Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Facebook, YELP et al. sued for Patent Infringement by MacroSolve, Inc.

January 30, 2012: Facebook, among others, has been sued for patent infringement by MacroSolve, Inc. in the Texas Eastern District Court. The patent-in-suit is US7822816 (the ‘816 patent) titled “System and method for data management”.  The ‘816 patent essentially discloses steps for distributing electronic forms via the Internet or to mobile devices and receiving responses for evaluating and analysis. The other defendants in the patent suit are Yelp, Wal-Mart Stores, Hyatt Corporation and newegg. According to Foss patents, MacroSolve had sued close to 20 companies in June last year, primarily targeting small mobile app developers. Further, MacroSolve brought patent infringement lawsuits against 10 more companies on January 03, 2012.

Claim 1 of the ‘816 patent recites:

A method for managing data including the steps of: (a) creating a questionnaire comprising a series of questions; (b) tokenizing said questionnaire; thereby producing a plurality of tokens representing said questionnaire; (c) establishing a first wireless modem or wireless LAN network connection with a remote computing device; (d) transmitting said plurality of tokens to a remote computing device via said first wireless modem or wireless LAN network connection; (e) terminating said first wireless modem or wireless LAN network connection with said remote computing device; (f) after said first wireless modem or wireless LAN network connection is terminated, executing at least a portion of said plurality of tokens representing said questionnaire at said remote computing device to collect a response from a user; (g) establishing a second wireless modem or wireless LAN network connection between said remote computing device and a server; (h) after said second wireless modem or wireless LAN network connection is established, transmitting at least a portion of said response from the user to said server via said second wireless modem or wireless LAN network connection; and (i) storing said transmitted response at said server.  

The ‘816 patent was issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on October 26, 2010. MacroSolve has also filed another patent application (US20110040831A1) which is a continuation of the ‘816 patent.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Foxconn sued for Patent Infringement by Pulse Electronics

January 24, 2012: Foxconn, a subsidiary of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd has been sued for patent infringement by Pulse Electronics, Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
Pulse manufactures electronic components for areas such as magnetics, antennas, automotive, broadband access and connectors. It is based out of San Diego, California and has offices in Germany and China. The following patents owned by Pulse Electronics that are related to connectors are involved in the suit.

US7241181: Universal connector assembly and method of manufacturing – Issued on July 10, 2007
US7959473: Universal connector assembly and method of manufacturing – Issued on June 14, 2011
US7367851: Universal connector assembly and method of manufacturing – Issued on May 6, 2008
US7786009: Universal connector assembly and method of manufacturing – Issued on August 31, 2010
US7661994: Universal connector assembly and method of manufacturing – Issued on February 16, 2010

All the above patents belong to one family and are family members. In addition to the above patents, two more patents provided below are also involved in the suit.

US6962511: Advanced microelectronic connector assembly and method of manufacturing – Issued on November 8, 2005
US6585540: Shielded microelectronic connector assembly and method of manufacturing – Issued on July 1, 2003

In the past (July 11, 2011), Pulse Electronics has sued Delta Electronics, Inc. and H3C Technologies in the same district court for patent infringement.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Parallel Proceedings - Revocation of Patents in IPAB and High Court (as Counter Claim in an Infringement Suit)

 An interesting judgment was delivered by the high court of Delhi in “Dr. Aloys Wobben vs Yogesh Mehra & Ors” on January 20, 2012. The issue revolved on whether a party should be permitted to continue the prosecution of proceedings for revocation of patents (instituted by the party) in a Patent Appellate Board when the party has elected to prosecute their counter claims for revocation of the same patents in an infringement suit in a court.

Section 64 of the India Patents Act 1970 is directed towards revocation of patents. Section 64 essentially states that revocation can be brought in two forums – The Intellectual Property Appellate Board, where a petition for revocation can be filed by any person interested or by the central government and in the High court as counter claim in an infringement suit.

