Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Why Should Facebook and Twitter be Worried

In one of my earlier post, I had mentioned about the patent portfolio of Facebook and Twitter and discussed why it was imperative for both the social networking giants to lay more emphasis on their respective Intellectual Property. While Facebook has few patents to showcase, Twitter has absolutely no form of patent protection (almost). I did some basic Googling to determine the number of lawsuits filed by various parties against Facebook and Twitter and realized that the number of patent infringement cases against both Facebook and Twitter has witnessed a sharp increase in the last two years. The table below summarizes all the patent litigation cases which have been filed against Facebook. As one can observe, Year 2007 saw two patent litigation against Facebook and Year 2009 saw a total of five patent litigation cases being filed against Facebook. The number of litigation cases increased to eight in the Year 2010 and fifteen in the Year 2011. The increase in the number of litigation should come as a wake up call for the social networking giant to enhance its patent portfolio in order to protect its technology.

Many would suggest that one way to face the challenge of contesting the increasing number of litigation is to acquire smaller companies that have a good patent portfolio or license the key patents from patent owners (less favorable in the current context). Facebook has acquired many startups and small companies and the list of such companies acquired by Facebook is provided here. In the list, one can observed that only the following two companies acquired by Facebook have their own set of patents, the rights for which were subsequently assigned to Facebook after the acquisition.
Friendster 10 patents and 10 patent applications
ShareGrove: 1 Patent application

A look into the assignment history of patents on the USPTO website discloses that many patents from companies such as Walker Digital LLC (which also sued Facebook on a number of occasions), Divan Industries, Hewlett Packard and British Telecommunication Public Limited Company have been assigned to Facebook indicating that Facebook has bought those patents from these companies. In the future, Facebook will have to be even more strategic while acquiring any company else many companies will continue suing Facebook demanding royalties for infringing their patents or asking Facebook to license or buy their patents.

The table below summarizes the patent litigation cases for Twitter. Like Facebook, Twitter has also witnessed an increase in the number of patent infringement lawsuits filed against it in the Year 2011. To make matters even worse, Twitter does not own any granted patents. A cross-check on assignment history discloses that Twitter has only one patent application (20100199180) assigned to it by Tweetie LLC, which it acquired in 2010. The list of acquisitions by Twitter is disclosed here. However, it seems that none of the companies acquired by Twitter own any patents.

So what should be the next step forward for Twitter and Facebook? Should they be focusing more on acquiring companies or building a stronger patent portfolio. If they should be acquiring companies, what type of companies should they be targeting? Whatever be the case, there will not be any decrease in the number of patent litigation cases against both the social networking giants.

How to Electronically File Patent Applications with the USPTO

Go to File Online link at the USPTO website to reach the page titled ‘About EFS-Web’.
Go to Launch EFS-Web Unregistered eFiler to reach the page titled ‘Welcome to Electronic Patent Filing for UNREGISTERED eFILERS’
a.       Fill in the details and proceed with the ‘New Application’ option in ‘Main Functions’
b.      Subsequently, select ‘Utility’ and ‘Provisional’ options  (User may select non-provisional  application if they don’t intend to file a provisional patent application)
c.       Click ‘Continue’ to reach the page titled ‘Application Data’
Fill in the details
d.      ‘Attorney Docket Number’ can be alphanumeric. You may leave this field empty as well.
e.      For ‘Correspondence address’, please select correspondence address option and fill all the details and continue to next page titled ‘Attach Documents’.
Verify the details and upload the documents. To upload the documents, please note:
f.        The files should be in .pdf or .txt format
g.       No spaces are allowed in file name
h.      Upload the following three documents accordingly:
                                                               i.      Specification and Abstract
1.       Upload the file name
2.       Choose ‘Application Part’ option and select ‘Yes’ for the question asking ‘whether the file contain multiple documents?’
3.       Choose specification in second column and mention page numbers in third columns (Page start and page end)
4.       Choose abstract in second column and mention page number (i.e. the last page) in third columns (Page start and page end)
                                                             ii.      Drawings
1.       Upload the file name
2.       Choose ‘Application Part’ option and select ‘No’ for the question asking ‘whether the file contain multiple documents?’
3.       Choose drawings in last column
                                                            iii.      Provisional Cover Sheet
1.       Upload the file named ‘Provisional Cover Sheet’
2.       Choose ‘Application Part’ option and select ‘No’ for the question asking ‘whether the file contain multiple documents?’
3.       Choose ‘Provisional Cover Sheet’ in last column
i.         After uploading all the three files, click on ‘Upload and Validate’
Thereafter, you will reach a page titled ‘Calculate Fees’
j.        Change ‘Current Business Size’ to ‘Small Entity’. (Confused whether you are a small entity or not. Click here)
k.       Fill the ‘Number of Pages’ box with the total number of pages in Drawings, Specification and Abstract
l.         Click on ‘Calculate’ and then ‘Continue’ to reach next page titled ‘Submit Application’
Verify all the information and click on ‘Submit’
Upon submission, please note down the following details as provided by the USPTO
m.    Application Number
n.      Confirmation Number
o.      EFS ID
p.      Continue to ‘Yes! I want to pay now’
Choose the method of payment based on your convenience and proceed with the payment accordingly.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Network Signature and 37 C.F.R. PART 404 – The case of exclusive License

