For every useful patent filed, there is another patent filed that leaves members of the USTPO scratching their heads. One example of a relatively useless patent was filed by McDonald’s, entitled the ”Method and Apparatus for Making a Sandwich.”
The 55 page application details every aspect of sandwich making. It covers the “simultaneous toasting of a bread component,” and heating a “meat and/or cheese filling.” It also says the company has invented a “sandwich assembly tool” to add garnishes and condiments.
McDonald’s states that by owning the “intellectual property rights,” it would help make the sandwiches at all of their restaurants look and taste the same. Also, the patent would help make service more efficient by cutting down the time to make a sandwich. One must wonder if the same couldn’t be accomplished by an extensive memo, rather than a patent.
Who knows exactly what companies McDonalds plans to go after with this patent. But, restaurant owners need not panic. Since the patent is only an application, it is not enforceable.
In what many are calling a publicity stunt, Leader Technologies has filed a suit against Facebook for patent infringement. The patent in question relates to a “method and system for the management and storage of electronic information.” By filing the suit, Leader is seeking damages and an injunction against Facebook, for its “willful infringement” of the patent.
Based in Columbus, Ohio, Leader offers for-pay services such as a web conference service, where you can upload and share documents. They gained some fame as they supported the entire State of Louisiana disaster recovery after Hurricane Katrina. Yet, Leader does not provide a social networking service, so it remains unclear as to why Leader decided to sue Facebook. It may have made more sense to sue Google, as Gmail’s system of ”labels” associate a piece of data with multiple categories.
In addition to the weak substance of the case, many are questioning the motives behind the suit since Leader sent out a press release of the suit before notifying Facebook. Such actions have led some to conclude that this lawsuit may not have a bright future for Leader.
Sharp Corporation has released that they have come to terms with Nichia Corporation in a patent cross-licensing agreement. The agreement concerns LEDs (light emiting diodes) and laser diodes, which Sharp claims, is a strong candidate for the next generation of lighting devices. More importantly, the agreement also grants the rights for the respective companies to develop products using LEDs without the threat of litigation from the other.
The related patents in the licensing agreement cover blue-violet laser diodes, which are becoming very popular in the Blu-ray disc format. LEDs are also used in a variety of electronics such as backlighting for PDAs, mobile phones, as well as LCD TVs and displays.
Sharp claims that, “by entering into this cross-licensing agreement, Sharp and Nichia will be aiming to create even higher-performance LEDs and laser diodes, enabling the two companies to respond to rapidly expanding market demand.”
To many of us, the names Dominic Kotab and Kevin Zilka do not ring a bell. If you are part of a major corporation, however, those names may seem all too familiar. Kotab and Zilka are patent lawyers who have been working in the law since the 1990′s. They are principals of Zilka-Kotab P.C., and three patent-holding companies – Aloft Media, LLC; Azure Networks, LLC; and Stragent, LLC.
Within the past 9 months, Kotab and Zilka have filed 9 lawsuits against 20 companies, using 8 different patents. They have already sued Microsoft 5 times, naming a total of 41 defendants. Last week they filed a suit against Google, claiming that Google’s Chrome browser infringed on one of their patents. Google – which saw an 800% increase in patent litigation last year - is certainly a veteran when it comes to litigation, but companies may need to start to worrying about Kotab and Zilka.
Although the full list of suits filed by this duo are available at The Prior Art, here are some highlights from this past year:
- Feb. 22nd: Aloft Media sues Microsoft twice in the same day. Once over a patent which Zilka prosecuted for a client but bought in 2007, and once over a data networking idea used by MSN explorer.
- April 8th: Aloft sues nine companies, for allegedly infringing a patent they bought related to weather monitor systems.
- June 25th: Aloft sues Yahoo, AT&T, and AOL over a patent that was also asserted against Adobe and Microsoft.
- Sept 9th: Stragent sues Microsoft and Ford Motor Co., by claiming that Microsoft’s voice-activated media player infringes on a patent Zilka bought from Voice Demand in 2007. It was issued in 2008, the same day the suit was filed.
- October 10th: Azure Network sues Nokia over two purchased patents.
Are these two patent trolls in disguise? Or just little guys taking on big corporations?
141 years ago today, Alfred Nobel received the patent for dynamite. Nobel started working in Paris with Ascanio Sobrero, the inventor of nitroglycerine. Intrigued by the powerful nature of this substance, Nobel realized the potential for nitroglycerine to be used as a construction tool. Nobel continued his work for several years and in 1860, he designed a detonator for the substance.
Nobel did run into his fair share of obstacles, including the death of his brother in 1864 from a nitroglycerine accident. Undeterred, Nobel continued his work to improve the substance and to make it more stable. In 1866, Nobel found that the addition of kieselguhr stabilized the substance significantly, while also making it pliable. On November 25th, 1867, Nobel received the patent for dynamite, but his work did not stop there. He continued to improve the substance, eventually combining it with gun-cotton as well as potassium nitrate to make it even more powerful.
Although dynamite may have developed a negative connotation as a result of its use in warfare, it did have an immediate impact after its initial patent. The construction of bridges, tunnels, and other projects became much safer and easier, while also reducing the costs of these public works.
Rumors of a Playstation 3 motion control remote are no more – they are fact. A recent patent filing has confirmed that Sony has developed a controller that includes advanced features and functionality, which are currently impossible with the Wii remote, or Wii’s upcoming 1:1 MotionPlus add-on. This technology includes PlayStation Eye tracking, and “ultrasonic” waves to track a player in 3-D space, GamePro reports.
The patent filing, which was research by GameIndustry.biz, states:
Game interface tracks the position of one or more game controllers in a 3-dimensional space using hybrid video capture and ultrasonic tracking system. The captured video information is used to identify a horizotal and vertical position for each controller within a capture area. The ultrasonic tracking system analyzes sound communications to determine the distances between the game system and each controller.
It’ll be interesting to see what type of impact this patent has on the Wii. While there might not be much impact, it’s possible that Wii might be in trouble if the motion control remote is utilized by other gaming systems.
RPX, a San Francisco start-up, was recently launched with the intent of acquiring patents to shield technology companies from costly lawsuits. As The Wall Street Journal reports, RPX hopes to keep patents out of the hands of “patent trolls,” who obtain patents for the sole purpose of suing companies for royalties or licensing fees.
RPX is being financed by two venture capital firms, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers and Charles River Ventures. While RPX plans to sell membership fees based on a company’s yearly revenue, it is reported that they have already negotiated deals with IBM and Cisco Systems Inc.
So far, RPX has spent $40 million on 150 patents, and they currently have 60 more applications. However, some worry if this start-up is truly a worthwhile venture. RPX has reported that they plan on spending $100 million during their first 12 months, and quick math suggests they have spent roughly $190,000 on each patent they already own. With all of this money being thrown around, one may wonder if RPX will be out of money before they can put a sizeable dent in the patent troll problem.
After a very successful quarter, where Apple sold 6.9 million 3G iPhone units, Apple is being brought back down to earth by Elliott Gottfurcht. The West Los Angeles resident and his company, EMG Technology LLC, has filed a lawsuit against Apple, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Part of the iPhone’s success is due in part to its famous interface. Users can tap the screen to zoom in and reformat a Web page to bring it into focus. However, EMG possesses a patent that covers “the simplified interface of reformatted mobile content to provide optimum viewing and navigation with single touches on a small screen.” That patent was originally filed in November of 1999, but was granted this past October. EMG did not approach Apple to offer a license to use its technology before it filed the lawsuit, a move which often precedes patent litigation.
Apple has faced other lawsuits that have targeted the iPhone in the past. One in particular is a suit they settled with Klausner Technologies, who claimed the iPhone infringed on certain voicemail features. Meanwhile, EMG was only established this month and has no business other than the patent at issue.
Patents are not always limited to sports equipment. Sometimes, they involve actual sports motions as well. In a recent patent titled “Putting Method and Apparatus,” a new type of putting stroke is suggested that relies on resting a hand on your inner thigh. As Golf-Patents.com reports:
An improved putting method and apparatus include an improved putter and a swinging stance of specific features. The improved putter includes a putter head, a shaft and a handle. The putter head is attached to one end of the shaft and the handle is formed on the other end of the shaft. The handle includes a gripping portion, which is terminated with a substantially spherical ball. The elements of the swinging method include resting a back of one hand against a leg thigh; placing the substantially spherical ball into the palm of the one hand; grasping the spherical ball with the fingers and thumb of the one hand; grasping the gripping portion with the other hand; and retracing an arcuate path to strike the golf ball. Preferably, the one hand is closest to the target. The putter head is preferably swung parallel to the ground.
Although this patent offers a unique way of putting, odds are we will not see Tiger demonstrating it anytime soon. However, will it be able to convert some of those higher handicaps?
Research In Motion – the maker of BlackBerry smartphones – has filed a court challenge against Eastman Kodak Co., the Canadian Press reports. In its filing, Research In Motion described the suit as a defensive move by stating that it has “an objectively reasonable apprehension” that Kodak will file a suit for infringement on four patents. In August 2007, Kodak wrote a letter to RIM that the BlackBerry Peal 8100, BlackBerry 8700, and Blackberry 8800 series infringed on Kodak patents of image capture, a method for previewing, as well as data storage and compression.
Meanwhile, Eastman Kodak Co. already has suits against South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co., and LG Electronics Inc. Most of these lawsuits stem from the fact that Kodak now has over 1,000 digital imaging patents, and today’s digital cameras rely on this patented technology.