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The Next Space Race: Reusable Rockets

September 4th, 2014

Man has already reached the new frontier, but can it now be done on a budget? The lynchpin to making space travel efficient is the ability to produce reusable rockets.

As a result, the race is on to build the new technology that would “chop tens of millions of dollars off the cost of launch,” and it has two major players. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is the leader in building this type of technology, getting as far as the testing phases, however they’re being held up in their pursuit, according to Quartz.

“[…]Someone else has the patent on this kind of technology: Blue Origin, the space exploration company founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. While the company hasn’t developed its technology as far as SpaceX, which already is launching satellites for commercial and government clients, it has been proceeding with a contract from NASA to develop a rocket-and-spacecraft combination. But before it launched a single rocket, it obtained a business method patent for a reusable launch vehicle […]”

Laura GazeLaura Gaze, Director, IP Solutions: It’s easy to understand Elon Musk’s frustration, but Bezos and his Blue Origin company were wise to file a patent on the technology. Their contract with NASA has given the Amazon chief and his company fantastic positioning, and it’s because they were first to file. Even though SpaceX is closer, Blue Origin’s protection may put them in the driver’s seat in this race to space.

Laura Gaze, Senior Marketing Manager, IP Solutions Patents , , , , ,

Facebook Buys 100 Patents To Spur Virtual Reality, Video, Speech

September 2nd, 2014

Facebook has evolved by leaps and bounds over its ten years of existence.  From humble beginnings of late-night coding binges, the college student addiction of choice has become a mainstay on every laptop, smartphone, and tablet in the world.

So what’s next? According to Forbes, the sky is the limit:

A recent analysis found that new possibilities for Facebook could range from ‘digital printing services to interactive wearable devices.’”

Laura GazeLaura Gaze, Director, IP Solutions: Peaking into a company’s patent portfolio is always a valuable tool when predicting their future. We know that Facebook has lofty goals, and it seems as though they’re ready to diversify in order to stay relevant. It’s just another great example of a company using innovation to cement their place at the top. It will be interesting to see which of these patents materialize and which direction Facebook chooses to move towards.

Laura Gaze, Senior Marketing Manager, IP Solutions Patents , , , ,

The Most Magical Drones on Earth? Disney Files Patents for Theme Park Drones

August 28th, 2014

Theme park innovation, anti-terrorism measure, or all of the above? That’s the question on the mind of Disney enthusiasts upon hearing of the news that drones could soon be flying above the Magic Kingdom.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Disney has filed three patents for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for entertainment purposes. The report says that Disney’s “Imagineers” have dreamed up new ways to bring The Disney Company’s properties to life with these aircraft usually reserved for military purposes.

“One of the applications is for a multi-drone system that would hold aloft a projection screen for a nighttime display. Such a display would utilize what Disney calls ‘flixels,’ which is an Imagineer word creation for ‘floating pixels,’ according to the background information Disney submitted.

In the second patent application, Disney said ‘the UAVs execute the flight plans to move and to position the flexible projection screens within the display air space,’ according to the patent application abstract. ‘These multiple flexible projection screens, Disney says, would have little wind resistance and offer a surface for reflecting light.’

Laura GazeLaura Gaze, Director, IP Solutions: This is an interesting development in the House of the Mouse. Earlier this year, Walt Disney World rolled out a program called MyMagic+ that takes advantage of RFID technology for everything from their Fast Pass system to room keys to credit card purchases. Now, the use of drones sounds like it will initially be focused on in-park product, but one cannot wonder what other applications they could eventually have, from security monitoring to data collection on guests utilizing the RFID technology. There are endless possibilities to Disney’s use of these UAVs, and it will be interesting to see what manifests out of the pixie dust.

Laura Gaze, Senior Marketing Manager, IP Solutions Patents , , , ,

Confirmed: Patent Trolls Inhibit Innovation

August 27th, 2014

Non-practicing entities (NPEs), or “patent trolls,” have always been accused of stifling innovation, but a no one has been able to put a monetary amount on this claim. Until now.

