Last week, Apple announced they missed their Q1 sales projections on the iPhone and iPad. Even though this is an ‘S’ model year for the iPhone, and there haven’t been many meaningful changes to their tablet, it’s a significant step back for the company. Why the slowdown? Tim Cook mentioned a softening of the Chinese market, and China may in fact be a culprit, in more ways than one.
Our researchers conducted a patent analysis of both Apple and some emerging Chinese competitors and found that three companies, Lenovo, Meizu and Xiaomi, have been growing their patent portfolio, a trend directly in contrast with Apple’s downward innovation spiral.
Priority year gives the best indication of when an invention is made, and Apple inventions published 2010-2015 originate from as far back as 1992, whereas Lenovo, Xiaomi and Meizu originate far more recently (2006, 2008 and 2009) meaning the Asian portfolios are far younger.
The upward trend certainly points in a very intriguing direction for these companies. China has invested heavily in country-wide innovation, both financially and in legislation that makes it easier for companies to patent their inventions. So while Apple has dominated in sales, one has to wonder if their ability for launching some of the most innovative products on the market has reached a tipping point. Obviously, there is a ton of time for this to play itself out, but Apple has to be sitting up and taking notice of what’s happening in China.
VirnetX, a notorious non-practicing entity (NPE), asked a federal jury to award them $532 million against Apple in an infringement case.
VirnetX had previously won a $368.2 million verdict against Apple, but an appeals court threw out the damage award and ordered a new trial. This case is a retrial on those issues plus some newer generations of Apple products.
The dispute is over Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). VirnetX holds a variety of patents relating to technology used in creating these networks. The company claims that Apple’s own VPN technology, as well as its FaceTime and iMessage services, all infringe on its patents.
It’s worth noting that Skype paid $23 million to settle a patent dispute with VirnetX, so this particular NPE is fairly relentless. And Apple stands to lose big here, especially if VirnetX can prove that newer versions of Apple products (such as ones that include iMessage) do in fact infringe on their patents. VirnetX had a victory against Apple before, and if they can win again, it may sting in Cupertino, where patent litigation is becoming a costly distraction.
Despite a drumbeat from patent owners to ease the effects of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office tribunals, filers are actually better off than they think.
Reuters’ Andrew Chung says that even though patent owners have lobbied Congress to rein in the USPTO’s tribunals, which have been likened to death squads for patents, there’s actually a declining risk of having an application turned down.
“According to a Reuters analysis of data supplied by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the number of petitions for inter partes review accepted for trial has fallen from 87 percent in 2013 to 75 percent in 2014, and to 68 percent in the last fiscal year. The rate for another type of review for covered business methods has similarly declined.”
With patent activity just short of an all-time high in 2015, it’s easy to see why patent owners are in scrambling to make sure they’re still protected, specifically with the pile of patent litigation piling up. But with all the angst the tribunals have conjured up, it should come as a relief to firms around the country that progress is in fact being made in having their filings upheld.
To read the full analysis on WestlawNext Practitioner Insights, click here.
Google is doubling down on drone delivery, and it just took a big step forward by receiving a patent for a rolling box.
According to Geek Wire, the box would work with Google’s drone delivery system, Project Wing. The box would be able to communicate with the drone to ensure the security of the package once it is dropped at the customer’s doorstep.
“Once the drone flies in and drops a package into the receptacle, the receptacle can move on its own power to a ‘secure location, such as a garage,’” the patent said. Is this enough like The Jetsons for you? Amazon is of course working on its own drone-powered delivery system.
That’s quite the view of the future, and if the application is as effective as the idea, it could be a profitable one for the technology company. As the report says, Amazon has worked extensively on drone delivery for years, but has Google’s latest breakthrough beat them to the punch? Can Amazon develop its own smart box without infringing on Google’s patent? Or will we be in for a patent war that involves drones to? It seems we’re about to find out.
Chances are you’ve seen someone rolling down the street on a “hoverboard,” the scooter-esque gadgets taking the world by storm. But the emergence of these boards has created some interesting intellectual property questions, one of which presented itself in a big way at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show.
Two U.S. federal marshals showed up at CES to conduct a raid of Changzhou First International Trade Co. The target of the raid, according to Wired, was the company’s product “the Trotter,” which differs from the typical hoverboard design by using one big wheel in the middle, as opposed to a wheel on each side. That’s a design that board maker Future Motion says it has patented.
