August 29, 2011

Last Week in Patent News: Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Android, Microsoft

(August 21-28)

Hewlett-Packard patent news

HP is spinning off it's PC hardware business is causing some anxiety amongst suppliers. HP will actually continue to make laptops for the Japanese market. Speaking of Asian computer markets, China was shipped 18.5 million units surpassing the US for the first time in the 2nd quater of 2011. Samsung denies any interest in taking on HP's computer business. It's also rumored that Oracle is interested in picking up HP's hardware spinoff. HP CEO defends his dumb decision to kill WebOS, now it's rumored that Samsung may be interested in buying WebOS (but then again it was also rumored Samsung would take over HP's hardware manufacturing). Hackers get Android to run on HP's TouchPad (made to run WebOS). The $99 TouchPad was in such huge demand it crashed a UK retailers website. The demand led to ebay sales of the TouchPad at $300.

Apple patent news

So yeah someone left his CEO position with Apple, Tim Cook takes over. The iPhone 5 will be coming to Sprint and it's rumored T-Mobile too. The iPhone 5 will be a dual-mode phone capable of accessing both CDMA and GSM networks. Ironically, future iPhones may have Samsung manufactured displays, even after losing out on iPhone processor manufacturing after angering Apple with its Galaxy line.  Apple may develop iPhones that recognize a user by its voice. Danie Roy worries about an app that allows another person to remotely disable your iPhone camera (supposedly made for copyright protection) could fall into the wrong hands...

One analyst predicts the iPad will gain even more market share. Apple's computer sales are also skyrocketing. Intel worries it may be losing Apple's MacBook business. Rumors of a cheaper 8 gb iPhone were confirmed, I suspect it will have an important part in increasing Apple's market share in China. The latest rumors of an iPhone 5 release date point to October 7th.  iOS jailbreaking whiz "Comex" has an internship with Apple. India predicted to become a app developing hotspot because of their low-hourly rate. 

Microsoft versus Android

Microsoft began its ITC against Motorola to ban imports from the US. Considering how hollow Apple's "victory" against Samsung in Europe, does Microsoft, with a much, much weaker patent portfolio (more on this later in the week when I have some time...) think it can fare any better? Google needs to request reexamination of Microsoft's patents instead of just calling them 'bogus', I bet it could invalidate 99% of them. 

Android patent news

Interdigital's mobile patents took a hit to their value with Google (potentially) no longer bidding, personally I expect Google to continue bidding in order to inflate the price for it's competitors, just as it did with the Nortel auction. Some believe Kodak's patents may be Google's next acquisition. Google hasn't sought approval of its Motorola buy with China's Commerce Ministry. Bloomberg does it's usually great job giving us the details on the Goolge Motorola deal, the Mobile Gazette has more. The Business Standard has a great article on the effect the buy may have on other Android phone makers and PC Magazine writes about the waning market share of Motorola's handsets amongst other Android makers. And of course speculation of a Microsoft counter-bid continue.

Android gobbled up 61% of all mobile ad impressions from Millennial Media. Tim Conneally calls out the media's recent scaremongering regarding Android malware. Sony's S1 tablet will launch in September.

Verizon won't carry Samsung's Galaxy SII, Eric Zeman thinks it's because Verizon doesn't want it's own LTE phone upstaged. Samsung let slip that it will be making an Android flagship phone Nexus Prime, it's expected to be 4.5" and contain a 1.5 GHz processor. Meanwhile, Verizon's legal chief asked President Obama to intervene in the mobile patent wars.

More mobile patent news

Anders Bylund made a convincing case for Oracle buying Research in Motion. RIM's email services survived the freak East Coast earthquake. RIM's new Blackberries are selling better than expected and are expected to begin carrying Android apps starting in 2012 (Nokia should take note for when its Windows Phone gamble turns sour). DailyTech worries of a mobile duopoly in the US with the 'impending demise' of RIM.

Patent selloff madness to continue.  China's telecom giants Huawei and ZTE are also accumulating large amounts of patents. Meanwhile Korea will be developing an open-source mobile OS to compete with iOS and Android.  A new Intellectual Ventures-like patent behemoth may be forming with Wi-Lan attempts at a hostile take over of fellow troll Mosaid.  Broadcom is expected to increase the speed of its phone processors to attract customers beyond Nokia and Samsung.