Network Signatures Inc, a corporation existing under the laws of Delaware with its principal place of business in California has sued Visa Inc, Novartis Corporation, The Coca-Cola Company, MasterCard International Inc. and The Hershey Company (the defendants) for infringement of US patent 5,511,122 (the ‘122 patent).

The ‘122 patent is assigned to “The United States of America as represented by the Secretary of the Navy” and was filed on June 3, 1994 and issued on April 23, 1996. The ‘122 patent, titled “Intermediate Network Authentication”, discloses technology related to transfer of sensitive information via the Internet. The technology disclosed in the ‘122 patent was invented by The United States of America as represented by the Secretary of the Navy and not by Network Signatures. The ‘122 patent was exclusively licensed to Network Signature under 37 C.F.R. PART 404.

Background information about 37 C.F.R. PART 404: The terms and conditions under which inventions owned by the government of United States can be licensed are described in part 37 C.F.R. PART 404. Specifically, 37 C.F.R § 404.5 (b) (2) states “Any patent license may grant the licensee the right of enforcement of the licensed patent without joining the Federal agency as a party as determined appropriate in the public interest.” The US government had granted an exclusive license to Metrix Services, which in turn with the approval of the government, had granted an exclusive license to Network Signature for the ‘122 patent. Network Signature currently markets NetSig, which is a cloud-based two-factor authentication solution and EasyConnect protected and covered by the various embodiment disclosed in the ‘122 patent. Network Signature also enjoys the right to enforce the ‘122 patent and sue other parties to protect the intellectual property of the US government under the exclusive license. In the past, Network Signature has sued many other parties for infringing the ‘122 patent. A few such companies which have been sued by Network Signature in the past include Scottrade, Virgin Mobile USA, FedEx, AstraZeneca, 3M, Pfizer, Glaxosmithkline, Colgate-Palmolive, Goldman Sachs, and Johnson & Johnson.

It is not clear as of now whether any specific products owned/used by defendants have been disclosed in the complaint filed by Network signature on September 23, 2011 in the California Central District Court. Further, it is highly unlikely that Network Signature would target individual developers or small companies that may be involved in creation of products covered by the ‘122 patent.
Analysis of the first independent claim reveals that any action or article that involves authenticating a sending host at a receiving host using cryptographic signature as covered by the scope of the independent claim would lead to infringement of the ‘122 patent.

Claim 1 of the ‘122 patent:

A method for authenticating an originating host at a receiving host, said method comprising the steps of:
(a) obtaining a network address and a public key of said receiving host;
(b) utilizing said public key from said receiving host in combination with a private key from said sending host to generate a cryptographic signature;
(c) transmitting said cryptographic signature along with data through a first subnetwork in at least one packet;
(d) receiving said at least one packet at said receiving host; and
(e) said receiving host utilizing a private key of said receiving host and a public key of said originating host to verify said cryptographic signature.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Twitter Sued by Easyweb Innovations, LLC

September 19, 2011: Twitter has been sued by Easyweb Innovations LLC for patent infringement in the New York Eastern District court on September 19, 2011. Easyweb Innovations LLC is a New York Limited Liability company having its principal place of business at 3280, Sunrise Highway, Suite 171, Wantagh, New York.

The patents-in-suit are US7032030, US7596606, US7685247, US7689658, US7698372.

US7032030: Message publishing system and method 
US7596606 Message publishing system for publishing messages from identified, authorized senders
US7685247:  System for publishing and converting messages from identified, authorized senders 
US7689658Method for publishing messages from identified, authorized senders to subscribers
US7698372System for publishing messages from identified, authorized senders to subscribers 

Easyweb Innovations LLC has stated that it had informed Twitter about the patents on June 2, 2011, however, Twitter has not made any attempts or taken any actions to license the patents-in-suit. 