“US District Judge Miranda Du issued a restraining order, seizure order, and temporary injunction after deciding that Future Motion is likely to succeed in showing that Changzhou has infringed on its patents. Future Motion had argued that its business would be irreparably harmed by the attention that Changzhou’s scooters were receiving as CES, the largest consumer electronics show of the year. An additional hearing on the matter is scheduled for later this month, and Changzhou will have the opportunity to defend itself.”
The hoverboard phenomenon poses an interesting challenge to IP professionals. The principle of all of these boards is the same, and the designs are all very closely aligned. It’s difficult to say just what a company’s design patents cover, and what constitutes as infringement. Over the years, we’ve seen smartphone companies do battle over similar technology being used in each other’s devices, and it’s created a perfect storm of innovation and litigation. The hoverboard sensation may be the next craze to create a set of complex legal questions, and the raid at CES certainly seems like the opening act of the story.
Self-driving cars have emerged as the hottest innovation news story of 2016 so far, but which companies have actually put the most R&D dollars behind their quest to create a driver-less car?
After a flurry of announcements from the likes of Ford, GM, Lyft, Microsoft, Google and many others at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), autonomous driving seems destined to be the future. Last week, we unveiled new research in our 2016 State of Self-Driving Automotive Innovation report that analyzes global innovation activity in the field of self-driving automobiles over the last five years. It identifies the world’s leaders in new technology development and makes predictions about the future of driverless cars.
Following were some highlights of the report:
- Established Auto Industry Players – Not Silicon Valley – Are Leading the Charge: Auto industry bellwethers, such as Toyota, Bosch, Denso, Hyundai, GM and Nissan, are the global leaders in self-driving vehicle innovation. Toyota alone has patented over 2,000 new driverless tech inventions in the last five years, double the number two player Bosch.
- Asia Gets Serious About Automation: Asia is the clear leader in the field with 11 of the world’s top 20 self-driving vehicle innovators hailing from the continent.
- Field is Ripe for Partnership: While auto industry forerunners dominate the category, a number of more specialized technology and research institutions have amassed a noteworthy collection of self-driving vehicle-related patents. Among them, LG, Samsung, Google, Boeing, IBM, Amazon, Carnegie Mellon and MIT have all contributed significant new intellectual property in the category over the last five years.
- Apple Primed for Auto Deal with Tesla: Thomson Reuters IP & Science analysts predict that Apple will make a similar collaboration announcement after CES; although Apple is not a leading innovator in this field—with only one invention overall in the area of self-driving vehicles—a partnership with Tesla would be a predictable move for both companies, based on a thorough review of both companies’ patent portfolios.
Certainly, this category is in a state of major flux, and a lot can change in a very short period of time. But on this current trajectory, it certainly appears the next big breakthrough in this category is more likely to come from Detroit than Palo Alto.
Ford received a record number of new patents this year.
The upswing in innovation was fueled by the Detroit-based automaker’s research and innovation center in Silicon Valley opened this past January. The facility substantially outpaced the number of patents filed by other Ford facilities, and overall, contributed to an almost-100 percent increase in invention disclosure submissions in North America over the last three years.
Overall, Ford had increased filing of electrification patents nearly 200 percent in the past five years including more than 400 filed in 2014 and the pace should only increase with this month’s announcement that Ford will spend $4.5 billion by 2020 on electrified vehicles.
Internationally, Ford employees in Asia Pacific increased submissions more than 140 percent, and Europe saw an increase of more than 50 percent.
This effort to step up their innovation is clearly part of a strategy to alter how the market perceived Ford. As we saw in our 2015 Automotive Report, the industry is changing, and Ford does not want to be left behind. Our observations saw Japanese automakers leading the way in patent assignments, and Ford obviously wants to bring that honor back to American shores. Time will tell if Ford can move the needle for good, but they’ve certainly taken a big first step.
Deck the halls with tons of patents!
Believe it or not, throughout the years, inventors have sought to alleviate many of the Christmas chores that go along with having a Christmas tree. From watering it to stringing tinsel, Vox has published 11 Christmas patents that have been filed in the past that have never come to be.
Our favorites include a self-extinguishing Christmas tree and a smoke detector angel, which would probably make many insurance company’s days merry and bright!
For those of us who just can’t stand climbing under the tree to keep our tree watered, how about a Christmas tree watering system disguised as a present?
And once Christmas is over, sanitation workers across the world are faced with the arduous task of collecting all the trees at people’s curbsides. Inventors have even tried to make their job easier with a Christmas tree-specific garbage bag.
