According to iPodNN, one of the new patents is for an iPod dock to fit in a car’s cup holder. This patent would create a solid mount in a car for the iPod, while also having the ability to charge the device. The patent was filed in 2005, and there seems to be many different iPod chargers that resemble this filing, making it unlikely that this patent will end up on the market.
The company also patented two industrial designs already in use, one for the outdated iPod shuffle as well as a USB connector cable to iPods and iPhones. Lastly, Apple was also granted a patent that describes special circuitry in a power supply. This device would be used to control the deliver of power to other devices, and trigger a shutdown in case of any serious errors.
Due to the current economic recession, many have speculated that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will face significant budget problems for the remainder of this year. Yesterday, the acting director of the USPTO, John Doll, confirmed that the Office is currently facing budget problems as they are currently projecting a 2% drop in applications, reported Reuters.
Doll stated that the projected 2% drop stems from the early trends of 2009. But some have told the USPTO that the decrease in applications could actually reach 10% for the year, as well as a similar drop in fees for other services that the USPTO provides.
The budget problems are particularly troubling for the USPTO, since the government agency has had to announce a hiring freeze and stop recruiting examiners. These budgest problems complicate the USPTO’s current effort to clear a tremendous backlog of patent applications.
“We’ve stopped hiring at this time. If we closed our doors today, it would take us almost two years to clear out our backlog,” said Doll.
Earlier today, Ryogen LLC announced that the USPTO has awarded the company two patents on human genes. According to a press release, the two patents can help obtain coded proteins to be used in treating pathological disoders.
One of the patents is titled, “Isolated genomic polynucleotide fragments that encode human lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2,” while the other is named “Isolated genomic polynucleotide fragments encoding human resistin and the human syntaxin binding protein 2.” In a press release, Dr. James Ryan, the Chief Scientist of Ryogen, said:
The claimed genes are directed to proteins, which are thought to play important roles in serious human diseases. Human lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2 is one of the enzymes that can initiate synthesis of proinflammatory mediators. The enzyme appears to play a central role in the development of atherosclerosis and is regarded as an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease. Its level has been found to be altered in patients with systemic lupus erythematosis, stroke and asthma. Resistin is involved in regulation of insulin effects and is believed to provide a link between obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Human syntaxin binding protein is disposed largely in placenta, lung, liver, kidney, peripheral lymphocytes and pancreas. It plays a role in vesicular transport in non-neuronal tissues.
Ryogen claims that they will license these patents to make these genes available for research.
Back in 2007, The Washington Post reported that if the agency shut its doors to catch up on the backlog of applications, it would take their 5,500 examiners at least two years, and countless cups of coffee to catch up.
Keeping up with the demand for patents is critical, as innovation and technological progress drive our economy. Earlier this year, researchers launched a “peer-to-patent” pilot project. Some have suggested that the addition of a social networking patent site could make the peer-to-patent program extremely efficient.
Obviously such a site would not mirror MySpace or Facebook, but the idea of a social network for patents could solve the time-consuming process of searching for prior art. This necessary process can help determine whether or not the claims made in a patent are original, or if they have already entered the public domain. If the claims of a patent are found quickly in prior art, a patent examiner can promptly move on to the next claim.
While the specifics of such a system would have to be planned out rather carefully, it could vastly improve the amount of time it takes an examiner to search through prior art. Unfortunately, since the USPTO has yet to make a presence on other social networks, such a change is still nowhere in the foreseeable future.
In a recent study conducted by U.S. intellectual property firm Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti, it was found that 928 clean energy patents were granted during the last quarter of 2008. Of that number, over 500 of those patents were related to fuel cells. According to Platinum Today, several automakers contributed to the final figure for fuel cells: Honda (49), General Motors (48), Toyota (23), and Nissan (19).
The report also said that the number of patents have been growing steadily since the company began compiling data in 2002, with small declines in 2007 and the first quarter of 2008.
Furthermore, wind, hydroelectric, tidal and geothermals power all saw a rise in filings, according to the study. But solar, biofuel, and electric and hybrid tranportation patents have recently decreased.
In 1959, the Antarctic Treaty was signed to make all scientific findings on the continent freely shared. The treaty intended to set the continent aside for peace and science, and defuse any bigger territorial claims during the Cold War. Half a century into the agreement, however, more and more companies are trying to file patents on Antarctic organisms or molecules, putting significant strain on the treaty.
As reported by Reuters, the treaty states that “Scientific observations and results from Antarctica shall be exchanged and made freely available.” It also says that all plans for scientific programs should be exchanged in advance to ensure efficiency and economy.
Yet, some argue that the treaty lacks clear rules for prospecting for animals and plants on the continent. “Biology is going through a revolution…it’s a tricky situation,” said Jose Retamales, head of the Chilean Antarctic Institute. He added, “The world has changed. Now we are talking about different things – things you do not even see.”
The attraction of the continent is that it separated from South America more than 30 million years ago, and life has evolved with very few outside influences. Therefore, more and more companies are looking to Antarctica, as the continent’s organisms have evolved interesting characteristics, such as conserving energy and surviving in a deep freeze. Much of the research involves studying cells, but companies are also very interested in Antarctica since advances in genetic technologies are making “bioprospecting” easier.
Two of the companies that are currently utilizing bioprospecting on the continent are Unilever, and French cosmetics group, Clarins. Unilever currently has a patent based on an anti-freeze protein found in a bacteria that may help keep ice cream smooth. Meanwhile, Clarins uses algae from Antarctica in a face cream.
Many are concerned that corporate involvement in Antarctica might delay publications of key scientific findings until the patent applications are filed. Yet, one idea to help innovation and research on the continent would be to impose a tax on the profits that are made from Antarctica-based products. The money would then be put towards poorer countries that are conducting research on the continent. However, one wonders if corporate-heavy countries such as the U.S. and Japan would be as gung ho on any regulations that could restrict corporate access.
The parties of the treaty plan to debate the issues at an annual meeting commemorating “50 years of peace and science” in Baltimore from April 6-17.
As reported by iPhone FAQ, the first patent is an audio jack cleaning adaptor for portable electronic devices. The patent basically describes a method of cleaning that would force compressed air through a conduit and hollow channels in the plug, to displace lint and other debris. “A consumer could place the adaptor plug in the jack, couple the conduit to the plug, and then apply compressed air through the conduit to clean the jack.”
Apple has also filed a patent that proposes an audio sensor which would adjust sound output based on ambient noise. Some have speculated that this patent would be similar to the automatic brightness sensor on the current iPhone. As Apple states, “For instance, a user who adjusts the volume of a mobile phone ring tone for a loud environment may later move to a quieter environment, where the loud ring will be disruptive. Alternatively, a volume level which is optimized for a quiet environment may not be detectable if the associated device is moved to a louder environment.”
Although this patent sounds good in theory, it seems as if iPhones may soon be more aware of our surroundings than we are.
Drawing upon Barack Obama’s message of service above self, Raj Abhyanker, founder of Ray Abhyanker LLP, is trying to bring new technologies to the market by creating an added incentive – free U.S. patent protection and legal services for Clean Tech & Green-Energy startups.
According to the Law Firm’s recent press release, it does say that only individuals and self-funded American companies, who also have a genuine desire to build a scalable business, will be considered for the program. Companies will have to apply and be interviewed to be accepted in the program, and selection to receive the free legal services will be based on a number of factors, including the strength of the technology. As Raj Abhyanker said:
Energy usage and the environment are two issues that Obama speaks of that have a personal resonance with me. Having been both a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and patent attorney, I shall offer entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists, and self-funded small businesses a helping hand to extend my experience and expertise in intellectual property protection, corporate formation, and venture capital fundraising.
Raj Abhyanker is a 25-attorney law firm which represents clients in IP, patent applications, and high technology transactions. They have offices in California, India, and China.
On Inauguration Day, it is only fitting that we take time to examine the potential changes that President Barack Obama may make to the USPTO. Although it is definitely not his top priority, Obama has shared sentiments that would lead one to believe that reforming the patent system will at least be on his “to do” list. One such quote is when he said, “If we really want our children to become the great inventors and problem-solvers of tomorrow, our schools shouldn’t stifle innovation, they should let it thrive.”
According to his website, Obama will appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Yet, that’s not the only change that the USPTO might see under Obama’s Administration. As Obama remarked during his campaign:
Giving the USPTO the resources to improve patent quality and opening up the patent process to citizen review will reduce the uncertainty and wasteful litigation that is currently a significant drag on innovation. With better informational resources, the USPTO could offer patent applicants who know they have significant inventions the option of a rigorous and public peer review that would produce a “gold-plated” patent much less vulnerable to court challenge. Where dubious patents are being asserted, the USPTO could conduct low-cost, timely administrative proceedings to determine patent validity.
Will the sheer volume of patent applications allow for peer review? Also, while peer review may be effective in granting legitimate patents, will it lengthen the waiting period before a patent is finally issued? Would a peer review system even be efficient? What do you think?
IBM has announced that it earned 4,186 U.S. patents in 2008, becoming the first ever company to earn more than 4,000 U.S. patents in a single year. According to CNNMoney, the total number of 2008 patents granted to IBM exceeds the combined issuances of Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Apple, EMC, Accenture, and Google.
This is the 16th straight year that IBM has led in U.S. patents issuances. Yet, while announcing their number of patents, IBM also announced that they plan on increasing the number of technical inventions they publish annually by 50%. IBM plans on publishing these inventions instead of seeking patent protection. This decision will make their inventions freely available to others, but IBM will still continue to seek patents and protect its intellectual property. Officials at IBM believe that their planned increase in publishing inventions will increase the build of a new, smarter infrastructure. IBM looks to help realize this goal by pledging not to assert certain patent rights in order to increase innovation.
IBM researchers will also join a project aimed at developing a Patent Quality Index to address the issue of low-quality patents. The goal is to improve the patent system by establishing empirical, objective metrics that can be used to determine the clarity of claims as well as the quality of prior art cited.
“Improving patent quality must become an essential priority and we believe the application of advanced data analytics can help create an empirical measure for what has previously been a subjective evaluation,” said Dr. Rick Lawrence, manager of Predictive Modeling for IBM Research.