California Patent Attorney® Blog

February 2012 Archives

Ford Gains Nearly 500 Patents for Fuel-Efficient Hybrid Technology

February 21, 2012,

ford.jpgCalifornia - Ford Motor Company's innovations in fuel-efficient hybrid technology have led to a fifty-fold increase in hybrid patents for the automobile manufacturer, which takes it close to holding five hundred patents for the technology. Ford's new patented technologies are expected to help the new Fusion Hybrid achieve an impressive forty-seven miles per gallon, making it America's most fuel-efficient non-rechargeable sedan.

In the past few years, the Dearborn Michigan motor company has beefed up its efforts at growing its intellectual property portfolio with major investments during the country's economic slump.

A patent attorney working for Ford commented that the company doesn't engage in the practice of collecting patents simply for the mere sake of having a large portfolio. "We get the high-quality patents that Ford really needs. With the high level of innovation from our people, it makes sense that we should see our hybrid patent levels increase the way they have," stated the attorney.

The new Ford Fusion Hybrid is the first sedan to use gasoline, hybrid, and plug-in power trains, all three expected to have top fuel economy.

"Ford continued to invest to develop new products like our new Fusion hybrids during the depths of our economic downturn," stated Chuck Gray, Ford chief engineer of Global Core Engineering Hybrid and Electric Vehicles. "We succeeded in transforming our lineup with leading fuel efficiency, thanks in part to the many Ford inventors who are helping make our Fusion Hybrid America's most fuel-efficient sedan."

Ford's promising future in hybrid technology can be attributed to its electrified vehicle team, including inventor Ming Kuang, who has helped grow Ford's hybrid patent portfolio from a mere ten in 2000, to the nearly five hundred today. Kuang is a technical leader in vehicle controls at Ford Electrification Research and Advanced Engineering in Dearborn.

The innovative technology developed by Kuang and his counterparts can be found throughout Ford's recently transformed lineup of vehicles. One third of these vehicles will reportedly feature a model that gets 40 miles per gallon or more in 2012 and help build the company's commitment to future hybrid innovation by offering fuel-efficiency-minded buyers the power of choice.

In addition to the Fusion Hybrid's unprecedented 47 mpg city and 44 mpg highway, Ford is also introducing its new Fusion Energi this fall. The Energi is anticipated to deliver more than 100 MPGe, which is more than the projected fuel efficiency of the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid.

California Based Apple Patent Threatens to Dismantle Facebook's Plans

February 10, 2012,

apple-logo.jpgCalifornia - A new patent that has been recently granted to Apple has the potential of locking Facebook out of a much sought after area of growth, which is using credits to acquire such "media items" as songs, videos, images, e-books, and podcasts. The definition of "digital asset" also raises questions of whether Zynga's virtual goods, the bulk of its revenue, would also fall under this patent. Zynga offers browser-based games that work as application widgets on Facebook.

Proven that it is unafraid to litigate, Cupertino, California based Apple has demonstrated that it is willing to use its patents as ammunition in the mobile computing market. For instance, its patent infringement lawsuit against Samsung in Australia has expanded to include 278 patent claims. Based on its litigious history, we can only expect that Apple will start to use its portfolio of patents to attack competitors in its widening spheres of operations.

The recently awarded patent number 8,112,360 was originally filed in May 2006 and is known as Digital Media Acquisition Using Credit. A description of the functions of the patent include, a method for acquiring a media item from an online media store using a credit, said method including at least: (a) identifying a media item from being purchased by a purchaser, the media item having a purchase cost associated therewith; (b) determining whether the media item is permitted to be acquired using an item credit, the determining being based on at least the purchase cost and a country of origin for the purchaser, wherein said determining (b) includes at least: (b1) determining a media type for the media item; and (b2) determining whether the media type is permitted to be acquired using an item credit; (c) determining whether the purchaser has at least one item credit available at the online media store; and (d) thereafter applying the item credit associated with the purchaser so as to reduce or eliminate the purchase cost of the media item when said determining (b) determines that the media item is permitted to be acquired using an item credit.

As Facebook has witnessed from both Apple and Amazon, media sales could be an important vehicle in driving growth. Many media-centered companies, such as Zynga, are interested in having access to Facebook users, however Facebook demands that Zynga or anyone else interested in using its network to trade in virtual goods must use Facebook credits to complete the transaction. Since Facebook monitors the location of where its users are connecting from, that could put any media sales directly under the new Apple patent.

Apple clearly did not file the patent with the goal of shutting Facebook out of the digital media acquisition market. After all, the patent was filed while Facebook was still in the works in a Harvard dorm room. But with the social network's explosive growth over the past five years, this may indeed become Apple's intention.

Valuable Rambus Patent Deemed Invalid by Patent and Trademark Office

February 1, 2012,

circuit-chip-processor.jpgCalifornia - An appeals board for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has recently invalidated a third patent from tech licensing company Rambus Incorporated. According to legal documents, Rambus has used the patents to win several patent infringement lawsuits against Hewlett-Packard, Nvidia Corp., and others. The previous two patents were invalidated in September.

The three patents that the USPTO has declared invalid are known as the Barth patents and involve DDR-SDRAM memory chip technology used in personal computers. Rambus, established in 1990, has long considered the Barth patents to be among its most valued intellectual property. By aggressively using the three memory chip patents to pursue patent infringement claims against technology companies, Rambus has earned millions of dollars in licensing fees from settlement agreements resulting from its patent infringement claims.

The most recent patent invalidation by the USPTO comes as bad news to Rambus, whose stock fell sixty percent after a November 16 court decision in which it lost a $4 billion antitrust lawsuit against Micron Technology Inc. and Hynix Semiconductor Inc. The company's stock share prices fluctuate dramatically based on the successes and failures of its intellectual property in litigation and licensing deals.

The three Barth patents were also among six that Rambus accused a long list of technology companies of infringing in a 2011 complaint with the United States International Trade Commission. The list of companies included in the Trade Commission complaint included STMicroelectonics, MediaTek, Broadcom, and others. Broadcom has since settled the lawsuit.

It remains unclear whether Rambus has filed an appeal with the USPTO to the September invalidation of two of the Barth patents. If the company were to appeal the invalidation of the third Barth patent, it would be sent back to the patent examiner for review, who would be unlikely to disrupt the decision of the appeals board. Once the appeals process at the USPTO has been exhausted, Rambus will be able to dispute the patent invalidations to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington D.C..