According to Vox: “A new study by researchers at Harvard and the University of Texas provides some insight on this question. Drawing from data on litigation, R&D spending, and patent citations, the researchers find that firms that are forced to pay NPEs (either because they lost a lawsuit or settled out of court) dramatically reduce R&D spending: losing firms spent $211 million less on R&D, on average, than firms that won a lawsuit against a troll.”

Laura GazeLaura Gaze, Director, IP Solutions: This study comes on the heels of a big settlement between Adam Carolla and a non-practicing entity, a case that nearly turned the entire broadcasting industry on its head. Now, with some concrete stats behind the claim that NPEs have an adverse impact on R&D and innovation, those leading the fight for U.S. patent reform have more ammunition to make their case against NPEs.  This is an issue we’ve seen debated for years.  As far back as 2010, we hosted a panel session entitled “Non-Practicing Entities: Patent Pirates or Stewards of Innovation,” in which a group of NPEs debated their role in the patent landscape with a group of major manufacturers.  The conversation then was very similar to the conversation we’re hearing today: some NPEs are perfectly legitimate operations that operate similar to private equity firms or venture capitalists using patents as collateral to harness the growth of new technologies.  Others are more predatory in their practices.  As this debate continues to generate global media attention, we expect to see more proposed legislation and no shortage of hand-wringing over individual cases.

Laura Gaze, Senior Marketing Manager, IP Solutions Patents , , , ,

Can the Patent Box Make or Break Pfizer’s AstraZeneca Takeover?

May 1st, 2014

The British government’s incentive program designed to convince companies to locate research-and-development teams in the U.K. may be at the center of Pfizer’s planned takeover of AstraZeneca.

“The United Kingdom has created attractive incentives for companies to manufacture products and maintain and protect intellectual property, and we have seen that capital and jobs have followed these types of incentives,” Pfizer CEO Ian Read said in a Monday-morning statement designed to woo Astra shareholders (via the WSJ).

According to the Journal:

“When the patent box has been fully phased in by 2017, it will mean qualifying companies pay 10% tax on their profits derived from U.K.-held patents, compared with the current rate of 21% (the rate will fall to 20% in April 2015) […] A combined Pfizer and AstraZeneca would be incorporated in the U.K. (but listed in New York), Mr. Read said Monday, and would therefore be better placed to take advantage of the patent-box tax break on any new drugs developed in the U.K.”

Laura GazeLaura Gaze, Director, Thomson Reuters: The incentives under this new tax regime, which companies have been navigating through for the better part of two years, seem as though they are doing exactly as they were intended. But will this new structure derail Pfizer’s plan? This is an extremely complicated deal with many moving parts, so we may not have answers to these questions for a while, but it’s clear the patent box is set to be a very significant item that may decide many corporate agendas in the years to come.

Laura Gaze, Senior Marketing Manager, IP Solutions Innovation, Patents , , , , ,

Apple-Samsung Battle Comes to the Final Stand

April 29th, 2014

Tuesday is set to be the day of reckoning in the smartphone patent wars.  That’s because Apple and Samsung’s $2 billion patent dispute is set to reach its conclusion, with closing arguments slated to wrap up the latest infringement case between the two powerhouses.

Each side will get two hours to in a San Jose courtroom, where an Apple victory would allow the iPhone maker to seek a court order barring U.S. sales of earlier models of Samsung phones equipped with Android features. Two years ago, Apple was awarded a $930 million decision over Samsung.  Despite the monetary sum, Apple failed to win an order barring sales of infringing Samsung phones.

Laura GazeLaura Gaze, Director, Thomson Reuters: The first time a decision was handed down between these two companies, it reverberated throughout the entire industry. Now, with Apple possibly being able to bar the sales of infringing phones, the entire market could stand to change. A decision for Apple would significantly shake up the landscape in this space, and it would set a precedent that could open Samsung up to even more vulnerability down the road. Stay tuned to the IP Solutions blog, where we’ll have more as the decision comes down.

Laura Gaze, Senior Marketing Manager, IP Solutions Patents , , , ,

Does New Apple Patent Hint at a Next-Gen Siri?

