23 May 2008

Owners of the Most U.S. Patents

The Intellectual Property Owners Association has just released its annual report listing the organizations that received the most U.S. Patents in 2007.

Here are the top 10:
  1. IBM - 3,127
  2. Samsung - 2,723
  3. Canon - 2,047
  4. Matsushita Electric - 1,972
  5. Intel - 1,864
  6. Toshiba - 1,734
  7. Microsoft - 1,662
  8. Micron Technology - 1,484
  9. Hewlett Packard - 1,470
  10. Sony Corp. - 1,454

07 May 2008

Drafting Software Patent Specifications

Most jurisdictions offer some sort of protection to software inventions. However, how you approach the preparation of software patents will vary somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

In later posts, I will discuss how the different countries deal with software. In this post, I will start having a look at some basic rules for preparing claims for software patent specifications for Australia and the United States. This is a blog, so I'm going to choose random topics re drafting software patent specifications as I please. Eventually, there should be enough tagged together to achieve coherence.

Also, please remember that this is just a distillation of my experience. If you decide to follow this advice, I accept no responsibility if your application is rejected by the USPTO, or your multi-million dollar licence deal falls through.

There are a number of aspects of a software invention that you should look at protecting in the claims.

Some of these are:
  1. A method that is carried out by a computational device that executes the software.
  2. A system that uses the software product.
  3. A software product per se.
  4. A medium on which the software product is stored.
  5. A computational device when programmed with the software product.
There could easily be more.

Why? Particularly in the US, it's useful to have as many independent claims as possible. That's because they have an illogical way of interpreting claims. It's called the "prosecution history estoppel" doctrine. In short, a US Court can take into account the actions of a patent applicant during prosecution to limit the scope of the claims. So, if a patentee decides to amend a claim during the application procedure, the court can estop the patentee from asserting any rights based on that claim that are broader than a literal interpretation of that claim.

If there are a number of independent claims, it may be possible to avoid having to amend one of more of them. Since the independent claims are the broadest, the patentee may be saved from having to give up valuable patent real estate.

Of course, another reason is that it allows the patentee more grounds to sue for infringement.

I will continue on this in a further post.

02 May 2008

Patents are Liquid Assets

Peter Zura's 271 Patent Blog reports that Ocean Tomo has recently announced that an Intellectual Property auction held on 2 April 2008 had cumulative sales totalling $19,629,500. So much for the recession!

One of the lots - an IP portfolio related to the processing of digital data in bit streams, sold for $6,600,000.

There were three other transactions in the seven-figure range relating to computer systems and software, information management and data systems, and location based services and logistics.

The Intellectual Asset Management Blog said that organizations are willing to pay top dollar when they come across assets they want to get their hands on. For example RIM (Research in Motion) last week announced that it had spent over $300 million on acquiring intangible assets in the 4th quarter of its financial year.

Patent brokerage, IPotential, raised $104 million for clients in 29 transactions.

Have a look at this excellent "on the scene" report from the Ocean Tomo auction. It's a stab in the heart for the anti-software patent lobby, which pleases me!