California Patent Attorney® Blog

Apple's iWallet Patent Approved

March 12, 2012,

apple-logo.jpgCalifornia - Patently Apple announced Wednesday, March 7, 2012, that Apple's patent for iWallet has been approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Patently Apple reports, "Today, Apple has been granted a major iWallet patent and it's one that has never been reported on before. Apple's patent reviews credit card transaction rules and shows us that the credit card companies will be sending statements directly to your iTunes account." The iWallet patent, which first appeared in May 2010, will allow users to purchase items, set spending limits, receive credit card statements, and much more all through iTunes.

iWallet will also contain a restriction feature which will allow parents or employers to set restriction controls such as blocking certain retailers and would decline a transaction and send an email alert when such a transaction has been attempted. If a minor used the iWallet, a parent could set restrictions similar to the television or internet. For example, using iTunes a parent could block alcohol or tobacco retailers and if their child attempted to purchase an item at the blocked retailer, the parent would be sent an email notification and the purchase would be declined. This feature would also benefit an employer and employee, allowing an employer to view purchases and allow set spending limits at retailer stores such as gas stations.

The iWallet patent figures include images consisting of an iPhone screen with an application referred to as "Card Profile", where the user could go to customize their settings and input their credit card information, set billing alerts, add or remove credit cards users, etc. The iWallet feature would be located in the iTunes application under "Services".

With this exciting news, Patently Apple stated in their report "Who knows, perhaps one day Apple's iWallet will rule the world: the financial world that is." This statement may have some truth to it when it comes to ruling the world, the World Wide Web that is.

Scientists in Mexico Patent Vaccine to Prevent Heroin Addiction

March 2, 2012,

poppy_field.jpgCalifornia - A group of scientific researchers in Mexico have successfully patented a vaccine in the United States that will help reduce heroine addiction in drug users. The scientists at Mexico's National Institute of Psychiatry claim that the patented vaccine has been successfully tested on laboratory mice and will soon be tested on humans addicted to the dangerous narcotic.

Over the past decade, the country of Mexico has grappled with relentless drug-related violence as Mexican cartels compete to control the trafficking of illegal drugs into the United States. In January 2012, the Mexican government reported that 47,515 people had been murdered in drug-related violence since President Calderon began a military assault on the cartels in 2006. Mexico has also reported an increase in its own citizens addicted to the substance, with over 500,000 drug addicts, mostly along the trafficking corridors of the Mexico-U.S. border.

The vaccine which is already patented in the United States, helps reduce addiction in users by making the body resistant to the effects of heroine, so that the users would no longer receive a rush of pleasure after smoking or injecting the drug. The scientists have reportedly received funds from both the Mexican and United States government in order to continue their research and testing of the vaccine.

"It would be a vaccine for people who are serious addicts, who have not had success with other treatments and decide to use this application to get away from drugs," stated Maria Elena Medina, Mexico's National Institute of Psychiatry's director.

Currently, the most common addiction management drug treatment is Methadone. Methadone is useful in the treatment of opioid dependence and in high doses, can block the feelings of euphoria caused by taking heroin, morphine, and similar drugs. Although proven to be effective at managing addiction, many unpleasant side effects have been reported from Methadone use.

During the testing phase on the mice, the animals were given access to measured deposits of heroin given over an extended period of time. The mice that were administered the vaccine demonstrated a huge decrease in consumption of the drug, therefore giving the scientists hope that the vaccine could be effective on humans as well.

If proven successful in humans, the patented vaccine could be available in the U.S. medical market in five years. The United States National Institute on Drug Abuse is reportedly working on creating a similar vaccine, one that would treat cocaine abuse instead.

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..

California Northern District: Oracle Willing to Drop Patent Infringement Case vs. Google

January 24, 2012,

google.jpgCalifornia - In its efforts to speed up the proceedings in a copyright trial, Oracle said that it is willing to drop charges in its patent infringement lawsuit against Google. The move is intended to avoid delays so that Oracle can speed up an injunction against Google involving copyright infringement.

The injunction at issue is over Android's use of the Java technology platform. According to the complaint, filed in the Northern District of California in 2010, Google's Android operating system has been infringing on Oracle's patents and copyrights for Java. In 2009 Oracle purchased Sun Microsystems, the creator of Java. Throughout the lawsuit, Google has maintained that it had a prior licensing agreement with Sun Microsystems to use Java before the Oracle purchase.

Now, in a recent filing, Oracle is placing all bets on the copyright infringement portion of the case to ban infringing Android phones using the Java application. In a number of options laid out to the court, Oracle initially requests that the court "sever and stay" the patent infringement claims and set a trial date on the copyright claims for the near future. During the time that the jury will hear the copyright infringement claims, Oracle plans to work on coming up with a damages estimate, which has been one of the current delays in the case. At the conclusion of the copyright infringement portion of the case, the court could then re-focus on hearing the patent infringement claims.

If the court neither stays nor dismisses the patent claims, Oracle proposed another scenario that would put the trial date for both patent and copyright infringement claims in the next few months. In the recent filing, Oracle stated that it won't back down on its plan to present the so-called Lindholm email to a jury, a piece of evidence that Google has fought to prevent Oracle from showing. Lindholm's email message sent to Google engineers suggests that Google knew it needed a license from Oracle to use Java.

"What we've actually been asked to do by Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin] is to investigate what technology alternatives exist to Java for Android and Chrome," Google engineer Tim Lindholm wrote in his email. "We've been over a hundred of these and think they all suck. We conclude that we need to negotiate a license for Java," Lindholm added in his email referring to Google's co-founders.

Despite the email, Google continues to deny any wrongdoing.

Apple Wins Key Multitouch Patent

January 16, 2012,

touchscreen.jpgCalifornia - Apple now owns an important patent directly related to the way users handle multitouch products. The patent describes how a touchscreen device recognizes touch events. Specifically, it encompasses an oscillator signal and touchscreen-equipped device circuits.

In the filing, Apple states, "In general, multi-touch panels may be able to detect multiple touches (touch events or contact points) that occur at or about the same time, and identify and track their locations."

Steve Jobs alluded to this patent as one of the "200 plus Patents for new inventions" when he announced the original iPhone several years ago. The new patent rounds out Apple's patent portfolio and gives it important legal ground against infringing products such as touch-screen mobile phones and tablets. Apple obtained this patent after a decision on December 19 by the U.S. International Trade Commission resulting in a ban on HTC Android handset imports because they infringe on an Apple patent for Data Detectors.

Prior to the iPhone, most touch devices worked using a single-touch stimulation using resistive touchscreens. The pressure of a stylus or finger would connect two electrically resistive sheets separated by a gap. This action created a voltage division that would be detected by a device controller to record the change. Unfortunately, resistive displays can only recognize stimulation from a single input even though many objects could be touching a screen at once.

Apple solved this problem by generating an oscillating signal circuit to record many touches at a time. A device using this technology would be able to record and power inputs from a touchscreen. However, Apple faced difficulties in making this type of circuit precise. The Apple patent provides a solution by using a technology called calibration logic circuitry to compare the oscillation's signal to a reference signal. The patent describes a display that can sense pressure from many touches with accuracy. It can also detect near touches and recognizes them as "touch events."

The patent states that the invention applies to a wide range of computing devices like laptops, desktops, handheld devices or tablets, including mobile phones, digital music players and video players. It could also apply to public systems like ATM machines and kiosks.

M-Edge Slaps Amazon With Patent Infringement Lawsuit

January 9, 2012,

amazon.jpgCalifornia - M-Edge Accessories filed a lawsuit against Amazon for infringing on its patents for Kindle case designs by copying case designs and colors. M-Edge also alleges that Amazon engaged in unfair tactics, false advertising, intentional interference with contracts, and fraud.

The Kindle e-reader device has revolutionized the online reading experience, bringing Amazon increased revenues from e-book purchases, hardware, and related goods. M-Edge, a company well known to any Kindle-user, provides stylish jackets and cases to suit every Kindle model. In October of 2008, M-edge began to sell the Kindle jackets and paid Amazon an 8% commission. The brand proved popular with customers, who liked the array of modern designs. In February 2009, Amazon and M-Edge entered into a "Kindle Compatible" agreement, allowing M-Edge products to be featured in the Kindle Store in return for a 15% commission to Amazon. As one of Amazon's "special partners" M-Edge seemed poised to benefit from the relationship. In the beginning, the match seemed like a good fit.

