February 24, 2014, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Orange County – Apple was recently granted an interesting patent that has to do with health monitoring earphones.  The new technology is intended for use in sports and fitness and would track vital health statistics in real time.  The new product would allow users to control the connected device through the use of hand gestures and would provide feedback as to body temperature, perspiration, and heart rate.

According to the particulars of the filing, Apple is exploring ways to alert users when they have reached a certain goal in a workout by beeping when a certain distance, heart rate, or speed is reached.  Other features described in the patent show ways that users could adjust the device with hands-free signals.  Specifically, the filing details how a person might be able to turn the volume up or down or change music tracks with the tilt of the head or other slight body movement.

The technological details of the patent reveal how accelerometers and other sensors will be implemented in each of two earbuds, which will then communicate to the attached Apple device by either a physical cord or through bluetooth.  As for its ability to measure physical phenomena occurring within the user’s body, the filing describes how biometric technology will work to transfer information from the earbuds’ contact with the skin and ear cavity to the attached device.

This patent adds to Apple’s attempt to integrate  technology and fitness.  The company already offers Nike+iPod to its many health conscious customers, which allows users to track their workout progress with a small sensor that works in conjunction with the iPhone or iPod and specially designed Nike running shoes.   According to this patent, the new earbuds would eliminate the need for users to buy an intermediate sensor device.  Instead, a user can simply plug the earbuds into their existing Apple iPhone or iPod and the tracking technology will work.  The patent filing makes note of this improvement, stating, “Assuming the user is otherwise using the hearing device, such as to provide audio output by a portable media player, the user gains monitoring capabilities without requiring the user to wear or carry any additional article.”  In the future one could imagine the device being developed further to provide wearable technology to compete with Google’s Glass device.

January 21, 2014, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Orange County – A new report listing the nation’s top patent recipients of 2013 shows fascinating results.  The listing, which is compiled annually by IFI CLAIMS Patent Services, ranked IBM as the top patent assignee of the year, with a whopping total of 6,809.  IBM’s impressive numbers set the record for most patents awarded in a year to a single company ever by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Beyond IBM’s dominance of the list, another highlight of the report shows that for the second year in a row, Google beat out rival tech giant Apple in the number of patents it was awarded in 2013.   With Google coming in at number 11 and Apple securing the 13th spot on the list, both companies moved into the top 20 for the first time ever.  In front of them, Samsung came in at number 2, with Canon, Microsoft and Sony rounding out the top 5.   Of all of the companies included on the list, San Diego-based Qualcomm scored the biggest leap, jumping 62% from last year’s numbers up to number 9.  Staple American companies like GE and GM kept their spots within the top 20.

IFI CEO Mike Baycroft said of the list that there are not many surprises in the top 10, with the big name technology companies all expectedly churning out large numbers of patent filings.  He was quick to point out, however, that as you go down the list, there is more “jockeying and reordering,” making it easy to recognize the companies with the most “patent momentum.”  He brought up the “candidates that are likely to bubble up tomorrow, companies like Amazon, Verizon and China’s Huawei Technologies, to name a few.

Baycroft also added mention of the growing number of patent assignees included in the list.  While it comes as little surprise that more and more patents are being filed each year (the report states that the USPTO issued over 277,800 utility patents last year), it is notable that there are a growing number of people filing them, and many of them are small start-up companies.  Baycroft takes this point to pose the questions of whether the future of innovation may be moving out of huge heavy hitter companies and “returning to the garage.”

December 6, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Orange County – A new patent filed with the European Patent Register gives a glimpse at what is on the horizon for Ferrari.   In several filings dating back to as early as January of last year, the Italian sports car manufacturer details its plans for a hybrid vehicle with a front engine.  The title of the first filing, “Storage system for the storage of electric energy for a vehicle with electric propulsion” is the most telling and makes it clear that Ferrari is at the very least, seriously considering adding a new hybrid car to its lineup.

The patent filings come on the heels of the unveiling of Ferrari’s new ultra-luxurious LaFerrari, a $1.3 million dollar limited edition hybrid that will only have 499 in total production.  The new “supercar” as it has been dubbed, is a “mild hybrid” that allows the car engine to turn off while stopped and then (very) quickly pick up again when restarted.

The front engine setup described in the new patent filings has led many to believe that the new hybrid may take the form of a grand tourer model, which would likely be more appealing to a broader market base.  Grand tourers are typically high performance cars that can go long distances while maintaining lofty speeds. This would make sense for a Ferrari hybrid, which with the addition of electric power, might be able to add hundreds of miles to its range.  Since the LaFerrari is so expensive and will be limited in production, the new filings reveal the possibility of a more accessible hybrid Ferrari, and perhaps one that uses more electric technology.

The mention of additional electric powered cars comes as somewhat of a surprise to Ferrari enthusiasts, due in large part to Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo going on record to say that, ” We will never manufacture an electric car as long as I’m chairman.”  Then, recently, just as all hopes of anything electric in Ferraris was eliminated, di Montezemolo noted in an interview that, “I don’t believe in the electric cars, but I strongly believe in hybrids.” Clearly, that sentiment is taking shape as the new Ferrari patents reveal an unquestionable interest in adding more hybrid models by the gold standard Italian sports car maker.

November 6, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Orange County – On Halloween, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) published Apple’s newest patent for a solar panel implementation to help with power management in its iPads, iPhones and Macbooks.  The application, entitled “Power Management Systems for Accepting Adapter and Solar Power in Electronic Devices,” was filed in August of last year with three Apple employees listed as inventors.

The Cupertino-based tech manufacturer’s most recently published filing reveals the company’s plans to help alleviate one of its most commonly cited consumer complaints: weak battery life.  This application comes on the heels of seven patents having to do with solar power that have already been granted to Apple.  Given this increasing number of solar-related Apple patents, it seems clear that solar technology seems to be Apple’s response to extended battery life.  Indeed, the company has already sought protection over technology that lights up Macbook screens using solar energy to save on battery power.

The new patent filing, which is perhaps the most detailed in its explanation of how the solar technology might be implemented in Apple products, describes how a portable solar panel accessory could connect to Apple devices using a connector.  The new accessory would eliminate the need to plug the solar device into a main power source and would not require use of a power converter.  Instead users could simply plug their iPhone or computer into the solar charging device through a port on the device and charge up.

If implemented, this new portable solar technology would be a huge development for those who seek an on-the-go power supply.  Current iPhone 5s talk time battery life is estimated to be up to 10 hours on 3G service.  However, combined with internet use, audio/video playback  and data usage, this number can quickly begin to dwindle.  For people who are constantly on the go, a portable solar charger may be the perfect solution.

Given the ever-intense game of keep-up between Apple and Samsung, it is somewhat surprising that no recent Samsung patents have come to light regarding solar power technology.  It might only be a matter of time before this happens, however, as Samsung earlier this year hired one of the very inventors named in Apple’s solar technology patent.

August 6, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Orange County – The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office dealt a blow to Apple, Inc. in a patent reexamination this week, essentially ruling its “pinch to zoom” technology patent invalid.

This patent served as a foundation for the ruling in the hotly contested case from 2012, Apple v. Samsung.  In a jury trial last year, Apple was awarded $1.05 billion in damages based on Samsung’s infringement of Apple’s patent.   Apple successfully argued that Samsung had infringed on some of the technology invented by Apple for the iPhone in its own smartphones, including the Galaxy series.

The patent at issue is titled “Application programming interfaces for scrolling operations” and was granted U.S. Patent number 7,844,915.  This patent claimed the innovation of the two finger touch.  Apple utilized innovative technology to program a two finger touch to zoom in on an image as a separate function than a one finger touch, which moves the page up or down.

While the examining attorney did not invalidate the entire patent, 21 significant claims were thrown out.  This renders the patent virtually unenforceable.

This decision is a major win for Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. in its pending legal battles against Apple.  Samsung filed the patent decision on Sunday in Federal Court in the Northern District of California, where Apple v. Samsung was decided.  The company argued that this patent rejection should greatly reduce the total damages that Samsung owes its smart phone competitor.

This case demonstrates the tumultuousness of the legal fight between these two electronics giants.  Last month, Apple was notified that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office upheld the provisions of its patent for “overswipe rebound.”  This is the effect on the iPhone that allows the user to scroll down the page past its ending point and upon release the page will bounce back to its end point.  This decision strengthened Apple’s standing in its fight over payment of damages by Samsung.

The California case is just one of many legal battles the two companies are engaged in around the world.   While Apple was successful in its case in the U.S., Samsung was deemed the victor in similar cases in South Korea, Japan, and the U.K.  Litigation is still pending in dozens of countries worldwide.

June 24, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Orange County – Rival home appraisal companies Zillow Inc. and Trulia Inc. have continued their bitter feud in federal court in Washington’s Western District.  Most recently, Trulia petitioned on June 17th to have the court invalidate Zillow’s patent for its home valuation program while Zillow continues to claim patent infringement against Trulia.

Zillow originally brought lawsuit against Trulia for patent infringement in 2012, claiming that San Francisco-based Trulia’s home appraisal program was too similar to Zillow’s own program.  Trulia then countered, arguing that Zillow’s case should be dismissed because the home valuation service it patented is an abstract idea and therefore not eligible for patent protection.

The patent at issue in this case is for Zillow’s online home valuation program, U.S. Patent Number 7,970,674 B2, described as a program for “Automatically determining a current value for a real estate property, such as a home, that is tailored to input from a human user, such as its owner.”  This process is utilized for Zillow’s service, Zestimate, in which users enter information about a property and Zillow generates an estimate of the property’s worth.

U.S. District Court Judge James L. Robart deferred ruling on the case in April until a similar case was decided by the Federal Circuit court on a patent held by CLS Bank.  The Circuit court ruled in May that CLS Bank’s computer platform for reducing risk in financial trading was simply an abstract idea, and therefore not eligible for a patent.

The court found that an eligible patent needs to be able to tie an abstract idea to a specific way of performing that operation on a computer.  Simply performing the task on a computer is not sufficient to garner patent protection, according to the court.  Trulia argues that the patent held by Zillow does not pass this threshold, as these computations could be performed with paper and pencil and do not require a computer.

Trulia argues that the case brought by Zillow should be dropped on the same grounds as the CLS Bank case.  The company claims that allowing Zillow’s patent to stand would monopolize use of  the abstract idea of calculating a home’s value from user input in general, and would not just limit the specific process that Zillow is claiming.

Zillow is seeking damages in the case, as well as royalty payments from Trulia for use of the patent.

June 4, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Orange County - The decision as to who the front runner is in the area of coupons delivered via electronic means may be decided in a U.S. District Court in eastern Texas.  With the registration of its newest patent, Blue Calypso Inc. believes it has the upper hand in the area of web-based couponing.  That’s why it recently filed another round of patent complaints naming Yelp, Groupon, Foursquare, MyLikes Inc. and Izea Inc..

The first group of lawsuits were filed in early May and alleged infringement of a separate patent, Reg. No. 8,438,055 which issued May 7, 2013, for “distribution of advertisements between communication devices” relating to photographic displays directed at subscribers from advertisers.

With the issuance of the new patent on May 28, 2013, Patent No. 8,452,646, for a “System and method for providing endorsed electronic offers between communication devices,” Blue Calypso believes it has even more leverage to go after its competitors.

Blue Calypso, formerly JJ&R Ventures, Inc., is headquartered in Carrollton, Texas.  It is in the business of collaborating with companies and advertisers to develop ad campaigns directed to consumers using “word-of-mouth, social media communities, mobile technologies and customer loyalty rewards.”  Its plan is to provide reward incentives to consumers by encouraging them to tell friends and family about a product or service through one of the various social media podiums.

Blue Calypso alleges that by using screen shots on smartphone apps, Yelp, for one, infringes one or more claims of the newest patent.  Blue Calypso, alleges in the complaint that it “will suffer further irreparable injury, for which it has no adequate remedy at law,” if Yelp and other defendants are not prevented from infringing on the new patent.

Each separate lawsuit charges each of the named companies with infringement of Blue Calypso’s patented technology through the operation of mobile services, and seeks an injunction as well as damages.

In addition to the recent litigation, Blue Calypso also has pending patent infringement lawsuits against Yelp and Izea from 2012, with a claim construction hearing coming up this November.  A statement released by Bill Ogle, Blue Calypso’s Chairman and CEO offered, “We are pleased that we have established additional scheduling dates for moving forward in the enforcement of our patents.”  Mr. Ogle added that he expects the hearing will lead to “full jury trials in 2014.”

May 13, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Orange County – Last Wednesday a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld an earlier decision by the Court of Federal Claims, holding that the United States Postal Service and IBM did not infringe a shipping patent held by Uship Intellectual Properties LLC.

In the earlier case, Uship complained that the U.S. Postal Service infringed its U.S. Patent Number 5,831,220 for an “Automated package shipping machine.”  The ’220 patent covers a system by which all of the shipping steps, from calculating postage to printing a label and accepting payment, are automated and carried out by the machine.  IBM was later added as a third-party defendant when Uship learned that it created the machines for USPS.

Uship, headquartered in Austin, Texas, was founded in 2003 by Matt Chasen who came up with the idea when he was planning a move from Seattle to Austin.  Matt had extra space in his rented van and wondered how many other trucks crossed the country partially empty.  So, he set out to find a way to make it more affordable to coordinate shipping with others.

The patent specifically refers to a kiosk-type of machine on which a user can weigh a package, figure the postage and print a label.  However, the patent also spells out that the package is then “given to a human attendant, such as a check out clerk of a grocery or hardware store and the like, with the appropriate mailing label for validation of receipt of the item by the attendant.”  Because of this, the court held that the U.S. Postal Service and IBM are not infringing on the patent since the entire transaction at the U.S. Postal Service is conducted from the machine and not passed on to an attendant or postal worker.

On appeal, Uship made a plea to the appellate judge that the U.S. Court of Federal Claims misunderstood some of the factors relating to its patent.  The judge, however, was not convinced.  John M. Mesmarais, IBM’s attorney commented that he was pleased with the decision because it “limited the Uship patents to their proper scope.”

Uship’s counsel made no comment.

April 23, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Orange County – A Federal Court of Appeals Judge upheld the decision made by a Florida District Court by holding that Aspex Eyewear Inc. is precluded from making a nearly identical patent infringement claim that it made in a previously failed patent infringement case against a different company.

In 2002, Aspex sued Altair Eyewear Inc., distributor of Tommy Bahama Sunglasses, believing Altair had been marketing and selling an infringing magnetic clip-on sunglass product.  The case concluded in 2007 when New York District Court Judge Stephen C. Robinson granted a motion for summary judgment filed by Altair.  Judge Robinson ruled that Altair products did not infringe on Aspex’s patents.  Aspex later appealed the case and lost.

More recently, Aspex sued Zenni Optical LLC basing its claims on the same patents at issue in the Altair Eyewear case, namely U.S. Patent Nos. 5,737,054, 6,012,811 and 6,092,896.   The patents owned by Aspex cover a design for sunglasses which involves a clear lens and a tinted lens that are interchangeable and held in place magnetically.

When Aspex brought the new action against Zenni Optical and another company over the same 3 patents, U.S. District Judge William Zloch mirrored the previous case by granting a motion for summary judgment filed by Zenni in 2012, citing the decision in the Altair case.

Aspex once again appealed the decision arguing that it had new issues to assert against Zenni Optical that had not been brought to light in the Altair case.  The Federal Circuit Court did not agree, however, and found that the two companies’ allegedly infringing clip-on sunglass lenses were virtually identical to the Altair case and that neither infringed on any of the Aspex patents.  “We affirm the district court’s ruling of collateral estoppel, for there is no material difference as to the claims now in suit, nor difference between the Altair and Zenni Optical products to which the claims are applied.”

Zenni’s legal team felt the decision was a victory not just for them, but for all eyewear consumers.   Apparently Aspex did not agree with the Appellate decision since it tried to bring the case to the Supreme Court in March in its petition for writ of certiorari, which was also denied.

April 9, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Orange County – Mobile Telecommunications Technologies LLC, a company headquartered in Lewisville, Texas, has filed a lawsuit in an East Texas Federal Court against Samsung Electronics.  Mobile Telecommunications claims that Samsung infringed on at least 3 of its patents for texting and other messaging services.

Samsung, who has been in the digital media business for over 70 years, offers its popular ChatOn messaging application.  ChatOn is Samsung’s latest “Communication Innovation.”  Basically, it allows its users to chat, text and email more easily with all other devices, operating systems and platforms.  It also offers a feature for sending pictures, videos, music, contacts, calendar entries and the sender’s location, to one or a whole group of people.

Mobile Telecommunications has alleged that ChatOn and some of Samsung’s other messaging services are infringing on at least 3 of its patents.  Mobile Telecommunications is seeking to prevent Samsung from selling its messaging services and also hopes to be awarded damages in the case.  The Complaint accuses Samsung of making a multi-billion dollar investment in the production of its electronic equipment.

If Mobile Telecommunications prevails in the lawsuit, it will also aim to prevent Samsung from continuing its applications for Hotmail, Microsoft Exchange and other email systems.  Mobile Telecommunications considers itself an innovator in messaging technology having registered the patents under its related entity, Skytel Communications, a pioneer in paging devices.

The Patents cited in the complaint are: Patent No. 5,809,428 ”Method and device for processing undelivered data messages in a two-way wireless communications system”, Patent No. 5,754,946 ”Nationwide communication system”, and Patent No.5,894,506 “Method and apparatus for generating and communicating messages between subscribers to an electronic messaging network”.

Since the patents were registered 13-14 years ago, at first appearance it may seem unlikely that the precise technology outlined in the patents still encompasses the technology that Samsung is now using.

At least 5 other lawsuits claiming patent infringement have been initiated by Mobile Telecommunications since 2012, including one against Blackberry, formerly Research in Motion Corporation, citing 6 of its patents.  The case, filed in Federal Court in the Northern District of Texas, is still pending.

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