The Top 10 Inventions of 2012

May 15th, 2013

There are simply so many great inventions out there that choosing only ten is a difficult task. In order to choose, we based our analysis on “how many people could be affected by this invention. For example, while “The Curiosity Rover” made Time’s Techland list, it does not directly affect the earthbound user; nor does NASA’s Z-1 space suit. For our top ten inventions of 2012, the gadgets must have the ability to help people, the environment, or change lives. The invention must also be accessible to those who need it.

For the Top 10 Inventions of 2012, the choices come from Time’s Best Inventions of the Year and POPSCI’s 6th Annual Invention Awards.

#10 HeatSeeker

The HeatSeeker is a powerful and affordable mister for overheated firefighters. When Hurricane Sandy was busily knocking homes off of their foundations in the north east, fires started springing up from open gas lines and burned hundreds of homes. Firefighters fought those flames through the night, and through the storm. Even though many homes were lost, many more were saved because of those volunteers. The HeatSeeker fog can cool the surrounding area by 30 degrees and uses just 2 gallons of water per hour.
According to POPSCI, Michael Robinson invented HeatSeeker and built the prototype after he saw a fellow firefighter struggling to get up off the ground. They were fighting a house fire and the man was wearing 70 pounds of gear. Robinson moved the man to a safe distance from the flames and cooled him down with wet towels; luckily the man recovered. On average, 300 people die from heat exhaustion each year. Many are construction workers, athletes and firefighters. 71% of firefighters are volunteers. Most of the people who die from heat exhaustion, heat stress, heat stroke and related illnesses don’t recognize the symptoms in themselves, even though they would in others.
Robinson created the mister in a friend’s fabrication shop. He installed it on one of the fire trucks, and his captain asked him to build and install 15 more. He has since outfitted fifty fire trucks with the device and added a cap for fire hydrants to cool children in the summer, and one for garden hoses to cool people at outdoor venues.

#9 Body Armor for Women

This comes in at just $555 and is from Time’s Best of 2012. Since women and men are built differently, it makes sense that there are gaps in the body armor if it is not sized properly. The usual answer was to give women body armor that was a men’s small. Those are too big for 85% of our troops. While the added protection is only that this provides a better fit; our troops must be able to move in their body armor for their ground maneuvers to be effective.

#8 Bounce Imaging

This is truly a bargain at $500; Bounce imaging is the size of a baseball with 6 cameras. It was created by an MIT student and Army Ranger. First responders, whether they are Navy Seals, Fire Fighters, or responding to hostage situations, can benefit from this technology and save lives. The baseball sized orb can be tossed or rolled into an area and the cameras send data to mobile devices.

#7 Over7

The Over7 is a higher efficiency, lower emission engine system. So many vehicles are going electric, hybrid or alternative fuel; the Over7 improves on engines that are already in use.
Frank Will has spent his life obsessed with engine performance. He started out racing motorcycles in the 70s and eventually became an automotive engineer for Ford in Australia. He left that job in 2008 and began applying his passion to his new project, the Over7. The system works by redirecting the engine’s oil and then heating it. The Over7 reduces gas consumption by 7% and emissions by 30%. Will is now working with Ford, testing and perfecting the technology. He is also working on a conversion kit for existing vehicles which will sell for $200-$400. PROSCI reports that “Putting the Over7 in every passenger vehicle in the US would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 64 million tons a year and save drivers seven billion gallons of gasoline.

#6 PuzzleCast

A group of students designed the PuzzleCast during a bio-medical-engineering course. The challenge was to design something that was important to all of them, and this particular team had been injured or witnessed the injuries of others. After spending two months in a cast, the patient then undergoes months of painful physical therapy to regain muscle and loosen up stiff joints. The PuzzleCast is a modular design that allows sections to be removed when they are no longer needed, without resetting the limb. In testing, the modular cast cut physical therapy time in half.
In 2011 the students received a $10,000 grant from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance to test the effects on people who wore the cast, PROSCI reports, and the next step is to license the design to a manufacturer.

#5 Enable Talk Gloves

While Enable Talk gloves are at the outset a device for the hearing and speech impaired, it actually benefits all of us. Four Ukrainian students designed the $75 gloves that allow the impaired to communicate with people who do not understand sign language. A signal is sent from the gloves to the user’s smart phone as text, and an app converts the text to spoken words. This is truly fantastic.

#4 Self-Inflating Tires

Self Inflating Tires run about $200 each, which is pricey, but as soon as the pressure gets low in these Goodyear tires, they know it. These tires are equipped with a sensor that judges the pressure; and a regulator opens to allow air to flow though a pumping tube. Once the optimal pressure is reached, the regulator closes. No more flat tires. The driver won’t even know anything was wrong.

#3 Eliodomestico Solar Water Distiller

Gabriele Diamanti designed this solar powered distiller to use in areas deprived of fresh water. It is half the price and 67% more efficient than other models on the market. People living in coastal areas in third world countries are often deprived of the fresh water that could save their villages. At $50 this item is a must have and Diamante hopes that local manufacturers will adopt his design and go into mass-production for local populations.

#2 The Civilization Starter Kit

Marcin Jakubowski built a tractor in six days Time tells us, and then told the world how to do it. He created designs, a budget and an instructional video on line. Jakubowski isolated the 50 most important machines that are required for our lives, including an oven. He is working to make a low cost version prototype of every one of those 50 items so that anyone can do it. He says that if we can lower the barriers to farming and manufacturing, then more people will do it. According to Jakubowski, “we can unleash massive amounts of human potential.”

