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Patents

Patent Office Rules CRISPR Patents, Potentially Worth Billions, Belong To Broad Institute (theverge.com) 70

According to a ruling by judges at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the disputed patents on the gene-editing tool CRISPR belong to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. "The ruling comes a little over two months after a high-profile court hearing, during which MIT and University of California, Berkeley heatedly argued about who should own CRISPR," The Verge reports. From their report: STAT News reported that the decision was one sentence long. The three judges decided that the Broad patents are different enough from the ones the University of California applied for that the Broad patents stand. The patent ruling suggests that the work done by Jennifer Doudna of the University of California and her colleagues on CRISPR wasn't so groundbreaking as to make any other advance obvious. But that legal opinion isn't how the science world views her work, STAT points out: "Doudna and her chief collaborator, Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in the life sciences in 2015, the $500,000 Gruber Genetics Prize in 2015, and the $450,000 Japan Prize in 2017," the outlet notes.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Files Patent-Infringement Suit Against Nokia (bloombergquint.com) 53

An anonymous reader writes: BlackBerry has filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Nokia, demanding royalties on the Finnish company's mobile network products that use an industrywide technology standard. Nokia's products including its Flexi Multiradio base stations, radio network controllers and Liquid Radio software are using technology covered by as many as 11 patents, BlackBerry said in a complaint filed in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware. The mobile network products and services are provided to companies including T-Mobile and AT&T for their LTE networks, BlackBerry said in the complaint. "Nokia has persisted in encouraging the use" of the standard- compliant products without a license from BlackBerry, it said.
Chrome

Chrome's Sandbox Feature Infringes On Three Patents So Google Must Now Pay $20 Million (bleepingcomputer.com) 104

An anonymous reader writes: After five years of litigation at various levels of the U.S. legal system, today, following the conclusion of a jury trial, Google was ordered to pay $20 million to two developers after a jury ruled that Google had infringed on three patents when it designed Chrome's sandboxing feature. Litigation had been going on since 2012, with Google winning the original verdict, but then losing the appeal. After the Supreme Court refused to listen to Google's petition, they sent the case back for a retrial in the U.S. District Court in Eastern Texas, the home of all patent trolls. As expected, Google lost the case and must now pay $20 million in damages, in the form of rolling royalties, which means the company stands to pay more money as Chrome becomes more popular in the future.
Patents

Microsoft Now Offers Patent Troll Defense For Azure Customers (thestack.com) 31

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft Azure will now offer customers protection against patent trolling, via Redmond's considerable collection of 10,000 legal patents. The practice of patent trolling has become an industry hazard for startups in the last fifteen years, with companies forming solely for the purpose of exploiting obscure or difficult-to-research patents which may overlap with the IP of startups. As of today, Azure is offering 'uncapped indemnification coverage', including coverage against open-source implementations of entities such as Hadoop, which forms the basis of Azure's HD Insight product.
Patents

Patent Troll With Good Record in Past Sues Netflix, SoundCloud, Vimeo, Others Over Offline Downloads (arstechnica.com) 94

Netflix added the ability to download movies and TV episodes for offline viewing in November last year. Music streaming service SoundCloud, and video hosting service Vimeo have had this feature for quite some time, too. But they are all being sued now by a patent troll. From an ArsTechnica report: The plaintiff is a company few have heard of: Blackbird Technologies, a company with no products or assets other than patents. Blackbird's business is to buy up patent rights and file lawsuits over them, a business known colloquially as "patent trolling." Last week, Blackbird (who tells potential clients about being "able to litigate at reduced costs and achieve results") filed lawsuits against Netflix, SoundCloud, Vimeo, Starz, Mubi, and Studio 3 Partners, which owns the Epix TV channel. [...] The patent-holding company, which filed the lawsuits in Delaware federal court, has good reason to hope for success. The '362 patent already has a track record of squeezing settlement cash out of big companies.
IOS

Lawsuit Claims Apple Forced Users To iOS 7 By Breaking FaceTime (appleinsider.com) 90

