Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Heading off VoIP Spam at the Pass: Qovia, Inc. today announced that it has filed a patent application for a method to identify and block VoIP Spam and prevent security problems such as Denial of Service (DoS) attacks that have the potential to overload voice servers and affect system reliability. The patent application, titled, “System and Method for Broadcasting VoIP Messages,” covers the use of VoIP for emergency broadcast as well as provides for methodologies to prevent inappropriate use of VoIP applications such as Spam over Internet Telephony, also known as SPIT or VoIP Spam.

VoIP Spam is a combination of telemarketing calls and e-mail spam in which a single “caller” uses Internet technology to send thousands of voice messages simultaneously into callers’ VoIP voice mailboxes. The United States Telecommunications Association recently described this capability as a top security challenge ahead for the telephony industry. In an attempt to prevent the spread of VoIP Spam, Qovia has created an application that can identify unsolicited and unwanted messages and differentiate these messages from those that recipients desire to receive. Qovia plans to incorporate this tool into a security module that will be available as part of the company’s VoIP Monitoring and Management System (VMMS) later this year.

Intersting Take on Patent Office Services: London businesses can win a free consultation on protecting their innovations, brands and creative works in a new Patent Office initiative.

The businesses can register at the new website www.the-key.biz to secure a chance of receiving one of 200 consultations being offered by the Chartered Institute of Patent Agents (CIPA) and Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (ITMA).

Their legal experts will advise businesses on how to exploit their intellectual property to grow their business and ways to protect them from unscrupulous competition.

Patent Wars Go Wireless: Canadian broadband wireless technology provider Wi-LAN is suing industry giant Cisco Systems for patent infringement, Wi-LAN officials announced Thursday. And if the lawsuit goes well, the company may keep on suing.

All of the patents in question relate to OFDM (orthogonal frequency division multiplexing), the modulation technique that enables high-speed data transfers for both the 802.11g and 802.11a IEEE WLAN (wireless LAN) standards.

Wi-LAN comes at Cisco hot off a win in a similar patent dispute with Toronto-based Redline Communications. Last month in an if-you-don't-want-to-fight-'em-join-'em move, Redline signed a royalty agreement with Wi-LAN, settling the 2-year-old case.

Given the wide reach of OFDM, it's fair to question the impact of the suit on the industry. But don't look for it to cripple development efforts. OFDM is already out there. No one's going to call it back. Certainly not Wi-LAN. It's using the courts to help it enlist partners who haven't exactly rushed to its doors to license the company's technology.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Sharp Fires Another Shot Over LCD Patents: Tokyo Customs has accepted a request by Sharp Corp (6753.TK) to halt the importation of LCD (liquid crystal display) televisions sold by the Japanese unit of major Taiwanese electronics firm Teco Electric & Machinery Co, The Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported.

The Japanese consumer electronics maker made the request, citing patent infringement.

This decision effectively suspends customs clearance procedures for the TVs in question -- 20-inch Teco LCD TVs sold by Sankyo Co, Teco's Tokyo-based sales unit.

The TVs were being sold by major supermarket chain operator Aeon Co (8267.TK) and a Tokyo-based volume electronics retailer. They were also sold for less than 80,000 yen over the internet. But both firms have already stopped marketing them.

The TVs include LCD panels made by Taiwan's AU Optronics Corp (AUO), the third-largest producer of the parts. Sharp claimed that the Taiwanese company infringed on its patent rights in producing the panels.

Merger Updates: Wildman, Harrold Allen & Dixon, a 211-lawyer Chicago-based law firm, is actively looking to acquire or merge with another law firm, according to several legal sources. One said the search had become heated of late, with the firm hiring a consultant to sift options.

While declining to discuss specific plans, managing partner Robert Shuftan noted Wildman has added 25 to 30 partners in the last two years. "We're looking at further opportunities to expand, both in Chicago and elsewhere,'' he said.

Perkins Coie LLP, the largest law firm in the Puget Sound area with approximately 550 lawyers firmwide, is merging with Phoenix-based Brown & Bain, a firm known for its work in intellectual property and complex litigation.