It just goes to show that there’s always a way for even the most time-honored traditions to evolve.
Forget free two day shipping! Soon a benefit of Amazon Prime may be free drone delivery.
According to PC Magazine, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published the patent last week for Amazon’s “PrimeAir” drone delivery system. Amazon originally submitted its proposal for a retail delivery system using unmanned aircraft last September, which is for IP related to a “system for aerial delivery” as opposed to a specific type of drone aircraft.
“Amazon has been lobbying hard to push the Federal Aviation Administration to change drone-related regulations. In March, just a week after the FAA gave the company permission to test out unmanned aircraft for delivery purposes, Amazon vice president of Global Public Policy Paul Misener visited Capitol Hill to chide the agency for taking too long to approve that testing and restricting the process too much.”
Will Amazon be able to clear the regulatory hurdles to make drone delivery a reality? That remains to be seen. But outside of simply air dropping a copy of the latest of Playstation 4 game or the next installment on Oprah’s reading list at your doorstep, there could be some interesting applications for the PrimeAir patent that doesn’t have anything to do with consumer goods.
The nature of the human-less delivery system stirs visions of all different types of uses, from humanitarian to military. Those types of contracts could lead to a financial windfall for Amazon, and be far more of a game changer than any revenue generated from getting smile box air drone-delivered to your door.
Innovation is the lifeblood of the global economy, and it is in its golden age. In the last decade alone, we have witnessed the introduction landmark inventions, from driverless cars, to bionic limb reconstructions, to the discovery of the Higgs Boson. That’s why it may come as a surprised that Thomson Reuters is reporting that year-over-year innovation growth has hit the slowest pace since the global economic recession.
A new study from Thomson Reuters IP & Science, which finds that the global pace of innovation has slowed its lowest level since the recession. The study, which analyzes global intellectual property data — including scientific literature and patents – as a window into innovation in 12 bellwether technology areas, suggests a possible inflection point in global R&D growth in both private sector companies and academic research institutions worldwide.
The study will be released on StateofInnovation.com, the new, central destination for authoritative thought leadership programs from IP & Science, including the annual Top 100 Global Innovators and Citation Laureates. The launch of this website features findings from the business’s latest research: The Future Is Open: 2015 State of Innovation, an analysis of global scientific literature and patent data across 12 technology areas. It shows that although overall patent activity has reached an all-time high, year-over-year growth in new inventions has slowed considerably and scientific literature production has declined in almost every industry.
Following are some of the highlights:
- Year-Over-Year Innovation Growth Slows: Total, worldwide patent volume increased just 3 percent over the last year, the slowest rate of patent volume growth since the end of the global recession in 2009. The total volume of new scientific research decreased 23 percent over the same period. The largest declines in patent and scientific research volume were focused in the Semiconductor industry.
- Overall Patent Volume Reaches New High: Despite the slowdown in year-over-year growth rate, total, worldwide patent volume has reached a record high, with over 2.1 million unique inventions published over the last year. The industries showing the largest growth in patent volume were Food, Tobacco & Beverage Fermentation (21 percent); Pharmaceuticals (12 percent); Cosmetics (8 percent); and Biotechnology (7 percent).
- Businesses Embrace “Open Innovation”: Across virtually every industry studied, the trend toward “open innovation,” whereby companies partner with academic institutions, individual researchers and other companies (in some cases, even competitors) has been on visible display. Samsung, for example, has moved to aggressively partner with academic institutions in the development of these technologies, filing 129.1 of every 10,000 patent filings in the semiconductor space jointly with an academic institution.
- Traditional Industry Lines Blur: Driven largely by the rise of the Internet of Things, the traditional boundaries between industries and companies’ areas of specialization have continued to blur. Dozens of companies featured in the study, such as Apple, Du Pont, General Electric, IBM, and Samsung, appear among the top patent assignees in multiple industries outside of their core areas of focus. Samsung is the most extreme example, ranking among the top 25 patent assignees in 9 of the 12 industries analyzed in the study.
The full report examines fundamental research and patent activity worldwide in the Aerospace; Automotive; Biotechnology; Computing & Peripherals; Cosmetics; Domestic Appliances; Food, Tobacco and Beverage Fermentation; Medical Devices; Petroleum; Pharmaceuticals; Semiconductors; and Telecommunications industries. For each industry, analysts scrutinized five years of global patent and scientific literature publications, outlining the top companies, research institutions and technology areas producing the highest volume of new innovation.
To download the full report, visit stateofinnovation.com