#1 Google Glass/iOptic

Yes, it is a tie for first because they are similar, but different. Both promise to bring an augmented reality to our lives. They’re tech right out of a spy movie.
Google Glass is a pair of glasses with a small screen that is activated when the wearer looks up and to the right. There is a computer built right into the glasses and the half inch display allows users to take and share photos, chat, check appointments and access the Web. Google has already given out the prototype during testing. Google Glass has upped their release date to 2013, after complaints from consumers who say they can’t wait two years. Google Glass has an estimated price tag of $1500.
IOptic does that with contact lenses. The user will still wear eyeglasses, which hold two small projectors and cast an image onto the inside surface of the lenses. Randy Sprague spent twenty years as an electrical engineer before quitting in 2008 to start a solar power company. One morning he had an entirely different idea, contact lenses that would act as a wearable display. The iOptic utilizes two sets of nanofilters embedded in each lens that permit different light sources into the eye. IOptic has a target release date of 2014 but no estimate on the price.

Sprague believes his device is useful for everyone from the home gamer, to the military while on a mission. Having access to the web and sharing data is one way to make the world a better and safer place, for all of us. There are others working on similar projects, but the race is on to see who gets there first and which of these products will reign supreme.

Top 10 Patent Sales of 2012

February 20th, 2013

Top 10 Patent Sales of 2012The team at has compiled the top 10 patent sales of 2012. These sales add up to a grand total of over $20,000,000,000. The patents these technologies protect are often key strategic acquisitions by the purchasers. This year, a number of the top patent sales were liquidations of patent portfolios from defunct or struggling corporations such as Kodak, Nortel, Motorola, and AOL.

#10 Acacia Research Pays $100 Million for Adaptix Patents

January 2012- Adaptix sold 230 patents to Acacia Research; according to reports, the patents cover 4G technology. This deal was Acacia’s first major move to buy patent rights, according to The Wall Street Journal. Acacia has previously partnered with Universities and other organizations to help them enforce patents.  Acacia Research makes most of its money by licensing patents and filing lawsuits, earning them a reputation as a Patent Troll.

Total Sale Price: $100 Million

#9 Fujifilm to Universal Display

July 2012- Fujifilm Corp. sold 1,200 patents to Universal Display Corp covering OLED technology. OLEDs are Organic Light Emitting Diodes and are used to make high contrast low energy screens. The deal reportedly doubled the New Jersey based Universal Display’s portfolio.

Total Sale Price: $105 Million

#8 Real Network Patents Sold to Intel

January 2012- Real Network’s sale of 190 patents to Intel was just the tip of the iceberg. According to, the deal also included 170 patents that had been applied for that were awaiting approval. Some video streaming software was also included in the deal, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Total Sale Price: $120 Million

#7 InterDigital Sells 1.700 Patents to Intel

June 2012- Reuter’s reports that InterDigital had agreed to sell 1,700 wireless technology patents to Intel. The sale sent InterDigital stocks soaring by 27%. It was a win/win situation; Intel was interested in expanding its chip business beyond computers while InterDigital was hoping a patent sale would boost stock sales.

Total Sale Price: $375 Million

#6 Microsoft Sells 650 Patents to Facebook

April 2012- Microsoft sold 650 patents to Facebook. Part of the deal included a bunch of patents related to mobile, web and instant messaging technology, according to Nick Wingfield of The NY Times. The deal came less than two weeks after the Microsoft deal with AOL, and looks as though Microsoft was splitting that portfolio with Facebook.

Total Sale Price: $550 Million

#5 Kodak Sells Patent Portfolio to Patent Consortium

December 2012- On December 19th, 2012 reported that a group of 12 buyers was organized by Intellectual Ventures, to purchase Kodak’s portfolio of 1100 patents. Part of the deal requires that Kodak drop legal proceedings against certain members of the purchasing group. Kodak sued several of the members for patent infringement. According to the LA Times, the bankruptcy filings show that the buyers are: Google, Apple, Facebook, Research in Motion, Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung, Adobe, Huawei Technologies, HTC, Fujifilm and Shutterfly.
While the group has paid for a portion of the portfolio, Intellectual Ventures will retain ownership but cannot sue these already licensed companies.

Total Sale Price: $525 Million

#4 Apple Buys 695 Nortel Patents from Rockstar Consortium

The deal has slipped under the wire and gone on all year. The Rockstar Consortium won the Nortel auction of 6000 patents for $4.5 Billion in July of 2011. By November of 2012, the US Patent and Trademark Office reported that 695 of 1024 patents had already been registered to Apple as part of a deal. Apple has purchased the patents from the Rockstar Consortium which includes Rockstar, Sony, Microsoft, Research in Motion, Ericsson and EMC.

Total Sale Price: $2.5 Billion

#3 AOL Inks $1.05 Billion Deal with Microsoft

April 2012- AOL sold 925 internet technology patents to Microsoft. The New York Times said that the “lofty price reflects the crucial role that the patents are increasingly playing in the business and legal strategies of the world’s ,major technology companies, including Microsoft, Apple Google, Samsung and HTC.

Total Sale Price: $1.05 Billion

#2 Google Sells Off Motorola Home Business to Arris Group

December 2012- As I write this, Google Inc. has announced an agreement to sell its Motorola Home business to Arris Group Inc. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that Google wasn’t interested in the television set-top boxes that were part of the portfolio purchased from Motorola in May of 2012. Google will focus on expansion of the smartphones and assign the television related patents to Arris.

Total Sale Price: $2.35 Billion

#1 Google Pays $12.5 Billion for Motorola Patent Portfolio

May 2012- In a deal that began in August of 2011; Google Inc. acquired a sizeable portfolio of patents owned by Motorola. The process involved final approval in February from the US Dept. of Justice, and the European Union. Then in May the company received the final stamp of approval from the People’s Republic of China. The trading commissions are required to approve deals of such magnitude to prevent monopolies on sensitive technology.

