Friday, August 31, 2012

Technologies of Freedom and A2K

Today we add a book from the Way Better Patents Reading List that is a little harder to find but worth the hunt.  In this 1984 text Ithiel de Sola Pool discusses how emerging digital technologies are the agents of freedom and protectors of free speech and the ability to be exchange information in ways never possible before.  The book was written well before blogs, Twitter, social media, and the ability to share global communications in seconds.  For many civil society A2K folks, this is their foundational document.  It's worth a read.  And, it's available on Kindle.  How new millennium.

Technologies of Freedom by Ithiel de Sola Pool — A seminal look at how digital technology supports individual freedom and vice versa. A primer on many of the issues in the Access to Knowledge (A2K) movement.

Please send us your favorite IP reads -

(We added the link to buy the books at Amazon for two reasons - the pictures of the covers look good and if you buy one of the books from the link on, Amazon pays us a little change.  This helps us keep our product cost low. ) 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

54.5 MPG by 2025

On August 28th the Obama administration announced the new aggressive fuel economy standards for 2017-2025.  The new standards will cover cars and light trucks for Model Years 2017-2025, requiring performance equivalent to 54.5 mpg in 2025 while reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 163 grams per mile.

Inventions that increase fuel economy are expected to become a major component in the patentECO Transportation Index.  The USPTO Green Technology Pilot Program offered accelerated examination to patent applications that materially enhanced the quality of the environment, or that materially contributes to the discovery or development of renewable energy resources, the more efficient utilization and conservation of energy resources, or green house gas emission reduction.  Way Better Patents' analysis of the patent granted under the program revealed that 68% of the patents granted under the program through February 2012, a significant number of inventions, were inventions associated with internal combustion engines -- not electric vehicles or hybrid vehicle technology.  Internal Combustion Engines patents are for exhaust, fuel, or control system inventions.  The commercialization of these new technologies will help auto manufacturers meet the new fuel and greenhouse gas emissions standard.

The patentECO Green Technology Report provides a unique look at the impact of an accelerated examination program, and the companies and technologies that benefitted from it.  To learn more visit Way Better Patents.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Robo Caller Revenge

In the season of issues, compelling public debates, and political activism we bring you the Grass Roots Edition.

Gone are the days of The Federalist Papers when Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote essays about how the new government would operate and why this type of government was the best choice for the United States of America. Today's democracy is an incessant stream of digital messages and electronic discourse, talking heads and bleeding edge blogs. Information is being created with such speed it's hard to digest let alone think about the impact of the changes and issues on the table today. If Congress was forced to write the bills by hand I doubt there would be any bills that were 2,000 pages long, but I digress.

The Congressional Management Foundation (CMF), is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting a more effective Congress and a group that clearly has their work cut out for them. It's report, "Communicating with Congress: How the Internat Has Changed Citizen Engagement" reports that in 2004 the Congress received 200 million communications from constituents - a four fold increase over the volume received in 1995. The increase was a direct result of internet-based communications. By 2008 they report that 44% of adults in America had contacted a Senator of Congressman in the last five years. 43% of those communications were via online methods.

91% people who contact Congress via the Internet cared deeply about the issue that triggered email. And they expected a reply. Only two-thirds actually got a response and most were dissatisfied with what they got. (Not surprising.) The form letter writing machine is alive and well up on Capitol Hill.

CMF's Beverly Bell presents the flip side in a letter to the Washington Post in which she notes that policy-makers in the Executive and Legislative Branches feel overwhelmed by citizen communications, and, because so much of it is identical, they find it increasingly difficult to manage and trust. Does this mean that basically they are ignoring constituent concerns? During the health care debate several Congressmen announced that they intended to vote the way they wanted even if it was against what their constituents wanted. How does advocacy work these days?

The election season is in full swing and it isn't even labor day yet.  Incessant advocacy Robo-calls from political luminaries across the political spectrum and the robo political survey, "say or hit 1 if you support..."  In the days leading up to the election the we will be bombarded. I was wondering how all this technology impacted the dynamics of the new digital citizenry and everything that goes with it. 

That brings us to patent 6,311,211 - Method and apparatus for delivering electronic advocacy messages. The patent, owned by Juno Online Services, presents a way to automate sending advocacy messages to your representatives. Sixty-three claims of reverse robocaller messaging bliss. The patent is describes an invention that is the Citizen's Revenge on the Robo-caller.

The inventors claim:
1. A method of operating an advocacy network, comprising the steps of:

accessing a user database, the user database comprising information about users and information identifying a representative associated with each user;

automatically selecting a user based on information in the user database; and

sending an advocacy message to the selected user through a first communication network.

So, they have your name in the database along with the names of your representatives. Then they have the capability to automatically send an advocacy message to your representatives.

Ok, now for the saturation elements...

Claim 6 adds...wherein the response message comprises one of an e-mail message, a facsimile message, a printed letter and a telephone call.

My problem with this claim is that it should say "where in the response message comprises ALL of the messages... an email, a fascimile (does anyone use those anymore) a printed letter and a telephone call.

Then there is the ability to send a message at a predetermined time.

Then add: the response message comprises a telephone call automatically established between the representative and the selected user.

Jackpot... but I wonder how long the person answering the phone will listen before hanging up?