The merger will close July 1 and make Phoenix the second-largest office for Perkins Coie. The firm's largest office is in downtown Seattle

Friday, June 25, 2004

The IEEE Takes on Acacia - This article is a must-read for anyone dealing with patent holding companies, and especially for those lucky ones who are dealing with Acacia. By its own account, Acacia is the only publicly traded company in the world that does nothing but acquire and license patents, and sue other companies over the patents it acquires and licenses.

The company had 2003 revenues of just $692 000, all from the streaming media patents. (Though the V-chip patent didn't expire until midyear, its license fees were all taken in 2001.) With more and more licensees signing up, Acacia couldn't say how much it would take in for 2004. But by February, its licenses in hand were worth $2 million per year. It was only in late 2002 that Acacia began sending out glossy folders to possible infringers, with polite letters asking them to take out licenses.

Interesting New Fuel Cells: A tiny prototype fuel cell the size of a thumb has been developed by Toshiba. The Japanese electronics giant said the methanol fuel cell could power gadgets such as a digital music player for 20 hours.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

China Makes a Push for Chemical Patents: Huayi Group Company, one of China's chemical giants, set up a technology research institute over the weekend as part of its technical creation system aiming to compete with overseas counterparts showing strong presence in China.

The institute, which merges all of the company's technical strengths, is aimed at creating more patent technologies, said Huayi Chairman Zhang Peizhang.

"We need our own high-tech patents to compete with overseas counterparts which have got a firm foothold on the Chinese market," Zhang said.

Another Business-Method Patent in Re-Exam: Affinity Technology Group, Inc. (OTCBB:AFFI) today announced that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has granted a request for reexamination filed by Ameritrade Holding Corporation and Federated Department Stores related to the Company's patent covering the fully automated establishment of financial and credit accounts (U.S. Patent No. 6,105,007). As previously announced, the Company has filed a lawsuit against both Ameritrade and Federated alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,105,007. The Company has agreed to stay the lawsuits pending the conclusion of the PTO's reexamination.

Digital Holographic Technology: THe Next Big Thing? 3DIcon Corporation, a communications development company, today announced that there appear to be no significant intellectual property obstacles to its unique pursuit of the development and commercialization of digital holographic technology. In his first public account following 3DIcon's April launch of a collaborative relationship with the University of Oklahoma (OU), CEO Martin Keating said, "OU's findings that our three-part focus and planned development have little or no patent competition is most encouraging. This industry is indeed in its infancy. It's exciting to know that we're poised to acquire the necessary patent rights to participate in what we believe will become a multi-billion-dollar industry."
Over a two-month period, the University of Oklahoma has determined that fewer than fifty U.S. patents have been issued for inventions in the field of holographic technology related to the areas being pursued by 3DIcon. "We thought there might be hundreds of patents already granted," Mr. Keating commented. "But not even a dozen have been issued in the particular areas that our technology assessment is pointing to. The bottom line is, this field is wide open. That's most encouraging to us. We certainly hope that the University of Oklahoma will become the epicenter of this fascinating new
technology," he concluded.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

PatentCafe Intoduces Infringement Litigation Suite to Uncover Prior Art: In a move to provide a new weapon to curb skyrocketing costs and manpower hours in patent infringement litigation, PatentCafe has introduced its electronic patent prior art discovery solution called The Infringement Litigation Suite (ILS). Nearly three thousand lawsuits filed each year in the U.S. alleging patent infringement, and infringement awards have reached as high as $1/2 billion. Litigation teams can now turn to PatentCafe to help them deploy the same technology that allows robust data mining for quick discovery of prior art patent most relevant to the particular infringement suit.

