If you spend any time with young children, you've been exposed to talking, beeping, musical toys. Most of them seem designed to annoy adults, but as good parents, we're willing to make the sacrifice if it keeps our children happy. Unfortunately, the average child's attention span for one of these toys is no more than three months, after which it sits in a corner, abandoned, until dad trips over it and sprains an ankle. Next stop: Freecycle.
Maybe you are of a sufficient vintage to remember the game show Let's Make a Deal. But have you ever thought about the similarities between that show and the U.S. patent system?
In the game show, contestants would have to pay a price (a wallet containing $500) to see what was behind door No. 3 (maybe a live goat; maybe a brand new faux wood-paneled station wagon). Similarly, in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the government pays a price (allowing a unique brand of monopoly) to see what is in envelope No. 3 (your invention). The analogy may seem far-fetched, but the basic premise is the same: that is, paying a price to see what is otherwise concealed. And even in the realm of patent law, sometimes the government ends up with...a goat.
Fortunately, unlike the game show, there are several ways the USPTO can get out of the deal even after the envelope is opened and the invention disclosed. To be worthy of a patent, the invention must be new, useful, and non-obvious. While the "new" and "non-obvious" requirements normally get most of the attention, the USPTO and the U.S. Court of Appeals for patent cases (the Federal Circuit) have taken a somewhat surprising approach in the past couple of months to back out of deals with potential patentees--rejecting patent applications on the basis of usefulness. In other words, the Federal Circuit has been deciding that certain classes of inventions just aren't patentable.
What is really creating a buzz in the patent world is that the USPTO and the Federal Circuit have recently addressed an almost decade-old class of patents that has developed a reputation as the runt of the litter as far as patents go--business method patents. Love them or hate them, the Federal Circuit's 1998 decision in the State Street Bank case has been widely interpreted to allow for the patenting of new and novel business methods. Since that case, the USPTO has been inundated with business method patent applications and, more specifically, software applications. The question is, will this trend continue?
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MIPI ISP filter conflict (Thanks Luke from Melbourne!) http://steve.blogs.exetel.com.au/index.php?/archives/79-MIPI.html… Read more
Forum selection--or the ability to choose the geographic location of the court where a suit for patent infringement is litigated--is one of many controversial issues related to patents these days.
Generally, the first person to file the lawsuit gets to choose where the suit is brought. This is called the "first-to-file" rule. It works much like the lines you stand in at the grocery store, airport security, or countless other places; it's simply first come, first served.
However, in the context of patent litigation, being first in line is a big deal. Different courts have different procedural … Read more
The University of Texas at Dallas has entered the race to produce a more powerful semiconductor using a $1.75 million grant from DARPA to develop a microchip that is "faster than anything" on the market today.
The new technology will still be silicon-based but will use photons rather than electrons to speed things up, according to a UT press release.
"This research is intended to produce a completely new class of components that could have a revolutionary impact on information engineering," Professor Duncan MacFarlane said. "The photonic integrated circuit (PIC) we're developing will … Read more
LAS VEGAS--Asked about the state of the U.S. economy, Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson said on Tuesday that it is clearly a concern.
"People that are getting their first (home heating) oil bills at $3 a gallon," he said, even as the U.S. mortgage crisis continues to hang over the economy. "The share of mind that the 'r word' is getting in the media has us concerned," he said, alluding to but not uttering, the word recession.
But Anderson said it was the transition to digital television that posed the biggest threat to his … Read more
Most of the time here on The Digital Home, I tell you about some of the trends, news stories, companies and products that annoy me. Other times, I'll tell you about something a company is doing right or something I applaud. This time, it's the latter.
Now, before I begin, I should probably mention that I don't own any Amazon stock because at least one cynical knucklehead reading this column for the sole purpose of finding fault in it will ask if I do own Amazon stock. Sadly, I'm not allowed to own any tech stocks because it's a departure from the ethical standards that I agreed to when I became a journalist. Does that satisfy you?
So why is Amazon the world's best tech retailer? Well, I guess I should first say that this title isn't exactly the most prestigious in the world. Who else would sit atop the list? Certainly Best Buy wouldn't with some of the questionable practices it employs and our friends over at Circuit City certainly don't have a clue about how to bring the right kind of experience to consumers.
But unlike all of its competitors, Amazon has been able to bring products to us in a timely manner without the need for frequent call backs and lengthy delays for no reason. Is it perfect? Not a chance -- some products sell out in a matter of seconds, there's no indication that anyone actually wants to buy groceries online and its customer service still leaves much to be desired. But beyond that, I have enjoyed my time using the service.
So what makes Amazon so great? The way I see it, there are three main components.… Read more
According to a recent report from Ina Fried, Circuit City is having quite a bit of trouble turning a profit and making something out of its business.
Fried reports that the big box retailer will post another loss for its fourth quarter (its busiest) after a staggering $208 million loss over the past quarter. Even worse, the company's stock price is floundering at just $4.75 and once it posts these losses, look for that to tank even further.
Of course, the story doesn't quite end there. Circuit City's major competitor -- Best Buy -- is enjoying a $52.48 stock price and a $228 million profit last quarter alone. Amazingly, Best Buy posted a $1.377 billion profit over the 2007 fiscal year, while Circuit City is poised to lose about $200 million during its own year.
And while Circuit City is still a major retailer with about $12 billion in revenue, it can't sustain these kind of losses if it wants to even have a fighting chance to stand up to the Best Buy juggernaut. After all, take a look at CompUSA and try to tell me Best Buy isn't capable of outright destruction of any and all opponents.
It may happen sometime down the road, but trust me, if Circuit City doesn't change its ways, look for it to be just another victim of Best Buy.… Read more
Circuit City posted a steep quarterly loss on Friday and warned the operating losses will continue into the current quarter, which includes the bulk of the holiday shopping season, traditionally when retailers make most of their money.
"We are very dissatisfied with our third quarter results," Circuit City CEO Philip J. Schoonover said in a statement, adding that the company saw fewer sales of profitable items like accessories, services, and extended warranties.
"We believe that these issues are primarily self-induced and are within our control to improve," he said.
I can't say I was surprised … Read more