Is Juno enforcing it's patents? Wouldn't that put a stop to all the Robocalls?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

USPTO Green Technology Pilot Program

Way Better Patents Releases USPTO Green Technology Program Discovery and Analysis Report 

Way Better Patents has released its USPTO Green Technology Pilot Program Discovery and Analysis Report. The report is the first comprehensive look at the inventions and technologies patented under the USPTO’s Green Technology Pilot Program to accelerate the examination of certain “green” technology patent applications.

The Report

Using Way Better Patents patentECO Index as the framework to look at the innovations covered by the program, the report analyzes the first 836 patents granted under the program, from its inception in early December 2009 through its close in mid-February 2012. The report, available online and in an upcoming ebook format, documents which companies received patents including the top assignees, the “Young Guns” — the young companies that disproportionately impact economic growth and job creation, and the participation of independent inventors. The report is organized around Way Better Patents' patentECO Indexes.

Way Better Patents' analysts also looked at vintage prior art in each of the major program domains - Wind, Solar, Energy Efficiency, Water, Renewable Energy, Transportation, Biofuels, and Industry. The report also provides deep dive patent analytics on the geography, complexity, pendency, and specific inventive technologies patented under the program.

This report is an important look at the impact of accelerated examination programs as the USPTO implements the America Invents Act Section 25, under which
the Director of the USPTO and at the request of the patent applicant, may provide for prioritization of examination of applications for products, processes, or technologies that are important to the national economy or national competitiveness without requiring the applicant to pay the aggregate extra cost of such prioritization.
This report provides science and technology policy makers, researchers, and economic development experts with a unique perspective on an accelerated examination program like that soon to be allowed under Section 25 of the American Invents Act.
The report presents important information about the program’s participants and notable patents granted under the program including:
  • How a patent for improving the driving experience for drivers of electric cars was considered an important aspect of green technology
  • Which major wind and solar market leader that was in on the program from day one received the most patents
  • How one inventor took methods used to cool semiconductors to dramatically improve the fuel utilization for heating commercial cooking pots
  • A plant sunscreen invention that improves the life of produce
  • How patents for internal combustion engines lead the way in patents granted in the “green” transportation inventions
  • How two different Young Guns patented inventions for urban wind power solutions.

Is Green Technology More Than a Buzzword?

The goal of the analysis was to discover what green technology was patented under the program and frame it in a way that is understandable and useful for inventors and researchers, talent scouts, for real estate and economic developers who want to see what’s coming next in the green tech marketplace. Product managers will find the results useful in looking for technology and investors and business developers looking to see the which companies have accelerated the protection of their intellectual property in the Clean Technology space.

Is There a Benefit To Accelerated Examination?

Public policy professionals will find the report a useful and important look at the impact of accelerated examination of a particular class of technology. The report shows how the USPTO vision of the technology morphed into the vision of the technology held by innovators and their decisions on which inventions they selected to move to the front of the patent examiner’s docket. This is an important piece of analysis for framing discussions around the new ability of the Director of the USPTO to grant accelerated examination to economically important technology under the America Invents Act.

Is Green Tech New? Review the Prior Art.

Many green technologies are not new — wind technology, solar energy, electric motors — the report includes a section on green technology prior art and the timelines of some of these important “vintage” inventions.

This report is the only published detailed analysis of the results of the USPTO Green Technology Pilot Program. The Program essentially defines the USPTO’s view of what constitutes clean technology. It is required reading for anyone with an interest in past, present, or future clean technology inventions in the US.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Regular Men and Women Not Legal Experts

There is lots of commentary about the Apple victory over Samsung in its mega patent case and the $1.05B damages award, punitive damages to follow.  The patent cognoscenti seem to be appalled that the jury reached a verdict so quickly.  How could they decide such a complex case in 21 hours.  How could regular men and women really understand such hard stuff.

A lot of folks in the very industry from which these patents have a tendency  treat regular people like idiots who are just not smart enough understand technology, the law, or heaven forbid, a patent.  There, there, don't worry your silly little head, let the professionals handle this.

This disturbing trend was noted in a report in the Wall Street Journal on the jury deliberations, "The case, one of several in Apple's global campaign to defend the designs of the iPhone and iPad worldwide, has ignited a debate other whether the proliferation number of patent cases should be decided by regular men and woman not legal experts."

The problem with the patent system may just be its the reliance on legal experts and the patent cognoscenti.  The patent cognoscenti are very good at talking to each other but not so good at explaining to us regular guys what is patented, why it was patented, and why we should care.  Maybe there just isn't  enough participation by regular men and women, or a demand to make patents understandable.  Maybe more regular guy participation could force more transparency on what inventions are and why they need to be protected.

The WSJ interviews with the jury reported that the jurors listened to the hours of instructions from the Judge before deliberations started.  The jurors stayed focused on the list of decisions they were being asked to make and stayed on task, and kept track of the evidence they were provided with.  They avoided off-task discussions and conversations.  They went through the list of decisions one by one working diligently.  (Isn't that what jurors are asked to do?)  The jurors noted that Apple's lawyers did a better job of presenting their case.  Ok, so what's the problem?

Well it looks like the tech lawyers and their minions are distressed.  A news item arriving via Seeking Alpha states, "This is farce," says tech legal site Groklaw, incredulous Apple-Samsung jurors took only 21 hours to deliberate over a 700-question form one lawyer says would take him 3 days to understand. Groklaw is also unimpressed with contradictory statements made by jurors, several verdict inconsistencies, and the fact jurors reached a decision without reading a 109-page instruction form.

