In February, Yahoo officially launched the sale of its core business, and despite their struggles, they could be sitting on a treasure trove of intellectual property.
The New York Post, citing intellectual property experts, says Yahoo could reap between $3 and $4 billion just from the sale of its patent portfolio.
“The potential patent gold mine is also attractive to bidders involved in the auction for the company. Yahoo has set a deadline of April 11 to submit preliminary bids for its Web business and Asian assets,” writes Claire Atkinson of the Post. “But it’s unclear which patents Yahoo would sell as part of a non-core deal and which it might retain as part of the sale of the core business — making Yahoo’s own evaluation of its patents fuzzy.”
We saw something similar happen with Eastman Kodak. Murmurs were that Kodak’s patent portfolio would reap billions (Kodak estimated between $2.2 and $2.6 billion). It ended up selling for only $527 million. So it’s fair to say that a wait-and-see approach is required here. But if Yahoo can fetch this much for their portfolio, it would certainly speak volumes on a number of levels.
First, it would say something about their ability to innovate, even while Google has gained so much of their market share. But it also speaks to the value of technology patents in an increasingly-litigious IP landscape. Whoever acquires Yahoo’s patents knows that they’re also acquiring the peace of mind knowing that one less competitor is out there ready to file a patent suit against them. And when the stakes are as high as judgments in the hundreds of millions-to-billions, that’s a very valuable asset to have.
Samsung is taking the definition of capturing an image with the mind’s eye quite literally.
According to SamMobile, the technology company was recently granted a patent in South Korea for contact lenses that are “equipped with a tiny display, a camera, an antenna, and several senders that detect movement in the most basic form of input using your eyes: blinking.”
“According to the application, the primary reason for the development of smart contact lenses is the limited image quality that can be achieved with smart glasses,” SamMobile’s Michael G writes. “Lenses can provide a more natural way to provide augmented reality than smart glasses, though we can imagine the privacy debate will reach entirely new heights when cameras are essentially hidden in contact lenses.”
Google has also been working on smart contact lenses. Samsung’s patent was originally filed in 2014.
It’s an interesting application to be sure, though the relative failure of Google Glass should leave some wondering if this idea has any legs in the consumer market. More likely, this seems like something that is far better suited for commercial or even military applications. That could be what Samsung is going for. After all, imagine the possibility of licensing this technology to the Department of Defense, who could equip every solider and operative with the ability to capture images and intel out in the field in real time simply by blinking. That in and of itself would make the patent worth its weight in gold.
Time will tell exactly how this technology will be utilized, but it could end up being a big win for Samsung.
The patent for the Jeep recently turned 75 years old.
Issued on April 7, 1942, United States Patent No. 2,278,450 is titled “Military vehicle body,” according to the IP Watchdog. The patent itself describes the versatility we’ve come to know Jeeps for, showing just how visionary it was at the time it was conceived.
“One of the principal objects of the invention is to provide a convertible small car body so arranged that a single vehicle may be interchangeably used as a cargo truck, personnel carrier, emergency ambulance, field beds, radio car, trench mortar unit, mobile anti-aircraft machine gun unit, or for other purposes.”
It’s fascinating to see how the Jeep, largely in its original form, has stood the test of time. Recently, the automotive industry has reached a patenting renaissance of its own. Ford is churning out intellectual property hand over fist, and of course, the development of autonomous vehicles has led us down an entirely new rabbit hole when it comes to car patents. It makes one wonder: can anyone patent automotive technology in 2016 that will hold up as well as the Jeep patent?
Hologram projection has been the holy grail for sci fi fans ever since R2-D2 projected a grainy image of Princess Leia’s plea for help in Star Wars. A recently-published patent, may finally make the 39-year old promise a reality.
The USPTO recently published 51 newly-granted patents for Apple, chief among them includes a “Autostereoscopic Projection Display.”
According to Patently Apple, the user of this technology would be able to view 3D images without the use of glasses, goggles, or other personally-worn physical viewing aids. From the report:
“Apple notes that the positions of one or more observers can also be tracked in real time so that the 3D images that are being projected to the observers can be continually customized to each observer individually. The real time positional tracking of the observer(s) also enables 3D images having realistic vertical as well as horizontal parallax. In addition, each 3D image can be adjusted according to the observers’ individually changing viewing positions, thereby enabling personally customized and individuated 3D images to be viewed in a dynamic and changeable environment. Further, the positional tracking and positionally responsive image adjustment enable synthetization of true holographic viewing experiences.”
This has the potential to be a game changer. Social media channels like Periscope and Snapchat have made both live and pre-recorded 2D broadcasting so ubiquitous that you could imagine the applications 3D hologram projection could take on.
So could we soon see this tech on stage at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference? Probably not for some time, but it seems like it’s definitely on the way.
The Garden State is trying to crack down on non-practicing entities (NPEs), sometimes referred to pejoratively as patent trolls.
A bill pending in the Trenton legislature seeks to make it tougher for NPEs to prevail in court. If enacted, the new legislation will identify a list of factors that a court may consider as evidence that a plaintiff has made a bad faith assertion of patent infringement.
According to the Bergen County Record, among these factors are a failure by the plaintiff to “conduct an analysis comparing the claims in the patent” to the targeted firm’s products, services or technology. Another factor cited as a red flag is an analysis that fails to identify specific areas covered by the patent.
Patent lawyers questioned whether the bill would have much of an impact, with some telling the Record that it would only serve to clog up the courts with more litigation.
Business owners have to think it’s worth a shot, though. A good chunk of a state’s infrastructure is the health of their homegrown research and technology, which leads to in-state jobs and overall wealth. If it becomes easier for practicing entities to patent their technology in New Jersey, there’s a good chance it will have a correlation in keeping more people at work. Finding the most effective way to keep NPEs at bay has been a key focus of patent legislation for years. It may take some trial and error and New Jersey is the latest to step into the breach.
Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and several other Democrats want the Obama administration to hold a public hearing to determine whether the National Institutes of Health should override the patent on a prostate cancer drug in an effort to drive down prices.
The medicine, sold by Astellas Pharma, has an average wholesale price in the US of more than $129,000, about three-to-four times more than what other high-income countries are paying, according to Union for Affordable Cancer Treatment and Knowledge Ecology International.
According to STAT, advocacy groups believe that government’s involvement in the development of the drug gives them the right to intervene to make the drug more affordable.
“The move comes two months after consumer advocacy groups asked the NIH to override the price of Xtandi, because the medicine is much more expensive in the United States than elsewhere,” wrote STAT’s Ed Silverman. “Their rationale: Federally funded research was used to develop the drug, so federal authorities have a right to intervene.”
This is a tough call for the administration. On one hand, they’ve shown resistance to interfere in this dispute, rejecting requests from Congressional Democrats who urged the HHS and NIH to develop guidelines that would require drug makers to license their patents and put a lid on “price gouging.” But on the other, federal law does give an agency that funds private research the latitude to require a drug maker to license its patent to “alleviate health and safety needs which are not being reasonably satisfied.” Lack of an access to affordable prostate cancer drugs could certainly qualify under that language, so this one bears watching to see which side the administration falls down on.
Non-practicing entities (NPEs) just will not stop bringing suit against Apple and Samsung.
According to Fortune,
citing a recently-published patent study, Samsung (64 cases) and Apple (57) are the most-sued defendants in patent-related suits in 2015. The top-10 plaintiffs were all NPEs, also known as patent trolls.
It’s hard to blame NPEs for trying. VirnetX, an NPE, just won a $625 million verdict over Apple last month. And the way Apple and Samsung have taken on each other shows that the two companies are each susceptible to ongoing litigation.
While there was a downward trend toward the end of 2015, patent litigation is still a major problem for technology companies, and it will continue to haunt Apple and Samsung until they make sure their portfolio is bulletproof. That’s not an easy thing to do, but with the incredible volatility that exists in the form of multi-million loses in open court, one would assume that these companies will spare no expense in trying to stay one step ahead of NPEs.
Say, “Charge me”? It could be the new refrain in the world of mobile payment.
Amazon has filed a patent to allow customers to pay by selfie — but only after they do something that proves they’re a real person and not a photo, such as blinking or smiling.
Elizabeth Weise of USA Today explains that the patent looks to replace passwords with a more interactive and secure feature than just fingerprints, as it looks to a future of optical scanning:
“The patent also seems to look forward to a day when users could just look Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa, in the eye and be verified. It notes that other types of electronic devices beyond phones and tablets could also be used, including ‘personal data assistants.’”
It’s a logical next step in the line of mobile payment progression. After Apple Pay and Samsung Pay blazed the trail for mobile payments, Amazon is looking to refine the technology, and in the perfect way. Selfies have already become ubiquitous is society. They’re the new autograph when meeting celebrities, and the new check in to show someone where you’ve been on social. By recognizing this and utilizing it for payment, Amazon gains a cutting edge advantage in market perception, while gaining the inside track of optical scans.
MasterCard recently announced a feature that will let cardholders pay by picture, which further supports the viability of the technology. If Amazon’s patent is granted, it could be the perfect complement to one-click checkout on their platforms, all while unleashing a licensing goldmine.
Facebook has patented software that will scan the social network for emerging terms and nicknames, then store them in a “social glossary.”
The patent, which was granted in February, is for a system that will examine posts and messages on the social network and look for something called neologisms. Neologisms are new pieces of language that are starting to be used by groups of people but aren’t yet in common use.
Business Insider says that “it’s not completely clear what Facebook could use its social glossary for. One idea floated in the patent is for an improved predictive text program that includes slang terms that aren’t in the dictionary.”
It’s an interesting patent for Facebook to pursue, but it makes sense when you think about how most of their users operate on the site. Mobile is by far the most utilized method that Facebook has, and an adaptable and accurate predicative text program is vital to the success of an app. By staying ahead of the curve on slang, it seems Facebook believes it can avoid from becoming passe. Time will tell how sound that strategy is.
Gilead Sciences could be on the hook to pay a portion of its profits on blockbuster hepatitis C drugs Sovaldi and Harvoni to rival Merck & Co.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the case, which has now reached a San Jose court, has Merck claiming that the active ingredient in Gilead’s drugs infringe on two of their patents.
“Merck is staking a claim because it says sofosbuvir, which is the active ingredient shared by Gilead’s drugs, infringes two Merck patents that cover related compounds, and it wants royalties from Gilead,” Peter Loftus of the Journal writes. “In the trial, which arose from Gilead’s 2013 lawsuit against Merck, Gilead seeks a judgment that the Merck patents are invalid and that it owes Merck nothing. Merck recently began selling its own hepatitis C drug, Zepatier.”
The case carries huge financial implications. Last year, combined U.S. sales of the two Gilead drugs were $12.5 billion, with a global total of $19.1 billion.
“Simply put, Merck’s asserted patents claim work Merck never did, and ideas Merck never had,” Gilead said in the court filing. “The asserted claims are invalid and Merck should collect nothing.”
This is a heavyweight drug patent battle. Both Sovaldi and Harvoni has seen huge price increases over the last year, accounting for a significant portion of healthcare prescription drug spending. And while the cost seems prohibitive, these drugs effectively cure Hepatitis C, meaning they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. If Merck can win this case, the potential windfall would be huge, and it could deal a serious blow to Gilead. Stay tuned.