And Speaking of Prior Art . . . Harrah's Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: HET) said it plans to appeal a recent decision by the United States District Court for the District of Nevada granting a Station Casinos, Inc. motion for summary judgment in patent litigation between the two companies. In granting Station's motion, the District Court last month ruled that Harrah's Customer Recognition Patents and a portion of the 013 Patent are invalid. The District Court denied other motions by Station seeking to invalidate and render unenforceable the patents. The District Court has additional motions pending with respect to the portion of Harrah's 013 Patent claims that are not affected by the invalidity ruling. Harrah's will dismiss the unaffected 013 Patent claims, and will not pursue those claims against Station.

Perhaps This Patent is the Next One to Fall? Washington Mutual, Inc. (NYSE:WM), one of the nation's leading retailers of financial services, today announced that the U.S. Patent Office has issued a patent for the company's retail banking approach and several more are pending. This is the first patent issued in the country to describe a full-service branch concept.

Specifically, U.S. patent No. 6,681,985 describes Washington Mutual's retail banking stores as places that "create a welcoming and inviting environment for a customer" and are "in sharp contrast to traditional bank branches." Instead, they have been "transformed into a more retail-like environment."

According to the patent's description, embodiments of the invention include the teller towers which remove the traditional barrier of a teller line and allow easier interaction between the customer service representative and the customer. Also described were the circular or oval layout of the retail banking stores, the concierge desk where customers are greeted and guided to the appropriate service area, and a kids' play area included in many of the company's stores. Further noted was the access to online banking through wamu.com and bank employees who are hired for their high sales aptitude in order to cross-sell the company's financial products.

Monday, June 21, 2004

US standard of patent approval 'down sharply': An article highlighting two books coming out by US economists that submit that the US patent system is "broken". From 1983 until last year, the number of applications to protect inventions tripled to 355,418. The number of approvals rose at about the same rate from 59,715 to 189,597, according to the US Patent Office.

EuroLinux Attacks EU's Software Patent: although software isn't patentable in Europe under the Munich Convention, the European Patent Office (EPO) has been granting patents which can be used to protect programming techniques, computer programs and software. This is happening because of a loophole in the Munich Convention which allows industrial inventions based on innovative programming techniques to be patented. The EU is currently considering removing computer programs from the exceptions list of the Munich Convention, and this would effectively open the floodgates. "It would be possible to use patents to get a monopoly on the use of a business method or an electronic commerce method by patenting as such its implementation in a program for computers," says the Alliance, which has assembled a group of ten industry luminaries, including Tim Berners-Lee, to lobby against the change.

Building That Mousetrap: In early 2000, when Julia Rhodes was an eighth-grade teacher, her high school son asked her to get his basketball coach a gift -- a whiteboard and markers for diagramming plays. "But he told me to get markers with erasers," she said, "because the coach was always using his hand or his shirt." Rhodes couldn't find markers with erasers. She was amazed. She was frustrated. And she was inspired.

Four years later, Rhodes isn't a teacher anymore.

Instead, she is a walking, talking, strutting testimony to the entrepreneurial golden rule of finding a need and filling it. She is the inventor, patent holder, outsourcer, marketer and distributor of KleenSlate -- a whiteboard eraser that comes in two sizes to fit various brands of whiteboard markers.

Friday, June 18, 2004

USPTO Agrees to Reassess Microsoft's FAT Patent
The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently agreed to reexamine Microsoft's controversial FAT patent, which covers an aging version of the technology behind the Windows file system. The reexamination is courtesy of a petition from the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), which feared that Microsoft could use the patent to hobble Linux because Linux uses a free Windows operability tool called Samba, which needs access to FAT to read and write files to Windows systems. PUBPAT believes that Microsoft can use wrongly issued patents to harm the public by "making things more expensive, if not impossible to afford" and "by restraining civil liberties and individual freedoms." PUBPAT points to a Microsoft description of FAT that it says explains the reexamination: "FAT is the ubiquitous format used for interchange of media between computers, and, since the advent of inexpensive, removable flash memory, also between digital devices."