Ok, so we read the instruction form and the list of questions the jury had to answer.  The instruction form, link above, may be 109 pages long but most pages have two sentences of text on them.  The instructions are clear and well written.  It took about fifteen minutes to read from start to finish and we weren't sitting in the court room listening to the judge's instructions verbally before being given the document.   But then "one lawyer" who says it could take him 3 days to understand the instructions may have a different perspective.  Maybe he was looking at it from the perspective of 3 days, 24 hours, $350/hour = $8,400.  (Patent lawyer at $800 per hour = $19,200)  Read the instructions yourself.  You decide.

Here's a link to the verdict with the 700 questions.  The jurors were dealing with a family of products and the questions had to be answered for each one.

Frankly, if all of the information written about patent law was written in the way the Judge presented it, it would go a long way to "fixing the patent system" that everyone thinks is broke.  Consider the language on Anticipation.  Here is how the Judge Lucy Koh explained it to the jury:

Here is a list of the ways that either party can show that a patent claim was not new:

– If the claimed invention was already publicly known or publicly used by others in the United States before the date of conception of the claimed invention;

– If the claimed invention was already patented or described in a printed publication anywhere in the world before the date of conception of the claimed invention. A reference is a “printed publication” if it is accessible to those interested in the field, even if it is difficult to find;

– If the claimed invention was already made by someone else in the United States before the date of conception of the claimed invention, if that other person had not abandoned the invention or kept it secret;

If the patent holder and the alleged infringer dispute who is a first inventor, the person who first conceived of the claimed invention and first reduced it to practice is the first inventor. If one person conceived of the claimed invention first, but reduced to practice second, that person is the first inventor only if that person (a) began to reduce the claimed invention to practice before the other party conceived of it, and (b) continued to work diligently to reduce it to practice. A claimed invention is “reduced to practice” when it has been tested sufficiently to show that it will work for its intended purpose or when it is fully described in a patent application filed with the PTO.

– If the claimed invention was already described in another issued U.S. patent or published U.S. patent application that was based on a patent application filed before the patent holder’s application filing date or the date of conception of the claimed invention.

Now see if you can figure it out from the MPEP, the Manual of Patent Examination Procedures here, here, or here.  (These are just a few but you get the gist.)  Head exploding yet?

Then you read the links from Groklaw including the "live blogging" by The Verge, which features among other things commentary on one of the attorneys wearing a polo shirt, you have to wonder if the press really understood what was going on as well as the members of the jury.  (Full disclosure - I love The Verge and their weekly podcast.)  

Back in the pre-Verge, This is Your Next Days, Nilay Patel and Josh Topolsky came to verbal blows over patents during one of their podcasts. (Here's the link to the podcast - the patent discussion starts at around the 5o minute mark.)  It sounded like many a discussion we have had on Freedom to Operate with folks who didn't understand you just can't copy a "cool feature" for their new product or tell you that they are doing something "just like Apple."  We are fans of more discussions, more information, and more transparency in the patentsphere.  Oh, and requiring assignees to disclose who owns what.

The bottom line here is that the patent fight isn't over.  There are sure to be appeals.  It's really bad form to slam the regular folks on their decision and defer to the legal experts who love complexity and obfuscation.  Maybe the infringement was obvious to the jury.   The jurors were asked to make a decision based on the evidence at hand.  Maybe that's part of the problem with the patent system.  Patents are an asset that are inaccessible by regular men and women and have been left to the legal experts alone for too long.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

An Wang - Patent Troll - The Reading List

Next on the Inventions, Inventors, Innovation and IP Reading List reading list is the story of one of the great American inventors, a savvy businessman who sold the rights to one of the seminal inventions in core memory to fund his new research and development and then went on to build one of the top R&D and product organizations.  Sometimes he was an NPE and most of the time he was a practicing entity.

An Wang was received the Medal of Liberty awarded to distinguished naturalized citizens, Wang started the electronics laboratories that bear his name as a one-man shop six years after his arrival in 1945 from China at age 25 and built it into a multinational company.

With the "patent system is broken" being the tag line of lots of commentary on patents, patent litigation, and calls for making it illegal for non-practicing entities, the pejorative patent trolls, to enforce their patents, Lessons: An Autobiography give the reader insight into how patents, a brilliant leader, and a great team can change the way we work.

Lessons: An Autobiography by An Wang — Dr. Wang sold his patent for core memory to IBM to fund WANG Laboratories and set off an inventive juggernaut. Like other great inventors he started as a non-practicing entity and went on to build one of the largest "practicing entities" of the 1980s.

(We added the link to buy the books at Amazon for two reasons - the pictures of the covers look good and if you buy one of the books from the link on, Amazon pays us a little change.  This helps us keep our product cost low. ) 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Computers - “It’s deja vu all over again*”

* Yogi Berra

According to its web page, “Impecca is a leader in design, development, manufacturing and marketing in portable Audio Video Products … [whose] products are recognized by users worldwide as we continue to lead the industry based on our committment [sic] to innovation and quality.” The company recently introduced several products that fall within the patentECO Industry Index through their use of a renewable material.

As anyone who has the pleasure (or misfortune?) of having a stand of bamboo growing on their property can attest, bamboo is highly renewable, to the point that short of using Agent Orange or a D–5 Cat bulldozer, once it’s growing, you just about cannot eliminate it. Same with kudzu, but that’s a tale for a different time.