The relationship began to sour in May 2009, when Amazon asked M-Edge for direct sale of its products, and M-Edge refused, citing poor terms as its reason. In January 2010, Amazon asked M-Edge to pay a 32% commission. M-Edge refused and Amazon responded by threatening to delist the company's products. In February 2010, Amazon charged M-Edge $600,000 for back payments at the 32% rate. M-Edge refused to pay Amazon. In April 2010, Amazon made a second request for a direct sales agreement. M-Edge refused to sign it because it lacked a guaranteed minimum volume.

In May 2010, Amazon requested a 25% retroactively applied fee agreement. If M-Edge didn't comply, Amazon threatened to delist M-Edge's products and to restructure its product changes so users would not be able to find M-Edge products. Amazon also threatened to restrict pre-launch access to its Kindle 3, which would prevent M-Edge from designing jackets for the launch. In July 2010, M-Edge agreed to Amazon's demands because it relied on Amazon for 90% of its sales. The same month Amazon only allowed M-Edge a day of pre-release Kindle 3 access. Then, in January 2011, Amazon demanded that M-Edge pay $150,000 for an Amazon executive salary, and requested a larger share of M-Edge sales. By March, Amazon had withheld $2 million in M-Edge payments because M-Edge did not agree to the January terms. That July, Amazon asked for a 34% commission. The following month, Amazon charged M-Edge fees for products not showing an Amazon logo. M-Edge refused to pay, stating that it had never developed the products in question. In September, Amazon excluded M-Edge from the "Amazon Approved Accessory Vendor" list, causing customers to reject M-Edge. Then Amazon demanded $953,000 in back payments. M-Edge argued that it only owed $40,000. In November, Amazon terminated the 2009 agreement with M-Edge due to "repeated failure to perform its obligations under the Agreement."

M-Edge filed suit this month with claims backed by business documents, e-mails and contracts. M-Edge seeks damages for patent-infringement and an injunction requiring Amazon to remove infringing Kindle jackets from the marketplace.

China Leads World As Top Patent Filer

January 5, 2012,

chinese_flag.jpgCalifornia - China overtook the United States and Japan as the world's top patent filer in 2011. The Chinese government offered incentives for Chinese businesses to file patent applications with the goal of turning the country from a "made in China" producer to a "designed in China" innovator.

Published applications from the patent office in China have been steadily rising an average of 16.7% each year. In 2006, China had 171,000 applications. By 2010 the number of applications had risen to 314,000, bringing China's worldwide holdings from 54% up to 58%. China may have a high filing number, but according to the World Intellectual Property Organization, or WIPO, patent applications are also up worldwide. WIPO Director General Francis Gurry cited an emphasis on a "knowledge economy" and "globalization led by U.S. and Chinese innovation" as causes of the rise.

Experts suggest that in order for the world's second largest economic power to truly become the world's innovation leader, it will also need to improve the quality of its patents. The government awarded Chinese businesses incentives for filing even if a patent was not eventually granted. As a result, high filing figures did not necessarily correlate to the patents actually granted. The number of patents granted in the United States, Japan, and certain European countries is still higher than in China.

A report by Thomson Reuters projects that published patent applications from China will total approximately half-a-million in 2015. It anticipates that the United States and Japan will produce nearly 400,000 and 300,00, respectively, that same year.

China is focusing on developing intellectual property rights in technology, automobiles and pharmaceuticals. It offers broad patent protection in most industry sectors. According to Articles 5 and 25 of Chinese Patent Law, items not patentable include inventions or creations detrimental to public interest or social morality, inventions related to certain genetic resources, certain scientific discoveries, methods for mental activities, methods for diagnosis and treatment of diseases, animal and plant varieties, substances created by nuclear processes and two-dimensional designs that serve as indicators.

Patent Lawsuits Against Google Related To Android Are Mounting

December 28, 2011,

google.jpgCalifornia - British Telecom, an England-based phone company recently filed suit against Google for its Android smartphone technology. The company claims the Android operating system infringes on six British Telecom patents.

British Telecom filed suit in a Delaware district court and claims that Google Search, Google Maps, Google Music, Android Market, Google Plus, and Adwords infringe on its patents. Adwords, Google's location-based advertising, accounts for a large proportion of its revenues. The damages British Telecom seeks will likely amount to billions of dollars. British Telecom claims some counts should be trebled due to deliberate and willful infringement. In addition, British Telecom seeks injunctions against the sale of infringing products, possibly resulting in Android phones being pulled from store shelves in the United States.

The first patent encompasses a technology allowing Google Music to signal to a user that a certain music service is available depending on the user's location and hot spot connectivity. The second patent allows Google Maps to convey current information such as data about tourism, public transport, and traffic via a handheld device. The third patent is based on user preferences and relates to several Google applications such as Google Maps and Google Search. The fourth patent relates to customer data storage and digital rights, such as user profiles stored on Google's servers that users can access through the Android phone. The fifth patent covers the method by which Google Maps provides users with driving and walking routes. The sixth patent encompasses location-based information used by Google Maps and Google Maps Navigation.

Google also faces patent infringement allegations from Oracle. Android producers Samsung and HTC face suits from Apple and Microsoft. If these suits are successful, Google may have to pay royalties for each Android phone produced and sold. Android phones currently account for forty percent of the company's sales, and 500,000 new phones are activated each day.

Apple Claims Smartphone Infringement, Deals Blow to HTC

December 27, 2011,

apple-logo-gray.jpgCalifornia - The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) ordered a ban on HTC handset imports to the United States in a final ruling this week. The ban will take effect on April 19, 2012 allowing wireless carriers to modify their plans.

Apple initially claimed that HTC infringed on several of its patents, but the commission focused on a single patent involved with detecting data. The patent, number 5,946,647, encompasses a "system and method for performing an action on a structure in computer generated data," and was granted in 1999. The technology allows a smartphone user to tap on a recognizable format such as an address or phone number from an e-mail or a website. The phone immediately locates the address on a map or dials the phone number.

Under the ban, the HTC Corporation will still be allowed to import refurbished mobiles to satisfy warranties. The patent will affect a small part of overall phone function and HTC may remove the feature from infringing phones without rendering the entire phone unusable. Other phones may also be affected by the ban.

This ruling is the latest in a larger dispute involving the ITC and federal courts, encompassing HTC and other phone makers who are accusing each other of stealing technology. Apple wants the courts to award damages, and the commission to block imports of infringing products.

HTC is a Taiwan based company with offices in Bellevue, Washington. It developed the G1, the first Android smartphone, and built a market share featuring the company's unique Sense user interface. In an earlier October ruling, the ITC held that the Apple iPhone did not violate four HTC patents. It is the first Android supporting company Apple has targeted, foreshadowing possible future litigation due to a growing threat of Google software affecting the iPhone market.

European Commission Investigating Alleged Patent Ambush By Honeywell And Dupont

December 20, 2011,

automobile.jpgCalifornia - The European Commission is opening an investigation against Dupont Co. and Honeywell International Inc. into whether they concealed patents and patent applications necessary to develop automobile refrigerant, known as Solstice 1234yf, during the development of standards pertaining to that technology. Honeywell and Dupont jointly developed an automobile refrigerant for air conditioning systems for all new cars sold in the European Union (EU) beginning in 2017, replacing the previously-used ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) refrigerant. As the sole providers of this refrigerant, EU antitrust regulators are investigating whether Honeywell and Dupont entered into anti-competitive arrangements over the joint development, licensing, and production of the refrigerant.

Further, EU regulators are also investigating Honeywell after receiving complaints of deceptive conduct with regards to Honeywell's business practices. Honeywell has been accused of not disclosing patents and patent applications to the Society of Automobile Engineers when developing the standards for the automobile refrigerant and failing to grant licenses on fair and reasonable terms.

Complainants allege Honeywell has committed a patent ambush which occurs when a company withholds relevant information to a standard-setting organization creating a standard in favor of the withholding company. Any company wishing to license the productwould have to pay a substantial royalty, effectively creating a barrier to entry into the market.

French company Arkema filed a complaint with EU regulators in April, 2011 arguing that Honeywell and Dupont did not engage in fair and reasonable negotiations for licensing the automobile refrigerant. Arkema said in a statement, "Arkema will continue to fully collaborate to the investigation which purpose of which is to clarify the legal environement related to Honeywell andDupont`s patents."

EU Competition [Antitrust] Commissioner Joaquin Almunia stated, he wanted to make sure that intellectual property rights "are used to reward inventions and motivate innovation and not as tools to foreclose access for expansion in markets."

Honeywell's spokesperson Peter Dalpe, maintains that the company's actions were compliant with the law and that "the Commission will conclude that we acted in full compliance with European Union competition rules." Dupont also contends that its actions complied with the law and that they will cooperate with the investigation.

If found in violation of European antitrust laws, Honeywell and Dupont could be fined up to 10 percent of yearly sales or required to change business practices that harm competition.

Granted Amazon Patent that Predicts Your Movements Has Marketing Purposes

December 15, 2011,

escalator.jpgCalifornia - Amazon was recently granted a patent that allows them not only to track where users have recently been but predict where they may go in the future. The system analyzes the past and current locations of the user, and based on this information, it predicts a likely next destination of the user.

Next, it communicates this next likely destination to marketers who then can relay advertising content to the user whether via their mobile device or flashing billboards. The ads that appear will be based on the demographics of the user. To ensure maximum visibility, the ads will also take into account the speed and mode of travel of the user so advertising appears at the expected time the user reaches a given marketing point. For example, if you are a middle-aged parent walking in a mall and you have already passed by one portion of a mall, ads might start popping up on your phone for stores that sell children's clothing or home goods that you have yet to pass. Information of where the user comes from and is likely to go next could be stored in a database and better predict where others may go in the future for more targeted marketing.

While Amazon's purpose is to better target ads and coupons to the user, at what point does infringing on a person's right to privacy become worth the savings of a coupon? Amazon has yet to release information that allows users to block this information or even more specifically, block ads from companies and stores they wish not to patronage.

Further, another major cause of concern for users is the vulnerability of this information being accessed from individuals who would wish to cause harm to the user. With the continually increase in data theft and phone hacking, criminals or stalkers could gain access to this sensitive marketing data and hone in on a victim's future location. Amazon will have to invest in highly sophisticated encrypting software to protect the integrity of the information and calm user's concerns.

European Union moves closer to a unitary patent system

December 5, 2011,

european-union.jpgCalifornia - Members of the European Parliament (EMPs) are in the process of negotiating an agreement to establish a unified patent system where a single patent could be filed in the European Union (EU) for participating nations. On December 5, 2011, the EMPs' Legal Affairs Committee approved a mandate to set up negotiations on creating a unitary patent system, a standardized language scheme, and a unified patent court. If an agreement can be finalized, then the measure must next be approved by the European Parliament, as well as 25 out of the 27 European member nations for it to go into effect (Italy and Spain have formally objected to the unified patent system measure and have opted out from being bound). If approved, the new patent system is expected to go into effect by 2014.

It is widely anticipated that a unified patent system would make the EU patent process more financially competitive with its counterparts in the United States and Japan. If established, it is expected that a unified patent system would cut costs for filing a patent in the EU by 80% and avoid the legal difficulties of obtaining and defending a patent in various nations with differing national patent laws and court systems. It has been estimated that the average cost of obtaining a European-wide patent under the current system is about $42,000 while the average cost for the same patent in the US is estimated at $10,000.

Currently, to obtain patent protection in the EU, an applicant must file a patent application in each individual country in which they seek protection and obtain a translation of the application into each country's native language, increasing the costs of the patent application. EMPs have put forth a proposal where an applicant could initially file an application in any official language recognized in the EU. However, once the patent is granted, it will only be published ineither English, French or German and then, only translated into the remaining two languages that it was not initially published in. For example, a patent application filed in Greece in the Greek language, if granted, could initially be published in English, and then only available in German and French translations.

Establishing a unified patent court poses more difficulties for negotiators in resolving how the court will be financed, what language the court would operate in, and the operable statute of limitations for patent holders to bring matters before such unified patent court or in an EU member national court. Along these lines, the Polish presidency of the Council of Ministers stated "In order to ensure legal certainty for patent holders and third parties, in particular alleged infringers and the workability of the system creating the European patent with unitary effect, the establishment of a unified patent litigation system is essential. It is therefore necessary that the ratification of the draft agreement takes place and Court becomes fully operational as soon as possible."

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.