Total Sale Price: $12.5 Billion is the world’s largest online marketplace for intellectual property. If you are looking to sell a patent or are interested in patent licensing, please call  us at 832-683-1527 for more information. If you are looking to purchase patents, please email us at

Top 5 Inventors of All Time

January 4th, 2013

top 5 inventors of all timeThe top 5 inventors of all time is a subjective list because on one hand the top inventors should include Leonardo Da Vinci, whose inventions are still being built and tested today. Unfortunately, Da Vinci never filed for a patent; patents didn’t exist yet and his designs were ideas, many of which were undeveloped. This list is based on the inventors holding the most patent families, and the most US utility patents. A patent family is the result of a single invention that is patented in multiple countries. A utility patent covers an actual invention rather than an idea, design or modification.
Some of these names will be unfamiliar, but when you learn why the inventor made the top five, the reason for their inclusion will be clear. By comparison, the number of inventions in today’s top five outweighs the inventions of the historical figures we’ve come to admire. By the same token, it must be admitted that without their predecessors, these five would not have made the list, because all inventions are a combination of necessity and the foundation on which to build.

#5 Leonard Forbes

Leonard Forbes was born in 1940 and is the owner of 1012 patent families. His primary inventions are concerned with semiconductor memories, thin film processes, CCDs and VLSI. VLSI stands for Very-large-scale Integration and involves combining thousands of transistors into a single chip. The micro-processor in your computer and other electronic devices is an example of a VLSI. A CCD is a charge-coupled device used to move an electrical charge from within the device to a place where the charge can be manipulated. This technology is necessary for digital imaging, among other things.
Leonard Forbes owns 946 US Utility Patents and 2010 worldwide. He is a retired professor from Oregon State University.

#4 Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison was born in 1847 and lived until 1931. Edison is credited with 1084 patent families, and 2332 international patents. He is best known for the light bulb which he did not actually invent, but perfected. Thomas Edison actually invented the first practical electric light bulb; but before that he had to harness electric power in a usable form. He is the father of Direct Current which is used in batteries and generators. In addition to electrical power and lighting, his patent areas include the Phonograph, Cement, Telegraphy, and Mining.
Thomas Edison held 1093 US Utility patents, when he topped Time Magazines list of top five inventors in December of 2000.

#3 Paul Lapstun

Paul Lapstun is an Australian inventor holding over 1240 patent families and 3135 international patents. His areas of expertise include printing, digital paper, internet, electronics CGI and VLSI. Paul Lapstun works with closely with our number 1 inventor of all time.
In May of 2011, Business Insider credited Lapstun with 969 US Utility patents; he filed for 85 additional patents that year.

#2 Shunpei Yamikazi

Shunpei Yamikazi was born in 1942 and is an inventor from Japan. Yamikazi holds 3013 patent families and 12019 international patents. His area of expertise is in thin film transistors, LCDs, solar cells, flash memory and OLED which is an organic light emitting diode. OLEDs are used to create digital displays in devices like television sets and computer monitors. They are also used in portable devices such as mobile phones, PDAs and handheld game consoles.
Shunpei Yamikazi is credited with 2,591 granted U.S. utility patents and 9,700 patents worldwide.

#1 Kia Silverbrook

Kia Silverbrook was born in 1958 and is an inventor from Australia. Silverbrook is the holder of 4544 patent families and 9777 international patents. His areas of expertise include printing, digital paper, internet, electronics, CGI, DNA, LOC, MEMS and VLSI along with chemical and mechanical patents. He also holds patents in LOC which is a laboratory on a chip, integrating multiple lab functions. LOCs are a sub-set of MEMS devices which are referred to as micro-machines in Japan or micro-systems in Europe.
Kia Silverbrook is credited with 4508 granted U.S. utility patents as of October, 2012 and 11,146 patents worldwide.

As stated in the beginning, many of these inventors wouldn’t be anywhere without the following inventions and inventors.

#5 The Camera

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre is considered the inventor of the first practical process of photography in 1837.


LASER is short for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation and is used in everything from home blu-ray players to advanced weaponry. Albert Einstein was the first one to initiate its development in 1917 when he proposed that atoms could be stimulated to emit photons in a single direction. Three decades later, this phenomenon was first observed. And in 1960, Theodore Maiman, a physicist, built the first working laser. (Credit )

#3 Television

In 1884, Paul Nipkow sent images over wires using a rotating metal disk technology with 18 lines of resolution. Television then evolved along two paths, mechanical based on Nipkow’s rotating disks, and electronic based on the cathode ray tube. American Charles Jenkins and Scotsman John Baird followed the mechanical model while Philo Farnsworth, working independently in San Francisco, and Russian émigré Vladimir Zworkin, working for Westinghouse and later RCA, advanced the electronic model. (Credit )

#2 The Internet

The Internet and the World Wide Web are the foundation on top of which the top five inventors of today have built their massive portfolios. The internet was created by the Department of Defense and the World Wide Web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, an employee of CERN which is the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

#1 The Telegraph

The telegraph is the basis for digital sound and imagery as well as the transfer of data packets over long distances via the internet protocols and the World Wide Web. Without the telegraph as a fore-runner, Alexander Graham Bell would not have invented the practical telephone. Thomas Edison started out his early career as a telegraph operator. He came to use what he learned from life in his later inventions of the phonograph and the motion picture camera.

So it is easy to see that the inventions of the past have heavily influenced the inventors of today and these top five will clearly lay the foundation for the inventions of the future.