March 19th, 2014

According to multiple reports, Apple’s Siri feature – the automated iPhone personal assistant – may be in for an overhaul.

CNET says that a patent filed at the US Patent and Trademark Office could hint at a new Siri feature that would include sensors:

“The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on Tuesday published patent 8,677,377, ‘Method and apparatus for building an intelligent automated assistant,’ which describes what is essentially a higher-end Siri that can provide automated assistance to people in a wide array of circumstances.”

Patently Apple says the tech relies on software and a combination of sensors to identify where people are, and uses the information it gathers to track their habits and tendencies.

Laura GazeLaura Gaze, Director, IP Solutions: The future of scannable tech is based in this RFID-type of technology. Disney recently invested over a billion dollars into installing this at their theme parks, MLB will test Apple iBeacon at Citi Field in Flushing, New York this summer, and now it appears that Apple will look to continue to push this intuitive tech in the form of an enhances Siri. Of course, this has all kinds of interesting commercial applications, especially as companies look to learn more about their consumers, so this development bears significant interest.

Laura Gaze, Senior Marketing Manager, IP Solutions Patents , , , ,

Apple, Samsung Headed for Court Over Patent Dispute

February 26th, 2014

Apple and Samsung failed to agree on a settlement in their U.S. patent dispute, setting up another court battle between the two companies again in March.

According to the Wall Street Journal, executives from both companies, including Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook and Samsung Co-Chief Executive J.K. Shin, met in February with a mediator to try to settle, but they couldn’t reach an agreement. Now, Apple and Samsung will continue to fight in courts world-wide over patent infringement.

Apple initially sued Samsung in 2011, saying that the South Korean company copied the design and feel of the iPhone and the iPad, and was awarded a ruling of rough $1 billion by a federal jury. This March’s trial between the two companies involves different Apple patents, used in more-recent Samsung products, such as the Galaxy S III smartphone. The Journal says that, since the trial involves newer products that were bigger sellers, industry experts say there is a possibility of an even larger damages award, if Samsung is found to have infringed Apple’s patents.

Laura GazeLaura Gaze, Director, IP Solutions: And the beat goes on between these two companies. The failed mediation didn’t come as much of a surprise, and now Samsung stands to lose big again if Apple can prove infringement in court. We speculated all the way back in 2012 that companies would be more diligent about protecting the shape, size and technology of their smartphones, but, clearly, this continued to be an issue in the smartphone space.

Others in the industry have surely taken notice of this ongoing battle. Even some deals, such as Google’s recent sale of Motorola to Lenovo, could be seen as a distant ripple radiating from these battles between Samsung and Apple. There’s no doubt another finding for Apple could put Samsung on the ropes, but for just exactly how it would affect their operations moving forward…that’s anyone’s guess. One thing is for sure: a lot will be on the line this time around.

Laura Gaze, Senior Marketing Manager, IP Solutions Patents , , ,

INFOGRAPHIC: The Innovation Behind Olympic Skiing

February 7th, 2014

ski innovations infographicBob StembridgeBob Stembridge, Customer Relations Manager, IP Solutions: Using proprietary patent data from the Thomson Reuters Derwent World Patents Index (DWPI), analysts at Thomson Reuters took a look at the latest, patent technology around skiing – just in time for the kick off of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Starting at One O’clock going clockwise, the inventions are described below.