Bamboo is a true grass and one of the fastest-growing plants, capable of growing a meter (39 inches) in one day. US-grown bamboo can reach 15–40 feet in height. It can be used for a wide variety of construction purposes including suspension bridges, boats (e.g., Kon-Tiki), scaffolding, housing, and laminated products (e.g., flooring, panelling, fine fly fishing-rods, furniture).

Now we can add computer products.

Impecca has released a bamboo calculator and a bamboo computer keyboard reminiscent of IBM-PC keyboards from the 1980s, but updated to today’s cleantech sensibilities. These products will certainly do their part to enable greater use of renewable resources for product manufacturing, and to reduce the amount of waste from such products when they reach the end of their useful life.

But what about Yogi’s quote?

It’s all been done before.

Several famous slide rule manufacturers including Post and Sun Hemmi used laminated bamboo as the core of their slide rules. The dimensional stability of bamboo, coupled with its strength and self-lubricating properties, made it a very good choice for this purpose. And it was just as renewable in 1895 when Sun Hemmi started making slide rules in Japan as it is today when used by Impecca. Slide rules, used for several hundred years prior to the invention, commercialization, and widespread use of electronic calculators and computers in the early to mid–1970s, are analog, mechanical computers. In fact, prior to 1980, Webster’s Dictionary defined “computer” as a person who computes, typically with a slide rule. For example, see the snippet from a 1953 Pickett slide rule manual.

1962 analog, mechanical computer (Post Versalog slide rule) showing laminated bamboo frames and slide.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Trouble in the Green Energy World

USPTO Green Technology Pilot Program participants are not immune … to the sudden bankruptcies that seem to plague the “green energy” business.

International Battery, Inc. (IB)  received five patents under the USPTO Green Technology Pilot Program prior to its closure in mid-February 2012. These patents (US 7,855,011, US 7,931,985, US 8,076,026, US 8,092,557, US 8,102,642) generally dealt with lithium ion battery or ultracapacitor technology. IB filed a Petition to Make Special under the Greentech program for a sixth patent (US 7,875,382, also for battery technology) but that petition was dismissed by USPTO. The company owned two other US patents for lithium ion battery technology, 7,855,011 and 7,837,745.

IB abruptly closed in early March 2012, citing its inability to earn a profit. About 60 jobs were eliminated with the closing. Its public relations firm stated that “While International Battery has a unique product and green manufacturing process, it has not been able to reach profitability. Unfortunately, given the challenging market, it was unable to raise additional capital to fund its operations.”  IB was founded in 2004.

Like other failed clean energy companies, International Battery received significant loan guarantees. According to an article in the March 13, 2012 Morning Call, the company received almost $3 million in loans and grants from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Way Better Patents believes that “Inventions in the clean tech patent ecosystem, when brought to market, have economic features of offering competitive returns for investors, competitive prices for consumers, and realistic profits for producers.” (emphasis added)

For some green tech pilot program participants, accelerated examination hasn’t helped them overcome the economic contraction in the green technology renewable power marketplace.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Intellectual Property: The Tough New Realities That Could Make or Break Your Business — Intellectual Property 101 — The latest Way Better Patents Good Read.

Intellectual property doesn't need to be scary - that's the whole foundation of Way Better Patents.  If people are going to spend millions and millions of dollars on patents and patent enforcement, and if patent news can more markets, mere mortals should be able to figure out what's going on.  We've had quite a few meetings that went something like this:

Enter business executive toting a big thick document stylishly bound in consultant-esque fashion.

Mr. or Ms. Executive slides the bulky document across the table and says, "I just paid $50,000 for this due diligence thing and I still don't understand if I can make and sell my product.  Why do I need to bother with this stuff anyway."

IP guru starts to explain how prior art and patents work and Mr. or Ms. Executives eyes roll back in their head while they reach for the Excedrin Migraine - that is if they can find it.  Fade to dark....

This book is the one you send Ms. or Mr. Executive home with so that they can come back with a reasonable understanding about what IP is all about and why they should care.  They might even acquire the vocabulary to keep up with their patent attorney and patent examiner.

The author, Paul Goldstein, is a law professor at Stanford Law and works counsel to Morrison & Foerster, he works on intellectual property litigation and transactions.  Who doesn't want to read a book by someone who works for a law firm with the nick name Mo Fo?

Intellectual Property: The Tough New Realities That Could Make or Break Your Business by Paul Goldstein — Stuff you need to know presented without the patent mumbo jumbo.

Please send us your good reads or comments on ours to

(We added the link to buy the books at Amazon for two reasons - the pictures of the covers look good and if you buy one of the books from the link on, Amazon pays us a little change.  This helps us keep our product cost low. ) 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Recycling Tech From Big Industry

Petrochemicals derived from fossil fuels including coal, natural gas, and petroleum serve as feedstocks for numerous industrial processes and products. The plastic milk container you pulled out of the fridge this morning, the plastics in your car, the dyes used in the fabric of your clothing — all these were probably obtained from petrochemicals.

Not surprisingly, there are clean tech innovations that seek to reduce the use of virgin petrochemicals in various products.

A good example is US patent US8083064, “Sustainable Packaging for Consumer Products,” awarded to Emily Boswell and a team of co-inventors and assigned to The Procter & Gamble Company of Cincinnati, OH. This recent patent, issued on December 27, 2011, is found in the Recycling category of the patentECO Industry Index.

The invention’s abstract provides a summary:
“Disclosed herein is a sustainable article substantially free of virgin petroleum-based compounds that includes a container, a cap, and a label, each made from renewable and/or recycled materials. The article has a shelf life of at least two years, and is itself entirely recyclable. The container can include polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate, or polypropylene. The cap can include polypropylene or polyethylene. The label can include polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polypropylene, or paper.”
The inventors seek “to provide plastic packaging that is substantially free of virgin petroleum-based compounds, 100% sustainable, 100% recyclable, has a long-lasting shelf life, and that can minimize or eliminate contamination during recycling.”

This patent was issued from the USPTO’s Green Technology Pilot Program, which closed in mid-February 2012. To learn more about the report and the patents granted under it, go to Way Better Patents Discovery and Analysis Report.  P&G demonstrates a commitment to clean tech through this invention.

Image source:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Inventions in Black and White

At a recent meeting of the USPTO Business Methods Partnership one of the assembled masses, an attorney from one of those big patent prosecution factories, asked Terri Raines, eCommerce Division Manager, Office of Patent Information Management, who at the time was touting the new eFiling project, "When will we be able to file drawings that are in color?"

How odd was that question?  At Way Better Patents our business methods patent analysts refer to these most contentious of patents as, "Still Life with Flow Chart" due to the proliferation of flow charts used to explain how these computer implemented inventions with no moving parts are implemented.  What, do these patent guys need color to explain that the data moves through the memory in a method for "obtaining at the computer, forecasting with the computer, calculating with the computer, blah, blah, blah" to deliver  some revolutionary process and then transforms our lives by delivering electronic coupons to our desktop?

Imaging the fun the examiners will have when the flow chart patents came in with color drawings?  Imagine the problem with color blind examiners (about 7% of the male population.)  Think about the fun on the interviews, "no the red is the method, the blue is the computer or is it the green".  Maybe the patent attorney was really a life science guy or an electrical wiring guy.  Color drawings?  Really?  Yikes.

Inventions Should Be Black and White

Patent drawings are an essential element in the exchange between an inventor and a patent examiner. Drawings — a two-dimensional projections of breakthroughs in scientific, technical, and mechanical innovation — are the visual means through which the inventor conveys the novelty of technical and scientific advances of an invention.

You can look at the drawings of the patents that are 150 years old and understand what is going on.

USPTO's guidance is straightforward.  Patent drawings are an assembly of crisp perfectly black lines has been used to describe the greatest innovations over the history of US patent system. Lines made with drafting instruments or a laser printer — very dense, sharp uniformly thick and black — on smooth, nonshiny white paper. (Or hopefully on a monitor with decent resolution.)  No shadows, subtle hues, or solid black areas. Movement indicated by a simple dashed line. The jagged lines of contemporary printers and graphic design tools verboten.

Imagine patent drawings being distilled into invention cartoons, or worse, invention infographics.  With legends.

Imagine the impact on design patents.  "Apple's titanium isn't the same color as the Samsung titanium so the design patent is invalid."  

Imagine the time it will take at USPTO and beyond to come up with the standard for submission of color drawings.  (Yes, we understand that are certain scientific domains where color has meaning but those domains are in motion all the time and science and technology discoveries are expanding at an exponential pace.  Just ask a patent examiner.)  Imagine the public comment on that debate.  Sure to be colorful.  (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Pushing for color drawing (images) at the same time that USPTO is busy spending millions on a modernization that appears to be anything but seems ill advised.  The folks at USPTO are talking about transitioning the application e-filing process from the perfectly fine PDF format to MS Word (another proprietary format doomed from the beginning.) at a time when most grownups (see the inventions in the business methods domain is you are wondering) are moving to formats like HTML5 and XML.    The idea of having discussions about changing the format of the drawings to color instead of figuring out ways to make the existing repository of TIFF drawings more accessible makes your head explode.  But I digress.

Patent drawings should be black and white whether they are made with pen and paper, Adobe Illustrator, or a CAD system or some pro se inventor (patent speak for an inventor who does all of the work themselves) who scans in a stick drawing of their invention.  As our friends at Wikipedia note, "A color is specified according to the intensity of its red, green and blue components, each represented by eight bits. Thus, there are 24 bits used to specify a web color, and 16,777,216 colors that may be so specified."  (I'd like to call to order the Red working Group of the RED GREEN BLUE (RGB) Patent Drawing consortium.")  Imagine the pixel by pixel analysis of color patent drawings!

Black and white is two colors (actually black is the only color, the background is white).  Two is enough.  All of the great patents have drawings in black and white.  It should stay that way.

Friday, August 10, 2012

How "Business Methods" Got Their Start

This week's addition to the Way Better Pagtents Inventions, Inventors, Innovation and IP Reading List is for the Still Life With Flow Chart™ Crowd — the creators of business methods patents.

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick — A roadmap to the evolution of the information age we live in and the information inventions that got us here.

This is an information and content dense book.  One of the most interesting aspects of this book is the discussions on how inventors and the public struggle with how to describe truly novel inventions, how hard it is to find the vocabulary to explain what the "telegraph" is to people who used the Pony Express to send their messages.  How inventors at Bell Labs were troubled by the lack of order in how to describe their science.  The discussions of the Babbage mechanical computer and Alan Turing's views on his own inventions create an inventive continuum of the information age.  From drum based message systems to the internet, Mr. Gleick explains where it all came from and where it's going.  It is a very nice catalog of prior art for those who think sending data across the wire for the purpose of conducting business is new.