Patent Licensing Facts 2012

January 4th, 2013

patent licensing factsPatent licensing and sales are an alternative for inventors who don’t have the resources to bring their product to the marketplace. In patent licensing, the inventor completes a prototype or at a detailed drawing, acquires a patent, and then finds a buyer interested in manufacturing and marketing the invention. One patent that is still licensed today is the lateral control design of The Wright Brothers flying machine.
Government funded inventors spent tens of thousands of US dollars on failed projects, while the Wright Brothers design and testing cost around $1200. That design is used to this day in every flying machine from a child’s toy to the space shuttle. Extensive patent wars were fought over that license because of the wording and the diagrams used in the original patent. The Wright Brothers had not only patented the first viable formula that enabled flight, they had also mentioned other ideas that were subsequently covered by that patent as well. It is impossible to estimate how much that patent license would be worth today.
There are different types of licensing agreements that may be of use to the inventor who has neither the time nor the resources to manufacture and market a new product. The first is an exclusive license and is used in the case of a new useful product such as a special tool or machine. The manufacturer initially pays more because the patent holder is not going to allow anyone else to use the design. The patent holder becomes owner in name only and has no rights to lease the patent to anyone else, nor release the product in the marketplace. The licensee, on the other hand, is allowed to lease the product to other manufacturers. An example of an exclusive license is the processing chip included in computers and electronic devices.
The non-exclusive license is a little bit different. In that case, the licensee can’t be sued for selling the product but does not have the right to give others license to manufacture or sell. The owner of the patent may license the patent to other manufacturers and may also go into production. This could create competition in the marketplace. Patent wars are often fought in the courts over the wording of the non-exclusive licensing agreement.
The third type of licensing agreement is the Sole License which is a cross between the other two. The owner of the patent agrees not to license the invention or idea to anyone else, but is not prevented from using the invention or technology in their own devices. This is another area of contention between inventors and manufacturers.
The scope of the licensing agreement is an area that must also be examined. For instance, an inventor may license their idea to one manufacturer in a specific geographical area. In this case, the license may only cover North American sales, or the European market. The territory involved must be listed in the agreement. That leaves the patent owner with an option to license the patent to another manufacturer in a separate territory. This type of licensing is what prevents an item made in Japan from being sold in the US; while the US manufacturer may market a similar product here. In order to license to the world markets, the patent owner must have an international patent.
The licensing agreement may be broken down into fields of usage. In the case of a microchip, for instance, the licensing agreement may specify that the technology can only be used in phones while a separate license allows the chip to be used in another electronic device.
Permitted acts cover whether the licensee may manufacture, sell or both and the territories involved in that agreement. A license to manufacture and sell in the US does not cover sales outside of the US territories.
Licensing agreements will also cover the term of the agreement, whether that is the life of the patent or a shorter period of time. The short term licensing agreement is often used by pharmaceutical companies to prevent generics from competing before the cost of development and testing is recouped. This allows the patent to be licensed again at a later date for a generic version.
Finally the licensing agreement will cover royalties paid to the owner of the patent. This is an area best dealt with by experienced patent attorneys who have the best interest of the inventor in mind. After the initial sale of the license, the owner will receive residual income off of the royalties. The royalty is either a nets sales or gross sales percentage varies between 1% and 20% with approximately half at less than 5% and 90% less than 10%. These rates often vary based on the exclusivity of the patent license, and the up-front payment.
In short, the patent licensing agreement will include many sub categories that may confuse the layman while the manufacturers are already well versed in the contracts and legal jargon. In order to make the best deal it is important to understand the agreement or hire someone who can. Remember that in the best seller “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” Robert Kiyosaki states that one of the keys to success is to “hire people who are smarter than you” and do it. This is where a patent attorney or a patent licensing service can really be an asset. Of the ½ million patent applications filed each year, only half are approved. Out of that a small percentage comes from individual inventors. Only 1 in 5000 will make it to the marketplace in the same year, without the benefit of a patent licensing contract or sale. It is in the best interest of every inventor to get the best help available to make their dreams come true.
Robert Kiyosaki also said that “the best way to know the difference between a good expert and a bad expert is to become an expert yourself.” While entering into the patent licensing market may be so scary for some that they give up on their ideas entirely, it is wise to become informed. There is no feeling that is worse than seeing an item in the store and thinking “that could have been money in my pocket, if only I hadn’t given up on my dream.”

Patent Licensing Steps for Success

January 4th, 2013

patent licensing stepsNew products and inventions seem to come out every day; suddenly there’s a new device, gadget or tool that no one can live without. People often ask whether their undeveloped idea could bring them riches, and even watch others pursue that dream on reality shows. With the promise of riches and fame, it’s a wonder that everyone hasn’t gotten into the inventor’s market. The average person comes up with hundreds of ideas every day and at least one would be a winner, if they knew what to do with their ideas. Doing an internet search often proves time consuming and most ideas are forgotten until someone else thinks of it and takes action. The biggest problem that inventors face is getting the item to market. For a new inventor, this problem may seem insurmountable. Here are some basic guidelines for inventors to follow, in order to profit from a great idea.
Licensing a patent is one way to profit from an idea without the added expense of manufacturing, distribution, and advertising that would break the bank for most inventors. Before a patent can be licensed, there is a lot of work to do.

The first step to licensing a patent is obtaining a patent from the US Patent Office. In order to do that some inventors turn to a professional because of the time and steps involved. The lengthiest part of the patent process is the patent research, so it’s a good idea to research the idea before beginning the process. Should there already be an invention, that isn’t the end. The wheel chair, for instance, has already been patented, but there are many design patents that improve on the original idea. If the research shows that a patent is in place, decide whether there is a better, more efficient design and apply for a design patent.

While awaiting the patent, start researching companies that may be interested in the new idea. In the case of a new wheel chair, researching medical supply manufacturers is a good start. Perhaps the invention is a new kind of wheel, or an added safety feature. If that is the case, check manufacturers of safety restraints and wheels. The same wheels may work from other devices such as a child’s stroller or a wagon or push cart. If it’s a really great part that changes the original design, patent it separately. Individual parts such as wheels, springs, rivets and even computer chips, receive separate patents. Parts alone can become a lucrative part of the patent licensing business.

The next step is to make a list of at least twenty manufacturers who may be interested. Draw up a professional letter describing the new product or part and the features it will provide. Make the letter as persuasive as possible, while keeping it professional. Plan a marketing strategy that includes a web site and brochure if possible. Photographs and product details give the invention a higher marketability. Manufacturers who have received a marketing inquiry and become interested may go to the website and download the brochure to present the idea to their board of directors. Be sure to disclose the type of patent applied for, whether it is a design patent, or a provisional patent. This information may heavily influence the patent licensing agreement.