More Software patent news

Katherine Noyes of PCWorld wrote a great column making the case for ending software patents. Techdirt also had an enlightening post on the topic 'What Idiot Wrote The Patent That Might Invalidate Software Patents? Oh, Wait, That Was Me'.

Tumbler is expected to reach an $800 million valuation and Linux turned 20.

Social media, free speech, state surveillance news

An Australian policeman worries Facebook's facial recognition technology could undermine undercover police officers. Woman claims she stayed in house for 18 months and hired armed guards because of twitter harasser, he claims his tweets such as "Do the world a favor and go kill yourself. P.S. Have a nice day" are protected under the first amendment...doubt he'll be able to convince a jury of that. Britain backs off its plans to block social media in times of crisis after meeting with Twitter Thursday.

The US woman accused of eavesdropping on on-duty policemen was acquitted and in a separate case an appeals court ruled that laws criminalizing the filming of on-duty police officers was unconstitutional. Mike Masnick at TechDirt gives a great explanation on why BART's phone shutdown was illegal. According to Google, Facebook reached its trillionth page view. A New York judge denied the US government a warrant for Verizon location date. Techdirt takes down the ridiculousness of "twitter influencing" services that apparently the US Government is employing


The award for stupidest "article" I read all week goes to: Android makers: Why not stick a 'sue me' sign on your back?
"By dropping the lawsuits, it would rebalance Apple back into a viable player on the mobile market, without others running afraid of being sued over what is basically a petty patent dispute."
Because you know as things stand, Apple isn't a viable player in the mobile market! Seriously I can't think of one actual coherent point made in the article.

Every week I hope to have the time to do more than a cursory news review of patents outside the consumer electronics/software industry and it just never happens. Rather than feel bad about it and after some thinking I've decided to just concentrate on 'tech' patents instead. Perhaps there will be a time when I can do the interesting topic of genetic patents and others but that time is just not now.

Also make sure to check out Patently-O Bits & Bytes by Lawrence Higgins for even more patent news.

August 27, 2011

Finding prior patent art with PriorSmart, PatentLens, and PatentStorm

PriorSmart is a great resource to start finding prior patent art.
I especially enjoy their international list of databases to search for patents.
First, let's find the patent I want to find prior art for, it's title is 'Product Value Information Interchange Server'
PriorSmart will start the prior patent search at any of the given patent databases on the left.
Since I know it's a US Patent, Google Patents will most likely have it, let's try there...
Sure enough, there it is.

This another one of those infamous patent owned by the vile Lodsys.
Now I know patent's number, US 7133834, can read it's abstracts and claims, or follow it's US patent citations to.  I prefer to download the entire patent to have for a reference, click the 'Download PDF' link.
Now I can open the pdf...
And check all the patent's citations, domestic and international. I want to make sure to avoid finding prior art that is already cited by the patent.
As you can see US 7133834 has done a more  thorough job citing other patents and references than the other Lodsys patent we looked at earlier.
But still, US 7133834 only cites two international patents and considering the broad and generalized claims of the patent even it's citation of previous US patents and publications is still weak.
Ok, let's return to PriorSmart and try searching for the title with PatentLens instead. Since US 7133834 is weak on international patent citations I want to search a more global patent database than Google Patents.  PatentLens searches not only US patents, but European and Australian too.
As you can see PatentLens easily finds US 7133834 from a title search as well.
One of the cool features of PatentLens is that you can always search from the top of the results page itself.

Let's try a Structured Search by following the link...

And erase the title search PriorSmart had started for us.
With a  Structured Search I have several different search options. 

I want PatentLens to search through its patents abstracts so that's what I've selected.

Let's start by searching for 'customer interface server'.
My results look great but there's too many.  Let's restrict the results by patent issue date.
I can do that by returning to the Structured Search above and checking the 'Publications or Filing Date' box.  This will open up a couple fields that I can use  to restrict the results by Published or Filing date depending on the option I've selected.

Ok, since US 7133834 was published on August 6th, 2006, let's try searching the 10 years previous to that.
I could also restrict the results by Patent Collections, but I don't want to.
Ok a few hundred less results is easier to look through and now I know they're before the issue date of US 7133834.
PatentLens offers quick ways to open several patents at once or to save specific results later by checking the box to their left...
And selecting 'View check patents' or 'Save checked patents' at the bottom left of the results.
PatentLen's patent summary page is very useful with the patent's bibliographic information, claims and abstract.
I can download the entire patent by following the 'PDF Version' link in the above navigation bar.

And either right-clicking to save the document, or at least in my browser (Chrome on OSX) clicking the save icon on the bottom right.
PatentLens also provides a helpful 'Patent Family and Status' section for each of its patents.

It looks as though the Australian version of the patent has been given priority of the US one, despite being published two weeks later.

Now that I know the patent's other numbers it's easy for me to check the citations of US 7133834 to make sure it's not already's not.
And if I can scroll down I can view the summaries of the different versions of the patent. 

You'll notice PatentLen's footer page has a link to it's help section.
So now you know where to go for help with the many topics not covered by the guide, including Expert Search.
Now I'd like to introduce you to another great resource for finding prior art: PatentStorm.  PatentStorms only drawback, like Google Patents, is limited only to US patents and applications.  But as we saw with PatentLens, there are still plenty of US patent that US 7133843 doesn't cite as prior art.

The useful navigation bar at top allows us to Browse patents by Inventor, Examiner, or Date.

There's also a FAQ if you have any questions this guide doesn't cover.

Let's start again with patent US 7133843, it's easy to find since we know the number.
There it is, the top result.
From PatentStorms summary page we can check the bibliographic information and follow the links to the US patents it cites.
We can also read the claims and abstract.
The feature I like most about PatentStorm is the ability to quickly search for other patents with the same classification.
If you hover over the class numbers, a window should display the class name.  Class 705/26, Electronic shopping, looks perfect.
PatentStorm has over 5,000 US Patents and applications in that class!  But they're up until the present, I'm only interested in patents issued before August 6th, 2006.  Let's try narrowing the results by issue date with an Advanced Search.

First copy the US class for Electronic shopping.

And follow the 'Advanced search' link located above.

Now paste the class 705/26 into the 'U.S. class' field.

Restrict issue date to between August 6th, 1994 and August 6th, 2004.
Unfortunately I get no results and have no idea why.  We'll have to just return to the 5,000 classification search result and scroll through until we get to a scroll through until I get to a year I'm interested in.
It takes me until page 83 to find results before August 6th, 2006.

But there's a quicker way to navigate the pages at PatentStorm than following the 'Next' link.  You'll notice the pages number is included in the web address above.  
If I change the ending of the address from '122' to '22' then PatentStorm takes me right to page 22.
I've found a result I like, but unfortunately to download the entire patent from PatentStorm we have to pay.

I'm not sure why anyone would though, after all US patents are easily downloadable from Google Patents.  Let's search there instead for 'Pay-per use for data-network-based public access services'.
There's my prior piece of patent art, all ready to be read and downloaded.
Ok, since I still haven't  found an international piece for prior art for US 7133834 and the classification search on PatentStorm didn't go so well, let's return to PriorSmart and try searching for 'electronic customer interface'.
But before we being our search, let's also restrict the results to those patents with the same IPC, or International Patent Classification.  Let's look back at US 7133834 to get it's IPC code 'G06Q 50/00'.
And type it into PriorSmart's IPC field.
And try submitting it to Espacenet.
I get no results, but that's just because PriorSmart started my search with the European Classification instead of the IPC.  We'll have to try an advanced search.

There's a already a Patent-Ed guide to learn more about using Espacenet here.
On the left side of the page you'll notice a navigation bar.

Follow the 'Advanced search' link.
Type the IPC classification code into its field.  We'll try 'electronic customer interface' again in the abstract.

And restrict the dates to the usual 10 years prior to US 7133834's issue date. 
And get some really great results...most are international in origin, so I know the likelihood of US 7133834 citing them is low. 
There it is, finally, a great piece of international prior patent art!
Return to Patent-Ed's Visual Guides for finding prior art >>