Thursday, June 03, 2010

Expedited Patent Examination

Here's a great idea:
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office chief David Kappos is proposing a new three-track system for patent applications that would allow applicants to pay an undisclosed amount on top of the standard $1,090 filing fee to jump to the front of the line for expedited reviews.
But will everyone do it?  Full article from the Wall Street Journal here

Thursday, May 20, 2010

ATM Inventor Dies

John Sheppard-Baron, who is credited with inventing the ATM machine, has died.  This article from the Chicago Tribune has his obituary.  And oh, how times have changed with the ATM:

The first automated teller machine, or ATM, was installed at a branch of Barclays in a north London suburb on June 27, 1967. (An earlier mechanical device was installed at a New York bank in 1939, but it was soon dismantled when customers showed no interest.)

Instead of plastic bank cards, Shepherd-Barron's machine used special checks that were chemically coded. Customers placed the checks in a drawer, and after a personal identification number (PIN) was entered, a second drawer would spring open with a 10-pound note.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Inventors - Clorox Wants You!

 It appears that Clorox is seeking "new ideas for products that help consumers reduce the spread of bacteria, fungi and viruses that can cause illness. If a product concept is chosen through this campaign, the inventor will receive a $2,500 advance and other compensation based on sales."

However, "While submissions need not be limited to traditional home cleaning categories, Clorox is not interested in new ideas for personal care products, pharmaceutical drugs, or medical devices."

Full contest rules are available here.

Deadline is July 5, 2010, so get inventing!

Chester Carlson - The Copy Machine

I can't believe I've neglected to rave about the book Copies in Seconds, by David Owen.  I came across this book on Amazon a few years back, in my search for a good non-fiction read.  (And for some reason, I like reading about inventors and companies.)  This one talks about the struggle of Chester Carlson to get anyone to pay attention to his wonderful invention, which we all know as xerography.  Photocopies.  This is a fascinating book and it reads like fiction.  (Meaning, it is a very easy read, and maybe even a good beach read for you this summer!)

I was reminded of this book because I came across this article from the Contra Costa Times, which is also about Chester Carlson.  In part:

The first year of the Great Depression was a lousy time for finding jobs - even for a Caltech graduate. He went to New York where he accepted relatively menial office jobs at which he often was called upon to copy information, either by hand or using a highly inefficient photographic process.

From these tedious exercises grew the idea that an image could be transferred electrically to paper via a charged powder, or toner.

He patented his process called xerography - "dry printing" - in 1937 and offered the concept to IBM in 1940. Nobody seemed much interested.
I added the Amazon link so you can see the cover of the book, but I have no idea why this book is so expensive.  You can probably find a copy on eBay for cheap, or through one of the used sellers on Amazon.  If you have any good inventor book suggestions for me, please let me know in the comments! 


   

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Battle of the Experts

Althought non-precedential, B-K Lighting, Inc. v. Fresno Valves & Castings, Inc. (Case No. 2008-1537, April 28, 2010, Federal Circuit Court of Appeals) provides a good reminder what constitutes a factual issue for purposes of summary judgment.

In this case, at issue was whether certain claims for a lighting mount were obvious in light of the prior art:

“The question of obviousness was focused on the differences between the combination of these prior art devices and claims 3, 12, 15, 18, 19, 21, and 22 of the '084 patent, and in particular whether the Hydrel 7100 disclosed frictional pivoting. On appeal, B-K Lighting principally asserts that claims 3, 12, 15, 18, 19, 21, and 22 would not have been obvious because the Hydrel device did not disclose frictional pivoting.”
The parties’ experts submitted opposing declarations on summary judgment as to whether the Hydrel device disclosed frictional pivoting. The district court disregarded the patentee’s expert’s opinion and granted summary judgment on nonobviousness.

The Federal Circuit vacated, finding that:

“The district court disregarded Pratt's declaration, calling it "conclusory" and "factually unsupported." Summary Judgment Order, slip. op. at 31-32. It is not clear, however, why the court found Pratt's declaration any more conclusory than Dornfeld's. Both experts based their opinions on the same data sheets for the Hydrel 7100. This conflict in expert declarations regarding whether the Hydrel 7100 disclosed frictional pivoting created a genuine issue of material fact that made summary judgment inappropriate. See, e.g., Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Bancorp Servs., L.L.C., 527 F.3d 1330, 1338-39 (Fed. Cir. 2008); Helifix Ltd. v. Blok-Lok, Ltd., 208 F.3d 1339, 1351-52 (Fed. Cir. 2000); Optical Disc Corp. v. Del Mar Avionics, 208 F.3d 1324, 1338-39 (Fed. Cir. 2000); Cont'l Can Co. USA v. Monsanto Co., 948 F.2d 1264, 1269 (Fed. Cir. 1991). Because the conflicting testimony of the parties' experts regarding whether the Hydrel 7100 disclosed frictional pivoting created a genuine issue of material fact, we vacate the district court's judgment of invalidity for claims 3, 12, 15, 18, 19, 21, and 22 of the '084 patent.”

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How to Get an Innovative Razor to Market

It can be difficult for a small time inventor to compete against a big corporation in order to break into the market.  The New York Times has this article about the approach taken by the ShaveMate inventors to get shelf space among giants like Gillette and Shick.  In part:

After years of research and development, engineering and patent work, the brothers took their razors to the military in 2002 because they had heard that soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan were dry shaving. That first product was rugged and featured two blades, with the shaving cream in the handle. The military became a repeat customer.

Still, the Tomassettis found American retailers reluctant to take shelf space from Gillette and Schick. Store managers encouraged the brothers to improve their product — add more blades, they suggested. So the Tomassettis did. With six blades, ShaveMate offers one more in-line blade than its competitors, and it is the only all-in-one razor on the market with shaving cream in the handle.
An interesting read, and a creative approach. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Museum Exhibits Inventions that Have Changed Our Lives

If you live anywhere near the Polk County Historical Museum in Bartow, FL, you might want to check out their new exhibit (which runs through the end of June) on 20th century inventions that have changed our lives.  The exhibit appears to highlight such inventions as the gas mask, Life Savers, a graphophone, the radio, Bakelite plastic, the tape dispenser, Band-Aids, ballpoint pens, and many others.  You can find an article about the exhibit here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Secondary Considerations – Litigation Induced Licenses?

One of the secondary considerations to rebut obviousness is the acquiescence of others in the industry, often shown through licensing the patented invention. Presumably, a competitor does not act against his or her own economic interests (i.e., by paying a licensing fee) unless convinced of the validity of the patent.

Does it matter if the licenses are the result of litigation or the threat of litigation? Recently in the Eastern District of Texas, the district court denied defendants’ motion in limine to exclude litigation induced licenses. The plaintiff intended to introduce them not only for evidence of secondary considerations, but for damages as well. The court stated: “Defendants’ concerns about the reliability of litigation-related licenses are better direct to weight, not admissibility.” See Datatreasury Corporation v. Wells Fargo & Company et al., 2-06-cv-00072 (TXED March 4, 2010, Order) (Folsom, J.), available here.