It is brought to the notice of the readers that Twitter does not have any patents/patent applications in its portfolio. This lawsuit adds to the increasing number of lawsuits that are being filed against Twitter. This lawsuit should act as a wakeup call for Twitter. 

So whats your take - Will we see any patent filings by Twitter in the near future?

Via Technologies sues Apple

Wednesday, September 21, 2011: Via Technologies, a Taiwan based semiconductor company, has sued Apple for three counts of Patent infringement. In the lawsuit filed in the Delaware District Court, Via technologies has alleged that Apple is infringing the following three patents:

US 6,253,311 : Instruction set for bi-directional conversion and transfer of integer and floating point data - Filed on Nov 29, 1997
US 6,253,312Method and apparatus for double operand load - Filed on August 7, 1998
US 6,754,810Instruction set for bi-directional conversion and transfer of integer and floating point data - Filed on April 10, 2002

The plaintiff list also includes IP-First LLC and Centaur Technology. Via Technologies is the parent company IP-First LLC and Centaur Technology.

Optimum Power Solutions sues HP, Lenovo, Sony, Panasonic and Dell

Optimum Power Solutions LLC, having its principle place of business in Texas, has filed multiple lawsuits against various companies alleging infringement of US5781784 (the ‘784 patent). The defendants include Hewlett-Packard Company, Lenovo (United States) Inc., Sony Electronics Inc, Panasonic Corporation of North America, Acer,  Asus Computer International, Toshiba, Fujitsu and Dell Inc. Acacia Research Corporation, a famous troll, happens to be the parent company of Optimum Power Solutions LLC.

The ‘784 patent, entitled “Dynamic power management of solid state memories” was issued on July 14, 1998 to Zilog, Inc and was assigned to Acacia Patent Acquisition LLC on July 14, 2009. The ’784 patent relates to memory controllers for solid state memories. The ‘784 patent discloses a memory controller having a power management function that allows the power consumption of solid state memories to be controlled or restricted. A total of three independent claims are present in the ‘784 patent of which the first independent claim is provided below:

 A dynamic power management device for supplying power to a solid state memory integrated circuit, said device comprising:
power control means for supplying a variable voltage to said memory integrated circuit; and
logic control means for generating address and control signals for said memory integrated circuit and for controlling said power control means;
wherein the power control means supply power to said memory integrated circuit, said power being supplied to the memory integrated circuit at a first variable voltage level during periods of no data access activity and at a second variable voltage level during periods of data access activity, the variable voltage supplied at said first variable voltage level being less than the variable voltage supplied at said second variable voltage level,
wherein the power supplied at the first level is sufficient to preserve information stored in the integrated memory circuit and the power supplied at the second level is sufficient to read and write information in the integrated memory circuit.

Optimum Power Solutions LLC has alleged that the following products of the defendant infringe the ‘784 patent because of which Optimum Power Solutions has suffered losses. Optimum Power claims that the products include components and system for dynamic power management required for supplying variable voltage to solid state devices. The products are:

Hewlett-Packard : HP Pavillion dv3-2150us notebook with an Intel core 2 duo CPU (T6500) 2.1 GHz with a 2MB L2 cache.

Lenovo: Lenovo ThinkPad T500 with an Intel core 2 duo CPU (P8600) 2.4 GHz with a 3MB L2 cache.

Sony: Vaio Z Notebook with an Intel core 2 duo CPU (P8700) 2.53 GHz with a 3MB L2 cache


Wakeup call for Examiners and Controllers - Indian Patent Office - Winds of change

The Indian Patent office has issued an internal circular regarding expediting and streamlining the patent grant process. This is a wakeup call for the examiners and controllers who tend to take a lot of time to complete their tasks or do a poor job. (Overly spending considerable time, over-ruling opinions etc).

The internal circular includes a set of instructions that the examiners and controllers will have to follow henceforth to improve the quality of examination and avoid duplication of work. A good thing about the set of instructions is that they clarify the roles and responsibilities of the examiner. This will definitely help in reducing the amount of time that is spent in re-doing the same work or over-ruling opinions without any supporting reasons.

The circular can be accessed from this link: http://ipindia.nic.in/iponew/Circular_04_21September2011.pdf