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There is No Prior Art for My Invention

I frequently am told by inventors that they have searched the marketplace and cannot find anything like their invention. I am also frequently told that they have done a patent search and cannot find anything that remotely resembles what they have come up with. While there are many reasons for not finding prior art, just because you do not find prior art does not mean that there is no prior art that needs to be considered. In fact, it would be extremely rare (if not completely impossible) for there to be an invention that does not have any relevant prior art. Said another way, unless you have invented something on the level of an Einstein-type invention there is prior art. Even the greatest American inventor, Thomas Edison, faced prior art for the vast majority of his inventions.

Reporting Live from Day Two at AIPLA Annual Meeting

Today is day two of the AIPLA conference at the Marriot Wardman Park hotel in Washington, DC. There are numerous people attending the conference this year, and topics of discussion and presentation are ranging from intellectual property procurement and enforcement in East Asia,to ethics, to multi-defendent patent litigation strategies, to best practices to mitigate trade secret litigation risks that arise from employee mobility and commercial dealings.

AIPLA Meeting: David Kappos Q & A with Q. Todd Dickinson

One question in particular that stood out to me was the question about hiring at the USPTO. Director Kappos was asked to give us an idea on what the plans are for hiring examiners to the USPTO. Kappos started with “We want YOU to come work for the USPTO.” Laughter abounded. Dickinson quickly picked up on this saying: “Uncle Sam wants YOU!” More laughter all around. Kappos went on to explain that they are seeking experienced, well seasoned patent attorneys to come work for the USPTO. They want to hire another 1000 examiners. Dickinson then joked “Ah, so you weren’t kidding when you said you wanted them to work for the USPTO?”

Trademark Tarnishment: Trademark Law’s Dirty Little Secret

Dilution by blurring slowly whittles away at a trademark’s distinctiveness whereas dilution by tarnishment is an attack on the reputation and positive image of a mark. Here’s the thing: dilution by tarnishment is an entirely separate analysis from your garden variety Likelihood of Confusion analysis. But before click up your heels and scream “Yahtzee!” you should know that it’s really hard to make a tarnishment argument stick so don’t get all antsy to trot this one out. The standard is all over the place because it’s typically analyzed under a state’s dilution laws (if there are any). And I hate to do that lawyer “well, it depends” thing, but in this case, a tarnishment cause of action really does depend on the jurisdiction.

Federal Circuit Bar Association Honors Chief Judge Michel

On Tuesday, October 19, 2010, I attended the retirement dinner and reception of the Honorable Chief Judge Paul R. Michel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Washington DC. As fate would have it, I got lost on my way to the party. Even though I thought I gave myself plenty of time to get there, I arrived right before dinner. After dinner the celebration began with a video featuring numerous speakers and a toast. What follows is a recap of the evening’s events, as well as some quotes on the record from several distinguished guests that were at the event to celebrate with Chief Judge Michel.

Peer To Patent Sequel: USPTO To Begin New Pilot Program

The initial Peer To Patent pilot program, which began in 2007, opened the patent examination process to public participation in the belief that such participation would accelerate the examination process and improve the quality of patents. Yesterday the United States Patent and Trademark Office announced a sequel to the initial pilot program and will begin a second Peer To Patent pilot program, again in coordination with New York Law School’s Center for Patent Innovations (CPI). This new Peer To Patent program will run for a one year term and will commence on October 25, 2010. This second Peer To Patent pilot program will expand on scope of the previous pilot program. You may recall that the first Peer To Patent pilot was limited to software and business methods applications, but this new pilot program will also include applications in the fields of biotechnology, bioinformatics, telecommunications and speech recognition.

Interview Sequel: Chief Judge Paul Michel

In July 2010 I had the privilege of interviewing Chief Judge Paul Michel of the Federal Circuit, who had just recently retired from the Court effective May 31, 2010. Chief Judge Michel spoke with me on the record for over 1 hour and 40 minutes, and even then I only was able to get to a fraction of the topics that the Chief Judge agreed to discuss on the record. Chief Judge Michel agreed to go back on the record with me to address those additional topics, such as the confirmation process to become a judge, the state of the federal judiciary, funding for the Patent Office, Federal Circuit decisions over his tenure on the Court and more. We had our second interview on September 24, 2010, again at the University Club in Washington, DC.

