDBACK ON THE IBM DONATIONS: People have been chiming in on the IBM patent "freebie" and - as you would suspect - cynicism abounds. I have not personally looked through these patents (has anyone really done this?), but my experience taught me that such acts are rarely rooted in altruism, but merely serve as some sort of PR booster (remember the DuPont patent donations of unused patents that also happened to result in a $64 million tax write-off?). One theory is that the move was done to curry favor with the open source community. Others say it's no big deal anyways, since IBM has given previous assurances that the portfolio wouldn't be enforced against the Open-Source people.

Any way you slice it, no one can really know for sure what is going on, or the motivation behind this gift. Someone needs to sit down and sift through the documents (and I'm sure someone at IBM has done this) before a clearer picture can be formed.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

IBM OFFERS 500 PATENTS TO OPEN SOURCE: IBM says it is providing free access to the information in 500 company patents to individuals and groups working on open source software.

The company said it believes this is the largest pledge of patents of any kind and represents a major shift in how it manages and deploys its intellectual property.

Open source software is a spectrum of programs, the best known of them the Linux operating system, that are not under the lock and key of a single company but are developed by the communal efforts of volunteers who often start with little more than a common interest.

The philosophy behind open source: Grant a free license to users, include the software blueprints and let anyone make improvements with as few restrictions as possible.

IBM is trying to sell its business clients on using open source software instead of software from Microsoft Corp., with the understanding that a business using open source will require outside professional help, perhaps from IBM, to manage its systems.

USPTO Releases Top 10 Patent Filers for 2004: The Department of Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced today the 2004 top 10 private sector patent recipients. Listed below are the 10 corporations receiving the most patents for inventions in 2004, along with their 2003 ranking. For the twelfth consecutive year, IBM received more patents than any other private sector organization.


Top 10 Private Sector Patent Recipients for the 2004 Calendar Year

Preliminary Rank in 2004 / Preliminary # Patents in 2004 / Organization / (Final Rank in 2003) (Final Number of Patents in 2003)
1 3,248 International Business Machines Corporation (1) (3,415)
2 1,934 Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. ** (4) (1,774 ) **
3 1,805 Canon Kabushiki Kaisha (2) (1,992)
4 1,775 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. *** (5) (1,759) ***
5 1,760 Micron Technology, Inc. (6) (1,707)
6 1,604 Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (9) (1,313)
7 1,601 Intel Corporation (7) (1,592)
8 1,514 Hitachi, Ltd (3) (1,893)
9 1,310 Toshiba Corporation (13) (1,184)
10 1,305 Sony Corporation (10) (1,311)

Monday, January 10, 2005

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD: Members of the European Parliament from countries including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden have asked for the software patent directive to be redone from scratch, according to a report on Monday.

A motion for restarting the legislative process on the Computer Implemented Inventions Directive has been signed by 61 MEPs from 13 countries, according to anti-patent Web site NoSoftwarePatents.com. The signatories include a former Polish prime minister, a former European Commissioner and three vice-presidents of the European Parliament. The motion has also been published on the FFII Web site.

NEW DEPUTY PATENT COMMISSIONERS ANNOUNCED: Jon Dudas, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, announced three new Deputy Commissioners for Patents, effective January 21, 2005.

Joseph Rolla, currently a director in Technology Center 2600 (telecommunications), has been named Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy. In his new position, Mr. Rolla will be in charge of patent policy operations.

Margaret “Peggy” Focarino will head USPTO's patent operations as Deputy Commissioner for Patent Operations. She is currently a director in Technology Center 2100 (computer architecture and software).

John Doll, a special assistant to Under Secretary Dudas, will be Deputy Commissioner for Patent Resources and Planning. In his new position, he will oversee patent information-technology and processing operations.

Joe Rolla joined the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 1972 following his graduation from the University of Maryland with a degree in Physics. He was promoted to Primary Examiner in 1978 and to Supervisory Patent Examiner in 1982. He earned his Juris Doctor degree in 1983. Joe was named a Group Director in 1990 and has served in a number of electrical cluster technology centers.

During his years at the USPTO, Joe has been actively involved in many projects of operational and legal significance to the office. He has received a Department of Commerce Bronze Medal, two Silver Medals and a Gold Medal in 1996 for his work with respect to the implementation of the USPTO examination guidelines for computer-related inventions.

Peggy Focarino graduated with a degree in physics from the State University of New York and became a patent examiner at the USPTO in 1977. She was promoted to a Supervisory Patent Examiner in 1989 and to the Senior Executive Service in 1997. She has been a Director in the computer related technology centers 2100 and 2800 since 2000.

Peggy has served as Patents' chief negotiator in several negotiations with the National Treasury Employees' Union (NTEU). She has also developed and negotiated numerous award programs for the technical support staff and managers within all of the business units of the patent organization. Peggy has been heavily involved in the training of patent managers on issues dealing with employee and labor relations for the last several years.

For the past year, John Doll has been on detail as a Special Assistant to Under Secretary Jon Dudas. Prior to that he was a Group Director in Technology Center 1600, responsible for those art units that examine organic chemistry, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology patent applications.

John holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Bowling Green State University in chemistry and physics and a Master of Science degree in physical chemistry from Penn State.

John joined the USPTO in 1974 and became a Group Director in 1995. Over the course of his career, John has received two Department of Commerce Bronze Medals, a Silver Medal and a Gold Medal last year for his work on the team that implemented the Image File Wrapper (IFW) electronic system.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

WAITING FOR EBAY: Any day now, the Federal Circuit is expected to post a decision on whether to uphold the May 2003 jury verdict thateBay should pay Woolston, who hold the MercExchange patents, $35 million for infringing on his patents. If the verdict, which was later reduced by a judge to $29.5 million, is upheld, Woolston may finally see a check from eBay, the San Jose company that has become synonymous with online auctions. If it's not, there could be another trial.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

TOP IP ISSUES FOR 2005: The law firm of Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, P.C. weighs in on the top IP issues coming for 2005:

  • Supreme Court to rule Grokster music file-sharing case. The high court will reconsider the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals' ruling that Grokster, a file-sharing network, is not responsible for copyright infringement by its users.