(We added the link to buy the books at Amazon for two reasons - the pictures of the covers look good and if you buy one of the books from the link on, Amazon pays us a little change.  This helps us keep our product cost low. ) 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Electricity From A Faucet — Nice Design, But Not A New Idea

Ryan Jungwoo Choi, a student in London, recently designed a fitting for a water pipe that converts the kinetic energy of flowing water in a water supply pipe to electricity used to power small, attached rechargeable light bulbs. A Google search on July 6, 2012 yields more than 6,200 hits for “Ryan Jongwoo Choi ES Pipe Waterwheel”. His web page describes the device:
“This product changes the power of flowing water into energy and makes it be used as light. This product devised to be used in the area of no electricity provided has been made to generate energy in life easily. The space where water flows is connected with pipes each other, when the above product is installed between each pipe, water is changed into energy by the principle of a waterwheel in the inside and accumulated in a bulb, and it can be used light in the place at desire after being detached.” [sic]
His illustration shows the use of small paddle-wheel turbines inside the fitting, presumably attached to small generators that charge the light bulbs.

Many of the web pages and blog articles I read about this device were written from a “this is completely new; it’s never been done before! How cool!” perspective. A search of patents and patent applications at the USPTO, WIPO (World International Patent Organization), and KPO (the Korean Patent Office — Choi is described as a “Korean innovator” on numerous web pages) fails to reveal any patent applications or patents to Mr. Choi. A phone call and follow-up email with staff at the International Design Society of America, from whom Choi’s design has received a 2012 IDEA award finalist ranking, indicated that his product is not presently distributed, and that there was no mention in the competition application filing of a patent application. Choi confirmed via email that he has not filed for a patent. Because his design has now been widely, and very publicly disclosed, it is unlikely that he could obtain a patent, at least in the US.

For all those who think this is new — not so fast.

Consider US patent US7956480, awarded Naoyuki Onodera and three co-inventors, all of Fukuoka, Japan, on June 7, 2011. The filing date of their patent application was November 1, 2008. Their patent, titled “Faucet generator” is considered by the USPTO to be a fluid-current motor falling within a broader group of prime-mover dynamo plant inventions. As such, it is closely related to other patents awarded under the  USPTO Green Technology Pilot Program. Claim 1 of the ’480 patent states:
"A generator for faucets, the generator comprising:
a case comprising a water inflow port and a water outflow port, wherein a water supply channel is formed inside the case;
a rotor vane disposed inside the water supply channel and configured to rotate by receiving a water flowing inside the water supply channel;
a magnet which is rotatable integrally with the rotor vane;
a bearing which supports a force that the rotor vane receives due to a water flow;
a rotation center shaft comprising one end supported by the bearing and the other end supported in a capped manner;
a coil which produces an electromotive force by a rotation of the magnet;
and a yoke comprising a base part arranged to surround the coil and a plurality of inductors which are spaced apart from each other and extending from the base part, wherein the coil is spaced apart from the magnet in an axial direction of a rotation center shaft and is disposed to face the magnet, the magnet is magnetized on an outer circumferential face thereof which intersects with a plane perpendicular to the rotation center shaft, and the inductors are disposed outside the case to face the outer circumferential face of the magnet."
Onodera et al.’s patent is illustrated in typical modern line drawing fashion.

Further, we link you to our February 23, 2012 post on “patentECO - Water on the Move”, which summarizes recent inventions on micro-hydro power generation (awarded to the Fairfax County Water Authority, the provider of municipal water to the International Design Society of America, headquartered in Herndon, VA).

But wait, there’s more.

US2436683, “Generator for Pipe Lines”, was issued on February 24, 1948 to Joseph H. Wood of Dallas, TX and assigned to Atlantic Pipe Line Company. Here is the first claim of that patent, issued 64 years ago (i.e., generating electricity from fluids flowing in a pipeline is not new):
"A device for generating electrical energy actuated by the flow of fluid through a pipeline, comprising
a housing adapted to form an integral stationary section of such line,
bearing means rigidly disposed axially of said housing,
a rotor positioned on said bearing means and adapted for operation while immersed in pipeline fluid,
permanent magnets affixed to the periphery of the rotor to create a magnetic field,
a stator surrounding the rotor and radially spaced therefrom,
an insulation cylinder interposed between the stator and the rotor and provided with an internal shoulder and an external shoulder at the opposite ends thereof,
and means for conducting electric current from the stator windings."
Note to designers, competition sponsors, and current or future inventors: check the prior art, particularly that described in published patents. And a corollary – don’t disclose your concept or design prior to filing a patent application if you hope to obtain patent protection for your intellectual property.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Where To Find Business Method Patents in 2013

The US Patent Classification System (USPC) is the only major patent classification system that is not based on the World International Patent Organization's International Patent Classification (IPC) system.  The USPTO and its colleagues in the European Patent Office (EPO) have been working on developing a new classification schema based on the EPO's European Classification System (ECLA).

The motivation to moving toward a new system was two fold.  First, the current USPC was becoming outdated and its structure didn't lend itself to the frequent updates needed for rapidly changing scientific and technical innovations.  Second, the USPC was the only major classification system that was NOT based on the International Patent Classification System.

