Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Big Apple

This comes courtesy of, from Rockford, Ill.
Seems an inventor there is accusing Apple of stealing his touchscreen technology. Does he have a case, or is it just sour grapes?

Inventor sues Apple over alleged patent infringement

Feb 28, 2008 @ 09:29 AM

By Nate Legue

ROCKFORD -Illinois

Read all your business news at

One of the area’s most prolific inventors filed suit against electronics giant Apple Inc. over a patent he says the company infringed upon with its touch-screen technology.

Attorneys for John Martin, owner of Arachnid Inc. in Loves Park and Martin Automatic Inc. in Rockford, filed the lawsuit Feb. 15 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Martin’s patent is for an electronic game device for airplanes or cruise ships that could be switched between a video gambling machine and an innocuous video game as the vehicle traveled in and out of jurisdictions with legalized gambling. But the infringement lawsuit hinges on Martin’s touch-screen interface for the device.

Martin’s patent describes a fingertip operated touch-screen that enlarges buttons when the user presses them and selects buttons only when the fingertip is removed from the surface. Apple’s iPhone and iPod touch are controlled by fingertip inputs.

The lawsuit does not specify how much money Martin is seeking in damages, but the amount will be “no less than a reasonable royalty,” according to court papers.

“We’ve talked to (Apple),” Martin said. “So far the talk is friendly, and I hope to get the thing settled before we have to go to court.”

Over the years, Martin’s inventions have spurred a few patent disputes. He’s wrangled over patents to a dart-game scoring system and a music-downloading jukebox. He holds 44 patents, including for a printing press innovation that launched a 250-plus employee company and for an electronic dartboard that created the soft tip darts phenomenon in bars across the country.

Apple has not yet responded to the suit in court.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

PTO Post

Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Jon Dudas testified on Wednesday (Feb. 27) in an oversight hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property. Here's what he (and the press release) had to say:

“Both fiscal years 2006 and 2007 were record-breaking years for the USPTO. We have met or broken records for production, quality, hiring, teleworking, electronic processing and more,” said Under Secretary Dudas. “We intend to build on these successes in 2008 with the dedication of our high-achieving, performance-focused employees, and the support of the Administration and Congress who have provided USPTO full access to the fees we collect.”

Among the topics addressed in the testimony were patent and trademark quality and timeliness; hiring, retention and work-life offerings such as the USPTO’s award-winning telework program; global policy and enforcement initiatives; and the pending patent modernization legislation. The testimony addressed significant developments and successes since the last USPTO House oversight hearing in 2005. Since that hearing, the USPTO has:

• Achieved the highest quality trademark performance in history and the highest quality patent performance in the last quarter century.

• Increased patent production by more than 21 percent, and increased trademark production by more than 41 percent.

• Hired more than 2,400 highly qualified patent examiners, and added 1,000 patent employees to the USPTO’s award-winning telework program. Increased trademark participation in telework to 85 percent of all eligible employees.

• Increased the level of electronic filing of patent applications from 2 percent to the current level of 70 percent, and achieved a 95 percent electronic filing level of trademark applications.

• Reduced attrition levels among first-year patent examiners by 25 percent, and by 50 percent in areas targeted to receive recruitment bonuses.

• Completed the Global Intellectual Property Academy (GIPA) facility to deliver expanded programs and training to foreign intellectual property (IP) and enforcement officials. More than 700 officials have been trained through GIPA programs in the last year.

• Held the first-ever meeting of the heads of the five largest IP offices in May 2007 to discuss cooperative efforts to improve patent quality and efficiency.

While the USPTO has had many achievements, the agency also faces considerable challenges. Foremost is the challenge of ensuring patent quality in light of the record-breaking number of patent applications filed each year, and the increasing complexity of those applications. The USPTO has put several measures in place to improve the quality of the examination process, such as enhanced examiner training and certification programs and additional quality reviews during patent examination.

But improvements in patent quality are also dependent, to a significant degree, on providing examiners access to more and better-focused information relevant to their decision-making. The USPTO is pleased that proposed patent modernization legislation includes quality-related provisions that will help ensure that patent examination is focused on the most relevant information available. In particular, including provisions pertaining to applicant quality submissions (AQS) in this legislation will lead to the applicant sharing the most relevant information early in the process, thus ensuring that patent examinations are of the highest quality and completed as efficiently as possible.

Gathering Patent Reform Storm

With each passing day, the debate over the Patent Reform Act of 2007 (S. 1145) intensifies.

