Patent Application

April 8, 2014, by Mandour & Associates, APC

San Diego – As a result of a case brought before the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), the patent encompassing Zillow’s popular home valuation tool has been seriously diluted.   In its ruling, the Board found 25 of the 40 claims mentioned in the patent, referred to as the ’674 patent, unpatentable.  Zillow filed for the patent back in 2006 but wasn’t granted patent protection for its “Z-Estimate” tool, which is featured prominently on its website, until 2011.

The proceedings were instituted by Washington, D.C.-based  Microstrategy, Inc., which sought a review of Zillow’s “Z-Estimate” patent claims in an effort to have the entire patent thrown out. The Board ultimately held that two of the claims included in the ’674 patent were invalidated because they were not novel and that 23 of them were obvious in light of prior inventions.

The ruling comes as a major blow for Zillow , less because of the fallout with Microstrategy, but more because of the effects that it will have on the outcome of its major lawsuit against rival Trulia.  Commenced last year, Zillow contends in its patent infringement lawsuit that Trulia’s automated property value estimates, called “Trulia Estimates,” infringe on its patented “Z-Estimate” calculations.  In response, Trulia filed a motion to dismiss the patent infringement lawsuit, arguing that “Abstract ideas and principles are not patentable.”  With much of the “Z-Estimate” patent now invalidated by the PTAB, Zillow will likely be waging an uphill battle in trying to stop Trulia from providing its own competing home value estimates.

The two biggest names in online real estate have been at each other’s throats for years.  Seattle-based Zillow will reportedly spend upwards of $65 million on its nationwide advertising campaign in 2014.  Not to be outdone, Trulia countered by announcing the hiring of its new Chief Marketing Officer in February and its plan to spend over $40 million this year on ads.  Though Zillow went public a year before Trulia, the smaller company has been giving Zillow a run for its money since its August 2012 IPO, when its stock debuted at more than 30% above its projected value.

December 3, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

San Diego – A series of five patents filed on November 21st reveal Apple’s potential plans to include liquidmetal in its products.  Though the five patents leave it somewhat difficult to ascertain exactly what type of product would come out of the claims, two of the filings clearly have to do with 3-D printing methods for electronic devices.  The applications do not come as a shock to Apple enthusiasts, who were gripped by a 2012 rumor that the new iPhone might utilize liquidmetal technology.  While that rumor did not manifest in the iPhone 5s, it is now a fact that Apple is at least heavily considering implementing the material in future products.

Created in the early 2000s by a research team at the California Institute of Technology, liquidmetal is a unique form of amorphous metal alloy.  It is similar to plastic in that it cools fast and is very strong, with more than double the strength of titanium alloy.  Adding to its appeal, despite its durability, liquidmetal is flexible, lending it a unique ability to be molded into very thin shapes while remaining sturdy.

The Silicon Valley tech producer known for its simplistic designs and user friendly devices turned heads in 2010 when it signed a contact with California-based Liquidmetal Technologies.  Since then, speculation has run high that Apple would be the first to create a modern-looking smartphone made out of liquidmetal. Given that liquidmetal is more lightweight and less expensive than the metal currently used to make iPhones, it is an enticing possibility.

According to the actual patent filings, liquidmetal might be used to create new Apple products through 3-D printing and injection molding methods, which could be a cheaper alternative to the current practice of creating prototypes and using machining processes to stamp out finished products.  The first filing is entitled “Layer-by-Layer Construction with Bulk Metallic Glasses” and seems to provide the most insight into the creation of new products using liquid metal.  The other four, respectively titled “Layer-by-Layer Construction with Bulk Metallic Glasses”, “Amorphous Alloy Component or Feedstock and Methods of Making the Same”, “Bulk Metallic Glass Feedback with Dissimilar Sheath” and “Manipulating Surface Topology of BMG Feedstock” are much more technical and seem to focus on more specialized applications of the liquidmetal technology.

October 29, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

San Diego – A new patent filed in Korea reveals what seems to be Samsung’s plan to rival the soon-to-be released Google Glass.  The patent, which was filed with the Korean Intellectual Property Office by Samsung Electronics Co.  shows glasses which communicate with a smartphone.  It was filed on March 8, 2013 and describes the device as, “sports glasses,” which will have the capability to let users listen to music and take phone calls through built in earphones.  Similar to Google’s product, Samsung’s will also allow for browsing of the internet on a small display screen on the eyeglasses’ lens.

In the months since Google announced the planned introduction of its Glass product, there has been wide speculation about how rival Samsung would react.  Until now, there was virtually no clue left by the Korean based company as to whether it was working on a competing electronic glasses product.   With the new filing, however, it is obvious that the tech giant is putting its own horse in the smart glasses race.

While Samsung’s new “sports glasses” appear to be a definite attempt to rival Google Glass, several differences between the two products are noticeable from the patent filing.  First, unlike Google Glass, Samsung’s device features wires on both sides, which connect at the back of the wearer’s head.  Next, while Google Glass features its display screen on the right lens, the Samsung product has its display on the left.  In its patent filing, Samsung makes more than a passing mention about how the new device will be targeted for use in sporting and outdoor activities.  While Google Glass has already been marketed as a sort of universally useful device akin to a wearable mobile phone, Samsung may be looking to set itself apart by making its new device an athletic accessory.

Outside of these differences, however, the essence of the two products is the same.  Both are efforts to take everyday devices, such as watches and eyeglasses, and make them “smart.”  Both Samsung’s “sports glasses” and Google Glass look like futuristic sunglasses with a minimalist design:  a wraparound style with a skinny metal band and clear frameless lenses.  How it all pans out for these two big names will largely depend on how the consumer market reacts to the emerging product field of wearable electronics and how the devices will fit into our everyday lives.

October 16, 2012, by Mandour & Associates, APC

San Diego – The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued Apple Inc. an array of patents on Tuesday, including one that would allow a device to detect whether an individual user is supposed to be using it and stop unauthorized access.

U.S. Patent Number 8,289,130, titled “Systems and methods for identifying unauthorized users of an electronic device,” covers a system capable of identifying particular activities that may indicate suspicious behavior.

In some embodiments, an unauthorized user can be detected by comparing the identity of the current user to the identity of the device’s owner. When an unauthorized user is detected, various safety measures can be taken.

A photograph of the current user can be taken, a recording of the current user’s voice can be recorded, the heartbeat of the current user can be recorded, or any combination of those factors that can then be compared to the corresponding likeness of the authorized owner, according to the patent description.

Activities such as entering an incorrect password a predetermined number of times in a row, hacking, “jailbreaking,” unlocking, removing a SIM card or moving a predetermined distance away from a synced device can all also be used to detect an unauthorized user under the patented system.

Information related to the identity of the unauthorized user, the unauthorized user’s operation of the electronic device, or the current location of the electronic device can be gathered with the patented method. Functions of the electronic device can also be restricted.

In other embodiments, the device owner can be notified of the unauthorized user by sending an alert notification through any suitable medium, such as a voice mail, e-mail, or text message.

“If the electronic device is lost or stolen, the loss of the electronic device can be exceedingly disruptive to the owner’s peace of mind and security,” the patent description says. “Thus, the owner may desire to find out where the lost electronic device is located or who may have gained possession of or stolen the electronic device.”

The application for the patent was filed in February 2009. The inventors listed are Taido L. Nakajima of Cupertino, Calif., Pareet Rahul of Markham, Calif. and Gloria Lin of San Ramon, Calif.

October 8, 2012, by Mandour & Associates, APC

San Diego – Samsung Electronics Co. is seeking patent protection for a way to have an electronic device like a smartphone record and summarize the operations of a user’s daily life and present the results in story form, according to a patent application the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published last week.

The invention, entitled “Apparatus and method for generating story according to user information,” includes an information collection unit, an analysis unit, a story generator, and a display unit, according to the patent abstract.

The information collection unit collects log information including a user’s daily life information from at least one electronic device. The analysis unit analyzes the log information collected from the information collection unit and decides at least one topic representing the user’s daily life information.

The story generator generates at least one sentence representing the user’s daily life information using the topic decided in the analysis unit. The display unit then displays the sentence generated in the story generator.

The information gathered and presented in story form could include data on the weather, GPS latitude and longitude information, blog and social media data, call records, text and multimedia messages, schedules and calendars, address book entries and more. Video recordings, lists of recently played music files, TV viewing information and other records of habits could also be monitored and included.

The development of wireless technology has made it possible to continuously collect information about a mobile device user. A device can now accordingly provide its user with a variety of services on the basis of the data collected as the user goes about her daily life, the patent description says.

Current devices, however, do not conveniently present such information, and a need exists for a service that can automatically gather such data and summarize it automatically into story form, the patent description says.

The application generally describes the story generating apparatus in terms of a portable phone, but the apparatus could also be a computer, digital camera, home electronic appliance, projector, home server, digital video recorder, satellite broadcasting receiver or television receiver, according to the patent description.

The patent application was filed on March 30 by inventors Hee-Seok Jeong, Young-Hee Park and Jeong-Won Cha of South Korea’s Changwon National University.

September 14, 2012, by Mandour & Associates, APC

San Diego – A group of scientists at the University of Texas at Austin said Wednesday that they have been awarded a patent for a type of nuclear reactor that could eventually be used to turn radioactive waste into new fuel.

Mike Kotschenreuther, Prashant Valanju and Swadesh Mahajan, physicists at UT’s College of Natural Sciences, said the patent covers a fusion-fission hybrid nuclear reactor that would use nuclear fusion and fission together to incinerate nuclear waste. Fusion produces energy by fusing atomic nuclei, and fission produces energy by splitting atomic nuclei.

The process of burning the waste would also produce energy, a process which the scientists hope could eliminate 99 percent of the most toxic waste from traditional nuclear fission reactors.

“The potential for this kind of technology is enormous,” Mahajan said. “Now that we have the patent, we hope this will open up opportunities to engage with the research and development community to further this potentially world-changing technology.”

The patented reactor would rely on a tokamak device, which uses magnetic fields to produce fusion reactions. The tokamak is surrounded by an area that would house a nuclear waste fuel source and waste byproducts of the nuclear fuel cycle.

The device is driven by a new technology the three physicists developed called the Super X Divertor, which they called a “crucial technology” with the capacity to safely divert enormous amounts of heat out of the reactor core to keep the reactor producing energy.

The need to store nuclear waste is among the biggest impediments to more widespread use of nuclear energy. Projects like the proposed Yucca Mountain long-term nuclear waste storage site in Nevada have met with much public opposition.

The physicists say their invention could someday drastically decrease the need for any additional or expanded geological waste dumps like Yucca Mountain, making nuclear power cleaner and more viable.

The scientists’ hybrid reactor currently remains in a conceptual phase, they said. The Super X Divertor, though, is being installed as the centerpiece of a $40 million upgrade of the MAST tokamak in the United Kingdom.

“This installation is a critical step forward in testing the Super X Divertor experimentally,” the scientists said.

August 28, 2012, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Apple was granted a patent on Tuesday for a system of activating certain preset functions on a wireless device depending upon information like the device’s location, which could be used in future iPhones, iPads and other devices to automatically change device settings based on where a user may be.

U.S. Patent Number 8,254,902, titled “Apparatus and methods for enforcement of policies upon a wireless device,” describes a method for changing one or more functional or operational aspects of a wireless device upon the occurrence of a certain event or other trigger. In one variant, the event could be act of the wireless device associating with a certain access point, like a GPS, cellular or Wi-Fi network.

Under this method, various aspects of device functionality, or “policies,” might be enabled or restricted. This “policy enforcement” capability could be used to to disable noise or light emanating from wireless devices, such as at a movie theater, for preventing wireless devices from communicating with other wireless devices, such as in academic settings, and for forcing certain electronic devices to enter “sleep mode” when entering a sensitive area, according to the patent description.

Despite the existence of a wide variety of different preexisting approaches to wireless device control, no one approach satisfies the need of providing an apparatus and methods of automatically disabling, replacing, or modifying the functionality of a wireless device upon the occurrence of a certain condition, such as entering a particular location, the patent description says.

Ideally, such apparatus and methods would in one aspect allow certain designated zones or areas to enforce policies regarding wireless device operation, and be protected from having unwanted ringing or alarms, display functions or other events associated with the wireless device.

This would also ideally prevent or frustrate the use of wireless devices for inappropriate purposes, the patent description says.

“Wireless devices can often annoy, frustrate, and even threaten people in sensitive venues,” the patent description says. “For example, cell phones with loud ringers frequently disrupt meetings, the presentation of movies, religious ceremonies, weddings, funerals, academic lectures, and test-taking environments.”

“Excessive lighting emanating from wireless devices can also create disruption in dark environments,” the description says. “While it is well known that excessive or bright lighting in a movie theater can spoil the mood of certain movies, excessive lighting can also become a more serious issue in other contexts.”

Inventors Michael Bell of Cupertino, California and Vitali Lovich of Toronto, Canada filed their patent application in June 2008.

July 31, 2012, by Mandour & Associates, APC

San Diego – Six years may seem like a long time to wait for the award of a patent. However, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg patiently waited for approval on an application governing certain privacy settings for six long years. There was definitely cause for celebration by Zucks when it was announced last week that he had been granted his first patent. Patent number 8,225,376 is listed as “a system and method for dynamically generating privacy summary” and was awarded to inventors Zuckerberg and Facebook’s former Chief of Privacy Officer, Chris Kelly.

In layman’s terms, the patent was designed to create a display for a person’s profile on Facebook. The profile is affected by certain privacy settings that are chosen by the user, displayed to the user, and are viewable by other people using the same social networking website. Essentially, the technology would let Facebook users customize the way their profile appears to other users. The patent was originally rejected by the USPTO because examiners thought it was too obvious. However, when Facebook went public, Zuckerberg’s team redoubled their efforts and pushed the patent through. And after numerous interviews with the Examiner the USPTO finally granted the patent.

Even to the most basic of computer networking users, the patent seems awfully simplistic. Some experts are going as far as to say that it is no more than a fancy accessory. But these days it seems that the larger the patent portfolio the better. Last month Facebook bought hundreds of patents from IBM and Microsoft to provide a better defense against the threat of ongoing litigation, including its lawsuit against Yahoo. The Yahoo lawsuit was later settled, but the patents should serve the company well into the future.

July 24, 2012, by Mandour & Associates, APC

San Diego – Carfax is known for its comprehensive vehicle history database which allows customers to verify that new vehicle purchases haven’t been in an undisclosed accident. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Carfax has embarked upon a foray into the patent world. From the patent it appears that Carfax is moving toward further assistance with the insurance industry. To that end, Carfax announced this week that it received a Notice of Allowance from the United States Patent and Trademark Office for its patent application for a “system and method for insurance underwriting and rating” identified as Serial number 13/181,736. The USPTO typically issues a Notice of Allowance once it comes to an initial determination that a patent can be granted from a review of a patent application.

A representative from Carfax expressed excitement that it will soon be able to initiate its plans to provide cutting edge services to customers in the insurance industry. Currently, Carfax’ technology systems contain over 10 billion records which cover cars, light trucks and SUV’s in the United States since 1981. In addition to a massive data collection from over 34,000 data sources, Carfax uses a pool of information from state DMVs, police departments, service facilities and collision repair centers. Data is also verified by vigorous quality control analysis that is conducted at regular intervals to weed out irrelevant or inaccurate data.

The new invention would provide greater accuracy and more options for consumers when selection insurance options. If granted, the patent would allow Carfax to use its significant amount of knowledge and experience to assist insurance underwriting companies and offer insurance customers new insurance options. The Carfax patent could lead to more accurate rate options for consumers.

July 3, 2012, by Mandour & Associates, APC

San Diego – The leading cellular phone chipmaker, Qualcomm, has announced its plan to create a subsidiary company in order to protect its patents. In light of increasing cellphone technology patent infringement lawsuits, such as the cases that Samsung and Apple are currently facing, it has been reported that Qualcomm’s move to use two different companies is to avoid similar lawsuits in the future.

The new structure of the organization will include Qualcomm Incorporated, which will consist of Qualcomm Technology Licensing (QTL), Qualcomm’s corporate functions, as well as the majority of its patent portfolio. The newly formed Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. (QTI) will include the semiconductor department, Qualcomm CDMA Technologies (QCT), research and development as well as the product and services division. This transition is said to take effect at the end of the 2013 fiscal year.

Chairman and Chief Executive Paul E. Jacobs stated, “Our internal reorganization will provide even greater protection for our industry-leading intellectual property portfolio as our products and services businesses seek to accelerate innovation and deliver our products to market quickly” and “we are confident that this change to our corporate structure will be accomplished with little to no disruption to employees and customers.”

In a statement released on behalf of the organization the company stated, “QTI and its subsidiaries will have no rights to grant licenses or other rights to patents held by Qualcomm Incorporated. There will be no changes to the intellectual property that is currently owned by Qualcomm Innovation Center, Inc., which works closely with the open source community to accelerate the advancement of the wireless industry as a whole.”

When it comes to patent infringement lawsuits, Qualcomm is no stranger to them. In the past it has been involved in lawsuits with Nokia and Broadcom. In fact, according to a settlement with Broadcom in 2009, Qualcomm is still paying off the millions of dollars. In its settlement to end the patent infringement lawsuit Qualcomm agreed to pay $891 million to Broadcom over a span of four years. The lawsuit was originally filed in 2005.

Qualcomm’s patents are essentially known as the company’s ‘bread and butter’ and so it is understandable as to why the company is willing to go to great lengths in order to protect its intellectual property portfolio.

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