The result was an bilateral agreement between USPTO and EPO to develop a join classification system to be used by both organizations.   The USPTO and the EPO are developing the Cooperative Patent Classification System (CPC),  a new classification system based on the EPO ECLA classification scheme, currently available via ESPACENET. ECLA, and soon to be the CPC, is drastically different from the current US Patent Classification system.

The 2012 Business Methods Partnership Meeting featured a presentation on the CPC.
According to John Weiss, a Supervisory Patent Examiner in Tech Center 3600 who presented “Introduction to the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) - EPO and USPTO Bi-Lateral Classification System”, Class 705 where most business methods are classified was determined to be a good candidate for early conversion to the new CPC scheme. During the past year US and European representatives negotiated the final CPC business methods scheme.

Business methods are found under the current ECLA G06Q scheme. Reviewing the scheme, it is evident that many of the Class 705 subclasses have been merged with the ECLA system. In contrast to the current US system of classes and subclasses, the ECLA, and soon CPC, system uses a group symbol of multiple components.

Here's how the new scheme looks.

Symbol Component Description
G Section (A, B, … H)
G06 Class (any 2 digits)
G06Q Subclass (any letter)
G06Q 30/00 Main Group
G06Q 30/016 Subgroup

Weiss showed the Main Groups that will soon be the classification “home” for business methods patents:
  • G06Q 10/00 — Administration Management 
    • Resource Management, Shipping, Human Resources, Hiring. These represent ‘behind the scenes’ aspects of business operations that customers normally don’t see.
  • G06Q 20/00 — Payment architectures, schemes or protocols
    • Electronic Funds Transfer, Billing Systems, Authorization
  • G06Q 30/00 — Commerce, e.g., shopping or e-commerce
    • Sales, Customer Service, Marketing. These represent the ‘up-front, customer-facing’ aspects of business operations. It is broader than equivalent subclasses currently in the USPC; advertising falls here.
  • G06Q 40/00 — Finance; Insurance; Processing of taxes
    • Banking, Accounting, Credit/Loan approval. This includes financial portfolio inventions.
  • G06Q 50/00 — Systems or methods specially adapted for a specific business sector, e.g., utilities or tourism
    • Social networking, Utility, Real Estate, Legal Services, Healthcare. Social networking and healthcare inventions are growing at a rapid rate at the USPTO, according to Weiss.
Mr. Weiss concluded his presentation noting that some areas of current USPC Class 705 best fit outside the ECLA/CPC G06Q symbol, and that some outside of Class 705 were pulled in to this European subclass revision.

There are several key points that have large implications for future classification and prior art searches of US inventions were not addressed:

The PGPubs and US Patent databases will be merged under the new system. There are significant quality issues associated with documents in the PGPub database related to claim structure, overall wording, and classification.  One of the issues here is that under the USPC there are circumstances where the scope of the invention morphs during patent prosecution.  This means that the new CPC will not account for those subtle changes in what constitutes the protected invention.

Under the CPC system, documents will be classified based on “invention information” guided by the claims. This change introduces a significant subjectivity into classification.  Although patents classified under the new system will have multiple classifications, documents will no longer have original (OR) or cross-reference (XR) classifications.

Many important aspects of the CPC have yet to be finalized:
  • It is unclear whether the new CPC data will be present on the front page of the printed patent.
  • The data products needed to update current commercial patent tools have not been developed.
  • The XML file format for the definitions and the symbol scheme has not been finalized.
  • It isn't clear how the Master Classification File and other supporting files will be made available to users.
  • There is no training on the new system planned for external practitioners and there was little discussion on the impact of the change on prior art researchers.  (A panel of speakers from PIUG presented an excellent list of concerns at the July CPC External User Meeting.
The system is intended to be implemented beginning January 1, 2013 with a two-year transition period in the US during which USPTO examiners will be using both systems. USPTO’s contractor for PGPubs classification is expected to begin using the new CPC system at the beginning of 2013.  In the short term, USPTO will continue to use the USPC for routing purposes.  (So now the patent examiners have yet another classification system to work with.)

The impact on the quality of prior art searching is also a serious concern.  Questions posed by audience members at both the CPC Users Meeting and the Business Methods Partnership Meeting regarding training for practitioners and users outside the USPTO did not receive particularly detailed responses. Apparently the plan is that there will be online training modules available, sometime, somewhere.  (In both cases the vibe was, "we'll get back to you on this one."

The USPTO directs questions to details and status of the Cooperative Patent Classification system to the official CPC website. For a program with such large implications for IP prosecution in the US, the USPTO web page is remarkably free of easily-located and prominent information on the upcoming changes. You have to burrow in to the Office of Classification page before you find a link to the CPC, and that page provides no information other than to include a link to the CPC. For all of the focus on External Users, this is curious.

But here is a more fundamental business methods question.   How is including US business methods patents in a cooperative program with the EPO, which doesn’t allow business methods patents, actually going to work?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Water Powered Car - Really?

New Flash - An inventor in Pakistan has invented a water fueled car.  According to the Associated Press, "The engineer says the kit powers the car through the process of electrolysis, whereby a current from the battery passes through distilled water filled with electrolytes, separating out the hydrogen from the oxygen. The hydrogen, which is combustible, is fed into the engine to power it"

The scientific crowd reports that it violates the basic rules of physics.  Details, details.

You can read the article here.  And watch the YouTube video here.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Imagine - Your Brain, Your City, Your Crew

Insight and Thought Leadership or Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

An entry from the Way Better Patents Reading List that has been pulled.

This post was written before it was revealed that Jonah Lehrer fabricated material in this book, notably quotes from Bob Dylan on how he created his music.  A July 30th story in the New York Times details how Mr. Lehrer fabricated the Dylan quotes and how he was exposed by Michael C. Moynihan in a Tablet article.  It calls into question the accuracy of the rest of the book.

We present our original review here.  Perhaps we were hoodwinked too.  The publisher has pulled the book off the shelves and is recalling it.  Time will tell if it resurfaces.  But in the meantime, here's what we originally wrote.  Amazon is in the process of pulling the book off its digital shelves as well.   If you get a question mark where the image goes, we will know the deed is done.

The original review.

This book may help you answer that important question, "Why didn't I think of that?"  This book is one of the best explorations of how people create things from the vantage point of how they think about them, what factors influence their thinking, and how who you hang out with can help drive your creativity.

Mr. Lehrer presents some interesting ways patents provide indicators that creativity is happening. And they are very revealing.  An analysis of patent citations reveals that "innovation was largely a local process, citations were ten times as likely to come from the same metropolitan area as a control patent."  Inventors are inspired by people in the 'hood.  And the best hoods for making this happen are the urban ones.  This is among the interesting information Mr. Lehrer presents.  (We aren't so sure about this one and are working to see if there is any truth on the citation front.)

Here the journalistic writing style makes even detailed information about neuroscience digestible and thought provoking.

Imagine by Jonah Lehrer — A great resource on understanding where ideas and creativity come from. Good insight on how patents point to good things happening. We were a bit put off by the hackneyed and unenlightened "fix the patent system" rhetoric without a plan at the conclusion of this book. (Note to self, write to Mr. Lehrer and see what his recommendations are.)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Powered by Lightening....

Lightning as an Energy Source?
A recent article at entitled “Could We Harness Lightning as an Energy Source?” provided estimates of the energy contained in lightning (An average bolt of lightning, striking from cloud to ground, contains roughly one billion (1,000,000,000) joules of energy), energy usage in US households, the annual number of lightning strikes in the US, and concluded that only about 0.6% of US households could be fully powered by lightning in the country. The author summarized engineering limitations of converting lightning to useful electricity, and concluded, “Sadly, it is completely, utterly unfeasible to use lightning for electricity.”
One of the fundamental bases for patentable inventions in the US is defined in Chapter 35 Section 101 of the US Code.
“Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.”
Inventions meet the “useful” criterion if they provide an identifiable benefit and are capable of use. An invention must work in order to receive a patent.
The blog article conclusion quoted above is incorrect in light of US Patent 8,045,314 issued on October 25, 2011. For the patent to have been issued, the examiner must have made a determination that it meets the requirements of 35 USC 101, including that the invention will work (i.e, it is not “completely, utterly unfeasible”).
The patent provides a “Method of atmospheric discharge energy conversion, storage and distribution”, was awarded to Effiong Etukudo Ibok of Sunnyvale, CA and assigned to The Travis Business Business Group, Inc. The USPTO considers the invention to be an electrical system or device that uses charge generating or conducting to modify an environmental electric charge. We place this patent in the patentECO Energy Index.
The patent’s first claim states:
“A method of converting an atmospheric electrical discharge into a useable form of electrical energy comprising deflecting the discharge to an air terminal via one or more separate air terminals of a polarity, the air terminal having an opposite polarity to the polarity of the separate air terminals;
arresting the discharge via the air terminal to a power mitigating (step down) unit via a conducting unit connected to the air terminal;
wherein said power mitigating unit is not a transformer, reducing voltage of the discharge via the power mitigating unit modulated according to a capacity of the power mitigating unit, wherein the discharge is grounded if in excess of the capacity, and wherein the power mitigating unit reduces the voltage of the discharge from approximately higher than 100 MV (mega volt) and 100 kA (kilo amperes) to below 20 kV (kilo volt), 10 kA;
and storing the discharge with the reduced voltage in an energy storage unit connected to the power mitigating unit, the storage unit comprising modules of high energy density capacitors and the storage unit discharging the electrical energy into a power grid or to an appliance.”
The background of the invention provides this nugget:
“Lightning strikes every part of the globe but not uniformly. The regions with the highest historical concentration of lightning strikes . . . include Florida and the Gulf Coast in the Americas, the Equatorial Highlands of DRC, Rwanda and Burundi in Central Africa and the Monsoon Belt in Asia. 
Except for the Americas, typically, these regions have very little electricity infrastructure. With the capability disclosed here, substantial reserves of electricity can be generated, stored and possibly traded.”

Thus, the inventor’s purpose is to provide a renewable energy source to developing nations that lack the electrical infrastructure and reserves of the US (and whose households would use a small fraction of the electricity consumption of US households).
This invention, issued by the USPTO Green Technology Pilot Program, is not the first of its kind. It cites 10 other patents as prior art, the first of which (US Patent 911,260) was issued to Walter Pinnock of Philadelphia in 1909 (157 years after Ben Franklin’s famous kite experiment in the same city). Pinnock, like recent inventor Ibok, provided a lightning collection mechanism and a storage unit (a battery in his case, ultracapacitors in Ibok’s). Both inventors sought to harness a renewable energy source. The illustrations are from Ibok’s and Pinnock’s patents.

The ability to successfully commercialize a patent is a far different venture than inventing a process or mechanism that is useful — that works.