Saturday, April 30, 2011

Workshops on IP protection for SMEs and Universities in Kenya

We are organizing two free events for SMEs and universities to learn how to use IP rights in their businesses and research. These workshops have numerous experienced speakers, include a free networking lunch, and will be held at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies. The events are organized by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, World Intellectual Property Office, Kenya Industrial Property Institute, and, of course, PIPRA.

To learn more about the events and to register, please visit the following websites:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Make easy money suing false markers

As any economist can tell you, the classic public policy rationale for the patent system is that, in order to encourage the progress of the useful arts, our government provides inventors with a limited term monopoly on their inventions in exchange for a detailed explanation of what exactly they've invented. In that manner, others can learn from the inventor. Fundamentally, it's a trade-off: monopolies are bad, but new inventions are good. The patent system tries to strike a balance -- the granted monopoly is quite short, and the inventor is granted narrow rights over the very particular thing that they invented. But, it's such a great, no-brainer trade off that our founders chose to enshrine it in our Constitution.

But, did you know that it is illegal to claim that you have a patent on a product, when you actually don't? This makes sense. If you falsely claim to have a monopoly, you scare off other inventors and in general shave a little bit off the public welfare. The crime itself is called "false marking" and any citizen is free to bring suit against false marketers in our federal district court system. Whatever proceeds the plaintiff receives are split evenly with the United States government. How interesting and bizarre!

If you follow patent news, or read Bryan Beel's excellent IP blog, then you may have heard about Thomas A. Simonian and a few other aspiring citizens who have started suing the pants off a number of companies. Why? Well, according to Justin Gray, the Federal Circuit's recent ruling in Forest Group v. Bon Tool showed that the plaintiff can be awarded damages based on the number of infringing acts. That is, if you make widgets and falsely market them as patented, you might have to pay damages on a per widget basis. Wow.

I have a few questions. Can we all start to do this? It will be interesting to see if Mr. Simonian makes any money. I wonder if his representation is working on contingency? What happens if there's a settlement instead of damages awarded? Is that even possible?

Interestingly, although the concept of suing people willy-nilly is repulsive to most, it seems like these entrepreneurial souls are doing the public a favor. Certainly their PR would be better than other non-practicing entities.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

PIPRA wine & cheese reception

PIPRA will be hosting a wine and cheese reception at this year's AUTM annual meeting in New Orleans on Friday, March 19 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. We are having some amazing speakers including the following:

  • Roger Beachy, Director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
    "The National Institute of Food and Agriculture: Bringing Focus, Scope, and Impact to Extramural Research at USDA"
  • Aline Flower, Associate General Counsel, Global Development, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “Discussion of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Global Access Strategy for Grants in Agricultural Development”
  • Richard Wilder, Associate General Counsel for IP Policy at Microsoft “The Role of Technology Transfer in Cost-effective Options to Address Climate Change” (Microsoft is a member of the Alliance for Clean Technology Innovation - including 3M, Air Liquide, Alstom, ExxonMobil, General Electric, Microsoft, Philips, Siemens, and Vestas)

Of course, our reception is free, we ask only that you RSVP on PIPRA's web site.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Stanford loses a big case

There's a great post Patently-O about Stanford's case against Roche. In a nutshell (or rather, a nutshell of a nutshell) Stanford's institutional IP agreement with its faculty said the faculty were contractually obligated to assign future inventions to the university; however, they were not automatically assigned. Alas, this small distinction was enough to blow their litigation.

Friday, August 28, 2009

UK Fast-Tracks Clean Technology Patents

Earlier this year the UK Intellectual Property Office announced an initiative to fast-track patent applications related to clean technology. The "Green Channel" can be requested by applicants if they indicate that their technology has the potential to impact climate change.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

When universities retain non-commercial/educational use of IP, licensors may lack standing to sue infringers

This is huge. In Resonant Sensors Inc. v. SRU Biosystems Inc., 3-08-cv-01978, Judge Lynn yesterday ruled that the plaintiff lacked standing to sue, saying

"Plaintiffs acknowledge that the [patent owner] retains rights to the non-commercial, educational use of the patents. . . . [T]hese retained rights of use actually demonstrate an absence of complete exclusivity, which in this Court’s view is key to the issue of whether there was a conveyance of all substantial rights."

Originally reported by the DocketReport blog.

Would the same logic apply to the reservation of humanitarian rights? How does this affect the value of university IP?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Drama and university patenting

Authorship, in the scientific paper sense, does not necessarily inventorship make, in the patent sense. Occasionally this causes a lot of drama. Witness the following case JUNIPER NETWORKS INC v. BAHATTAB [PDF]. As described at the wonderful Docket Report blog:

Thesis Advisor for Inventor's Research was not a Co-Inventor. The court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's inventorship claim, rejecting plaintiff's argument that the named inventor's thesis advisor was a co-inventor.

Interesting case. More frequently, its probably the student who is left off the patent and feels slighted (probably rightly so!).

Another, interesting case: Stanford Ph.D. student sues Stanford, Stanford prof over patents and copying thesis. Good to see students sticking up for their IP in general!