Are You Smarter Than A First Year IP Law Student?

The US Patent and Trademark Office wants to know. In conjunction with the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the USPTO is offering an online “Intellectual Property Awareness Assessment”, e.g., a pop-quiz designed to test your IP acumen.
The quiz is 62 questions long, takes 20-30 minutes, and covers several basic IP categories:
• Trademarks
• Copyrights
• Design Patents
• Trade Secrets
• Utility Patents
• Using Technology of Others
• Licensing Technology to Others
• International IP Rights
The survey-like questions are pretty basic, such as “Do you provide training to your employees to help them identify inventions they or their colleagues make?” Results are provided, and remedial training materials are available in case you slept through your first-year law classes. Over-achievers shouldn’t expect advanced questions on plant patents, semiconductor chip protection, vessel hull design protection, etc., and under-achievers can probably get by on pure instinct. Nevertheless, I applaud the nice outreach effort by the USPTO/NIST, and the metrics should provide needed feedback as to whether they are passing/failing their own mission statement which includes “delivering intellectual property information and education worldwide.”

Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus

In the post-Bilski/KSR/Prometheus regime patents are unquestionably a costlier and riskier investment. Statistics confirm this. Fifty percent of patent applications are abandoned these days, as opposed to only thirty-five percent in 2004. Paying more to prolong prosecution (via request for continued examination) restores the odds of success, but at a price. [USPTO statistics at] Even after the patent is awarded, of those subsequently litigated roughly 40% are declared invalid in court, many falling prey to the judicial shifts in patent law. Place all that against a backdrop of a relatively slow recovery from a relatively deep recession, and lingering cutbacks in research and development investment. A sage investor might have predicted a drop-off in patent filings, but just the opposite has happened. U.S. patent filings have increased steadily in recent years, and international patent filings have increased dramatically. Why? The Constitutional purpose of our patent system is to create incentives for innovation, and patent budgets have historically tracked R&D budgets. However, there are recent dynamics that disassociate the two. Patent trolling (by companies seeking only to profit from lawsuits) is on the rise. Reports estimate that there were five times as many patent trolling lawsuits in 2010 than in 2004. [Patent Freedom 2011] Defensive patent aggregation (to mitigate the risk of litigation from patent trolls) is on the rise. The number of U.S. patents granted to foreign companies and individuals is on the rise, exceeding the 50% mark in 2009 and continuing to date. [IFI Patent Intelligence]. Is the U.S. patent system broken? No, but she moves in mysterious ways and the statistics surely bear closer watching. The USPTO is beginning to take an active role in this, having established the Office of the Chief Economist in March 2010, and appointed Dr. Stuart Graham as its first Chief Economist. A few days ago the USPTO jointly released an ambitious report that directly or indirectly attributes forty million U.S. jobs to intellectual property: Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus.  The report will convince you that the U.S. economy hinges on intellectual property. The only thing lacking is what to make of it? I’m already looking forward to the sequel.

10th Circuit Dish Network insurance case reinforces the need to read your policy closely……very closely.

Well-known patent troll Ron Katz sued Dish Network in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleging infringement of 23 patents by Dish Network’s customer service telephone system pay-per-view ordering features. Dish had five commercial insurance policies in place all of which provided for defense costs in lawsuits claiming “advertising Injury.” As is typical, the policies all defined “advertising Injury” as injury arising out, et alia, “misappropriation of advertising ideas or style of doing business.” Equating patent infringement to misappropriation, and noting that some of the claims of some of the patents covered a method of advertising, … (more…)

Steve Jobs: Farewell to a Visionary

The image is from the website today.

Steve founded Apple® Computer in 1976, and launched the first successful personal computer (the Macintosh®) in 1984.  I was working as an electrical engineer at the time and remember the incredible buzz that it created.  Since then we have all enjoyed the iPod®, iPad®, iPhone®, and Pixar®.  Steve was a true visionary and prolific inventor. He is named as an inventor on 312 issued Apple patents, and a handful of pending applications.  You can peruse the patents by cutting and pasting the following into your browser: