When you give Dr. Craig Forest an inch, he takes a mile. The mild-mannered Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at Georgia Tech helped set up the Invention Studio on the first floor of a nondescript engineering building at the heart of the university’s verdant campus. Founded in 2009, the 3,000 square-foot space grew and grew, eventually taking over the entire lobby and multiple workshops. The… Read More
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Betaworks’ John Borthwick has today announced, via the company blog, that Gerry Laybourne will be joining the board of directors.
Alongside co-founding Kandu, a betaworks-backed technology company for kids, Laybourne is also known as one of the most powerful women in television.
She started out at Nickelodeon in the 80′s and 90′s, conceiving of classic children’s shows such as Rugrats, The Secret World of Alex Mack, and Pepper Ann.
After more than a decade at Nickelodeon, she founded Oxygen Media in 1999 and served as Chairman and CEO until she sold the company to NBC Universal in 2007.
Her latest venture, Kandu, lets people build their own games and software applications without any knowledge of how to code. It hasn’t launched yet, but we can glean a bit from the company’s about page:
It’s not okay that only a small number of people can make software. It’s as if only a few could write at a time when reading was taking off — precisely the situation in the 15th century when the moveable press was first invented. After the invention of the book, it took hundreds of years for literacy to spread. At Kandu, we don’t think it should take hundreds of years for people to become literate in the creation of software.
betaworks has always been focused on media of all shapes and sizes, whether its Digg or Dots. Most recently, the New York-based company hired Branch Media founder Josh Miller as a part-time venture partner. Laybourne, on the other hand, brings more traditional experience to the team.
Laybourne joins current betaworks board members Mike Buckley, Ken Lerer, Paul Cappuccio, Stu Ellman, Eric Martineu-Fortin, John Drizik, and John Borthwick.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
One of the original architects of the Internet wants to remind us that privacy is a relatively new concept. “Privacy is something which has emerged out of the urban boom coming from the industrial revolution,” said Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist and a lead engineer on the Army’s early 1970′s Internet prototype, ARPANET. As a result, ‘privacy may actually be an anomaly,” he told a gathering of the Federal Trade Commission.
Looking back at history, Cerf is mostly right.
Up until the 19th century, most houses had few or no internal walls. Bathing was a public act. For most of the post-Roman era, the very concept of “solitude” was limited to clergy, who dedicated their lives to private worship. “Intercourse, birth, death, just about every aspect of the life cycle plays out with some sort of audience,” architectural historian Bernard Herman explained to me.
An expert in early American housing, Herman found that the average home was about 16
Will tomorrow’s groundbreaking gadget solve world hunger, while destroying art and prompting teens to fornicate like bunnies? No, no, And yes.
The ever-savvy web comic, XKCD, hit another one out of the park with this handy checklist for all future anti-tech hysteria.
For references, here are links to every single one of the items
We love you.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Editor’s note: Leonid (“Lenny”) Kravets is a patent attorney at Panitch, Schwarze, Belisario and Nadel, LLP in Philadelphia, PA. Lenny focuses his practice on patent prosecution and intellectual property transactions in computer-related technology areas. He specializes in developing IP strategy for young technology companies and blogs on this topic at StartupsIP. Follow Lenny on Twitter @lkravets.
One of the main changes resulting from the passage of the America Invents Act (AIA) is the transition of U.S. patent law from a “first-to-invent” system to a “first-to-file” system on March 16. With the transition a mere four weeks away, it is important to understand what this change to the patent system means for inventors and companies.
Before addressing first-to-file, it is important to understand how the first-to-invent system, which we’ve operated under for the last 200 years, works. Under the first-to-invent system, when two or more inventors file a patent application for the same invention, the patent office should identify and award the patent to the inventor who was first to conceive and diligently reduce the invention to practice, even if (subject to some limitations) the first inventor was not the first to file a patent application. An example helps illustrate this system:
In this scenario, inventor A would be entitled to receive the patent on her widget even though inventor A filed her patent application after inventor B. Inventor A may need to “swear behind” inventor B’s patent application by showing documentation regarding her earlier invention date of the widget, and that she diligently worked to actually or constructively “reduce the invention to practice” (constructive reduction to practice can be shown by preparing and filing the patent application). Under the first-to-invent system, inventor B would not receive a patent on the invention.
