California Patent Attorney® Blog

July 2012 Archives

California Based Apple Granted Patent Dubbed "The Mother of All Smartphone Patents"

July 26, 2012,

iphone.jpgCalifornia - Apple had a busy week recently with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in which it was issued a whopping 25 patents for various new inventions. Within the last several months, Apple has been on somewhat of a patent spree with filings for everything from hardware, to software, to accessories.

Some would argue that the most important of these newly granted patents is one that applies to a "portable electronic device, method and graphical user interface for displaying electronic lists and documents". In particular, patent number 8,223,134 covers the graphical interface that Apple designed for use with telephones, email, cameras, video players, calendars and numerous other multi-touch applications. Filed in March 2012, experts are calling the patent extremely important and have dubbed it "the mother of all smartphone software patents". Additionally, Apple's newest smartphone patent is expected to provide significant competition for its main adversary Google Android.

In the years since the smartphone burst into the cell phone market, mobile phone technology has increased at such a rapid rate that consumers can hardly keep up. But savvy smartphone users have likely noticed a variety of similarities between the top products.

Before iPhone hit the market, smartphones used actual physical buttons and keys that had to be pushed to direct actions. However, the iPhone ushered in a period of new technology that advanced multi-touch graphical user interfaces that are a trademark of the iPhone today. Smartphone manufacturers have not hesitated to copy that design to the extent possible with new products in the marketplace today. Historically, Apple has taken drastic steps to protect its intellectual property, including extensive patent applications and numerous patent infringement lawsuits. Undoubtedly, the newest patent granted to Apple will play a part in ongoing litigation with companies such as Samsung, Motorola and HTC, who have chosen to battle it out in court with Apple over patent infringement.

California Jury Finds RIM Guilty of Patent Infringement

July 19, 2012,

cellphone_blackberry.jpgCalifornia - There was more bad news for the beleaguered creators of Blackberry last week. After a three-week trial and a week of deliberations, an eight-person jury found Research In Motion (RIM) guilty of patent infringement.

The decision, handed down last Friday in Northern California, was based on allegations that the Canadian Blackberry maker was illegally using patented technology created by New Jersey based Mformation for managing wireless devices. Initiated in 2008, the lawsuit alleged that the Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) was based on Mformation's patents for wireless device management. The Mformation software was designed to allow companies to remotely access employee cell phones in order to erase data from stolen phones, update software or change passwords. The Canadian Blackberry Company was subsequently ordered to pay 147.2 million dollars in damages, approximately eight dollars for each of the 18.4 million Blackberry devices connected to the Blackberry Server from the day the lawsuit was filed to the start of litigation.

RIM has already suffered tremendous setbacks in the past year as its market share has further declined, revenues dropped and its stock is at a nine-year low. Experts speculate that RIM's struggles are undoubtedly a result of increasing Apple and Google smartphone popularity. At the height of its popularity, Blackberry captured 41% of the market share for its devices in 2007. However, that number reportedly dropped to under 4% in the first quarter of 2012. Once known for its cutting edge products, RIM has suffered as its consumers are gradually switching to iPhones and other smartphones that allow users to do more sophisticated applications beyond just checking emails and making phone calls.

Shareholders, employees and users are definitely watching anxiously to see how RIM will deal with its latest legal woes. In the wake of a year of negative news, RIM recently also announced it was cutting 5000 jobs, or roughly 30% of its workforce in an attempt to reduce operating costs. Blackberry further saw its opportunity to catch up with its competitors wane after reported delays in its Blackberry 10 Operating Systems. Representatives for RIM expressed disappointment with the court's decision and will likely appeal the decision. The judge involved in the case is reportedly still reviewing certain other legal issues related to the lawsuit.

California Gets U.S. Patent & Trademark Regional Office

July 18, 2012,

USPTO Image.jpgCalifornia - The U.S. Commerce Department made the announcement earlier this month that it has decided to open four regional United States Patent & Trademark Offices. The new offices will be located in Dallas, Texas, Denver, Colorado and Silicon Valley, California. These offices join the previously announced satellite office in Detroit, Michigan that is scheduled to open on July 13, 2012. According to the United States Patent & Trademark Office ("USPTO") website, the locations selected were based on significant studies that analyzed geographical diversity, regional economic impact, ability to recruit and retain employees, and the ability to engage the intellectual property community.

In September 2011, President Obama signed the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act of 2011 (AIA), which requires the USPTO to select regions for its satellite locations. This Act will also change the U.S. rights for filing patent applications from as it stands today which is a "first-to-invent" system to a "first inventor-to-file" system. The changes regarding the "first inventor-to-file" will take effect on March 16, 2013.

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank stated regarding the USPTO changes, "Intellectual property protection and innovation are engines of economic growth and the bedrock of America's private sector. The Obama administration is committed to making certain that our businesses and entrepreneurs have the resources they need to grow, create jobs and compete globally. These new offices are an historic step toward further advancing our world's best IP system, and reinforcing the United States as the number one destination for innovation capital, and research and development around the world."

The USPTO's office in Silicon Valley will not only create jobs here in California but it is also expected to positively change the economy as well. The satellite office in Silicon Valley will be located among many of its Applicant's who hold enormous intellectual property portfolios. Among the top 100 companies listed on the 2012 Fortune 500 list include companies in Silicon Valley such as Palo Alto-based Hewlett Packard (HP), Santa Clara-based Apple, and San Jose-based Cisco Systems.

David Kappos, Director of the USPTO states, "By expanding our operation outside of the Washington metropolitan area for the first time in our agency's 200-plus year history, we are taking unprecedented steps to recruit a diverse range of talented technical experts, creating new opportunities across the American workforce. These efforts, in conjunction with our ongoing implementation of the America Invents Act, are improving the effectiveness of our IP system, and breathing new life into the innovation ecosystem."

With changes such as these that aim to boost the economy, things are looking a bit brighter here in the Golden State.

California Based Apple Awarded Patent For Head-Mounted Display Device

July 12, 2012,

apple-store.jpgCalifornia - Head-mounted wearable computers are the hottest new trend electronics. Consequently, industry experts anticipate mainstream use of such devices will explode within the next five years.

In an effort to capitalize on this new trend and compete with Google's recently released similar device, Apple announced this week that it was awarded a patent for its own head-mounted display device. Patent number 8,212,859 covers technology that projects an image in front of the viewer's eyes and is designed to enhance a user's viewing experience. The user then has an augmented view of reality with a see-through image imposed on top of the real-world image. According to the patent description, Apple's device could have several small CRT, LCD or OLED displays embedded in a wearable headset incorporated into a helmet, pair of glasses, or a visor.

To capture an even larger market share for head-mounted display devices, Apple is planning on adding sophisticated app development, a possible second display, processor memory and advanced user interfaces. Originally filed back in 2006, the patent for the new technology could also possibly be utilized by heath-care professionals in day-to-day procedures. Developers claim that surgeons could use the product to display information while they operate, such as MRI imaging, CAT scans or other radiographic data. Additionally, Apple anticipates potential use for military, police and firefighters, who could use the new product to display tactical information. The headset could provide an invaluable tool for viewing maps and thermal imaging information, as well as for traditional uses like gaming or internet entertainment applications.

Much like the Apple device, Google recently developed Google Glass, a highly anticipated product utilizing computerized glasses technology. The Android-based glasses have a GPS sensor, cameras, speakers, a microphone and a processor memory. However, unlike the new Apple product, the Google Glass sits slightly above the viewer's eyes, so as to not interfere with vision. Gamers and technology experts anxiously await the introduction of both products into stores and will likely provide multiple reviews within the coming months. Samples of the products are set to be released in 2013 with mass production scheduled for 2014.

Patent Trolls Cost U.S. Companies Billions in Patent Infringement Lawsuits

July 5, 2012,

courthouse.jpgCalifornia - Trolls are well known for their appearance in fairy tales and children's books. However, trolls of a different kind, patent trolls, or non-practicing entities, are companies that buy patents with no intention of producing or manufacturing any actual products. Instead, they make money by suing companies that produce products using the patents or parts of the patent they own. A recent study from Boston University claims that patent trolls cost U.S. Companies a staggering 29 billion dollars in damages and fees per year. The study, conducted by two Boston University professors, determined that businesses suffered massive losses during the litigation from over 5,842 lawsuits filed in 2011 related to patent infringement.

Data was provided by 82 software and hardware companies and included research on small, medium and large sized companies. The study showed that small and medium sized companies bear most of the cost burden for patent litigation. Small businesses are the hardest hit because they typically do not have as much funding to devote to expensive litigation. In addition, most of the litigation was comprised of "nuisance lawsuits", that were settled for a few hundred thousand dollars, or less. Only a few of the lawsuits studied were worth millions of dollars. The authors of the B.U. report argue that the rapid growth of patent lawsuits and high court cost should trigger significant warnings for policy makers. They insist that the patent system needs major reform, and the way patent litigation is handled by the courts needs greater transparency. Furthermore, the system also needs better supervision of patent damage awards, and damages must be more proportionate to the value of the patented technology.

According to the B.U. study, costs have grown significantly for patent litigation over the last ten years. Companies spent $6.7 billion in patent infringement costs in 2005 and $12.6 billion in 2008, before that number jumped to an astonishing $29.2 billion dollars in 2011. These numbers clearly demonstrate that patent trolls cause significant losses by funneling money away from innovation, research and development and into lawsuits and litigation. As such, policy reform may be in order to help provide necessary changes to the patent system, as well as prevent needless and frivolous lawsuits.