WASHINGTON, June 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Continuing the expansion of its intellectual property practice, international law firm Crowell & Moring LLP has added two partners to its more than 40-lawyer roster of IP lawyers. Michael J. Songer, a former partner at Arnold & Porter LLP, and Mark M. Supko, a former partner at IP boutique Kenyon & Kenyon, have joined the firm in its Washington, DC office.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

When To Interview: A helpful article discussing the general process of Examiner Interviews before the USPTO

To Dream the Impossible Dream: EGOceutical, a New Jersey based supplement manufacturer, has launched a new hangover and carb blocking supplement that uses a proprietary patent-pending dual-action system to obliterate the two negative aspects of beer drinking, the weight gain from high amounts of carbohydrates and the morning-after dreaded hangover. This revolutionary product is called Beer Neutralizer™ and it has been taking the nation by storm since it’s inception in April 2004.

$153.6 Million Whopper: Shell Oil, a unit of Royal Dutch-Shell Group of Companies, must pay Dow Chemical's Union Carbide $153.6 million in damages for infringing a patent for catalysts, a judge has ruled.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Losing Your Lawyer? A good article posted on bordmember.com on "Moves To Make If You Lose Your Lawyer".

Cooley Names New Chair of IP Litigation Practice: "Cooley Godward is pleased to announce that Steve Swinton has been named chair of the Firm's Intellectual Property Litigation practice. As chair, Mr. Swinton will work closely with colleagues Frank Pietrantonio, chair of the Patent Counseling & Prosecution practice, and Anne Peck, chair of the Trademark, Copyright & Advertising practice."

Nokia Takes License on RIM Patent to Spawn Blackberry-Enabled Products: Research in Motion (RIM), the maker of the BlackBerry e-mail service, hailed on Tuesday a licensing deal that will help Nokia launch a BlackBerry-enabled phone in the United States.

Finland's Nokia, the world's largest mobile phone maker, signed a deal with NTP Inc. on Monday for five patents at the center of a bitter legal dispute between RIM and NTP, a radio communications company based in Arlington, Virginia.

Nokia signed an agreement with Ontario-based RIM in 2002 to license its popular e-mail service, but it has not launched its BlackBerry-powered 6820 handset in the United States, citing concerns over litigation between RIM and NTP.

"We're thrilled beyond thrilled. There's a very big backlog of orders for the BlackBerry-enabled 6820," RIM Chairman and Co-CEO Jim Balsillie told reporters in Toronto.

"We're thrilled to have a partnership with Nokia, we've worked on it for two years. We've wanted this product in market as soon as possible."

Analysts said on Tuesday RIM stood to benefit from the "bittersweet" Nokia/NTP deal.

Acacia at at Again: For those "in the know", Acacia is considered one of the bigger "patent extortionists" (as it were) in the streaming video technologies. A previous attempt to sue porn sites has garnered a lot of attention, as the company underestimated the depth of the pockets of the people running these sites. Now, Acacia has started targeting smaller cable companies in order to rack up those ever-important licensing fees.

Apologies to everyone for not posting over the last week. A hectic schedule and unexpected happenings caused a major hiccup in my schedule. Posting will resume posthaste.

Monday, June 07, 2004

BlackBerry Case: Is it really possible that Bill Gates, Pamela Anderson and phalanxes of stockbrokers, lawyers and congressional staff members will have to give up one of their most treasured possessions: their BlackBerries?

Today in Washington, judges at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit are scheduled to ponder whether Research in Motion, the Canadian maker of the much-coveted BlackBerry hand-held wireless e-mail device, should be barred from business in the United States. At issue is who has the patent for the BlackBerry's technology.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Open Source v. Software Patents: a quick read from CNET on the impact software patents have been having on the open source movement. It appears that defense funds are becoming quite the rage . . .

Spam, spam, spam, spam : Few things can bring rivals together like a shared hatred of spam. Longtime foes Microsoft and Yahoo welcomed each others' proposals for fighting spam at the Inbox e-mail technology conference this week, saying that their seemingly competing tactics were in fact complementary and could be offered together in antispam tools as early as next year. Both companies have spent several months developing ways to harden the Internet's infrastructure against spammers.

GOOGLE v. YAHOO - could this be the next dotcom mega-battle? Google is the darling of the Internet and seemingly at the top of its game as it charges toward a public stock offering sometime this summer.