The first-to-file system being implemented on March 16, 2013, attempts to further harmonize U.S. patent law with that of most of the rest of the world by de-emphasizing the actual invention date.
A lot of informed people think that the change to first-to-file will be a boon to patent trolls because they will be able to file patent applications on inventions released, but not yet filed on, by underfunded startups. However, the term “first-to-file” is a bit of a misnomer. In the United States, whether under first-to-invent or first-to-file, an inventor can publicly disclose their invention, such as in a blog post, and still file a patent application within one year of that public disclosure. The system being implemented under the AIA is not a true first-to-file system as in most foreign countries because this grace period on public disclosure will remain. Thus, the new system can really be considered a “first-to-disclose” system.
Inventors can attempt to market and sell their inventions and still file for a patent in the United States within one year of the first public disclosure. However, they would not be able to pursue patents for the previously disclosed invention in most foreign countries, because foreign countries that operate on the first-to-file standard typically do not have this grace period for public disclosure. In these foreign countries, a public disclosure prior to filing a patent application is an absolute bar on receiving a patent on the disclosed invention.
Taking the disclosure grace period into account, under the first-to-file/first-to-disclose system being implemented on March 16, the key question to consider is not when an invention was first conceived as in the first-to-invent system, but rather when the invention was first publicly disclosed by another inventor or first filed with the USPTO. Thus, while an inventor can publicly disclose his invention and still file a patent application with the USPTO within one year of the disclosure, that disclosure would prevent any other inventor from receiving a patent on the same invention, even if the other inventor invented the same invention before the disclosure.
Similarly, if no previous disclosure was made, a filing at the USPTO by a later inventor would entitle that later inventor to a patent even though a second inventor came up with the invention earlier than the second inventor’s filing date. An example will better illustrate this scenario:
In this scenario, Inventor B would receive the patent, even though inventor A came up with the invention for the widget first. Inventor A would therefore be prohibited from practicing the invention patented by inventor B even though he came up with the invention before Inventor B did.
Now consider a second, somewhat modified scenario:
In this modified scenario, Inventor A would be entitled to the patent even though Inventor B filed his patent application first because Inventor A disclosed the invention before Inventor B filed his patent application. Therefore, because Inventor A filed the patent application within one year of his public disclosure, Inventor A will be entitled to receive the patent. Inventor B would therefore be prohibited from practicing the invention patented by Inventor A.
In the case that a person learns of an invention that another inventor disclosed, copies the idea and attempts to file a patent application under first-to-file, the copier could not receive a valid patent on the invention by simply filing the patent application first because he did not “invent” the invention and is therefore not entitled to receive patent protection (though if the USPTO grants a patent to a non-inventor, the burden of proof would be on the other party to show that the non-inventor was not the true inventor of the patented technology).
Similarly, the non-inventor could not prevent the inventor from receiving a patent by publicly disclosing the invention based on information obtained from the inventor because in this case, the inventor will still retain the one-year grace period to file a patent application on the invention.
There are a number of ways companies can prepare for the implementation of first to file. While it is always best to file patent applications as soon as possible, prior to implementation of first-to-file, companies should consider whether provisional applications should be filed to secure first-to-invent filing dates. Companies should also develop processes for quickly identifying inventions, and deciding whether to patent, disclose or otherwise protect those inventions.
Filing a provisional or non-provisional patent application with the USPTO prior to March 16 is the only way to ensure that the application will be treated under the first-to-invent regime. While it is preferable to file non-provisional applications to ensure that the claims of the patent application are fully supported by the description in the specification, if budget and timing does not allow for a non-provisional application to be filed by March 16, great care should be taken in preparing provisional applications (which do not require claims) to ensure that the invention and any known variations are disclosed in full detail.