If the funds are not available to patent the idea, a provisional patent covers the inventor for a year at which point a regular patent may be applied for. It may be advisable to get a loan to cover the cost of the patent in order to reap a higher return. As a last resort, if a manufacturer is interested in licensing, an agreement may be struck where they pay for the patent in exchange for the licensing, and the inventor receives a percentage of the profits from sales. The man who reinvents the wheel could make a tidy income off of that percentage. At this point in the process it is recommended that the inventor has an attorney to negotiate the contract. Legal jargon can get very confusing and in order to protect the owner of the patent, it’s important that all terms are understood.

During the negotiation process, be sure to direct questions to the manufacturer through the attorney and get everything in writing before signing. Word of mouth does not hold up in a court of law, especially with patent law. Remember that there is a difference between licensing the patent and selling it outright. Patent licensing brings residual income while the sale of a patent offers only a single profit.

Once the process is done, be sure to share the new product with friends and family. The more the word gets out about the new product, the higher the return. Remember to keep in touch with the attorney, should any problems arise. In negotiation there are often stipulations that the manufacturer must abide by, such as a number sold per year. Ensure that both owner and license holder carry their part of the bargain in order to receive the ongoing payments.

Patent Wars: Apple VS Samsung

December 31st, 2012
apple vs samsung

Img Credit: WebProNews

The patent war between Apple and Samsung is far from over. This is a war that crosses borders and boundaries. The lines of division have been drawn and people are divided over the various outcomes. Here is what is at stake and what it means to you:

Apple’s own Steve Jobs said that two hundred patents would protect Apple’s iPhone design and technology. The length, width and shape of the iPhone, iPad and iPod are all protected by design patents; which means that no one can use that shape and size for a product without going to Apple for permission.

Samsung’s Galaxy devices have the same shape but the dimensions are different; only slightly different. You could look at both and hold them in your hands and barely tell the difference. Still the measurement is different and so it is not exactly the same. Apple’s devices are white and Samsung’s are black, but looking head on, even Samsung’s attorney couldn’t tell the difference at ten feet.

Apple claims that the rounded corners are their idea, but can you patent rounded corners even if you have specific degrees on those corners? This and other questions have consumers confused over what the war is about.

If Apple wins in the US then Samsung products can be stopped at the border which means that you would no longer have a choice between Apple and Samsung. You have to ask yourself if that is fair to the consumer who would like to have a choice. Competition generally means lower prices to the consumer.

If Samsung wins then that means inventor’s ideas, even though they are protected by an international patent through the United States Patent Office, could be copied and mimicked by other countries and they could undercut your price by selling their knock-offs all over the world. That could mean higher prices moving forward as inventors try to protect their own interests as more lawsuits are filed. When companies have to pay attorney’s fees, the cost eventually trickles down to the consumer.

We have already seen many people in this country imprisoned or fined for selling knock-offs but those carried the same or a very similar logo. Many knock-offs are designed in such a way as to be indiscernible except by an expert.

Samsung’s Galaxy is clearly marked as a Galaxy, so what is the problem? The consumer will make their choices based on features most of the time; occasionally the decision is made on price. Regardless of who wins, these cases could set a precedent for future releases. Think about “You Didn’t Build That.” The comment that had so much recent press applies here. You can build something new out of components and patent the new device, but you have to pay the previous patent holders for using their components. What if you had to pay the patent holders for the nuts and bolts that put the device together? Even though other inventions were using the same components without paying the patent owner? Usage is implied in that case. You already pay to use them, when you buy those nuts and bolts in the marketplace. That is what the difference is between a design patent which is the look and feel and the software patents and chips inside that make the device do the work.

If every company has to have a software developer, a design team, a chip company, and the rest, new items would be slower coming to the marketplace. Costs would rise exponentially and we’d be back where we were when a personal computer cost over two thousand dollars. Normally a patent covers your invention for twenty years. The question is, with information technology, should the patent cover you for that long?

Apple pays Samsung for every component that is used in their iPhone 4 and other products. Samsung refuses to pay Apple for copying their design ideas. Samsung claims that without their technology and earlier patented designs, the iPhone wouldn’t even be possible. Among the earlier technology that Samsung wanted to be paid for was an Intel chip. Apple pays Intel for the chip; Intel has already paid Samsung for licensing of the patent; Samsung wants Apple to pay them for that usage even though the law is clear. Intel has paid for licensing the chip’s patents and is allowed to sell the chip to others. If Samsung is allowed to charge for that again, what are the consequences for all of the other companies that purchase the chip from Intel? This is patent exhaustion and Apple won the battle of the chip.

Apple claims that Samsung requested the iPhone, iPad and iPod products so that they could make sure their ideas would not infringe on the copyrights. If that is true and proven in court then they have clearly tried to design their Galaxy products to be similar but not exactly the same.
Many countries have already made their decisions. South Korea has decided not to carry either of the products ( ) while the Dutch have decided in favor of Samsung. The British court simply threw parts of the case out and ruled that the Galaxy Tab does not infringe on any of Apple’s patents. A California court decided in favor of Apple but Samsung has appealed that decision and the battle continues now in Washington.

With all of that being said, when one of the attorneys for Samsung was asked if he could tell the difference between the Apple iPad and the Samsung Galaxy 10.1 from across the room he said “Not at this distance, your honor.” Consumers say that they could tell the difference at the estimated ten feet so you would think that the attorney who is working for Samsung would be able to. I found a blog that had photos for a side by side comparison and it’s pretty sketchy.

Samsung’s most recent lawsuit is against Apple for technology used in the iPhone 5. The disputed technology falls under “software” which as you know is often shared by a lot of devices. The software includes the method to capture and share video, and the way to synchronize photos, video and music across multiple devices. These are advertised perks that come with the iPhone 5 and software falls under a special type of law called FRAND.