But the Mountain View company could be paying hundreds of millions of dollars to its Sunnyvale archrival, Yahoo, if it loses a little-noticed patent lawsuit unfolding in a San Jose courtroom.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

One click, two click, three click, four : Microsoft has successfully patented using short, long or double clicks to launch different applications on "limited resource computing devices" - presumably PDAs and mobile phones. The US patent was granted on 27 April.

Now any US company using a variety of clicks to launch different software functions from the same button will have to change their product, pay licensing fees to Microsoft or give Microsoft access to its intellectual property in return.

Another partner leaves Frost Brown Todd
For the second time in a month, a partner with the Louisville office of law practice Frost Brown Todd has left the firm for another job.

Arthur S. Beeman, former co-chairman of Frost Brown Todd's intellectual property litigation practice group, has taken a job as director and head of the patent litigation practice at Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk & Rabkin in San Francisco, according to a news release.

The release said Beeman has both defended clients against patent infringement allegations and represented clients in claims against their patents.

Howard Rice's intellectual property practice group consists of more than 30 attorneys. The firm's clients include PalmSource Inc., Ariba Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and the United States Olympic Committee.

According to a previous Business First report, Jay Tannon, a former Frost Brown Todd partner, left the firm in May for a position with the law firm of Pillsbury Winthrop LLP in Virginia.

Brits Dumping on the US Patent System: Mad cap patents ranging from protecting a method of painting by dipping a baby's bottom into paint or a system for keeping track of people queuing for the bathroom may soon be a thing of the past if the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has its way. Such patents, while humorous, clearly show both how broken the American patent system and how lax standards are hurting innovation when it comes to business, the Commission says.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (Office) is revising the rules of practice to allow for more efficient rocessing of powers of attorney and assignment documents within the Office. For example, the Office will require applicants to use the Office’s Customer Number practice if more than ten registered patent practitioners are to be made of record. In addition, the Office is eliminating some mail stops (i.e., CPA, Provisional Patent Application) that were found not be useful in routing correspondence within the Office, and creating a new mail stop (Licensing and Review) to assist the Office in the proper routing of national security classified and secrecy order papers. Finally, because the Office is discontinuing the current Office practice of returning patent and trademark assignment documents submitted by mail for recording in the assignment database, only copies of assignment documents may be submitted for recording in the Office’s
Assignment records.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait - In 1977 Andreas Pavel applied for a patent for a "portable small component for the hi-fidelity reproduction of recorded sound". The player, named "stereobelt", never saw the light of day. When Sony introduced its Walkman in 1979, it became the most successful portable music player on the market. Sony sold more than 200m units worldwide.

The German inventor has tried to sue Sony before, but Britain's Appeals Court confirmed in 1996 an earlier ruling that the portable player was a normal further technological development and could not be patented. According to German magazine Der Spiegel, Sony now has "silently parted with a few million euro" in an out-of-court settlement with the 59-year-old inventor.

What the hell - everyone else is talking about it . . .Psychology and statistics best determine whether two people will have a happy marriage. At least that’s the claim made by an online dating service that’s patented its matchmaking formula. EHarmony.com Inc. this month received U.S. Patent No. 6,735,568, which describes a ‘‘method and system for identifying people who are likely to have a successful relationship.’’ Not surprisingly, critics and competitors trash eHarmony’s process as overly scientific — some dismissing the so-called ‘‘love patent’’ as gimmicky.

Network Associates is granted broad antispam patent - Network Associates Inc. (NAI) has been granted a broad U.S. patent for technology covering "various computer program products, systems and methods" for filtering unwanted e-mail messages, it said Tuesday. The antivirus software company said that U.S. patent no. 6,732,157 encompasses use of multiple spam-filtering techniques such as compound filters, paragraph hashing, and Bayes rules. These techniques have been proposed and used by a number of antispam technology proponents and it was not clear from the filing how the patent would affect competitors to NAI's McAfee antispam offerings.

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