  • More conflict between intellectual property law and antitrust law. Antitrust law promotes open competition while IP law restricts it by giving owners of IP exclusive rights. Has the pendulum swung too far toward the IP side?

  • Fewer but higher-quality patents because of higher filing fees.

  • Phillips v. AWH case on standards for patent claim interpretation. The 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals (CAFC), the nation's top patent court, will decide on Phillips v. AWH, which will clarify the interpretation of patent claims -- and possibly lead to more restrictive interpretations.

  • Fallout from Knorr-Bremse decision on willful patent infringement.

  • Decision on Tiffany's trademark-infringement lawsuit against eBay. Tiffany & Company last year sued eBay, claiming the Internet site infringes on its trademarks by allowing users to sell fake Tiffany jewelry and "actively encourages the sale of counterfeit merchandise."

EPO LAUNCHES NEW SERVICE FOR PATENT INFORMATION: The European Patent Office has launched a 'one-stop-shop' for access to information on patents. Register Plus provides bibliographical, procedural, legal and file information on patents, and thus puts patent details in the public domain. The service is free of charge and open to anyone. Users are able, for example, to follow the patent application process for a particular submission, and to find information on other patent applications belonging to the same patent family.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

TIPS FOR CORPORATE COUNSEL (AND FOR FIRMS THAT SERVICE THEM): The Legal Technology section of Law.com has some useful tips for counselors to improve work product and efficiency for the upcoming year. The corporate landscape is littered with the remnants of companies (including law firms) that failed to see the future and seize opportunities. And unless one wants to join the other fossils, it's may be time to change how things get done. The tips include:

1. Commoditize routine legal transactions. Companies are now using assembly tools to help staff create standard nondisclosure agreements, employment offer letters, leases, etc. Couple that with an electronic signature to make the transaction paperless, add a contract management system that properly stores documents for recordkeeping -- and you've eliminated 90 percent of a legal professional's time to create the document.

2. Create consortia to share needed work. Acting alone, many companies' legal departments have built reputations for driving change. What if companies combined their experience and creativity? Only imagination limits the new technologies that would evolve, delivering best practices better, faster, cheaper and deeper than ever before.

3. Move your legal work to low cost firms located in the Midwest, South or other regions away from high cost centers.

4. Bundle work for leverage. A solid request for proposal (RFP) process can achieve incredible results. If you combine your buying power by bundling all of your legal work into one bid, i.e., all real estate work in the U.S., or all legal work in all practice areas for a particular country, legal departments can improve the quality of work they get from outside counsel, and decrease costs.

5. Use technology, not lawyers, to perform legal work. Like e-learning and self-service document creation, technology can process routine, commodity legal work for which firms charge clients on a time basis.

6. Create competition by always bidding your legal work. Competition improves product quality and reduces prices. General counsel issuing RFPs should require briefings on available law firm technology before awarding bids. Some firms and companies now use online "reverse auctions" as one way to leverage technology in the RFP process.

7. Set milestones for law firms and give rewards for exceeding goals (or penalties for missing the mark).

8. Move 80 percent of your fees to a non-billable hour basis. Hourly rates hinder progress -- there's no incentive for firms to improve productivity if they make more money by billing more hours. In-house counsel must demand fixed prices for work; firms must learn that a fixed price is not based solely on time.

9. Mercilessly measure the success of the technology and process changes based on productivity and efficiency.

Monday, January 03, 2005

ONE TO WATCH: DATATREASURY CORP. - This holding company has decided to go strong with their patent portfolio, and has started suing big names in the finance industry.

These lawsuits are becoming more common, with the targets being banks or others in financial services (for example, see Trading Technologies and the turmoil their patent are causing). The company, the DataTreasury Corp. of Melville, N.Y., has sued companies that it says have infringed on its two patents, which describe a way to store and retrieve transaction records electronically. Generally speaking, this is already the way that credit card transactions are processed and, increasingly, the way that paper checks are handled, too.

Among the dozen or so companies that DataTreasury has sued are JP Morgan Chase & Co., one of the biggest banks; the First Data Corp., the biggest credit card processor; and the Electronic Data Systems Corp., another big processor.

The suits are wending their ways through courts in Texas that lawyers say are well known for upholding the rights of patent holders (Marshall Texas, perhaps?). They seek unspecified damages, and to ban the companies from using the processing architecture that the patents describe.

This type of litigation is unusual for financial services, which have taken for granted that there are certain basic ways to process payments. Although banks did not bother to patent these systems, others did, especially after a 1998 court ruling broadened the definition of a patent to include business methods and processes. At the time, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was swamped with technology-related applications, and knew very little about the processing of payments.

LG TO MATSUSHITA: HAPPY NEW YEAR! LG Electronics Inc, South Korea's second-largest consumer electronics manufacturer, filed another patent infringement suit against the South Korea unit of Japan's Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. over plasma screen technologies, LG said.

The second lawsuit against Panasonic Korea, filed with a Seoul district court, accuses the Japanese company of infringing four plasma display panel (PDP) patents related to the structure of electrodes and panel-operating technologies.

"Panasonic Korea should scrap finished and semi-finished PDPs that infringe on LG Electronics' patent rights," the Korean company said in a court statement.

The suit is the latest development in an escalating dispute between LG Electronics and Matsushita over PDP technologies.

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