FRAND stands for “Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory” rights. Without the FRAND clause there is a lot we would not be able to do over the internet and across devices because Samsung owns about 30,000 US patents. Apple could be forced to pay Samsung but the price would have to be fair and reasonable, and they wouldn’t be able to charge more than they charge another company for similar usage.

This is a battle that Apple has won in US courts already as one judge stated that software and technology evolves at such a rapid rate, by the time the lawsuit is over there will be new technology and a new product on the market. The problem, he says, is that the laws were written for Pharmaceutical companies because they spend millions in research, development and testing before bringing a product to market. Software is rapidly discarded as new developments are made and the clause should not apply. He also accused Samsung of abusing US patent law.

The temporary US ban on Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 was lifted at the end of the California ruling in August 2012 ( ) because the Galaxy didn’t infringe on any of Apple’s design patents. Apple had won the case and Samsung was ordered to pay $1billion in damages. The resulting appeal hadn’t been filed yet, nor had Samsung’s suit over Apple’s iPhone 5. I have a feeling this will be going back and forth for a long time; the battle continues.

Pricing a Product

August 21st, 2012

Pricing a ProductPricing a product can be stressful and confusing. In many ways, it’s like walking a tightrope. Price it too high, and you fear scaring customers away. Price it too low, and your profit margins sag no matter how many you sell. What you really want is the “Goldilocks price”, the just-right price that enables you to sell as many products as possible as profitably as possible. So how do you get there?

The first step is to review our previous article “Estimating The Cost to Produce Your Product” if you have not yet done so. In this article, we advise researching your material and labor costs to determine what it costs in total to produce one product. At bare minimum, any price you assign to your product must incorporate this cost.

Of course, the goal of business is not to simply break even – it’s to make money! Then again, we already established that you cannot just add any old arbitrarily high amount to your price and hope to succeed. Here are some questions whose answers will tell you what price to settle on.

1)      What are your competitors charging? Don’t say that you have no competitors. You’re either not looking hard enough or (worse), there’s no market for your product. In all likelihood, you do have competitors. Even if they only sell a similar product, this can be used for comparison purposes. Once you determine who they are, find out what they are charging. No, this does not mean you have to automatically adopt their price as your price. That would be mindless and probably inaccurate. Rather, use the prices of your competitors as a starting point. At this stage, it may help to average your competitors’ prices together and use that as the starting point.

2)      How is your product different and better than your competitors? One of the biggest deciding factors in price setting is differentiation. In what ways is your product meaningfully better and different than that of your competitors? Too many inventors rush to say “we’ll charge less, and that’ll be our difference.” But unless you are in a true commodity market (like screws or lumber) this is a losing strategy. As the old saying goes “live by the cheapest price, die by the cheapest price.” A product whose only or primary selling point is “it’s the cheapest” will be displaced by anyone who comes along and undercuts you. Who wants that? As the developer of a specialized, difference-making product, you should be able to emphasize at least one meaningful attribute or quality that competing products lack. The more of these you have, the more you “de-commoditize” your product and can justify charging an appropriately higher price.

3)      What part of the market do you envision reaching? Different segments of customers often comprise and co-exist within given product category. For example, the broad category of “cars” includes economy cars, luxury vehicles, heavy-duty trucks, corporate fleets, etc. The category of “food” includes junk food, basic fruits and vegetables, frozen TV dinners, fine organic delicacies, and the like. The category your product falls into is probably divided along similar lines. There are products like yours for cheap/economy use, mid-range use, and premium/high-end use. Which segment your product occupies is largely a function of your product’s quality and desirability to that segment. If you say “I want to go after the high-end segment of the market”, you need a compelling reason(s) why that segment of people will pay a premium for your product. Lacking those reasons, you may fall into the mid-range or economy segments. Which one you settle into also influences what your price should be (and which competitors you should be comparing yourself to.)

4)      Do you want to sell a lot of your product for a low price, or a little of your product for a high price? Neither strategy is inherently better. What should determine your choice, again, is the nature of your product. If you are selling, say, a new kind of garage door opener, you will probably need to sell more openers to more people, at a lower price, to make a profit. But if you’re inventing a new laser engine turbine for factories, you will probably want to price this highly and focus on selling to a handful of big, long-term customers.

Should you strive for a low price?

We’ve already cautioned you against competing on price. But should you, in general, strive to have as low a price as possible? Probably not. Many entrepreneurs assume that since their product is new, unproven, or “beneath” an established brand, they should charge less. After all, how could they expect people to pay more? However, this is generally inaccurate. A product’s price changes people’s perception of it. If you truly see your product as being on par with or better than a competitor’s, the price needs to reflect that. Otherwise, the consumers you are trying to reach will equate your lower price with lower value or quality.

Concluding Thoughts

If this all sounds like a lot to consider, it is. Truth be told, pricing a product is one of the trickier tasks in business. There is no universally accepted “formula” or system for doing it. However, questions like these will get you thinking about the real and pressing factors that demand consideration in pricing.

Inside the United States Patent and Trademark Office

August 11th, 2012

united states patent and trademark officeThe USPTO is The United States Patent and Trademark Office, an agency of the Department of Commerce that is responsible for patent and trademark rules, regulation, and oversight.   Located in Alexandria, Virginia, the five interconnected buildings that comprise the office employ over 8,900 workers (  Recently, the USPTO opened a satellite office in Detroit, Michigan.  There are also new plans to open four regional U.S. patent offices in Dallas, Denver, and Silicon Valley to spur on growth in the American economy as well as to create jobs.  The opening off these satellite offices will also help to speed up the process of obtaining patents and trademarks.

The U.S. Patent System

To start a discussion of the U.S. Patent System, it is important to understand how the process of obtaining a patent works.  There are three types of patents for which an applicant can file.  These include: Design patent (ornamental characteristics), utility patent (useful process, machine, article of manufacture, composition of matter), and a plant patent (new variety of asexually produced plant) (  If the invention has not been patented, the correct application is filled out.  If international protection is needed, the inventor will file globally.  Paperwork for the United States is then filled out, and an inventor can either file by themselves or use the recommended route of using a registered attorney or agent.  Electronic filing is also an option.  From this point, the United States Patent and Trademark Office will review the patent application.  If the patent is allowed, the applicant will be charged an issue and publication fee, the USPTO will grant the patent, and there are maintenance fees due 3 ½, 7 ½, and 11 ½ years after the patent is granted.

The maintenance fees that will be incurred must be paid in full in order for an inventor to keep their patent.  These fees are subject to any patents that were filed on December 12, 1980 and after.  If an inventor fails to pay the maintenance fee, they will receive a Notice of Expiration and their expired patent will be posted online under Official Gazette Notices and “Notice of Expiration of Patents Due to Failure to Pay Maintenance Fee.”  Maintenance fees can be paid online, by mail, or by fax by using a credit card, deposit account, or EFT account (or check/money order if by mail).

USPTO Revenue

The USPTO’s earned revenue is “derived from the fees collected for patent and trademark products and services” (  There has been a steady incline of earned revenue for the USPTO, as seen from the yearly figures from 2004-2007.  In 2007, the total earned revenue was $1,735.7 million, whereas in 2004, it was $1,230 million.  The percentage charge in patent earned revenue has fluctuated, from 8.8% in 2004, 9.6% in 2005, 15.6% in 2006, and 8.9% in 2007.  The percentage of change in trademark earned revenue has also varied during that time.  It was 7.2% in 2004, 19.5% in 2005, 20.1% in 2006, and 8.8% in 2007.

Ideally, the more patents that are filed, the more revenue the USPTO will receive each year.  Since inventors have to pay for their patents initially and at three other marked intervals, the USPTO is capitalizing heavily off of inventors in the States.  Below is the USPTO’s table for 2007 Patent Revenue by fee type (

One can see from the chart that the maintenance of patents is the largest slice of revenue for the USPTO.  Together, maintenance fees, initial application fees, search and examination fees, and issue fees make up over 83% of total patent income (  In 2007, maintenance fees were up 10.4%, or $51.1 million more than they were in 2006.  The USPTO notes that due to patent renewal rates slightly increasing from years 2004 to 2007, the increased revenue trend is likely to continue.

With the rise in USPTO total revenue, it is also no surprise that the number of patent applications filed in the U.S. have raised steadily over the past decade.  For example, in 2001, 345,732 patent applications were received by the USPTO.  By 2010, that number skyrocketed to 520,277 filed patent applications.  From year to year, there has been a steady increase of applications, but there was an especially high increase from years 2009 to 2010, where numbers of applications jumped from 482,871 to 520,277 (

Patents Issued by the USPTO

Of course, the number of patents issued by the USPTO is not the same as the number of patents applied for by inventors.  As of February 2006, a total of 7 million patents have been issued by the USPTO . To put this in perspective, 244,341 patents were issued of the 520,277 applied for in 2010.  This figure is under half of the filed applications that the USPTO received.  Patent applications can be turned down for a variety of reasons—copyright infringement standing high atop the list.  However, there is a steady gain in the amount of applicants and patents.  The USPTO is in the process of opening satellite offices in hopes of reaching out to more inventors and making their services more accessible.

The number of patents created in the United States varies from state to state.  For example, California’s inventors have had a grand total of 60,830 patents between the years 2010 and 2011, with a 2.2% increase in patent numbers (  Smaller in number is South Dakota, with 188 total patents in the two year span, but with a 29.3% increase in the number of patents issued.  Vermont had 668 patents in 2010 and 536 in 2011, showing a 19.8% decrease in the number of patents obtained.  These are just a few examples to show the largely uneven distribution of patents that occur from state to state.

The USPTO has a well-developed website, where inventors have access to a wealth of patent and trademark information.  There is everything from public users’ meeting minutes, web fillable forms, to intellectual property law and policy information.  Perhaps one of the most useful tools is the website’s ability to search for patents and trademarks.  This is invaluable for inventors and can help them tweak or rethink their inventions before spending money on the patenting process.  In the long run, this feature will save inventors money, but may make create less revenue for the USPTO.  However, it will also boost the efficiency of the ever-expanding organization.


August 10th, 2012

JOBS ACTThe American Jobs (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act, also known more simply as the Jobs Act was a series of bills that were formally proposed to a joint session of Congress to jumpstart the economy, presented in a televised speech that aired in 2011. The legislation, written by the Obama administration, was supported by many Democrats and Republican legislators. The Jobs Act recieved support from both the Senate and House of Representatives and was signed into law in April of 2012.

This bill, which totals in $447 billion in provisions, does many things in an attempt to boost the American economy. The Jobs Act will cut $245 billion in payroll taxes, boost spend of $62 billion to expand programs whose purpose is to put people back to work, continue to offer unemployment benefits for 6 million people who have been out of work for a long term period as well as providing an $8 billion dollar tax credit for those who fall into the long term unemployment category. In addition to these crucial items, the Jobs Act will pay $5 billion into the Pathways Back to Work Fund, $50 billion into infrastructure, $30 billion in job protection for teachers, police officers and other civic workers, $30 billion into school modernization, and $15 billion into hiring construction workers to refurbish foreclosed homes.

The National Infrastructure Bank

The Jobs Act, monetary goals aside, also looked to establish the National Infrastructure Bank, which serves the goal of funding infrastructure projects, the creation of an wireless network to expand high speed service, stricter regulations against businesses who discriminated against those who had been unemployed for the long term, and making it easiter for small businesses throughout the country to implement crowdfunding.

