Archive for February, 2017

 

Valentine’s Day 2017 – Patenting Love

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

With today being Valentine’s Day, we consider the concept of love, which can have different meanings to different people around the world. Does such universal ambiguity leave love too abstract for consideration as patentable subject matter?  Here is an issued patent that brings love straight into the claims:

 

U.S. Patent No. 9,269,077 “Address book autofilter”

This AT&T patent provides a filtering mechanism for an address book with focus on connections with social networking sites. An individual’s contacts can be ranked according to interactions with the contact, where messages with affective terms can cause a contact to be ranked higher.  Claim 12 brings the romance, where a processor can parse messages between an individual and their contacts to determine when the affective terms are “indicative of meaningful relationships” and “wherein the affective terms are indicative of expressing love.”  How is a processor capable of discerning whether someone is expressing love?  The patent specifies that “[a]ffective terms and phrases may be predefined and stored, e.g., in the database 80 and/or user profile 115, and affective terms and phrases may include love, like, miss you, see you soon, along with other terms understood to show affection.”  Perhaps some people could benefit from the cold and calculated understanding of love by our machines.

 

Is the AT&T patent more romantic than this patent application for proposing marriage to an individual?  We’ll let you decide.

Crowdfunding Starts the Patent Clock Ticking

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Crowdfunding through websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo is becoming an increasingly popular way to launch new products and businesses. These sites have been particularly valuable in helping startups launch innovative new products.  While crowdfunding can be an excellent opportunity for entrepreneurs to get market feedback and raise capital, it can have serious impacts on intellectual property rights.

Crowdfunding can damage your intellectual property rights because it constitutes a public disclosure, which starts the clock ticking for filing patent applications. If you do not file a patent application within one year of the date of first public disclosure, you have dedicated the invention to the public and lost the right to a patent.  Additionally, because the United States has a first-to-file patent system, inventors who crowdfund without first filing a patent application expose themselves to copying and knockoffs.  Crowdfunding also exposes you to counterfeiting of trademarks and copyrighted materials.

Exposure to infringement suits is another pitfall of crowdfunding. Even highly successful crowdfunding projects have been sued for patent infringement.  Additionally, use of trademarks and logos without proper vetting can result in cease-and-desist letters, lawsuits, and bad publicity.

We recommend seeking IP protection prior to starting a crowdfunding campaign. Filing a provisional patent application can be a low cost way to protect your patent rights, and federally registering your trademark or logo can be critical to protecting your branding strategy.  Further, proactive use of patent and trademark searching services can minimize your legal risk.  While crowdfunding can be a great asset to startups and inventors, we encourage you to take appropriate measures to protect your own IP rights and avoid infringing the rights of others.