Patents

MPEG LA Announces Call For DASH Patents 50 50

An anonymous reader writes: The MPEG LA has announced a call for patents essential to the Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (or DASH) standard. According to the MPEG LA's press release, "Market adoption of DASH technology standards has increased to the point where the market would benefit from the availability of a convenient nondiscriminatory, nonexclusive worldwide one-stop patent pool license." The newly formed MPEG-DASH patent pool's licensing program will allegedly offer the market "efficient access to this important technology."
The Courts

Newegg Beats Patent Troll Over SSL and RC4 Encryption 90 90

New submitter codguy writes to note that a few days ago, and after a previous failed attempt to fight patent troll TQP Development in late 2013, Newegg has now beaten this troll in a rematch. From the linked post: "Newegg went against a company that claimed its patent covered SSL and RC4 encryption, a common encryption system used by many retailers and websites. This particular patent troll has gone against over 100 other companies, and brought in $45 million in settlements before going after Newegg." This follows on Intuit's recent success in defending itself against this claim.
United States

Modernizing the Copyright Office 49 49

An anonymous reader writes: Joshua Simmons has written a new article discussing the growing consensus that it is time to modernize the Copyright Office. It reviews the developments that led to the last major revision of the Copyright Act; discusses Congress's focus since 1976 on narrower copyright bills, rather than a wholesale revision of U.S. copyright law, and the developments that have led to the review hearings; and considers the growing focus on Copyright Office modernization.
Patents

HEVC Advance Announces H.265 Royalty Rates, Raises Some Hackles 184 184

An anonymous reader writes: The HEVC Advance patent pool has announced the royalty rates for their patent license for HEVC (aka H.265) video. HEVC users must pay these fees in addition to the license fees payable to the competing MPEG LA HEVC patent pool. With HEVC Advance's fees targeting 0.5% of content owner revenue which could translate to licensing costs of over $100M a year for companies like Facebook and Netflix, Dan Rayburn from Streaming Media advocates that "content owners band together and agree not to license from HEVC Advance" in the hope that "HEVC Advance will fail in the market and be forced to change strategy, or change their terms to be fair and reasonable." John Carmack, Oculus VR CTO, has cited the new patent license as a reason to end his efforts to encode VR video with H.265.
Patents

Apple Patents Bank Account Balance Snooping Tech 133 133

An anonymous reader writes: Apple's latest patent filings shows that the company is looking into displaying advertising based on your available bank balance. If Apple moves forward with this type of technology it would be a complete 360 on its previous direction to not monetize everything they know about customers. Tim Cook has even said multiple times that companies are targeting consumers on multiple fronts and that he's completely against using customer information in this manner and it's not the kind of company he wants Apple to be.
Patents

Google Applies For Patents That Touch On Fundamental AI Concepts 101 101

mikejuk writes: Google may have been wowing the web with its trippy images from neural networks but meanwhile it has just revealed that it has applied for at least six patents on fundamental neural network and AI [concepts]. This isn't good for academic research or for the development of AI by companies. The patents are on very specific things invented by Geoffrey Hinton's team like using drop out during training, or modifying data to provide additional training cases, but also include very general ideas such as classification itself. If Google was granted a patent on classification it would cover just about every method used for pattern recognition! You might make the charitable assumption that Google has just patented the ideas so that it can protect them — i.e. to stop other more evil companies from patenting them and extracting fees from open source implementations of machine learning libraries. Google has just started an AI arms race, and you can expect others to follow.
Transportation

Boeing Patents an Engine Run By Laser-Generated Fusion Explosions 242 242

MarkWhittington writes: Boeing has had a patent approved for an aircraft engine that uses laser-generated nuclear fusion as a power source, according to a story in Business Insider. The idea is already generating a great deal of controversy, according to the website Counter Punch. The patent has generated fears of what might happen if an aircraft containing radioactive material as fuel were to crash, spreading such fuel across the crash site.
Open Source

French Government IT Directorate Supports ODF, Rejects OOXML 75 75

jrepin writes: The final draft version of the RGI (general interoperability framework), still awaiting final validation, maintains ODF as the recommended format for office documents within French administrations. This new version of the RGI provides substantiated criticism of the OOXML Microsoft format. April thanks the DISIC (French Inter-ministerial IT directorate) for not giving in to pressure and acting in the long-term interest of all French citizens and their administrations. As Wikpedia notes, OOXML (Office Open XML) is not to be confused with OpenOffice.org XML. (Also on the open-source office-document format front, OpenSource.com has taken a look at five open alternatives to Google Docs.)
The Courts