I’m seeing more big-name players emerge to attack the Act, which as of this writing is still in the Senate. This week David Snivley, senior vice president and general counsel of global agribusiness Monsanto Co., wrote a terse denunciation of the pending legislation on the Web site of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Earlier this month, more than a dozen labor unions sent a letter to the U.S. Senate urging rejection of the Act in its current form.

The letter also cited a recent article reportedly by Yongshun Cheng, a former Chinese judge on the high court of Beijing. He’s quoted saying: In “general the bill favors infringers and burdens patentees more. It is not bad news for developing countries which have lower technological development and relatively fewer patents. Due to the weak foundation of patents, the Chinese products often encounter trouble in the U.S. market. This bill will provide more mechanisms and flexibilities in making patent challenge strategies, and also lower the cost of infringement, therefore the infringement will become easier.”

Even Jon Dudas, director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, recently said his agency couldn’t support the Act as written … although he does support patent reform – including changing the nation’s first-to-invent system to first-to-file.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Picture This ...

Finally got around to uploading photos from the San Jose casting call of Everyday Edisons. Here ya go:

1. Elvis was in the building! Don't know what he was pitching, but he did it in style.

2. You can't help but make acquaintances when you're standing in line at one of these casting calls.

3. This gentleman kept his contraption under wraps until he got before the judges.

4. Signing up for Edison Nation is as easy as 1 2 3, says staffer Jon Harper.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Casting Call

The casting call in San Jose for the third season of Everyday Edisons was an unqualified success, I’m happy to report. By my informal count, more than 800 inventors arrived for a chance to earn a slot on the show. I love working the booths at these events. So much passion from the contestants. So much creativity. It’s infectious.

The only drag – my shipment of magazines never arrived. We like to hand out copies to the throngs. So it was like showing up to a potluck without a dish. Tiffany and I made do. And we met a lot of cool people.

I know we’ll be writing about a few of the inventors who came by to chat. I really liked the lady who built her own dialysis machine. She also built her own house … and rides motorcycles.

Then there was the guy from Hawaii who has developed a pot that tells you when to water plants. Doesn’t matter if it’s a cactus or an orchid.

I also liked the guy with the alarm-triggered mailbox. In an era of ID theft, that idea, I suspect, has legs.

I’ll post photos and audio some time next week.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Loss of a Legend

Alas, the inventor community lost a legend with the passing of Glenn Wise, inventor, patent agent and wag. Do yourself a favor and read this moving obit in the Washington Post:
Washington Post - United States
Glenn E. Wise was an inventor who knew his way around the labyrinthine files of the old Patent and Trademark Office.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Innovation Goes Global

The First International Inventors Day Convention in Bangkok, Thailand, drew dozens of inventors from some 27 countries earlier this month.

Among the notable innovations at the three-day event: beer concocted with vitamin B. Philippine inventor Billy Malang called it a “prophylactic for drinkers.” The beer supposedly replaces the key vitamin lost during a good bender.

Among the American inventions was an “invisible gym” – an armchair that converts in 30 seconds into an exercise machine for the arms, upper body, legs and thighs and comes in his and hers configurations.

"Every time you give inventors an opportunity to have their ideas seen, that's what starts their blood flowing," Deb Hess, executive director of the Minnesota Inventors Congress, told the China Post.

The proliferation of inventors from so many countries underscored how competitive the planet is. I keep flashing on that European report last year that said the United States has lost the lead when it comes to technology innovation.

I’ll be in San Jose this weekend for the 3rd season casting calls for Everyday Edisons. And I’ll be on the lookout for American ingenuity.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Patent Office Sours on Current Reform Bill

Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office Jon Dudas was on a conference call with reporters this week talking about the contentious patent reform bill currently in the Senate.
He said he supports patent reform, but can’t support this bill. Here are the highlights:
-He’s for a first-to-file provision, which would be an about-face to the nation’s long-standing first-to-invent paradigm. But it has to be “pure” first-to-file, meaning a first inventor to file. Most other countries use first-to-file and the USPTO is all about “harmonizing” patent systems. Would this create a rush to the patent office and trigger litigation?
-He supports changes to provide for a post-grant review process that allows judges wider discretion to evaluate disputes.
-He cited the Bush administration’s concerns about inadequate compensation for patent holders and the possibility the proposed reforms could promote infringement. Major high-tech companies argue that the current system awards out-sized monetary damages in relation to the value of a patent. But Dudas cited mainstream manufacturers, universities, bio-tech companies, small businesses, venture capitalists and, yes, independent inventors as among those who could be hurt by the reform bill, if enacted.
The Bush administration supports full funding of the USPTO. The 2009 budget request of about $2 billion is $159 million or 8 percent more than last years. The USPTO plans to hire 1,200 more patent examiners.