In Dr. Aloys Wobben vs Yogesh Mehra & Ors, the respondents (defendants) had filed petitions for revocation of patents and were also contesting counter claims in high court for an infringement suit brought against them. The question to be answered was whether proceedings in two separate forums be allowed.

Some interesting observations in the judgment:
  • Parallel proceedings in two separate forums (IPAB, High Court) for revocation of the very same patents could not proceed if, they were found to be inconsistent with each other.
  • If the nature of the challenge in the two forums was materially different, it was quite possible to contend that proceedings could continue concurrently both before the IPAB and the High Court.
  • Concurrent or even cumulative proceeding can continue till satisfaction is obtained via either proceeding. Satisfaction sets up a bar as, it results in an advantage to one party and disadvantage to another.
 It was concluded that two concurrent proceedings can proceed unimpeded till a stage of satisfaction is reached.

Parallel proceedings:

At the EPO (source: Wikipedia):
If a third party files an opposition to a European patent with the EPO and also, in parallel, initiates a revocation action (also called "nullity action" or "validity proceedings") against the same patent before a national court, the national court (at least in England) may exercise its discretion to either
  • stay the national proceedings, in order to wait the outcome of the EPO opposition proceedings, or
  • allow the revocation proceedings to go ahead, without waiting the outcome of the EPO proceedings.
 At USPTO (source: USPTO)
If a patent in the process of ex parte reexamination is or becomes involved in litigation, the Director shall determine whether or not to suspend the reexamination.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Rockwell Automation Technologies Vs Secure Crossing Research and Development

January 20, 2012: Rockwell Automation Technologies has sued Secure Crossing Research and Development alleging infringement of US 7,990,967 (hereinafter the '967 patent), titled "Firewall Method and Apparatus for Industrial Systems". The suit has been filed in the Michigan Eastern District court.

The complaint is available here. The '967 patent discloses systems and methods that provide secure and firewall restricted Web-based access to control devices and components residing on a non-IP network within an industrial environment. The '967 patent has 14 independent claims and 53 dependent claims.

Fig. 1 of the '967 patent:

Fig. 4 of the '967 patent:

The case of missing files at IPO - Registered Trade Marks

The CGPDTM issued a notice on 19th January 2012 that most of the missing files have been reconsititued and records have been updated. Last year, the office had notified to the public that 44,404 files were missing and requested inputs from registered proprietors and trademark agents to help the office to reconstitue the missing files. 

The number of missing files now stands at 47. Though, everyone would agree that 47 definitely is a better number than 44,404 in the present case, the question that needs attention is "What steps has the office taken to ensure that such incidents don't happen again?" Digitization is definitely the answer and the way ahead, but have enough steps been taken to protect the data from unauthorized access and appropriate backup sites been created in case of a breakdown or loss of data at a hosting sites due to unseen circumstances?

Free Patent Databases - India and Worldwide

There are many patent databases in the market that allow one to perform a prior art search to determine the novelty of their invention. However, not all patent databases are available for free. Most of the powerful patent database such as Delphion, Micropatent, Patbase are paid services and cannot be used for running searches unless you have an account. So what does one do if they cannot afford to subscribe to such paid patent databases.

There are several freely available patent databases and search services that one can use to still perform an effective prior art search. The features available in the paid databases are obviously better and their coverage is more exhaustive but the freely available patent databases are fast catching up in terms of the features and services they provide to a searcher/inventor.

Below is a list of freely available patent databases that can be used for performing prior art searches. A majority of these patent database cover jurisdictions such as US, EP, JP and WO (WIPO). Go ahead and explore them!

Google Patents

For the benefit of those who are looking for some free Indian patent databases, try the following:

Ekaswa A  (Patent applications filed January 1995 onwards)
Ekaswa B (Patent applications notified for opposition from January 1995 onwards)

Please notify me if there are more such free tools and services available on the internet.

In case you are looking to search specifically for a country, then simply type the name of the country along with patent office and the first result on Google should help you.

Happy Searching!