It is important to take great care to fully describe the technology and all known variations in detail, because if the provisional application is converted after the March 16 changeover date, any claim directed to disclosure that was not supported by the original “first-to-invent” provisional application will be treated under the first-to-file regime.
After its implementation on March 16, first-to-file will present unique challenges and opportunities for inventors and businesses. Well-timed disclosures of inventions can block better-funded competitors from receiving patents. However, delaying the patent application or disclosure process can result in forfeiting of patent rights by exposing the application to more prior art. Even worse, delaying disclosing or filing a patent application can allow a competitor to file a patent application on the same technology even though they invented it later.
Therefore, companies should look to establish processes to quickly and efficiently identify inventions, and to determine whether to file patent applications or to otherwise publicly disclose those inventions. If the technology is worthy of patent protection, filing a series of low-cost provisional applications during the course of development of the technology can be a cost-effective way to establish a series of early “first-to-file” filing dates for the technology.
On the other hand, if it is decided that an invention is not worth immediately filing a patent application for, publicly disclosing the invention should prevent others from receiving patents on the same technology. But the decision to publicly disclose an invention before filing a patent application should not be taken lightly. Public disclosure prior to filing a patent application will likely cause foreign patent rights to be forfeited. In the case of software, which is not patentable in most foreign patent systems, this is not a problem. Therefore, disclosures for software-based inventions can be an ideal way to create prior art for others without the trade-off of forfeiting any patent rights that a company would otherwise be entitled to.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
A few years ago in Prague I met a guy named Jeffrey Martin who is one of the world’s best panoramic photographers. At that time he had a bunch of weird hardware that took mostly panoramic photos but he’s since branched out to video, building his own methods for capturing 360-degree scenes. The Sphericam is his invention and it looks pretty amazing.
The project is now on Kickstarter and for $599 you can get the entry-level model which includes:
More expensive units include more features topping out at $2,000 for a unit with WiFi streaming and a huge battery for field reporting. Obviously this isn’t for the the dabbler, but it’s still cool that you can get a device that essentially videos an entire environment for less than a price of an entry-level DSLR.
The device takes 1280
Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of articles by Brad Woodcox that explores the topic of intellectual property for entrepreneurs. The first examined the basics of the system. The second explored ways to determine whether patents are a good strategic move for your business. Woodcox is a technical specialist focusing on startup development for Novak Druce + Quigg, an intellectual property super boutique law firm. Follow him on Google+ and Twitter.
If you’ve made the decision that patents are a good strategic element for your business, the next step in the process is to determine how you should structure the patent applications to best leverage the patents in your business. Selecting a non-optimal method could cost you significantly in lost opportunity. In this article, I will discuss a patent application strategy that may be beneficial for many startups and small businesses.
As discussed in part 1 of this series, the time from filing a non-provisional utility application to final disposition of the application is typically 3-4 years using the standard examination process with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). With this process, the standard USPTO application fees apply, which may include, but are not limited to, the filing fee, search fee, examination fee, and processing fee. Three to four years is a long time in “startup years.” There are a multitude of startup strategies, but generally obtaining patent protection sooner rather than later is preferential. To illustrate this, I detail two typical invention/startup strategies at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Licensing/Sale. This scenario often arises when an inventor chooses not to pursue a startup company full-time but still wants to profit from the idea. The inventor conceptualizes the idea and may develop a prototype. In order to protect the idea, the inventor desires to obtain one or more patents covering the elements of the invention. The inventor will then license or sell these patents to another company, which is in a position to commercialize the invention. (This strategy is typically viewed as a lower risk and lower reward than the second scenario, as some of the risk and reward is shared with the licensee or acquirer of the patents.)
In general, a granted patent will entice more demand and a higher price tag than a patent application, as the granted patent has clear rights while the application just has the possibility for future rights (and additional costs of continuing prosecution of the application). Hence, in this scenario, an inventor is incentivized to obtain a patent quickly in order to capitalize on the potential financial benefits of the granted patent.
Commercialize. A second scenario arises when an inventor wants to directly commercialize the invention. This may include building, manufacturing, and/or selling the elements associated with the invention. In this case, an inventor would desire to utilize patents to attempt to block competitors and gain a competitive advantage. However, an inventor could only enforce these rights after the patent is granted. Further, if the company needs to raise capital, some investors will utilize the presence of patents in their determination to invest or not invest and the presence may even affect the valuation determined during the investment round. Hence, in this scenario, an inventor is again incentivized to obtain a patent quickly in order to capitalize on the potential financial benefits of the granted patent.
In both of the preceding scenarios, the inventor/entrepreneur benefits by having a patent issued quickly. To address the application speed issue, the USPTO has developed two processes that permit significantly faster examination but utilize distinct rules and additional fees.
At a high level, the Track One and Accelerated examination processes appear quite similar. They both require prompt response to all communication by the applicant (or attorneys) and a specific strategy. If certain criteria (prompt responses or claim amendments) aren’t followed during the process, the application will be removed from the expedited track and placed into the standard track.
Differences between the two expedited tracks emerge when looking deeper into the details. Track One is similar to the Standard track (again, covered in part 1 of the series), except the reviews and timelines are much quicker for Track One at an added cost of several thousand dollars. The Accelerated process differs from the Track One and Standard processes in that a pre-examination search is performed prior to submitting the application. The search is performed by the patent attorney or staff and comes at an extra up-front cost (up to $5,000), but it can result in significantly lower processing fees during prosecution.
With the pre-examination search, the claims of the patent application can be specifically tailored to an invention such that the patent has a higher likelihood of being granted by the USPTO. Hence, fewer office actions (back-and-forth responses between the attorneys/inventors and the USPTO) are expected, which reduces the overall prosecution costs. The result is that an accelerated application may be about the same cost as a standard application, with the benefit that the granted patent may be achieved much quicker (less than 1 year compared to 3-4 years), but the downside is the application costs and fees are due within that first year rather than distributed among the entire prosecution time (3-4 years).
The Accelerated process can deliver a granted patent within one year at an overall cost that may be similar to that of the standard application and several thousand dollars cheaper than the Track One process. Given the various start-up strategies that can benefit from obtaining a patent as quickly as possible (see two examples provided previously), it would be wise to consider filing an accelerated application for the first application on each unique invention/patent family.
It should be noted that an accelerated application often has more narrowly written claims than would be included in a standard application. This is to increase the speed with which the patent may be granted. Hence, it may be wise to file a continuation application (at standard priority) with a more broadly written claim scope. The continuation will also allow the patent family to stay active, so further applications can be written toward the initial disclosure. This is highly desirable by a potential acquirer of the patent portfolio as they may have substantially more financial resources and can file additional applications that are tailored to their specific embodiments. Thus, the flexibility of keeping the patent family active can raise the value of the entire patent portfolio.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles by Brad Woodcox that explores the patent system for entrepreneurs. The first examined the basics of the system. Woodcox is a technical specialist focusing on startup development for Novak Druce + Quigg, an intellectual property super boutique law firm. Follow him on Google+ and Twitter.
Now that you have background knowledge of the patent system (at least within the U.S.), we can analyze probably the most difficult question: “Should you pursue patents for your company or invention?” Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy or direct way to answer this question. Each business is unique and requires an individual analysis. This article discusses some frequently asked questions and presents an analysis framework that may be useful for you to explore the applicability of patents for your business/invention.
Given the significant costs of obtaining a patent, should you spend any of your limited capital on them?
It depends. A patent will not directly make your company’s product or service more successful, but it can have a positive financial impact on the business. The best way to analyze your situation is to look at what a patent could do for your company and how it would fit into your company strategy. This self-analysis should include product, finance, and market/competition elements.
For many Internet startups, the timeline to make it or pivot and try something else is often 9-24 months. With a standard patent application taking three-plus years and 80 percent to 90 percent of startups failing in that timeframe, most startups will not be around long enough to enforce the patent.
Given the startup failure rate and patent timeframe, should most Internet startups skip patents?
Not necessarily. A patent (or portfolio of patents) may be useful for both successful and unsuccessful companies. For successful companies, the reason is clear in that patents can be used as an offensive or defensive tool against competitors. An example of this is the patents that are being asserted in the smartphone industry by companies such as Apple and Samsung. For unsuccessful companies, the patented innovations can still hold tremendous value.
An example is Internet search engines. There have been dozens or even hundreds of Internet search engines, but most failed, as Google became the dominant search engine, even though they weren’t the first to market. Some of these now-defunct search companies had patents on innovative elements for search engines that Google later licensed or acquired (see Google acquires Cuil patents). Other large-scale examples are companies, such as Nortel, Novell, and Kodak, that faced financial challenges and were able to sell or are in the process of selling their patent portfolios for billions of dollars. Hence, a company can use patents as a tradable asset, perhaps even earning a profitable return which otherwise wouldn’t have occurred.
How can you determine whether your patent will be valuable?
This is difficult to expound. At the highest level, the patent must be regarding a topic in which other people or companies are interested. You can design the most amazing product, but if no one wants, needs, or buys the product, then it isn’t worth very much. While this sounds trivial, innovation bias can affect intelligent inventors and entrepreneurs. Other factors to consider are:
The deepest level of analysis requires a thorough review of the construction of the patent, including the exact wording and coverage of the claims. This requires extensive knowledge of patents and the industry, so it can’t be briefly summarized herein. It is further noted that multiple patents within a single subject area that are packaged together in a portfolio can return a higher per patent valuation than the patents valued separately.
Will a patent help me fundraise and what do angel investors and VCs think of patents?
In many instances, yes, a patent can help your company be more “investable.” Fundamentally, investors will analyze the risks and potential rewards of a single investment (in this case, simplified by not factoring in diversification and portfolio theory). Owning one or more patents can reduce the risk of the company by strengthening the competitive advantage and providing an additional saleable asset. Thus, many investors react positively to a company holding patents and other forms of intellectual property. However, some investors are apathetic to patents. These investors typically contend that patents and the enforcement of patents are too time consuming and expensive, so they prefer to have as little interaction with them as possible. Hence, patents may increase the chances that your company receives future investment, but a patent doesn’t guarantee that your company is valuable or an investable business.
What are the consequences if you don’t have patents?
They can be wide ranging. The following are a few scenarios:
Analysis Framework: Should You Apply For A Patent Or Not?
The following list of questions that you can use as a guide to kick-start your analysis of your invention and business in order to determine whether you should pursue a patent for your invention. Many of these questions are the same as those used to evaluate the viability of a business idea. While some may not apply to every business/invention, the questions should help you develop a story and strategy that you can use to discuss with colleagues, advisors, investors, and/or patent attorneys to determine whether to pursue a patent.
The decision about whether to pursue patents can be difficult. Each business requires an individual analysis to determine how patents fit into the overall strategy and circumstances of the company.
For some companies, patents can serve as a form of pseudo-insurance. If your company does well, the patents can protect you from imitators, patent trolls, and competitors. If your company doesn’t do well, then the patents may serve as valuable assets when the business is wrapped up. Some very successful companies have chosen to proceed without this “insurance of patents,” perhaps because they viewed the “make it or break it” risk greater than the risk of needing patents later. However, some of these companies later scrambled to gather patent protection (e.g. Google acquiring Motorola Mobility and Facebook acquiring AOL and IBM patents).
Now armed with your knowledge of patents, the details of your company/idea, and the framework presented in this article, you can hopefully make a more informed decision about whether or not to pursue patent protection for your invention and/or company.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch