California Patent Attorney® Blog

November 2011 Archives

Boeing Issued Patent For Aircraft Design

November 29, 2011,

airplane-airbusa380.jpgCalifornia - Aerospace manufacturer Boeing Chicago was recently issued a patent for an "aircraft configuration utilizing fuselage, wing, empennage, and exhaust flow control devices" designed to enhance aircraft performance. The patent abstract claims that the design will utilize structural and engine exhaust flow control devices to enhance the in-flight performance of the craft.

Boeing first filed the patent application in 2009. The recently issued patent, U.S. Patent No. 8,061,655, credits a group of ten inventors, mostly from California and Washington state. The design includes the use of an Upper Surface Blown (USB) system downstream from the engine exhaust plume as well as a controllable USB to promote engine exhaust flow. Boeing hopes that the new design will eliminate what the patent describes as a "pitching moment" that would have been caused by the old USB system. Eliminating the pitching moment caused by uncontrolled engine exhaust would increase performance and provide for a smoother flight.

Founded in 1916 in Seattle, Washington, Boeing has been in a serious battle lately with European giant Airbus which is its largest competitor. Boeing merged with aerospace manufacturer and defense contractor McDonnell Douglas in 1997. Currently headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, Boeing is one of the world's two largest aircraft manufacturers and the world's third largest aerospace and defense contractor. By value, Boeing is the U.S.'s largest exporter. Since the merger with McDonnell Douglas, Boeing's largest competitor has been Airbus. Together the two companies dominate the commerical aircraft market.

Employee Claiming Employer Patent Theft Denied Relief In State Courts

November 14, 2011,

constitution-flag.jpgCalifornia - Suzanne Brown, employee for Tuscon, Arizona based Lisa Frank, Inc. is not entitled to relief for alleged patent theft by her former employer in state court, an Arizona appellate court held. Instead, she must pursue her claim in federal court which has exclusive jurisdiction over patents granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Brown returned to work at Lisa Frank after a ten year absence in 2009. Once she began work, she notified the company that she had conceived of an idea for a child-safe oven. Working with other employees, Brown created a sketch of the oven and its details. The company submitted the sketches to its patent attorney who filed a patent and trademark application with the USPTO for the oven without notifying Brown. Brown was later terminated.

Brown originally brought the action in Arizona's Pima County Superior Court alleging several causes of action for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and wrongful ownership and control of the invention. That original action, however, was dismissed upon motion by Lisa Frank for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Brown then appealed the case to an Arizona appellate court which affirmed the lower court's dismissal of the case.

Under the Supremacy Clause found in the United States Constitution, federal law preempts state law when congress expressly provides for preemption, federal law leaves no room for state law, or where state law and federal law conflict. 28 U.S.C. § 1338 provides that "The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action arising under any Act of Congress relating to patents..." That jurisdiction is exclusive to the extent that it involves federally issued patents.

In this case, Brown argued that though federal law has preempted the patent system, inventors still maintain common law state rights over their inventions and that these rights are enforceable in state court. The appellate court disagreed, holding that Congress reserved the determination of inventorship to the USPTO and that such a determination is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal courts. As Brown's action depended on the resolution of a "substantial question of federal patent law," federal law preempted the state court's jurisdiction in this matter.