Judge Tosses Jury's $533M Patent Verdict Against Apple, Orders New Trial 55 55

An anonymous reader writes: US District Judge Rodney Gilstrap has thrown out a $532.9 million damages award against Apple after a jury found that its iTunes software infringed three patents owned by a Texas company. Gilstrap ruled (pdf) that the damages verdict must be thrown out because of faulty jury instructions and has ordered a new trial to be held solely on the issue of damages.
Transportation

Allstate Patents Physiological Data Collection 142 142

TigerPlish writes: Allstate has been granted patent no. US 20140080100 A1 for a "driving-behavior database that it said might be useful for health insurers, lenders, credit-rating agencies, marketers and potential employers." The program is just in the patent stage for now, but the company says: "the invention has the potential to evaluate drivers' physiological data, including heart rate, blood pressure and electrocardiogram signals, which could be recorded from steering wheel sensors." Imagine a world where you are denied employment or credit based on the information obtained from your car and sold by your insurer. What could possibly go wrong?
Open Source

Open Source Hardware Pioneer Ladyada Interviews the New MakerBot CEO 38 38

ptorrone writes: Open source hardware pioneer and founder of Adafruit Limor "Ladyada" Fried sat down and interviewed the new CEO of MakerBot, Jonathan Jaglom. She asked some really tough questions had some suggestions for them, too, if they're going to turn things around. Discussed: Is there a desire for MakerBot to patch things up with the open source community? Jaglom wants to assure the 3D-printing community there are not any plans for filament DRM, and it was nice to hear him say "patents are not the way to win." Lastly, Fried suggested the open-sourcing of some specific elements of the MakerBot to get back to its open-source hardware roots.
Biotech

Editing DNA For Fame and Fortune 62 62

An anonymous reader writes: The world of genome editing is booming, with several startups racing to develop new tools and therapies out of the DNA-hacking insights of several hotshot scientists. Venture capitalists are pouring big money into this so-called 'CRISPR craze,' which has attracted over $600 million in funding since the beginning of 2013. But major questions loom over who is the rightful owner of this technology, and the leading parties are battling for control of the key patents. Will this new crop of genome-editing companies survive long enough to fulfill their promise of treating genetic disorders? As the patent feud wages on, lives and fortunes hang in the balance.
Software

Face Recognition Tech Pushes Legal Boundaries 110 110

An anonymous reader writes: As face recognition software becomes more capable, companies and governments are coming up with new ways to use it. Microsoft has already patented a Minority Report-style personalized billboard, and loss prevention departments in big stores are rolling out systems to "pre-identify" shoplifters. But this rush to implement the technology runs afoul of privacy laws in at least two U.S. states: Illinois and Texas forbid the use of face recognition software without "informed consent" from the target. Facebook is the target of a recent lawsuit in Illinois over this exact issue; it's likely to test the strength of such a law. "Facebook and Google use facial recognition to detect when a user appears in a photograph and to suggest that he or she be tagged. Facebook calls this "Tag Suggestions" ... With the boom in personalized advertising technology, a facial recognition database of its users is likely very, very valuable to Facebook. ... Eager to extract that value, Facebook signed users up by default when it introduced Tag Suggestions in 2011. This meant that Facebook calculated faceprints for every user who didn't take the steps to opt out." If Facebook loses and citizens start pushing for similar laws in other states, it could keep our activities in public relatively anonymous for a bit longer.
Patents

Khan Academy Seeks Patents On Learning Computer Programming, Social Programming 97 97

theodp writes: When it announced its brand new Computer Science platform in August 2012, Khan Academy explained it drew inspiration from both Bret Victor and GitHub (SlideShare). Still, that didn't stop Khan Academy from eventually seeking patents on its apparently Victor-inspired Methods and Systems for Learning Computer Programming and GitHub-inspired Systems and Methods for Social Programming, applications for which were quietly disclosed by the USPTO earlier this year. Silicon Valley legal powerhouse Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, which provides a pro bono team of 20+ to assist billionaire-backed Khan Academy with its legal needs, filed provisional patent applications for KA in August 2013 — provisional applications can be filed up to 12 months following an inventor's public disclosure of the invention — giving it another 12 months before formal claims had to be filed (KA's non-provisional applications were filed in August 2014).
Patents

Supreme Court Rules In Favor of Patent Troll 87 87

An anonymous reader writes: The Supreme Court ruled today (PDF) that Cisco Systems can't skip out of a patent suit against them from patent troll Commil USA. The case reached the Supreme Court because Cisco argued it had a "good faith belief" that the patent they were infringing was invalid. The justices voted 6-2 that such a belief didn't matter if they were indeed infringing. The Supreme Court's opinion is that a company must know of the patent it's infringing, and that their product infringes upon the patent — which, at least, is more than what Commil was pushing.

The case isn't completely over — a $63.7 million verdict in Commil's favor was overturned by an Appeals Court, and now the Supreme Court has sent it back down for re-evaluation after it clarified the rules of infringement. The Appeals Court could still overturn the judgment for some other reason. The good news is that the Supreme Court dedicated a page in their opinion to telling lower courts how to sanction patent trolls and keep them from clogging the courts with ridiculous claims. "[I]t is still necessary and proper to stress that district courts have the authority and responsibility to ensure frivolous cases are dissuaded."
Businesses

Apple Design Guru Jony Ive Named Chief Design Officer 147 147

An anonymous reader writes: Jony Ive, Apple's senior VP of design has been promoted to the role of Chief Design Officer. Ive became Apple's chief of industrial design in 1997. Under Ive's direction, Apple's put out an impressive list of products including the iMac, iPod, and iPad. "In this new role, he will focus entirely on current design projects, new ideas and future initiatives," said chief executive Tim Cook in a memo. "Jony is one of the most talented and accomplished designers of his generation, with an astonishing 5,000 design and utility patents to his name."
The Courts

Oculus Founder Hit With Lawsuit 122 122

An anonymous reader writes: Palmer Luckey, founder of VR headset-maker Oculus, has been sued by a company accusing him of taking their confidential information and passing it off as his own. Total Recall Technologies, based in Hawaii, claims it hired Luckey in 2011 to build a head-mounted display. Part of that employment involved Luckey signing a confidentiality agreement. In August, 2012, Luckey launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Oculus Rift headset, and Facebook bought his company last year for $2 billion. TRT is seeking compensatory and punitive damages (PDF).
Google

Cute Or Creepy? Google's Plan For a Sci-Fi Teddy Bear 102 102

HughPickens.com writes: Time Magazine reports that Google has designed and patented an "anthropomorphic device" that could take the form of a "doll or toy" and interact both with people as well as tech gadgets echoing the "super toy" teddy bear featured in Stephen Spielberg's 2001 movie AI. This could be one of Google's creepiest patents yet — especially if movies like "Chuckie" still give you nightmares. The patent filing diagrams a stuffed teddy bear and a bunny rabbit outfitted with microphones, speakers, cameras and motors as well as a wireless connection to the internet. If it senses you're looking at it, the fuzzy toy will rotate its head and look back at you. Once it receives and recognizes a voice command prompt, you can then tell it to control media devices in your home (e.g. turn on your music or TV). According to the patent filing: "To express interest, an anthropomorphic device may open its eyes, lift its head, and/or focus its gaze on the user or object of its interest. To express curiosity, an anthropomorphic device may tilt its head, furrow its brow, and/or scratch its head with an arm. To express boredom, an anthropomorphic device may defocus its gaze, direct its gaze in a downward fashion, tap its foot, and/or close its eyes. To express surprise, an anthropomorphic device may make a sudden movement, sit or stand up straight, and/or dilate its pupils."

The patent adds that making the device look "cute" should encourage even the youngest members of a family to interact with it. But Mikhail Avady, from SmartUp, said he thought it belonged in "a horror film", and the campaign group Big Brother Watch has also expressed dismay. "When those devices are aimed specifically at children, then for many this will step over the creepy line," says Avady. "Children should be able to play in private and shouldn't have to fear this sort of passive invasion of their privacy."
Transportation

GM's Exec. Chief Engineer For Electric Vehicles Pam Fletcher Answers Your Question 107 107

Pam Fletcher was propulsion system chief engineer on the first Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid and is now executive chief engineer for electrified vehicles at GM, overseeing electrified vehicles company-wide. A while ago you had a chance to ask about her work and the future of electric cars. Below you'll find her answers to your questions.
Patents

Court of Appeals Says Samsung's Legal Payments To Apple Should Be Reduced 66 66

Mark Wilson writes: Patent lawsuits in the world of technology are nothing new, and the case between Apple and Samsung resulted in one of the largest fines ever being handed down. Samsung was order to pay $930 million in damages after a court found that the company had violated Apple patents with its smartphone and tablet designs. Today the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned part of the original ruling, saying that the jury was wrong to say that Samsung infringed on Apple's trade dress intellectual property. The exact details of what this will mean are yet to come out, but it should lead to a fairly hefty reduction in Samsung's legal costs.