California Patent Attorney® Blog

August 2011 Archives

Two New Patent Applications: Fingerprint-less Screens and Airbag-equipped Cell Phones

August 29, 2011,

touchscreen.jpgCalifornia - Patent application 20110195187 describes an invention entitled "Direct Liquid Vaporization for Oleophobic Coatings." While the title of the invention has little hope of becoming a household name, it's likely that Apple's new fingerprint-less screens will make their way into millions of households. According to Patently Apple, the application filed February of this year describes a method of applying an 'oleophobic' substance to the screen of any Apple iOS device during manufacturing. This process would create a fingerprint resistant coat on the screen of the device capable of repelling the oil and particles from our hands that create cosmetically unfavorable and visually obstructive smudges. The invention would certainly create a captivating marketing platform for Apple, but larger implications arise concerning how competitors will work around the patent to maintain the viability of their products within what some are calling a 'patent war.' Apple will have a have new weapon if they control the licensing of a process that renders fingerprints a thing of the past.

Patent application 20110194230 comes to us from the mind of Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, who has created a method of protecting cell phones from impact damage by equipping them with airbags. The application filed February of 2010, made public earlier this month, details a system in which the phone detects a sudden increase in acceleration when the phone is accidentally dropped by its user and deploys airbags to prevent a damaging impact with the ground. It's difficult not to snicker at the thought of airbag-deploying cell phone, but the application also suggests substituting the airbags with springs or gas propulsion, and if they are able to find an effective method, the precautionary equipment would prove to be valuable to many fumbling consumers who spend hundreds of dollars annually on replacement phones. However, the money saved will likely be applied to increased price of cell phones containing this preventative technology. It will be interesting to see whether airbags become the industry standard or simply a short-lived novelty item.

Is Google Buying Companies to Avoid Patent Litigation?

August 19, 2011,

cellphones.jpgCalifornia - Google's recent acquisition of Motorola Mobility for approximately $12.5 billion raised more than a few eyebrows. However, now that the dust from the deal has begun to settle, the reasoning behind the deal has become clear and an interesting trend has appeared.

To fully understand the deal, a little history is required. Google purchased a small company called Android Inc. in 2005, cumulating in the 2008 release of the Android Mobile Operating System. Android is beloved by users, and its market share quickly rose to rival that of Blackberry. More importantly, Android was a departure from other operating systems because it was open source, meaning Google actively encouraged individuals to experiment with the software code.

Then, in late 2010, Google released its first and only smartphone, the Nexus One. However, the Nexus One achieved only lackluster sales. After the news of Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility broke, the hope of a widely successful combination of Motorola's hardware acumen and Google's open source spirit spread like wildfire.

Experts estimate that a smartphone can involve to up to 250,000 different patents. Due to the millions of dollars in sales that any given smartphone can accomplish, even one patent infringement lawsuit can become a huge obstacle. Therefore, companies have been spending millions (or billions in this case) to acquire entire companies in an effort to expand their own patent portfolios while at the same time avoiding litigation.

With Google's acquisition, which could become a game-changer in the smartphone industry, the value of tech companies is increasingly becoming a function of the number of patents that the company owns.

Microsoft to Pay $70 Million to Alcatel in Patent Judgement

August 1, 2011,

monitor.jpgCalifornia - A federal jury in San Diego ruled today that Microsoft must pay telecommunications infrastructure manufacturer Alcatel-Lucent, $70 million in damages in a judgement from a patent infringement claim from 2003.

The patent at issue was originally applied for by engineers at AT&T and provides a method of entering information into fields on a computer screen without the use of a keyboard. Initially, Alcatel-Lucent filed a claim against computer giants Gateway and Dell for their alleged infringement of the patent in 2002, with Microsoft intervening.

At an earlier trial involving the same parties, Microsoft was found guilty of infringing on the patent in its Outlook e-mail software, Windows Mobile, and with Microsoft Money. The original ruling would have cost Microsoft more than $500 million in damages, however it appealed the decision and the damages were lowered considerably.

In a statement from David Howard, Microsoft's corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of litigation, he said, "Today's verdict reflects a positive trend in the law of patent damages stemming from the Federal Circuit's earlier opinion in this and other cases. However, we continue to maintain that current law requires a genuine apportionment of damages when the infringement is directed to a small feature of a feature-rich product, and we are reviewing the verdict in that light and considering next steps."

This patent infringement case in particular is the most recent in a long history of litigation between the two companies. Microsoft was also the defendant in a patent infringement complaint filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission by Alcatel-Lucent over technology to identify and affiliate a user in a telephone network. The ITC ruled in favor of Alcatel-Lucent. Another patent case involving a communications protocol patent designed to allow a host computer to communicate with a "terminal device" resulted in a split ruling.

Lawyers for Alcatel-Lucent indicated that the company was "pleased" with today's ruling.