Beware of Third Party Facebook Application Security Risks

You’ve seen it all over the place… Privacy Concerns, Security Issues, Identity Stolen, Dangers of Social Networking, Social Media Threats, Personal Information Sold. All too often Facebook is the culprit; notorious for breaching the confidences of the hundreds of millions of users who have profiles on the ever-popular Social Networking site. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that their own investigations into Facebook uncovered that many of the more popular third party applications being used on Facebook have been providing access of personal information to dozens of advertising companies.

Using Social Media to Show Expertise and Build Credibility

One of the biggest myths surrounding Expertise is that in order to be considered an expert, you need to know more than everyone else about the topic at hand. In reality, you just need to know more than or at least be able to educate those within your target audience to be considered an “Expert” on the subject. The question becomes, with the vast number of businesses and attorneys turning to Social Media today, how does one stand out in the crowd? Perhaps the single most prominent way to stand out and Demonstrate Expertise and Build Credibility using Social Media, is through regular visibility while sharing your knowledge with others.

Not Extending Bush Tax Cuts Will Affect All Small Businesses

Upon the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, among increases in the tax rate for all tax brackets, the dividends tax rate will increase. So even if Congress and the White House extend the Bush tax cuts for all but the top earning Americans, virtually all small business owners, regardless of their tax bracket, will see an increase in their effective tax rate as a result in the increased tax rate for dividends. Policies that make job creation more difficult and investment in innovation more unlikely are reckless, particularly at a time when our economy is so hurting. That is why the Bush tax cuts should be extended across the board at least temporarily.

Kappos Welcomes Expo to US Trademark and Patent Office

On Friday, October 15, 2010 and again on Saturday, October 16, 2010, the United States Trademark and Patent Office (USTPO) played host to the National Trademark Expo. That is no typo or clerical error. Director Kappos, who was introduced by Lynne Beresford, the Commissioner for Trademarks, started the day with an address and began by welcoming everyone to the United…

Keeping a Good Invention Notebook

Keeping an invention notebook or other invention record is an extremely wise thing to do, and in fact should be done by every inventor. As with so many things in life, however, there are a number of ways to do it correctly, and any number of ways to do it wrong. Compounding this is the urban myth, propagated by some scam companies over the years, which suggests that sending a description of your invention to yourself through the mail is beneficial to protect your invention. Unfortunately, protecting an invention is not so easy.

Allowance Rate of 45.6% at USPTO for Fiscal 2010

Hopefully the seemingly modest successes of team Kappos in fiscal 2010 will be viewed for what they are, which is rather extraordinary, by our leaders in Washington, DC. With all the odds against them, having to fight daily for adequate funding, fewer patent examiners and a Congress that STILL siphons money paid by innovators away from the Patent Office, team Kappos was still able to increase allowances by 5.3% and dent the backlog. Can you imagine what they could do with adequate funding?

Beware Open Source Strings Attached if You Want a Patent

Just this week I had the opportunity to consult with a client that is in the process of creating unique software that is, at least in my opinion, patentable over the prior art. We were chatting over the telephone when he explained that the developer he hired was using certain open source code to supplement the original code being written. Not wanting to scare my client needlessly, but suspecting the worst, I asked him to send me information on what was being taken, in particular the license agreements that govern the allegedly free open source software. In life there are few certainties. Death and taxes are among them; as is the fact that if you are taking open source software for your proprietary project you are likely about to do a deal with the devil that might be extremely difficult, or even impossible, to undo.

News, Notes & Announcements

In this edition of News, Notes & Announcements, happy birthday wishes to for celebrating our 11th year online and a heartfelt thank you to all our readers. Additionally, the TiVo patent used to sue Echostar, the litigation at question in the en banc review at the Federal Circuit, survives reexamination at the USPTO. Professor Thomas Field (UNH) publishes the 21st edition of his IP casebook, which is now online in royalty free version; the USPTO is hosting the National Trademark Expo this Friday and Saturday on campus in Alexandria; the USPTO is hosting the 15th Annual Independent Inventors Conference on November 4-5, 2010, and I will be there teaching two sessions of patent claim drafting; US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke visits the USPTO and the AIPLA will host is Annual Meeting next week.