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Samsung Owes Apple $539 Million
Posted: 8/15/2018

Remember the Apple-Samsung patent infringement lawsuit and trial back in 2012? One would think the litigation had long been settled, but not so. After numerous appeals and appeals of appeals, a U.S. District Court jury in San Jose was asked to determine the damages that Samsung owes Apple for its infringement of a handful of Apple patents.

The jury came up with $539 million, but this is more a moral than a cash victory for Apple. With $256 billion in cash in the bank – yes, billion with a “B” – if Samsung were to cut Apple a check, it would be petty cash. Earlier this month, Apple was the first corporation to hit a Market Cap (all of a company’s outstanding shares times the currently traded per-share price) of $1 trillion!

It does not look like Samsung will be writing a check any time soon. Samsung’s response to the jury’s ruling was “Today's decision flies in the face of a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in favor of Samsung on the scope of design patent damages. We will consider all options to obtain an outcome that does not hinder creativity and fair competition for all companies and consumers.”

Apple’s response was no surprise. "We believe deeply in the value of design, and our teams work tirelessly to create innovative products that delight our customers. This case has always been about more than money. Apple ignited the smartphone revolution with iPhone and it is a fact that Samsung blatantly copied our design. It is important that we continue to protect the hard work and innovation of so many people at Apple."

Think about this: Just 20 years ago, Apple was almost bankrupt. When Steve Jobs returned as interim CEO in 1997, Apple got a $150 million cash infusion from Microsoft – yes, the Bill Gates Microsoft – and the company went on to turn things around with a dazzling array of new products. We have NO Apple equipment at IPOfferings, we are in awe of their success!

Regular readers of this column know we love stuff like this, so here goes. Steve Jobs was given up for adoption by is birth mother and was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs whom he always referred to as his “parents.” At age 27, he searched out and found is birth-sister who was also given up for adoption, Mona Simpson, and they had a close relationship for the rest of their lives. Jobs took a $1 a year salary when he returned to Apple as CEO. When he died in 2011, Steven Jobs was the 110th richest person in the world.

IPOfferings Selected by National Tsing Hua University to Represent It
Posted: 8/15/2018

National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) has been called the “MIT of Asia.” It is a prestigious research university composed of seven colleges offering 22 graduate programs. It was founded in 1911 by the Qing Dynasty on the site of a former royal garden in Beijing. Over the next 50 years, NTSU grew in its stature and reputation. When the Communists overthrew the legitimate Chinese government in 1949, the government fled to Taiwan, taking National Tsing Hua University with it and re-locating the institution to Hsinchu City.

Today, NTSU serves over 15,000 students with an academic staff of over 1,000, and it owns an extensive portfolio of patents covering the multiple technologies in which it conducts basic research.

Over the last half century, while those left on mainland China endured cultural revolutions, tyranny and other hardships under communism, the Chinese on Taiwan prospered under a capitalist government that morphed over time from a military dictatorship to a multi-party democracy. NTHU prospered along with the way.

Like most U.S. universities, National Tsing Hua University was not permitted to sell its patents, but could only license them to Taiwanese businesses. That just recently changed, and IPOfferings is very pleased and honored to be selected as the exclusive broker representative of NTHU. As a starting point, National Tsing Hua University is offering for acquisition its extensive portfolio of 53 U.S., Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese and Korean OLED patents and applications which we will be featured in the next issue of IPMarketPlace. You can request information on the NTHU OLED portfolio atpatents@IPOfferings.com.

USPTO Issues U.S. Patent No. 10 Million
Posted: 7/24/2018

Since the first U.S. Patent was issued in 1790 – it was signed by George Washington and the patent examiner was Thomas Jefferson – we’ve come a long way. Last month, American icon Raytheon Company received U.S. Patent No. 10,000,000 for “Coherent LADAR using intra-pixel quadrature detection.”

Alvin Toffler predicted in “Future Shock” way back in 1970 that in a “post-industrialist” world change would occur at an increasing rate, leaving people suffering from "shattering stress and disorientation." Today we call that “innovation” and we got used to it! To put this innovation milestone in perspective, here is a hyper-cruise through U.S. Patent history, one million patents at a time.

1908: It took 118 years to reach U.S Patent No. 1,000,000 for a “Vehicle-tire.” The automobile had just come onto the American scene and Henry Ford was cranking them out by the thousands, so a new tire design made sense. Why they hyphenated the title we do not know. The inventor was one Francis H. Holton who assigned his patent to the B. F. Goodrich Company, an American icon until it was acquired by Michelin of France.

1935: It took much less time – just 27 years – for the Patent Office to grant U.S. Patent No. 2,000,000 for a “Vehicle wheel construction.” Ironically, this patent was also auto-related. The inventor was one Ledwinka Joseph and the assignee was the Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Co. that today is owned by ThyssenKrupp of Germany.

1961: It took another 26 years for U.S. Patent No. 3,000,000 to issue for an “Automatic reading system.” This patent was invented by Kenneth R. Eldredge and assigned to yet another American icon, General Electric Company.

1976: Just 15 years later, U.S. Patent No. 4,000,000 was granted for a “Process for recycling asphalt-aggregate compositions.” The inventor was one Robert L. Mendenhall, the founder of the Las Vegas Paving Co. Just think of all the casino parking lots that needed paving over the past four decades!

1991: Another 15 years passed until U.S. Patent No. 5,000,000 for “Ethanol production by Escherichia coli strains co-expressing Zymomonas” was granted to the University of Florida. The inventors were Lonnie O. Ingram, Tyrrell Conway and Flavio Alterthum.

1999: The pace of innovation really picked up in the 1990s because it took just eight years for U.S. Patent No. 6,000,000 for an “Extendible method and apparatus for synchronizing multiple files on two different computer systems.” Two computers talking to each other was cutting edge in 1999! The inventors were Jeffrey C. Hawkins and Michael Albanese, and the assignee was another American icon, 3Com Corporation, now a unit of super icon Hewlett-Packard.

2006: Just seven years later, U.S. Patent No. 7,000,000 for “Polysaccharide fibers” was granted. The inventor was John P. O'Brien and the assignee was yet another American icon, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company.

2011: From eight years to seven years to just five years for U.S. Patent No. 8,000,000 for a “Visual prosthesis” to be granted. The inventors were Robert J. Greenberg, Kelly H. McClure and Arup Roy, and the patent was assigned to Second Sight Medical Products Inc. which is still in business and is traded on the NASDAQ.

2015: Innovation charged on, and in just four years U.S. Patent No. 9,000,000 was issued for a “Windshield washer conditioner.” The inventor was one Matthew Carroll who assigned the patent to his company, Wiperfill Holdings LLC. The invention captured rain water, deionized it and used it to refill the windshield washer reservoir. There is no record of this invention ever being commercialized.

2018: Here we are, just three years later, and U.S. Patent No. 10,000,000 has been granted.

Here are the years between each millionth patent:
U.S. Patent No. 1,000,000: 118 years
U.S. Patent No. 2,000,000: 27 years
U.S. Patent No. 3,000,000: 26 years
U.S. Patent No. 4,000,000: 15 years
U.S. Patent No. 5,000,000: 15 years
U.S. Patent No. 6,000,000: 8 years
U.S. Patent No. 7,000,000: 7 years
U.S. Patent No. 8,000,000: 5 years
U.S. Patent No. 9,000,000: 4 years
U.S. Patent No. 10,000,000: 3 years



There Is Your Invention and Then There Is Your Patent
Posted: 6/18/2018

We've come across this issue many times over the many years we’ve been in business working with and representing inventors and their patents. However, we have seen this issue more and more in just the last few months, so we decided it was time to address it straight on: An inventor needs to clearly differentiate in his or her mind between what the invention is and what the patent covers!

Confused? Good. We will call him “Joe.” Joe comes up with a great idea, so he engages a patent attorney to file and prosecute a patent application for his invention. Now Joe has rolling around in his head this terrific innovation that has multiple aspects to it. Joe and his attorney write up a set of claims that covers all the aspects of Joe’s invention, and files the application. Then two things happen.

In the process of prosecuting the patent, the patent examiner will either question or outright deny one or more or sometimes all of the claims in the initial application. So Joe and his attorney work with the patent examiner. They may drop a few claims and re-word a few other claims to address the patent examiner’s concerns. And about two years later – current average patent pendency is about 25 months, down from 37 months just a few years ago – a patent is granted. But what is specifically covered by the claims in the patent is different – sometimes significantly different – than the invention that is rolling around in Joe’s head. The reality is that very few granted patents include all of the claims in the original application.

The second factor is that Joe’s invention – not the patent, but the invention rolling around in Joe’s head – is evolving. Joe may have done some testing or prototyping, and the technologies related to the invention may have changed. So two years down the road when the patent finally issues Joe has a greatly expanded invention from what he and his attorney sat down to discuss, and what they applied for, two years ago.

Remember also that the Claims are the Patent. The abstract is fine, and the drawings you submitted should help explain the invention, and the other narrative data is all great. But in terms of what is patented – and what can be asserted against an infringer – is in the Claims.

Here are just a few recent examples. A client was surprised to find that the testing equipment covered in his patent must have a separate ground wire. If it did not have a separate ground wire, it was not covered by the patent. Another inventor was convinced that his patented point-of-sale invention included the ability of customers to return to the store where they made their purchase to make payments on their account. Great idea, but not in the patent! One inventor is convinced he has a patent for a wearable video security device – there is even a figure in the patent that shows a person wearing the device – but the claims make NO mention of a person wearing the device!

As a patent broker, we can only sell what is in the patent! We do not represent the invention that is still rolling around in the inventor’s brain and psyche – and that may be, and often is, greatly expanded beyond what is in the patent – we represent the patent, and the patent consists of the claims, regardless of how well or how poorly they are written.

The solution? Always, always, always file for a continuation before your patent is granted. That will give you the opportunity to add new claims for your second patent - and subsequent patents - while retaining all the claims and the Priority Date from your first patent!

Why Patents Are Such a Unique Asset
Posted: 5/17/2018

Among all company assets – from cash and accounts receivables to buildings and equipment – a patent is a totally unique asset for several reasons. And because of its special status, there are many businesses – large and small – that do not even record the patents they own on their books!

We are reminded of the Harry Chapin classic, Cat’s in the Cradle, in which he sings that his son “came to the world in the usual way.” Most assets come into existence – that is, show up on a company’s Balance Sheet – in the usual way – via “generally accepted accounting principles.” You invoice a customer, and the value of that invoice is added to your company’s Accounts Receivables. Your customer pays the invoice, and the value of your Accounts Receivables decreases while the value of your Cash on Hand increases. You buy a forklift truck for the warehouse. The invoice shows up and is added to your Accounts Payables – a line item under Liabilities. But when you pay the invoice, your Accounts Payables decreases as also does your Cash on Hand, but the value of the truck is now added to your Equipment line under Assets. And so it goes. Inventory, raw materials, accounts receivables, accounts payables, real estate, equipment – you name it – are all properly recorded on the Balance Sheet automatically as regular, ongoing accounting transactions.

Patents – and also copyrights and trademarks – are different because they come into existence in a totally different fashion. Your R&D staff, Engineering Department or New Product Development team invent something, and they file for a patent for the new technology. R&D, Engineering and New Product Development costs are almost always written off in the year they occur since they are regular operating expenses. The costs to prosecute the patent application are also written off in the year they are expended since they are regular operating expenses.

Then one day, two or three years after the patent application was filed, a granted U.S. Patent shows up. Some companies put them in a file drawer, while others have them framed and hung on the wall. There are a few companies that make a nice living duplicating the first page of a patent on a gorgeous plaque so companies can display all their patents in the lobby or conference room. Everyone celebrates, the patents are covered in the company newsletter, and the named inventors send copies of the patent to their mothers.

But…since there is NO accounting action that occurs as a result of that patent showing up in the mail, this valuable asset does not automatically appear on the company’s Balance Sheet like the forklift truck did. This means that any company that is developing and patenting new products, product improvements and enhancements, and new methods and apparatuses – and receiving patents for these new technologies – is very often NOT including the new patents it is granted in the Intangible Assets line on its Balance Sheet. As a result, the true value of many businesses is dramatically understated on their financial statements because their patents are not recorded as assets! For a company seeking financing or planning to go public, these unreported assets could be critical to their success in either of these endeavors.

The solution is to have all IP assigned to your business valuated by a reputable third party. The value of these intellectual assets can then be included in the Notes to your financial statements and added under Intangible Assets on the Balance Sheet. And fortunately for readers of this article, IPOfferings provides three separate Patent Valuation Services.

We are NOT providing financial, accounting or tax advice. We are simply explaining in general terms why patents do not often appear on a company’s Balance Sheet. If your company faces this issue, you need to secure professional advice and counsel as to the exact procedures to follow to add these assets to your financial statements.

There’s A New Sheriff in Town
Posted: 4/17/2018

We refer – in our own inimitable way – to the new Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Andrei Iancu. Mr. Iancu was nominated by President Trump and was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate, putting him in charge of 12,000 employees and a $3 billion annual budget.

Mr. Iancu comes from the Irell & Manella law firm. He also taught at the UCLA School of Law and began his career in the trenches as an engineer at Hughes Aircraft. He is generally considered to be pro-innovation, pro-inventor and pro-strong patents. He recently gave the Keynote Address at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Patent Policy Conference on April 11. Here are a few key quotes from his talk.

“Yet today, our patent system is at a crossroads. For more than just a few years, our system has been pushed and pulled, poked and prodded. The cumulative result is a system in which the patent grant is less reliable today than it should be. This onslaught has come from all directions. There has been major reform legislation, and proposed legislation. There have been massive changes brought about by major court cases. And the USPTO itself has taken a variety of actions in an effort to implement these changes. Plus, importantly, the rhetoric surrounding the patent system has focused relentlessly on certain faults in, or abuses of, the system—instead of the incredible benefits the system brings to our nation.

“I don’t need to tell this audience that the American patent system, which in prior years was deservedly ranked as the number one system in the world, in 2017 fell to number 10. And this year it fell further, tied for number 12. But make no mistake: we are still an elite system, a mere ¼ point away from the systems ranked 2 through 11. And the United States remains the leader for overall IP rights.

“Still, we are at an inflection point with respect to the patent system. As a nation, we cannot continue down the same path if we want to maintain our global economic leadership. And we will not continue down the same path. This administration has a mission to create sustained economic growth, and innovation and IP protection are key goals in support of that mission.

“First, we must change the dialogue surrounding patents. Words have meaning. Words impact perception and drive public policy. And for too long, the words surrounding our patent system have been overly-focused on its faults. A successful system cannot be defined by its faults. Rather, a successful system must be defined by its goals, aspirations, and successes. Obviously, errors in the system should be corrected. And no abuse should be tolerated. Errors and abuse should be identified and swiftly eliminated. However, the focus for discussion, and the focus for IP policy, must be on the positive. We must create a new narrative that defines the patent system by the brilliance of inventors, the excitement of invention, and the incredible benefits they bring to society. And it is these benefits that must drive our patent policies.

“…when we write, interpret, and administer patent laws, we must consistently ask ourselves ‘Are we helping these inventors?’ Whether it’s an individual tinkering in her garage, or a team at a large corporation, or a laboratory on a university campus, we must ask ourselves ‘Are we helping them? Are we incentivizing innovation?’

“And that brings me to my second principal point for today: increasing the reliability of the patent grant. Because that is key to incentivizing innovation…As I said at my Senate confirmation hearing: ‘When patent owners and the public have confidence in the patent grant, inventors are encouraged to invent, investments are made, companies grow, jobs are created, science and technology advance.’

“…our current law surrounding patentable subject matter has created a more unpredictable patent landscape that is hurting innovation and, consequently, investment and job creation. Recent cases from the Supreme Court – Mayo, Myriad, and Alice – have inserted standards into our interpretation of the statute that are difficult to follow. Lower courts applying these cases are struggling to issue consistent results. Patent lawyers trying to advise their clients are, in turn, struggling to predict the outcome with respect to certain patents. And examiners at the USPTO must spend increased amounts of time addressing this challenging issue. The current standards are difficult for all: stakeholders, courts, examiners, practitioners, and investors alike.

“If we want truly reliable rights, we must ensure that we issue appropriately-scoped patent claims from the get-go. In other words, we must also focus on the front end. And since our examiners are first in line, we must ensure that they have the tools they need for a thorough search and examination.

“Our examiners already do a fabulous job. And it is not easy, given the state of the law and all the information that needs to be processed and analyzed. To further improve the original examination, a next step would be to increase examiners’ ability to find the best prior art during examination. At times, there is a gap between the prior art found during initial examination and the prior art found during litigation. There are many reasons for this, but the main culprits are the ever-accelerating publication and accessibility explosions. These are issues that face every patent office around the world. Indeed, we are ahead of most others on this front. But if we could further narrow this gap in prior art between examination and litigation, then the accuracy of the patent grant – and therefore, its reliability – would increase.

“During his first address to Congress in February of last year, President Trump noted that, on our 100th anniversary in 1876, citizens from throughout the country came to Philadelphia to celebrate America’s centennial. At that celebration, the country’s inventors showed off their wonderful creations. Alexander Graham Bell presented his telephone for the first time. Remington revealed the first typewriter. And Thomas Edison showed an automatic telegraph and an electric pen.

“President Trump then asked all of us to imagine the wonders our country could know in America’s 250th year. He asked us to think about all the illnesses that could be cured, the distant worlds we could walk on, and the marvels we could achieve if only we could set free the dreams of Americans. That’s how I think about intellectual property. As I see it, no dream is too big if we unleash the power of innovation and give our nation’s inventors the protections they need to succeed. That’s why it’s so important that we find the right balance in the IP system. This is something I’m very passionate about, and fully committed to, as I lead the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.”

We Add New Patent to Digital Currency/Cryptocurrency Section
Posted: 3/17/2018

The newest technology section in the Patent Marketplace at our website is for the newest currencies, and we add a second property to that section this month. We are particularly excited about the Digital Currency “Clicks” Technology portfolio. We must assume that everyone who has not been studying butterflies in the Amazon for the last twenty years knows that there is the “bricks” retail sector and there is the “clicks” retail sector. Some businesses have managed to establish successful footprints in both sectors.

This exciting portfolio of four U.S. Patents and a European Patent creates a whole new business. Merchant Services companies are those businesses that process debit and credit card transactions. They provide the means for retailers – both bricks and clicks – to accept plastic, get approval for the charge made to the card, and then get paid for the sale – less, of course, a processing fee for the Merchant Services company they use. Americans charge over $3 trillion (yes, Trillion with a “T”) on their debit and credit cards each year. Processing charges vary, but at just 2%, that makes Merchant Services a $60 Billion industry. Zowee!

Amazing as it may seem, none of the major Merchant Services players offer processing of digital currency transactions. The Digital Currency “Clicks” Transactions portfolio will enable the company that acquires it to offer Merchant Services to retailers so they can accept digital currencies in addition to debit and credit cards, and Paypal. And the company that invests in this technology will be patent-protected through 2032. Double Zowee!

It Had to Happen: The Bitcoin Patent Report
Posted: 3/17/2018

It was just a matter of time. An enterprising writer and entrepreneur, Anton Corbin, has launched the Bitcoin Patent Report. It includes the latest Bitcoin news, and it offers two reports: the Worldwide Patent Report on Bitcoin and Blockchain Technology and the Comprehensive US Patent Report. Each includes all the latest Bitcoin and Blockchain patents and patent applications. The U.S. report is just 0.05 Bitcoin. Yup. They do business in Bitcoin.

What you will find is that large numbers of banks and other financial institutions are filing for digital currency patents. There are, in fact, just a handful of cryptocurrency patents that are available for acquisition, and the few that are available are represented by IPOfferings. As long as the Bitcoin Patent Report stays in the reporting business (and not the patent brokerage business), we wish them well.

Make Money from Digital Currency... or Make Money off Digital Currency?
Posted: 2/16/2018

Digital currency (or “cryptocurrency” as it is also known) is in the news every day. The leading digital currency, Bitcoin, has seen a spectacular ride in the last few months, hitting new highs, then dropping in value, and then rebounding. As of the writing of this article, the Bitcoin has a Market Capitalization (that’s all issued Bitcoins times the Bitcoin’s current value) of $144 billion. Yes, “Billion” with a B! To relate that to something, Hewlett-Packard has a Market Cap of $35 billion.

bitcoinIPOfferings just brokered the patent that covers the Bitcoin ATM. And we are in negotiations with several additional inventors and assignees to represent their digital currency patents. So we thought we’d take this issue of Patent Leather to wax poetic about cryptocurrencies.

The major digital currencies, in addition to Bitcoin, are Ethereum, Litecoin, Zcash, Dash, Ripple and Monero. What one needs to keep in mind is that the money to be made off digital currency is total and separate from the money to be made from digital currency. Invest in Bitcoins, and you ride the value up and down. So far mostly up.

In addition to making money from digital currency – that is, investing (long-term) or trading (short-term) in them just as you would invest in or trade stocks, bonds, precious metals and hog bellies – there are significant opportunities to make money off digital currencies. Take the Bitcoin ATM patent that we just brokered. When Bitcoin prices shoot up and there is a buying spree, people rush out to buy Bitcoins at their local Bitcoin ATM, and the patent licensor earns a royalty on every buy transaction. When the Bitcoin drops in value – has a “correction” as the analysts say – and there is a selling frenzy, the same people go back to the same Bitcoin ATM to sell. And the patent licensor earns another royalty on every sell transaction.

bitcoinThe investor in Bitcoins only makes money when the price goes up – or only makes money when the value goes down if he has shorted the currency – but the licensor of the Bitcoin ATM patent makes money when people buy and makes money when people sell. Nice work if you can get it.

There have been many gold and silver rushes over the history of the U.S., from Sutter’s Mill in California to the Klondike in Alaska to Virginia City in Montana. Some miners made money. Most did not. But the guy who owned the local hardware store and sold all those picks, shovels, sluices and panning trays made a fortune!

Digital currency is not issued by banks, but by a “blockchain” that records all cryptocurrency transactions. A blockchain, unlike a bank, does not have a physical location and it is not static, but a continuously growing list of records called “blocks” that are linked together (that’s the “chain”) and kept secure via sophisticated cryptography. Thus the term "crypto" currency. Each block contains a cryptographic hash or algorithm that links it to the previous block along with a timestamp for the transactions from that block. A proper blockchain is inherently resistant to any modification of the data in the blocks. A blockchain is an open, distributed ledger that records transactions between two parties very efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way.

To access the distributed ledger, a blockchain must be managed by a peer-to-peer network that adheres to a pre-defined protocol for the validation of new blocks in the blockchain. Once it is recorded, the data in a specific block cannot be altered after the fact without altering all subsequent blocks. Since it operates in a peer-to-peer network, all blockchain transactions are fully accessible to the public. No private transactions in the world of digital currency, but full transparency.

Several intriguing digital currency patents will be available in the coming months. For example, there are patents that cover the “clicks” aspect of digital currency – buying products and services online using not a credit or debit card, but with digital currency. And then there are the “bricks” aspect of digital currency. Patents are coming to market that enable a consumer to buy a set of tires, groceries, furniture or jewelry with digital currency. Added to those are several patents that cover trading in cryptocurrencies as well as added security for the blockchain.

Digital currency will present many opportunities for those prepared to invest in services that support buyers, sellers and users of cryptocurrencies. IPOfferings will be in the thick of it. To quote Maxwell Smart, “…and loving it!”

Smart Home Section Is Added to Patent MarketPlace
Posted: 1/16/2018

We’ve taken every effort possible to make the Patents for Sale section of our website as user-friendly as possible. This month, we feature our first Smart Home patent, so it just made a lot of sense to create a Smart Home section for it and future patents in this fast-growing technology. If you’ve just returned from being stranded on a deserted island, and you do not know what “Smart Home” (we really prefer “smart house” since a “home” and a “house” are really different things, but it appears we were out-voted) is, it is a house (yes, “house”) in which the lights, the heating and air conditioning, and the electric and electronic appliances and devices in the house (yes, “house”) are all linked together and can be controlled remotely by a computer or telephone. In the more sophisticated Smart Home configurations, the doors and windows are covered by an alarm system that is also integrated into the Smart Home system, and it can even include motorized blinds, draperies and awnings.

We recently added an Internet-of-Things technology section, and Smart Home is really a subset of that. When a delivery person rings your door bell, and no one is home, the homeowner can respond from his PC or her smart phone. Is Junior really doing his homework? A Smart Home system enables mom and dad to check in with him. You left a frozen roast in the oven to thaw, and now it’s time to start the oven. You get the idea. As just one example of the growth and acceptance of the concept, Lowe’s just introduced a Smart Home section in its stores.

The RFID Product Management and Tracking portfolio will no doubt be just the first of many to be added to this section.

Anthony Verna Had a Profound Impact on Western Civilization
Posted: 12/16/2017

We are very pleased to represent two patents for which the late Anthony “Tony” Verna was the lead inventor. Tony Verna provides one of the many “back stories” for which this column is well known. And herein lies the tale.

It was the Army-Navy game of 1963 that would introduce an innovation that would change sports forever! In the fourth quarter of the game, when Army quarterback Rollie Stichweh ran for a touchdown, CBS not only showed the play live, it also showed it a second time on tape. This was the first “instant replay!” To make sure that viewers were not confused, Lindsey Nelson, the play-by-play announcer, exclaimed “This is not live! Ladies and gentlemen, Army did not score again!”

Tony Verna was the director of that broadcast, and he had figured out a method to rewind the videotape and run it again just before the start of the next play. Videotape was not new in 1963, but the technology was unwieldy, not very reliable, and large and bulky. Tony Verna had to have equipment weighing over a ton shipped from New York to Philadelphia for the game.

When tapes were made, they could not be played back immediately. Just two days earlier, Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald on live television, and it took nine minutes for the first tape of the event to be broadcast. At that time, tapes of highlights of the first half of a game were played back during halftime, but an immediate re-viewing of a single play was not possible.

The challenge was locating the exact location on the tape where the replay should start. When a machine began to replay a tape, it would show seven to ten seconds of video hash before a recognizable image would appear, and it was impossible to know at precisely which point in the action this would occur. Tony had long been troubled by the dead air between plays, especially, for example, after an incomplete pass. He was also frustrated that he was able to show viewers only one perspective on a play and not what he was seeing on alternate monitors.

The solution he came up with was a pattern of audio cues – beeps that are transmitted to an unused audio track on the tape as it records the live action – that would enable him to find the location on the tape that a play was about to begin. He decided to have his first replay focus on a quarterback, so he set the first beep as the offensive team broke the huddle and added two beeps when the quarterback reached the line of scrimmage. On the day of the Army-Navy game, the video equipment had been jostled during transport and the tape in the unit had been used before. Tony later wrote that he was concerned that “bits of a detergent commercial or an episode of ‘I Love Lucy’ might appear on screen instead of a gang tackle.” But it worked on that chilly day in November of 1963, and things were never the same again!

It was actually CBS sports announcer Pat Summerall who coined the phrase “instant replay.” Today, in addition to adding value to a game for the television audience, officials regularly use instant replay when a call is in question using monitors set up on the field for just that purpose.

Tony Verna left us his memoirs – “Instant Replay: The Day That Changed Sports Forever” – that was published in 2008. Anthony Verna passed away at his home in Palm Desert, California, in 2015 at the age of 81. Quite a guy. We are truly honored to represent two of his patents.

Consider the Option Option
Posted: 11/13/2017

The article in Battery Power covered the purchase of a patent portfolio option. The concept is similar to a real estate option but it offers additional benefits. A company in lithium exploration, Lithium Exploration Group (another great name), made the decision to expand into other technologies and products in the lithium continuum (the path from refining lithium to R&D to manufacturing to packaging to distribution of finished, lithium-based products). The company came across an intriguing lithium-ion portfolio for rechargeable batteries that is represented by IPOfferings.

Lithium Exploration Group decided to buy an option on the portfolio, and IPOfferings brokered the deal. The option grants Lithium Exploration Group the right to purchase the portfolio at an agreed-to price in a defined time period. This arrangement gives the buyer time to not only complete due diligence on the portfolio, but to also thoroughly research the challenges of commercializing the technology covered by the portfolio. In this instance – this is not always the case with an option – the purchaser has retained the services of the inventor to assist in the pre-commercialization of the portfolio.

Buying an option – or, if you are the seller, offering an option – is an option that prevents the property from being sold out from under the buyer, and gives the buyer breathing room to gets its ducks in a row before it finalizes the acquisition. And, it gives the buyer the option to walk away if it turns out to not be the right deal. If the option expires, the seller is free to put the property up for sale again.

IoT and OTT Patents Are Becoming Critical Assets
Posted: 12/22/2016

In case you are not aware of what these two acronyms stand for, OTT is “Over the Top” and IoT is the “Internet of Things." And as we have often counseled our readers – and anyone else who is interested – if you want to know where the world will be in a few years, “follow the patents.” We’ve seen increased activity in Patentland for both of these technologies. These are not emerging technologies. They are here and they are affecting each of us every day. For some unexplained reason, OTT ended up with all capital letters (not really correct since the middle word is the article “the”), while IoT properly ended up with a lower case “o” for the preposition “of.”

OTT or Over the Top is the delivery of audio or video over the Internet with the involvement of a multiple-system operator to control or distribute the content. OTT is not pay television or video-on-demand, but content provided by a third party in IP packets. OTT messaging is the providing of instant messaging as an alternative to the text messaging provided by the cellular network operators. WhatsApp and Skype are two OTT providers. Telecomm industry analyst Dean Bubley is generally credited with coining the term in 2011.

IoT or the Internet of Things is the connection of multiple “things” (everyday objects) via the Internet to keep people informed about important issues, and for it to be done automatically while they go about their lives. When you look on your cell phone for the local restaurants or a gas station, that is an application of IoT. The term is credited to Kevin Ashton of MIT who believed that “If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things – using data they gathered without any help from us – we would be able to track and count everything and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost.”

How important are OTT Patents. Disney just signed an agreement to license the patents of the Kudelski Group, many of which are OTT-related. Akamai paid $107 million to acquire Codemate for its Octoshape OTT patent portfolio.

Over on the IoT side, Softbank paid $32 billion for ARM, primarily for its IoT patents. Qualcomm and Intel have been busy filing for patents in this technology. Each company now has over 500 IoT Patents.

aoiTV has some interesting OTT patents such as U.S. Patent No. 8,869,207 for a “Method and System for Delivering Video Content from Multiple Platforms to Subscribers.” Among the patents that Akamai acquired from Codemate was U.S. Patent No. 7,865,811 for a “Distribution Method, Preferably Applied in a Streaming System.”

One of Qualcomm’s IoT properties is U.S. Patent No. 9,413,827 for a “Context Aware Actions Among Heterogeneous Internet of Things (IOT) Devices.” IBM is assigned U.S. Patent No. 9,372,886 for “Data Filtering in the Internet of Things.”

For businesses looking to acquire OTT patents or IoT patents, IPOfferings represents several properties.

Here Is the Granddaddy of Router Patents
Posted: 10/16/2017

We are either fans of – or, possible, victims of – the past, but the result is the same. We are fascinated by patents from the past, and we relish going back in time to find the first patent for a technology. That is easy to do if you are looking for the first light bulb, telephone or airplane patent. A bit more challenging for the newer technologies that did not just arrive, but sort of crept up on us.

We feature this month a most intriguing telecom patent that improves data flow through a router – contrary to popular believe and practice, tapping on the mouse does NOT speed up a download just as tapping on the button does not get the elevator to your floor any faster – so we were curious to know where the concept of the modern router began, and we think we found it.

Back in the early days of the Internet – 1995 to be exact – a start-up called Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) received U.S. Patent No. 5,473,599 for a “Standby Router Protocol.” This router patent has 31 Claims, and it covers sending a plurality of packets among routers that each have a memory and a processor of their own. Just to show you how foundational this patent is, it has only four Backward Citations and a whopping 873 Forward Citations! This, Virginia, is where the Internet really started!


Figure 1 from U.S. Patent No. 5,473,599


If you had invested $1,000 in Cisco when it went public in 1990 – before anyone had ever heard of the Internet or a router – you would today own 16,000 shares (after all the splits) worth over a half million dollars.

And the Granddaddy of OTT Patents
Posted: 10/16/2017

We also feature two OTT (Over the Top) patents this month, so we set out to find the root OTT patent and we came up with U.S. Patent No. 6,774,664 for “Enhanced Video Programming System and Method Incorporating and Displaying Retrieved, Integrated, Internet Information Segments.” While the patent has only three Claims, it covers the basics of OTT – receiving programming with video and audio signals and directing it to specific websites. As a foundational patent, it has just six Backward Citations and a super-whopping 1,141 Forward Citations.


Figures 1 and 2 from U.S. Patent No. 5,774,664


Our scavenger hunt included this patent’s ownership trail. The patent application that was filed in 1994 was assigned to Earth Web, Inc., an early web designer that was sold to Web Media Brands which is still in business today and is a provider of original video content. The application – some sharp fellow saw the value in it – was transferred to AcTV, Inc. in 2001. We cannot find any information about AcTV, but it was based in Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, and that hints at its ownership and origins.

AcTV was acquired by OpenTV in 2010, so assignment of the patent passed to OpenTV, Inc., a company out of San Francisco that sold television top-box operating systems (that’s the OTT connection) as well as middleware software and advanced advertising products.

OpenTV traded on the NASDAQ under the OPTV symbol until it was acquired by the Kudelski SA (SIX:KUD) in 1994. Kudelski, a publicly traded Swiss corporation that is better known as Nagra-Kudelski Group, manufactures security systems for transmission of digital content.

Meet Alexander Graham Bell, Aviator
Posted: 9/15/2017

Alex Bell, as his fellow Bostonians knew him, is probably the second greatest inventor after Tom Edison, as he was known among the Menlo Park community. What we bet you do not know is that A. G. Bell was an aviator, and the holder of several air craft patents!


Just a few years after the Wright Brothers received their “Flying Machine” (the term used before “aeroplane” and later “airplane” came into common usage) patent, Bell and four co-inventors received U.S. Patent No. 1,011,106 for a “Flying Machine” that looks a lot like the Wright Brothers’ configuration. We’d like to see the prior art submitted with the application for this patent.


In 1913 – ten years after the Wright Brothers' first successful manned flight – Bell received U.S. Patent No. 1,050,610 for a “Flying Machine.” Its most noticeable feature is a top-mounted – rather than traditional tail-mounted – rudder.




We find most intriguing U.S. Patent No. 1,410,874 for a “Hydrodrome, Hydroaeroplane, and the Like” granted to Bell and a partner in 1922. Bell was now 75 years old, but still heavily into aircraft. What he invented was a craft that could land on water, and that technology became very common in the 1930s, and is still in use today!

Here Is Just One Example of the Growth of OTT
Posted: 9/15/2017

As readers of this column know, OTT (Over the Top) is one of the hottest technologies out there today, and OTT patents are in demand. IPOfferings even has an OTT Section at the Patent MarketPlace at our website.

The Emmy Awards nominations were just announced and the nominees (drum roll, please) for Best Drama are:
  • Better Call Saul
  • The Crown
  • The Handmaid’s Tale
  • House of Cards
  • Stranger Things
  • This Is Us
  • Westworld
What is the significance of this list? Of the seven nominated shows, only three are broadcast content while four of the shows are NOT broadcast via the airwaves or cable, but are sent “over the top.” Better than half of the nominated shows are OTT content! Can you tell which?

Venture Capital:Patents::Peas:Carrots
Posted: 8/20/2017

A recent report from PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and CB Insights reports a strong uptick in venture capital (VC) investments in the Second Quarter of 2017. The US MoneyTree™ Report shows a three-quarter increase in VC investments with $18.4 billion in the Second Quarter of 2017, a significant increase over the $14.4 billion reported for the First Quarter of 2017. The number of deals, however, has remained fairly steady, between 1,146 and 1,247 over the last four quarters.

The headline is not a typo. We are using the colons and double colons the way they are used in analogy notation. The single colon stands for "is to" and the double colon stands for "as."" If you did not get the headline the first time, try reading it that way.

What makes venture capital and patents like Forest Gump’s relationship with Jenny? A significant number of patents are filed every year by VC-funded companies to protect the technologies on which VC-funded businesses are based. Those companies that survive benefit from the protection afforded by their patents. And when a VC startup fails – a certain number of VC-funded companies failing is a reality that is built into the formula – the only assets that are often left are the patents. And the VCs come to IPOfferings to recoup some of their investment be monetizing those patents.

US MoneyTree is a trademark of PriceWaterhouseCoopers and CB Insights.

OTT Is Hotter than Ever!
Posted: 7/15/2017

Regular readers of this delightfully witty and informative column know what OTT is. So if you are a reader, and you forgot; or you are new to IP MarketPlace; or you just want the latest on the world of OTT, here it is. OTT (Over the Top) is – in the simplest terms possible – the delivery of audio and video content over the Internet as opposed to via broadcast or broadband (what we used to call “cable”). It is called “over the top” because it skips “over” all the regular distribution channels for this content.

Since KDKA went on the air November 2, 1920, everyone on the face of the earth has received news, music, sports, drama and advertising via radio waves. Just eight years later, a one-act play, “The Queen’s Messenger,” was broadcast by RCA over W2XBS September 11, 1928. Since then, virtually everyone on the face of the earth has viewed drama, comedy, news, sports, movies and commercials via television.

In 1940, John Walson ran an appliance store in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania. He had a problem selling television sets because the town was in a valley, so TV reception was very poor. He put a tower on the highest mountain, captured the TV signals from the Philadelphia stations, ran a cable down into the village, and provided the first cable TV service. Since then, hundreds of millions – in this case, not everyone on the face of the earth – have received their television signal not from an antenna on the roof or rabbit ears on the TV set, but from a local cable TV vendor.

A book could be written about why the cable TV companies got into the Internet service business instead of the local telephone companies – who were all in business with a loyal customer base 100 years ahead of the local cable companies – but they did. Today, cable TV is slowing losing customers to one form or another of OTT content delivery. The irony of it all is that the OTT content is coming in on the Internet service provided by the cable TV companies!

Cable TV companies are enormously profitable. That’s how Comcast managed to buy NBC. Cable companies sell bundles of TV networks, so consumers end up paying for many channels they never view. And the cable companies get to drop in their own ads over the ads of the original provider of the programming. We have only the greatest respect for effective marketing, and the cable TV companies are great marketers. In fact, it took OTT this long to catch on in large part because the fragmented OTT vendors did not have the marketing tools, marketing smarts and marketing umph of the cable TV companies. Never underestimate umph!

Netflix was the first company to crack the cable monopoly. Netflix licensed older programming from the TV networks, then veered around and “over” the cable guys to reach customers via the Internet. Hulu soon followed, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Many marketing and technical challenges are out there for the OTT crowd, but many OTT patents have popped up to address improving the delivery of audio and video content. This month we feature a patent that creates a program guide for OTT providers so they will have a place viewers can go to see what’s on. Just like you do when you flip on cable TV.

The future: OTT is here to stay, but so is cable. It is likely that programming revenue from cable will decline as more consumers shifts to OTT content. How will cable TV operators make up the difference? They will have to charge more for the Internet service on which the OTT content flows into the homes of their customers!

E-Commerce Sales Grow Faster than Total Retail Sales
Posted: 6/16/2017

As we so often do, we shall digress before getting to the main story. Bad journalistic style, but we manage to get away with it. If you ever wondered what the U.S. Department of Commerce does, here are three things: It runs the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, it runs the U.S. Census Bureau, and it runs the U.S. Weather Service. Cooler tomorrow, with rain expected over the weekend.

The Census Bureau does more than just count the population. It also reports on retail sales and other data important to the business community, and that circles us back to the headline. Take a guess. What were total U.S. e-commerce sales for 2016? Nope. Higher. $4.9 billion.

Digging through the report, here is what we find most interesting and relevant to this month’s issue of IP MarketPlace: E-commerce sales for the First Quarter of 2017 were $1.25 billion, a whopping 14.8% increase over the First Quarter of 2016. Meanwhile, total retail sales in the U.S. were up 5.1% from the First Quarter of 2016 to the First Quarter of 2017. That means that E-commerce sales are growing almost three times faster than total retail sales.

What percent of total U.S. retail sales are done on line? Nope. Lower. Just 8.5%. We really thought it would be higher, but retail sales includes items like groceries and automobiles that are still overwhelmingly a “bricks” and not a “clicks” business.

If you want to dig through all the numbers, you can download the latest report on Quarterly Retail E-Commerce Sales. One interesting note we could not help commenting on is that the Census Bureau logo includes a “™”. It appears that the Census Bureau finally decided to apply for a trademark after all these years.

Yield Management Changed Everything for Flyers
Posted: 6/16/2017

Our Patent of the Month is U.S. Patent No. 6,085,164 issued to Sabre back in 1997. Sabre is the airline reservation and booking system launched by American Airlines. This is the patent that covered a practice known as “Yield Management.” It was the brainchild of Robert Crandall, the legendary CEO of American Airlines from 1985 to 1998. Crandall also created AAdvantage, the first frequent flyer program. To show you how widely Yield Management caught on, the ‘164 Patent has 232 Forward Citations!

Prior to Yield Management – when the airline industry was heavily regulated – an airline ticket had a price and that was the price. Deregulation created a brave new world for airlines. Yield Management – which all the airlines and most hotels and car rental companies have now adopted – is flexible pricing based on availability at specific times. If a flight is not selling, the ticket price goes down. As a flight starts to fill, the price goes up. And as takeoff gets nearer and nearer, the price for a ticket on that flight can go up and down several times. That is why you spent $450 to fly to that convention in Seattle while the grandmother in the seat next to you paid $105.

Speaking of Frequent Flyer Programs…
Posted: 6/16/2017

Our second Patent of the Month is U.S. Patent No. 5,056,019 for an “Automated Purchase Reward Accounting System and Method.” It was granted to Citicorp back in 1991, and it established the frequent buyer or customer loyalty programs that are so popular today.

The casual watcher of television ads would think that CapitalOne invented cash-back rewards, but not so. Citicorp patented the concept over 25 years ago. And, again, to see how foundational the idea was, just look at the 923 Forward Citations the patent has!

Talk about Obsolete!
Posted: 5/25/2017

During the 19th and 20th Centuries, the Patent Office issued over 100 Patents for clothes pins, but it was U.S. Patent No. 10,163 issued in 1853 to David Smith, a prolific inventor from Vermont, that created the spring-loaded clothes pin that replaced the previous single-piece clothes pin that is illustrated in Mr. Smith's Patent. It became the standard design in clothes pins that is still in use today... for those few people who still use clothes lines.
It was a lifetime ago that backyards full of clothes drying in the wind was a common sight. The sun gave the clothes an especially fresh smell. In most jurisdictions today, the zoning laws have actually out-lawed clothes lines! We are sure Mr. Smith made a sufficient fortune during the 20 years of his Patent.

A Brief History of the Delight Known as Coffee
Posted: 4/20/2017

The crew here at Patent Leather are all hard-core coffee drinkers: Hot and Black! Before Starbucks, before Dunkin’ Donuts, and before the modern coffee makers, making coffee was a challenge. The grounds were dumped into a large urn full of water, and the whole concoction was brought to a boil. Most of the grounds settled to the bottom, so the first few cups of coffee poured off the top were pretty good, but as you worked your way down the urn you started picking up grounds in the coffee.

There were a few non-patented coffee pots that had filters behind the spout to catch the grounds. We did not really get grounds-free coffee until the invention and patenting of the first coffee percolator. It was invented by one Cora Downham of Beloit, Wisconsin, who filed her application in 1917 and received U.S. Patent No. 1,306,688 for a “Coffee-Percolator” in June of 1919. Her design was the standard for coffee makers until the Mr. Coffee-type drip coffee makers arrived 50 years later.

If you are old enough to remember cars without seat belts and black-and-white TV, you are old enough to remember the coffee percolator. You filled the canister with water, dropped in the shaft and basket, filled the basket with ground coffee, and put it on the stove. As the water boiled, it shot up the shaft and into the glass dome in the lid, splashed back down over the coffee grounds in the basket, and dripped down into the canister. As the coffee brewed – blurp, blurp, blurp – the water got darker and darker as it turned into coffee, and the room filled with the delightful smell of the most glorious beverage ever conceived by God and man!

EPO Granted 96,000 Patents Last Year versus 334,104 for USPTO
Posted: 3/17/2017

Things are hopping across the pond, at least on the patent front. The numbers are in for 2016, and the European Patent Office (EPO) reports that it issued a whopping 40% more patents in 2016 than in 2015! The EPO’s Annual Report also chronicles that 160,000 European patent applications were filed with the agency, also an increase over 2015.

EPO President Benoît Battistelli presented the agency’s results for 2016 earlier this month at a press conference in Brussels. He reported that about half of the patent applications were from one of the 38 member nations of the European Patent Office, and about half were from non-member nations. The largest growth in patent applications was from – not really a surprise – China, followed by – also no surprise – Korea. Patent applications from Japan were actually down slightly from 2015! The U.S. filed the most patent applications followed by Germany, Japan, France and Switzerland.

"The 2016 results confirm Europe's attractiveness as a leading global marketplace for innovation," said Battistelli in his presentation. "In a rapidly changing political and economic landscape,” he continued, “companies from around the world have kept up their demand for patent protection in Europe. While we see impressive growth in applications from Asia, European companies maintain their role as drivers of innovation and economic growth in their home market, and are proving their resilience in the face of unsettled economic conditions."

The European Patent Office’s activities are petites pommes de terre compared to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that issued over three times as many patents in Fiscal 2016 (October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016). The USPTO issued a record 334,104 U.S. Patents, an increase over Fiscal 2015 during which the Patent Office granted 322,449 U.S. Patents. In Fiscal 2016, 160,506 U.S. Patents were issued to U.S. applicants while 173,598 U.S. Patents were granted to foreign applicants. Japan was far and away the No. 1 foreign recipient of U.S. Patents (53,046) followed by Korea (21,867), Germany (17,564), Taiwan (12,737) and China (10,985).

This Is the Patent that Put Apple in the Smartphone Business
Posted: 1/18/2017

Since we included a patent portfolio that will revolutionize the design of all future smartphones in this month’s IP MarketPlace™, we thought we’d take a look at the patent that leapt Apple – formerly a designer and manufacturer of PCs and just PCs – into a leadership position in the smartphone segment. We are talking about U.S. Patent No. 7,479,949 for a “Touch Screen Device, Method, and Graphical User Interface for Determining Commands by Applying Heuristics.” The lead inventor on this patent, among the 25 named inventors, was none other than Steve Jobs himself.

This patent did two things: It patented the concept behind what would become the iPhone and, second, it got everyone asking what “heuristic” means. There is “heuristic” the noun, “heuristics” the noun and “heuristically” the adverb.

To save you looking it up, according to Miriam-Webster, “heuristic” means “involving or serving as an aid to learning, discovery, or problem-solving by experimental and especially trial-and-error methods ; also : of or relating to exploratory problem-solving techniques that utilize self-educating techniques (as the evaluation of feedback) to improve performance .”

Ironically, this patent was NOT a patent-at-suit in either of the patent infringement lawsuits that Apple filed – and won – against Samsung.

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