According to Apple Insider, a class-action lawsuit has been filed in California that claims Apple broke FaceTime in iOS 6 to force users to upgrade to iOS 7. The lawsuit says Apple forced users to upgrade so it could avoid payments on a data deal with Akamai. From the report: When FaceTime launched in 2010, Apple included two methods of connecting one iPhone to another. The first, a peer-to-peer technology, transferred audio and video data over a direct connection, while a second "relay method" used third-party servers run by Akamai to shuttle data back and forth. Initially, calls routed through Akamai's relay servers only accounted for only 5 to 10 percent of FaceTime traffic, but usage quickly spiked. On Nov. 7, 2012, a jury found Apple's peer-to-peer FaceTime call technology in infringement of patents owned by VirnetX. Along with a $368 million fine, the ruling meant Apple would have to shift away from peer-to-peer to avoid further infringement. Apple began to incur multi-million dollar monthly charges from Akamai as a result of the change. Testimony from the 2016 VirnetX retrial pegged relay fees at about $50 million between April 2013 and September 2013, rates that according to today's lawsuit were of concern to Apple executives. After eating rising relay service charges for nearly a year, Apple saw a chance to slow down or completely negate the fees in iOS 7. Among other system improvements, the next-generation OS included a method of creating peer-to-peer FaceTime connections without infringing on VirnetX patents. The only problem, according to the lawsuit, was that users continued to operate devices running iOS 6. Citing internal emails and sworn testimony from the VirnetX trial, the lawsuit alleges Apple devised a plan to "break" FaceTime on iOS 6 or earlier by causing a vital digital certificate to prematurely expire. Apple supposedly implemented the "FaceTime Break" on April 16, 2014, then blamed the sudden incompatibility on a bug, the lawsuit claims.
Patents

Apple Patents a Vaporizer (cnn.com) 101

Apple's product lineup may extend beyond cars and the connected home. A patent filed last year and published January 26 reveals a concept for a vaporizer. From a report on CNN Money, shared by reader JoshTops: The details are a bit hazy -- that is, Apple's patent only describes "a substance that is to be vaporized or sublimated into a vapor," not what the substance might be. The patent, filed by Apple employee Tetsuya Ishikawa, outlines plans for a temperature-regulated plate inside a chamber that heats up a substance to form a vapor. Many people use vapes to inhale nicotine or marijuana, and they are sometimes used as a replacement for cigarettes. The FDA began regulating vaping last year, and set rules for the manufacturing and distribution of vapes and their components. Vaporizers are also used in industries like healthcare and agriculture, so it's possible Apple is thinking bigger than personal use.
Businesses

Apple Expands Qualcomm Legal Spat To China (cnet.com) 44

Apple's legal battle with Qualcomm has gone international. From a report: The iPhone maker on Wednesday filed two lawsuits against Qualcomm in China, according to Reuters, which cited a press release from Beijing's Intellectual Property Court. The first alleges that Qualcomm "abused its clout in the chip industry," a violation of China's anti-monopoly law. Apple seeks 1 billion yuan ($145.32 million) in damages, Reuters said. The second accuses Qualcomm of not making its cellular standard essential patents available broadly and cheaply. It asks the court to determine the terms of a patent license between Qualcomm and Apple.
Businesses

Amazon Patent Hints at Self-Driving Car Plans (theguardian.com) 28

Amazon is working on self-driving cars, according to a new patent that deals with the complex task of navigating reversible lanes. From a report on The Guardian: The patent, filed in November 2015 and granted on Tuesday, covers the problem of how to deal with reversible lanes, which change direction depending on the bulk of the traffic flow. This type of lane is typically used to manage commuter traffic into and out of cities, particularly in the US. Autonomous vehicles, the patent warns, "may not have information about reversible lanes when approaching a portion of a roadway that has reversible lane", leading to a worst-case scenario of them driving headfirst into oncoming traffic. More generally, the inability to plan for reversible lanes means cars and trucks can't optimize their routes by getting into the correct lane well in advance, something that could otherwise prove to be one of the benefits of self-driving cars. Amazon's solution to the problem could have much larger ramifications than simply dealing with highway traffic in large cities. The patent proposes a centralized roadway management system that can communicate with multiple self-driving cars to exchange information and coordinate vehicle movement at a large scale.
Businesses