  • Safety is a paramount concern in all sports including those of the Winter Olympics, and a key component of that safety is delivered through helmet design. One example of the latest innovation in this area is described in US20120174294A1 to Bell Sports Inc for a helmet intended for snowboarding and skiing as well as cycling, skateboarding, motorcycling, race car driving and rock climbing. It has inner and outer protective layers, cheek pads, release strap and a pad back plate coupled to protective layer and including magnets to allow easy removal of the helmet during emergency situation.
  • There’s not much chance to check where you’re headed when you’re hurtling down the slope at speed, so the heads-up display system for use on goggles by e.g. skiers, described in US20130222213A1 to Recon Instruments Inc could be just what you need.  The system provides a head-mounted information system using an inertial navigation system (INS) sensor and a global positioning system (GPS) receiver to provide measurement of position and altitude. The system allows a display driver to maintain the display in an off state or power saving state unless a user is looking at the display.
  • Perhaps you need to phone a friend from the piste – in which case, wouldn’t it be nice not to have to take off those gloves exposing your toasty hands to the cold. The invention claimed in EP2620842A1 to Scosche Ind Inc can help.  It provides for a moisture resistant glove e.g. snow glove for operating capacitive touch sensitive devices e.g. cell phones.  It works like this: the conductive elements are extended through the moisture penetration resistant layer to permit electrical conduction from user’s hand to the touch screen device, so that the transmission of moisture between the interior and exterior portions of the gloves can be prevented efficiently.
  • Novice skiers can now keep and use the same set of skis as they learn and their proficiency increases.  US20100171288A1 to Steep N Deep LLC provides for width adjustable skis to allow the user to adjust the width of the ski depending upon skiing style, snow conditions, experience of the skier and so on.
  • Back to safety, the invention claimed in DE102011100933A1 to Moticon GmbH is an electronic ski binding device with improved user safety. The device has a trip unit which is triggered based on a signal sent by electronic device which is provided with acceleration sensor and turning rate sensor which releases the skis on detection of abnormal conditions.
  • How about a ski boot that is comfortable and effective in both walking and skiing modes? US20130097892A1 to Scott Sports SA describes just such a boot with a guide unit (44) which is connected to support unit (40), to receive and guide the mobile end of a rod. The use of the mobile guide in relation to the support facilitates movement of the leg portion without creating any problem while in operation condition thus assuring easy skiing or walking as required by conditions.
  • Perhaps you’ve misjudged the time and it’s starting to get dark?  US20120080064A1 to 3D Relief Inc can help.  The invention describes an illuminated ski pole which has a set of light sources set longitudinally around the shaft together with a power source in the handle to fire up the illumination.
  • Finally, an end to those painful and damaging encounters with your ski edges.  WO2012077236A1 to Goldwin Inc describes a ski pant which has an edge guard provided on inner thigh side of bottom portion configured as impact-absorbing structure. Since the edge guard is configured as the impact-absorbing structure made of elastic or viscoelastic shock absorbent, the edge guard does not impede user’s movement when the user is gliding using skis. The damage of bottom portion of ski pant due to the impact of the edge of ski board, is prevented by the use of edge guard.

Descriptions of the inventions listed here were summarized from the corresponding DWPI records using the DWPI value-added titles and novelty, use and advantage sections of the DWPI abstracts.

Bob Stembridge, Customer Relations Manager, Thomson Reuters Innovation, Patents

Google and Cisco Strike a Pact to Curb Non-Practicing Entities

February 7th, 2014

Google and Cisco Systems have forged a long-term patent cross-licensing agreement.

The deal, which aims to protect the companies against future lawsuits not just from each other, but by non-practicing entities as well, was announced Tuesday and covers the majority of each company’s patent portfolio. Financial terms were not disclosed. The Wall Street Journal outlined the details:

“Cisco and Google aren’t very likely to sell patents to privateers. But if for some reason they did, the deal would still bar patents covered by the cross-license from being enforced against either company, said Dan Lang, Cisco’s vice president in charge of intellectual property.”

Both companies have had extensive experience with NPEs. Google was ordered to pay a huge sum to a company called Vringo for using patents it had acquired from Lycos. Last year, Cisco sued two patent trolls and accused them of racketeering.

Laura GazeLaura Gaze, Director, IP Solutions: This isn’t a huge shock, considering Cisco and Google have been among the most vocal domestic companies in lobbying for patent reform and other measures to curb NPEs. A pact of this kind, though, is an interesting way to go about it. Whether it truly is a better solution than privateering, it’s up for debate and for history to decide,  but it speaks volumes about that need that still exists for reform.

Laura Gaze, Senior Marketing Manager, IP Solutions Patents , , , ,