JOBS ACT and the SEC

The American Jobs Act is crucial for the economy, hit hard by the recession and the housing and financial collapse of 2008. The ability to crowdfund, making it easy for small businesses to go IPO and providing modernized more relevant rules for established private companies are just a few reasons why this piece of legislation is so important. From the date of signing, the American Jobs Act gave 90 days (or until July 4th) to implement changes that were made to the Securities Act Rule 506 and other advertising and security legislation, which was a deadline that was not met, but is a work in progress. The SEC, the Securities and Exchange Commission, is looking t0 release the first slew of rules that target solicitation of investors for small businesses, which is said to be completed in the middle of August of 2012.

The larger, more comprehensive set of rules on crowdfunding are the next big deadline markered in the legislation, and are due in January of next year. By all reports, the SEC has stated that they will be able to meet this larger deadline. Until the upcoming January 2013 deadline, no other major dates in the legislation are upcoming. One piece of the Jobs Act that will directly impact small businesses around the country, which will be finalized in 2013, is the cap on public investment and who is allowed to invest in startups. Prior to this Act being passed, it was very difficult for companies to seek investors. Now, more people who are considered accredited investors, or most of the general public, will be able to invest and provide funds to startups that need every investment that they can get.

JOBS ACT and Crowdfunding

As a business owner, one of the biggest benefits that this legislation will provide you, is the power to crowdfund. What is crowdfunding, you ask? Well, crowdfunding is when individuals, in this case startup business owners, tap into their resources and industry networks using social media and the web to raise funds for their business. Crowdfunding is used in many contemporary fundraising efforts, including disaster relief for Hurricane Katrina, political campaigns and even software development. With the small business owner in mind, legislators looked to create a list of Crowdfunding Rules, which will allow business owners to implement this method to generate much needed capital for their businesses.

SEC Approved Crowdfunding Platforms

Once finalized, small business owners will be able to use SEC-approved platforms to crowdfund, which allows money to be donated by anyone who believes in the business. Through crowdfunding, according to the bill, these business owners will have a cap of $1 million per year that can be raised via crowdfunding, will looking to minimize financial risk. To minimize this risk, the amount an individual donater can invest will be determined by their income. For investors in the income bracket of less than $100K will be able to donate up to 5% per year and for those who make more than $100K, they will be able to invest up to 10% per year. To further protections within this $1 million dollar cap, small businesses will be required to post consumer protection materials on their crowdfunding sites. In terms of company stock, the Act also eliminated the shareholder rule, which stated that only a company could only have 500 shareholders, before it registered with the SEC. Companies will now have the opportunity to sell up to $50 million in shares, and have more than 1,000 investors before going public with the SEC.

Intellectual Property

August 9th, 2012

Intellectual PropertyDo you have any intellectual property? And, if you do how much is it worth?  Most of us have ideas or at least thoughts about how we might do something either differently from how it’s done today or how we might do something totally new.  When you go through a formal process of describing what it is you have in mind, how to do what you are thinking, and write it all down, that final form of your idea can be considered intellectual property.  The idea behind intellectual property – especially as it relates to patent laws and processes – is to capture your ideas in a more formal property sense.  Patents are then designed to protect your rights to that intellectual property.

Comparable Intellectual Property Valuations

Another way to think about intellectual property is in relation to real or physical property. If you own a house or piece of land, you are a property owner. That ownership comes with certain rights and privileges according to current property law. You are free to lease, modify, sell, or otherwise use your own property as you see fit, and no one can take those rights away without due legal process.  The same applies to your intellectual property. You own it and have the right to lease, sell, modify or use it as you want. Once intellectual property is protected by patent, you also have the right to exclude others from making or creating something the same as or similar to what you have generated.

Type of Intellectual Property

Is your intellectual property creative or related to an invention? In other words, what type of intellectual property do you own?  One of the current distinctions in intellectual property law, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), is between industrial property and copyrights. Industrial intellectual property most often pertains to “inventions (patents), trademarks, industrial designs, and geographic indications of source” while copyrights apply to “literary and artistic works such as novels, poems and plays, films, musical works, artistic works such as drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures, and architectural designs”.  For the most part, patents and patent law along with the implied protection of intellectual property rights that go with patents applies to industrial property. It’s difficult to imagine a patent being awarded for music, plays, films, or artistic works.  These creative and artistic properties are typically unique and individualistic. However, equipment, tools, and other things used by artists and musicians have received patents – for example, the Stratocaster electric guitar from Fender received a patent award in 1960.

What can you do with your intellectual property? Just like most other forms of property, you can rent it, sell it, keep it, or use it just about any way you like. Most intellectual property can be thought of as an asset, like most other forms of property.  Putting a value on that asset can sometimes be a challenge, but finance professionals can be engaged to help assess the true market value or worth of your intellectual property. Once you have the intellectual property documented and protected (or patented), you can begin to use it like any other asset. Banks will sometimes lend money based on the value of intellectual property.  Investors will often use intellectual property to evaluate alternative investments or stock purchases.  And, assuming you created the intellectual property in the first place because you had a good idea about how to do something, you can use it as a basis for new products, new companies, or new innovations.

Follow Proper Steps to Avoid Theft, Intrusion, and Misuse

Your ideas and creative thinking are the beginning of your intellectual property. Documenting and describing your ideas, how they work, and what you want to do, all need to be done to capture the idea in a usable form.  Building the intellectual property should be a formal and detailed process just like you would use if you were building a house. You wouldn’t use a poor foundation, cheap materials or leave the roof off of your house if you wanted to have value in the property you are building. The same applies to intellectual property – build it to the best of your ability and use the best materials or inputs you can find.  Once you are finished with the building and have your intellectual property defined, protection and valuations can be addressed. Valuations and the worth of your intellectual property can be properly assessed and estimated, just as if you had an inspector look at a house you built.  And, patents and the patent aware process are there to help protect your rights to the property you have created – protecting you from theft, intrusion and misuse.