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TiVo and IP Protection: 1, Comcast: 0

A recent decision by the United States International Trade Commission constitutes a victory for the country’s intellectual property system. The ITC found set top boxes used by Comcast to be infringing TiVo’s patent rights. TiVo sued Comcast when the cable provider decided it would no longer pay to license TiVo’s patented technology but would instead use it for free. Meanwhile, other cable companies would continue to pay to license this technology from TiVo.

The technology at issue is based on two patents that essentially allow viewers to use their smartphones to control their set top boxes. U.S. Patent No. 8,006,263 for an “Interactive Television Program Guide with Remote Access” provided for a system for selecting television programs over a remote access link. This permits users to access program guide system features, such as parental controls and program reminders, without being physically present in their home. U.S. Patent No. 8,578,413, by the same name, discloses a similar system that allows users to adjust settings of multiple program guides at different locations within the home from a single remote device. Initially, TiVo alleged Section 337 infringement of 6 total patents but the ITC ultimately found only these two patents to have been violated. Accordingly, TiVo received a ruling for an exclusion order forbidding the importation of Comcast’s cable boxes into the United States as long as they contain the infringing technology.

The International Trade Commission is a quasi-judicial body whose duty is partially to investigate claims regarding intellectual property rights violations by imported goods. The Commission is comprised of U.S.-appointed commissioners and judges. Comcast manufactures its set top boxes outside the United States so the ITC has jurisdiction to impose such an exclusion order on the cable giant. Had Comcast manufactured its products in the United States rather than overseas, the ITC would have no jurisdiction over the dispute. However, TiVo would still have other legal remedies available for protection.

The United States has long been a leader in innovation across the globe. This is in part due to its strong patent system, written directly into our Constitution, which bolsters creativity and invention. Inventors want to reap the benefits of their work and protect it when someone steals it. Thus, they desire to be able to enforce their rights and protect their intellectual property. Without sufficient protection, innovation slowly withers away.

By |December 6th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Apple Patents Smart Flip Phone

Apple recently filed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a bendable electronic device with a flexible display. This application suggests the tech giant is keen to manufacture a foldable smartphone but mentions the technology can be used on any type of electronic device with a display including laptop computers, tablet computers, wristwatches, or other gadgets. The claimed device contains a display that would fold along its axis allowing it to bend in two ways allowing it to be opened like a book or propped up on half of its screen. This application is amongst news that other technology rivals are planning to release similar foldable gadgets. Before Apple released its iPhone 8, Samsung announced plans to release a Galaxy X handset that is capable of folding out into a full-size tablet in 2018. Nokia also received a patent earlier this month for a smartphone capable of folding, which looks like a pocket mirror. Similarly, Lenovo and Xiaomi have showcased bendable devices in the last year. Moreover, Microsoft was granted a patent for a tablet that folded up to become a cellular phone. It is unclear whether Apple will actually make use of this patent as the company is known for filing decoy patents in order to throw competitors off its tracks. Indeed, the tech company previously obtained a patent for a screen that retracts into itself like a Fruit Roll-Up but has yet to bring such a device to the production stage. #omnilegalgroup #patent #Apple #smartphone #Samsung #Nokia #Microsoft #Lenovo #Xiaomi

By |November 29th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Carving Out Patent Rights for Turkey-Related Inventions

After a year of struggle following their initial arrival at Plymouth Rock in 1620, the Pilgrims finally had a fruitful harvest due to the help of the Native Americans. To celebrate, the Pilgrims invited their Native American friends to a feast and Thanksgiving was born. In the spirit of this struggle faced by the Pilgrims, many inventors have concocted various methods and apparatuses to ease the struggle facing modern chefs. For instance, Alan B. Rogers et al. disclosed a method for preparing a frozen stuffed fowl in U.S. Patent No. 2,928,748, describing a poultry-stuffing process. Similarly, Peter A. Sieczkiewiz patented a method of preparing edible fowl (U.S. Pat. No. 2,844,844). People have also invented various ovens and containers for cooking the holiday’s signature fowl. In 1909, Joseph Mathy patented the first roasting oven that creates a steam essentially basting the turkey without the need for continual basting by the cook. U.S. Patent No. 4,700,618 depicts a meat smoker containing a fire box and smoker oven offset from the fire box. In the more recent trend of frying the bird, U.S. Patent No. 5,896,810 covers a turkey frying apparatus and U.S. Patent No. 5,758,569 involves a poultry frying apparatus designed such that the user is able to raise and lower the turkey without burning themselves. People have also applied for design patents covering ornamental aspects of the turkey cooking process. One such design patent is for a “stand for cooking chicken or turkey” disclosed in Publication No. D612693. Given the many products and services associated with Thanksgiving, the abundant number of turkey-related patents is unsurprising. #omnilegalgroup #patents #thanksgiving #turkey

By |November 22nd, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Lululemon’s Design Patents v. Amazon’s New Line of Athleisure Attire

Amazon.com Inc. recently announced its intention to make a foray into private-label athletic attire. While Lululemon already faces competition from brands such as Nike, Under Armour, Athleta, as well as others, the e-commerce company may pose a novel threat with its price-driven strategy. Moreover, in order to manufacture this new line of sportswear, Amazon has contracted Eclat Textile Co., a top Lululemon supplier that helped the yoga-pant giant create its signature Luon fabric as well as newer materials. This may prove problematic for Lululemon as it lacks the proper intellectual property protection to halt Amazon from invading its market. Not only is Lululemon known for its high-end technical athletic apparel, the Canadian retailer has previously been deemed “the fashion industry’s biggest patent troll” due to its aggressive acquisition of design patents and protection of its product line therewith. While the athletic retailer owns over 45 patents on its sports gear, most of these patents are focused on design aspects rather than the actual fabric used in the garments. Design patents cover the ornamental, nonfunctional aspects of a product’s design and provide 15 years of exclusive use. In contrast, utility patents cover the useful features of a product, that is, the way it is used or how it works, and provide for 20 years of exclusivity. With primarily design patents in its portfolio, Lululemon cannot stop Amazon from manufacturing and selling fabrics that are nearly identical to Lululemon’s signature materials at a fraction of the price. While many industry experts have opined Lululemon will likely see its market share and profit margins diminished by Amazon, Lululemon’s CEO, Laurent Potdevin, dispelled such concerns through assurances that the athleisure company would continue to focus on innovation and the high-end of the market. Potdevin further claimed, “I think Amazon is mostly around commodity product. That’s not our sandbox.” #omnilegalgroup #patents #lululemon #amazon

By |November 15th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Supreme Court Will Hear Oral Arguments This Month in Case Determining Constitutionality of Inter Partes Review

 

On the 27th of this month, the Supreme Court will hear Oil States Energy Services’ argument that the inter partes review (IPR) process for patent challenges is unconstitutional. The controversy originated in 2012 when Oil States sued Greene’s Energy Group LLC for infringement of its hydraulic fracturing patent and Greene’s countered by initiating an IPR proceeding that resulted in the invalidation of Oil States’ patent.

Inter partes review (IPR) is a procedure conducted by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) in which previously granted patents are reexamined for validity, based on challenges of novelty and/or obviousness. Since its inception as part of the America Invents Act of 2012, the PTAB has received more than 7000 petitions challenging patents and has issued over 1300 decisions invalidating patent claims.

IPR decisions are rendered by technical specialists, not juries. As such, Oil States argues the IPR system is in violation of Article III of the Constitution and the Seventh Amendment. Article III establishes the Supreme Court and lower federal courts and their power to hear all cases arising under United States law and the Constitution. The Seventh Amendment provides the right to a jury trial for any civil controversy exceeding twenty dollars. In its brief, Oil States argues patents are private property rights and it is unconstitutional to revoke such rights in the absence of a jury or an Article III forum.

On the other side, Greene’s Energy and the government contend PTAB’s authority to review patents is one in the same with its power to issue patents in the first place. In its brief, Greene’s Energy argues patents are public rights created by the government and are thereby revocable by the government. Apple also filed a brief maintaining the IPR process is “fair and balanced.” Having used IPR more than any other company, Apple further argued it is good policy as it provides a quicker and less expensive alternative to district court litigation.

The Federal Circuit has previously ruled on essential the same issue presented in the Oil States case. In MCM Portfolio LLC v. Hewlett-Packard Co., the Federal Circuit ruled IPRs are not in violation of the Constitution as Congress created the United States Patent and Trademark Office to serve the important public purpose of incentivizing innovation and this includes correcting the agency’s own errors in issuing patents. If the Court follows this precedent, it will likely rule against Oil States’ in favor of the validity of the IPR process.

By |November 7th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments