Archive for the 'Patents' Category

Context Connect gets another patent on private directory-based connectivity

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Context Connect gets another US patent on private directory-based connectivity (US Patent #7,340,048 – A System and Method for Directory Services and eCommerce Across Multi-Provider Networks).  The patent allows for basic connectivity calls and ecommerce transactions to take place across multiple service providers, without revealing the individuals’ contact details or information.  Given all it privacy issues surrounding an individuals’ personal details, the patent is focused on protecting one’s privacy while allow basic transactions to take place – such as a simple call to another person – calling people based on names, rather than phone numbers.

Provisional patent 101

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The web provides some good, basic summaries for those looking at creating a provisional patent.  I came across a few that might be helpful.  They give you a decent tutorial of the provisional patent and key timelines.

Yale Office of Cooperative Research

Heller Ehrman website

Wikipedia

For those interested in provisional patent samples, I came across a few on the web:

Webpatent.com

International Computer Science Institute

The interesting world of patents

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It certainly has been challenging being part of a small technology company – the highs/lows of the business world – where is the next big market, managing budgets, hiring, etc.  Lots of changing parts and modified strategies along the way. 

Interestingly, as I look back, the one key, non-wavering item has been our focus on maintaining and expanding our intellectual property portfolio.  It has continued to be a strong asset for our business and one that is certainly not for the faint of heart.  While it is a significant cost item for our business, we’ve been able to garner value from it, due to its broad reach on various methods and systems within our technology markets.  As I look back, I’ve learn a number of things about the whole patent process and, while I’m not a lawyer, I thought I’d share some of these experiences with you (loved to get your thoughts and comments)

1) Keep your claims as broad as possible – the market always changes.  Its been interesting looking back at the diagrams and claims that we worked on back in 2000.  While the original intent for many ideas are as clear in my head as the day we wrote them, their applicability in today’s market (only after 6 years) is almost a lifetime away.  The technology market changes so dramatically, and specific ideas certainly come and go.  Always try and keep your ideas as broad as possible.  This will hopefully give you the flexibility to capture your “likely modified” idea today and provide you the necessary IP coverage as your business moves forward.

2) Know where you want your IP coverage, geographically speaking.  Many ideas have applicability for specific geographies.  other ideas are global.  While your budget often dictates where you can go, but in the event money is no issue, make sure you do the research and understand where your IP will have the biggest impact. 

3) Budget accordingly.  Patents can be costly.  It is extremely important to determine if you have the budget for your ideas and understand what the costs are when determining your IP portfolio – both in the number of patents and where you are filing them geographically.  For example, in Europe, you are able to file for a EP patent that will cover many European countries (around 20) through a single filing.  However, many of those countries require translation and other filing fees – in fact we just got a EP accepted recently with totally cost on our approved EP patent (for those roughly 20 countries) around USD $60,000 for just translation, filing and other fees. 

4) Do it yourself.  One way to cut costs is doing certain parts of the IP process yourself.  As many of you know, in the US, the first key step in getting a patent is filing a provisional patent.  Many companies hire lawyers and have them fill these simple forms out, while your IP bill starts increasing.  Do the provisional patent yourself.  Simply put your idea on paper (with appropriate diagrams) and get your priority date on your idea.  (I’ve got some simple examples for those that are interested)  You have one year from the date of filing your provisional patent to provide your full patent application. 

5) Keep your ideas coming.  Throughout the patent process, there are times when new ideas come to you, often as an extension of your original idea.  Make sure you write them down.  There are many places in which you can still use those new ideas, even if you’ve already filed your patents, whether they are in the provisional and patent pending process.  This is where lawyers can help signficantly, whether it is filing an CIP (continuation in process) or modified patent filing. 

6) Promote your IP, even if it’s not a patent yet.  Tell friends, colleagues or your business network (of course if you trust them) about your IP.  Often they come up with some interesting extensions of your idea and can help you identify potential customers.  In fact, many of our customers have come from friends mentioning the ‘closeness’ of specific business models to our IP. 

7) Be patient.  The IP process can be long and drawn out.  Getting patent approval can last many years, even after countless initial rejections.  In fact, almost all patents (that are eventually approved) get rejected by the examiner during some part of the process.  Don’t get discouraged.  Keep at it, monitor the market and your hard work will generally get rewarded.  Good luck.

Immigrants behind 25% of US start-ups

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Interesting article by the Associated Press on the executives behind US startups – 25% of them are foreign born.  More interesting is that of the foreign-born led startups, 26% were led by Indian executives. 

The article also mentioned that “Foreign-born inventors living in the United States without citizenship accounted for 24 percent of patent filings last year, compared with 7.3 percent in 1998.”   Surprised to see the number so high – brings into question if these folks intend to stay in the US or bring their IP overseas. 

How much do companies really make from their patents?

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This question always bugged me, particularly for larger corporations like IBM – so I did some quick analysis and this is what I came up with.

According to the IBM website, the company spends about $5 billion per year on research and development.  At present, they have about 40,000 active patents worldwide, with 26,000 patents within the US.   Also, different reports have IBM earning between $1 billion to $1.8 billion per year for its intellectual property.  If that is the case, then based on 40,000 patents, IBM’s average revenues per patent range from $25,000 to $45,000 per year.   While the company’s IBM IP revenues are large in aggregate, surprising the revenue per patent is quite modest.  I honestly thought it would be much more.

Google launches Patent site

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For those living the world of intellectual property, there is often very little we can do about sifting through document after document to find competing ideas.  Enter Google.  They have put together an interesting site that makes it easier to search for relevant topics and has a layout that is quite user friendly, compared with the somewhat ‘go away’ interface of the USPTO site.  nice job Google.

http://www.google.com/patents

Patents are big business in the US/Europe, are things going to change Asia?

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IP is certainly big business – just ask the folks at IBM.  According to Wired magazine,  http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,43186,00.html

IBM generated nearly $2 billion in patent revenues in 2000 alone.  It is no wonder that companies spend millions on developing and defending their intellectual property.  We now seen a record number of patent filings, even internationally – there are even patent auctions being conducted in the US (by Ocean Tomo). 

Most surprising to me is that the biggest rate of growth of patent filers is coming from Asia, according to WIPO.  Hopefully this will translate to more focus/attention by the Asian community on the validity of patents.  Is Asia finally turning the corner on IP??

http://www.wipo.int/edocs/prdocs/en/2005/wipo_pr_2005_403.html