US Antitrust Agency Sues Qualcomm Over Patent Licensing (reuters.com) 71

Qualcomm shares have plunged after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against the company on Tuesday, accusing the company of using "anticompetitive" tactics to maintain its monopoly on a key semiconductor used in mobile phones. Reuters reports: The FTC, which works with the Justice Department to enforce antitrust law, said that San Diego-based Qualcomm used its dominant position as a supplier of certain phone chips to impose "onerous" supply and licensing terms on cellphone manufacturers and to weaken competitors. Qualcomm said in a statement that it would "vigorously contest" the complaint and denied FTC allegations that it threatened to withhold chips in order to collect unreasonable licensing fees. In its complaint, the FTC said the patents that Qualcomm sought to license are standard essential patents, which means that the industry uses them widely and they are supposed to be licensed on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. The FTC complaint also accused Qualcomm of refusing to license some standard essential patents to rival chipmakers, and of entering into an exclusive deal with Apple Inc. The FTC asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose to order Qualcomm to end these practices.
Microsoft

Microsoft Patent Hints At Foldable Tablet Design For Surface Phone (trustedreviews.com) 26

A new patent has surfaced from Microsoft that may shed some light on the company's upcoming Surface Phone. The patent, which was first filed in October 2014 and recently made public, details a 2-in-1 foldable device with a flexible hinge that can act both as a smartphone and a tablet. TrustedReviews reports: The device in the filings can be configured into various shapes, either folded out like tablets, or folded back inwards to create a smaller phone-like handset. There's also the opportunity to place it in a tent-mode much like Lenovo's range of Yoga hybrids which can be propped up to make it easier to watch media. Microsoft has taken a universal approach to Windows 10, in that the OS is designed to work across multiple devices, so a Surface Phone that could transform into another mobile product would make a lot of sense in terms of demonstrating Windows 10s capabilities. The inventor of the product in the patent is listed as Kabir Siddiqui, the man behind Microsoft's successful patent for the Surface kickstand and Surface camera angle -- which bodes well for this latest design in the long run. Unfortunately, there's every chance we'll never see this technology in a retail-ready product from Microsoft, though some version of the foldable device could well arrive.
Iphone

Apple/Samsung Patent Case Returns To Court To Revisit Infringement Damages (macrumors.com) 84

An anonymous reader quotes MacRumors: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Thursday reopened a longstanding patent lawsuit related to Samsung copying the design of the iPhone nearly six years ago...according to court documents filed electronically this week... Apple's damages were calculated based on Samsung's entire profit from the sale of its infringing Galaxy smartphones, but the Supreme Court ruled it did not have enough info to say whether the amount should be based on the total device, or rather individual components such as the front bezel or the screen. It will now be up to the appeals court to decide.

Apple last month said the lawsuit, ongoing since 2011, has always been about Samsung's "blatant copying" of its ideas, adding that it remains optimistic that the U.S. Court of Appeals will "again send a powerful signal that stealing isn't right."

IBM

IBM Is First Company To Get 8,000 US Patents In One Year, Breaking Record (silicon.co.uk) 94

Reader Mickeycaskill writes: For the 24th year in a row, IBM received the most patents of any company in the US. But for the first time it got more than 8,000 -- the first firm in any industry to do so. In total, its inventors were granted 8,088 patents in 2016, covering areas as diverse as artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive computing, cloud, health and cyber security.
That's equal to more than 22 patents a day generated by its researchers, engineers and designers, with more than a third of the patents relating to AI, cognitive computing and cloud computing alone. IBM is betting big on cloud and other services, having spun off its hardware units like servers and PCs to Lenovo. The other nine companies in the top ten list of 2016 US patent recipients consist of: Samsung electronics (with 5,518 patents), Canon (3,665), Qualcomm (2,897), Google (2,835), Intel (2,784), LG Electronics (2,428), Microsoft (2,398), Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (2,288) and Sony (2,181).

The Courts

A Federal Judge's Decision Could End Patent Trolling (computerworld.com) 168

"Forcing law firms to pay defendants' legal bills could undermine the business model of patent trolls," reports Computerworld. whoever57 writes: Patent trolls rely on the fact that they have no assets and, if they lose a case, they can fold the company that owned the patent and sued, thus avoiding paying any of the defendant's legal bills. However in a recent case, the judge told the winning defendant that it can claim its legal bills from the law firm. The decision is based on the plaintiff's law firm using a contract under which it would take a portion of any judgment, making it more than just counsel, but instead a partner with the plaintiff. This will likely result in law firms wanting to be paid up front, instead of offering a contingency-based fee.
The federal judge's decision "attacks the heart of the patent-troll system," according to the article, which adds that patent trolls are "the best evidence that pure evil exists."
Iphone

Original iPhone Prototype With iPod Click Wheel Surfaces Online (macrumors.com) 35

Famed Apple leaker Sonny Dickson has shared an early prototype of the original iPhone, with a collection of images and a video that provides a glimpse into one version of the iPhone that Apple created and tested before ending up with the first iteration of the device. Mac Rumors reports: The prototype includes some similar features to the first generation iPhone, like an aluminum chassis, multi-touch compatible screen, 2G connectivity and Wi-Fi, but its entire user interface is taken directly from the click wheel system of Apple's original iPod line. Called "Acorn OS," the prototype software includes an on-screen click wheel on the bottom half of the screen and a menu system on the top half, and the two are bisected by a bar with rewind, menu, play/pause, and fast-forward buttons. On the menu are options such as "Favorites," "SMS," "Music," "Settings," and "Recents," and it's navigated by circling around the click wheel to go up and down, with a center press confirming an action, just like on the iPod. Dickson references Apple's patent for a "multi-functional hand-held device," filed and published in 2006, as proof that such a prototype did exist at one point and could potentially have been an alternate version of the iPhone. In one of the patent's drawings, a click wheel can be seen as a possible input method for the proposed device. The patent's abstract describes a product with "at most only a few physical buttons, keys, or switches so that its display size can be substantially increased."
Iphone

Family Sues Apple For Not Making Thing It Patented (nymag.com) 455

An anonymous reader writes: A lawsuit filed against Apple last week argues that, by not actually making a product that it patented, the company is partly responsible for an automobile accident. According to Jalopnik, James and Bethany Modisette are suing the tech company after a car crash two years ago that killed one of their daughters and injured the rest of the family. The driver of the car who hit them had been using Apple's FaceTime video chat at the time. The patent in question was first applied for in 2008, and describes "a lock-out mechanism to prevent operation of one or more functions of handheld computing devices by drivers when operating vehicles," such as texting or video chatting. The complaint cites Apple's "failure to design, manufacture, and sell the Apple iPhone 6 Plus with the patented, safer, alternative design technology" -- in other words, lack of the program's inclusion -- as a "substantial factor" in the crash.
Microsoft

Microsoft Patent Suggests HoloLens Could Keep Track of Your Small Items (theverge.com) 62

A new Microsoft patent has been published that describes a system that would let its HoloLens glasses track small items like car keys, ultimately helping users find their lost belongings. What's more is that the system can "monitor the status of objects without any instructions from users, keeping tabs on anything that's important to their lives," writes Adi Robertson via The Verge. From the report: The patent's basic idea is pretty simple. HoloLens has outward-facing cameras that can make a spatial map of a room, and machine vision technology can identify or track specific objects in an image. So if, for example, you put your keys down on a table, HoloLens could hypothetically spot them through the camera and quietly note their position. When you're about to leave the house, it could give you the keys' last known location, even if they've since been covered up by a newspaper or slipped under a couch cushion. But what's really interesting isn't the idea of HoloLens tracking an object. It's HoloLens learning what items matter to you and choosing what to follow, before you ever worry about losing something. To be clear, you could designate objects: one example has a traveler telling HoloLens to track their passport while abroad. In other cases, though, it could check to see how often you interact with an object, or when you move it around, and start tracking anything that hits a certain threshold.
Patents

Apple Patent Hints At Magnetic Ear Hooks To Keep Future AirPods In Your Ears (digitaltrends.com) 73

Patently Apple has recently uncovered a new Apple patent that may help AirPods stay in your ears. The patent details a magnetic mechanism that wraps around the user's ear. Digital Trends reports: The magnets attract each other through the ear tissue, keeping the AirPods in place and ensuring that they don't get lost. Of course, it's not certain if Apple filed this patent with AirPods in mind -- one of the images clearly shows a wired pair of headphones, and the patent was filed in June. The concept, however, would help keep both wired and wireless earbuds in place. The issue of keeping AirPods in the ear has been arguably the biggest issue related to the AirPods, and for good reason -- they're pretty expensive little devices, so losing them is definitely not something you want to do. It's possible that Apple decided against using the ear hooks for aesthetic reasons -- Apple is known for its excellent design and the ear hooks in the patent don't exactly look great. Not only that but the design of the charging case would have to change with the ear hooks. Some reports indicate that the patent could be implemented with future versions and given the hullaballoo surrounding keeping AirPods in, we wouldn't be totally surprised. It's also possible, however, that Apple patented the design but ultimately ended up nixing it.
Patents

Amazon Patents Floating Airship Warehouse For Its Delivery Drones (techcrunch.com) 94

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: We've known about Amazon's drone delivery ambitions since 2013. But patent filings from Amazon, circulated today by CB Insights' Zoe Leavitt, reveal more details about how the e-commerce titan could make drone deliveries work at scale, namely through "airborne fulfillment centers." Yes, that's a warehouse in a zeppelin. The airborne fulfillment centers, or AFCs, would be stocked with a certain amount of inventory and positioned near a location where Amazon predicts demand for certain items will soon spike. Drones, including temperature-controlled models ideally suited for food delivery, could be stocked at the AFCs and sent down to make a precise, safe scheduled or on-demand delivery. An example cited in the filing was around a sporting event. If there's a big championship game down below, Amazon AFC's above could be loaded with snacks and souvenirs sports fans crave. The AFCs could be flown close to a stadium to deliver audio or outdoor display advertising near the main event, as well, the filing suggested. The patent reflects a complex network of systems to facilitate delivery by air. Besides the airborne fulfillment centers and affiliated drones, the company has envisioned larger shuttles that could carry people, supplies and drones to the AFCs or back to the ground. Using a larger shuttle to bring drones up to the AFC would allow Amazon to reserve their drones' power for making deliveries only. Of course, all these elements would be connected to inventory management systems, and other software and remote computing resources managed by people in the air or on the ground. The filing also reveals that the shuttles and drones, as they fly deliveries around, could function in a mesh network, relaying data to each other about weather, wind speed and routing, for example, or beaming e-book content down to readers on the ground. Amazon also recently patented a system to defend its drones against hackers, jammers and bows and arrows.
Businesses

Qualcomm Fined $865 Million By South Korean Antitrust Regulator (zdnet.com) 14

South Korea's antitrust regulator has fined Qualcomm $854 million for what it called unfair business practices in patent licensing and modem chip sales, a decision the U.S. chipmaker said it will challenge in court. From a report on ZDNet: Qualcomm's business model includes collecting royalty payments from clients, which are calculated on the price of the handset using the chip, rather than the price of the chipset itself, and royalties from its patents. The KFTC has said it will issue a corrective order specifying the precise business practices with which it took issue, although Qualcomm has pointed out that this usually takes between four and six months. "Qualcomm strongly believes that the KFTC findings are inconsistent with the facts, disregard the economic realities of the marketplace, and misapply fundamental tenets of competition law," Don Rosenberg, executive vice president and general counsel for Qualcomm, said in response to the fine.

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