Wednesday, December 27, 2017

12 Patents of Christmas Past

Entertaining to follow some of the patents of Christmas past. Here's something for you to be entertained by as you look into the new year of 2018.

12 Christmas related patents by AboveTheLaw. My favorite is the Santa kit, with big boot pattern and special instructions on how to leave out food and drink, but make sure to sample it well, to show proof positive that there really is a Santa, to those young, skeptical minds.

The USPTO had the 12 days of Christmas, which was pretty entertaining. I went back to review them, only to find that they were gone. Hmmm... Maybe the USPTO is not supposed to have fun.
But, look for the tweets #12DaysOfPatents ...

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Dodgy YayYo IPO advertised on TV - Business Insider

YayYo IPO advertised on TV - Business Insider:

Dodgy is probably the best term for Yay Yo IPO, for the inner circle, and for the product-less crowdfunding approach using the JOBS act.

In the true spirit of a pyramid scheme, Yah Yo has the promise of a product, but there is little or no "there" there.

They are selling the business model that they will tie in all the ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft into an integrated interface that gives you the best pricing. They generally imply that the BIG 2 unicorns will happily interface with Yay Yo. However, the two world-wide rideshares have insisted that Yay Yo cease and desist from any implicates of partnership.

So, they say, they will work with the largest 3 to 100 ride share companies. In the US, Uber is down to about 74% with Lyft at about 24%... leaving about 2% for the other players. (See here how Uber's fortunes have fallen from 91%, including a #deleteUber campaign based on a Trump backlash.)

The talking head spokesperson/expert in the video is J Peterson from Sienfeld fame, a show about nothing, seems appropriate... An IPO about nothing.

Comparing to Uber or Lyft that actually produce something and have lots of intellectual property (like patents and such) at their disposal, seems a bit like a reach. People from near and far, think that the advertising of the investment, not the product, is mostly misleading and far from the truth. Taking excess advantage of the Wild-Wild west for small investors made available for low regulation (near no regulation) IPO thanks to the 2012 Jumpstart our Business Startups, or JOBS Act.

Want to hear an overview of the investor requirements for this "Regulation A+" investment, straight from Elaine's dodgy boss from Seinfeld look at the bottom right of this page: 
Consider carefully signing up though.

There should be no comfort in investing in a guy who was banned from public IPO for 5 years because of wildly risky and/or criminal acts in a publicly traded company in the past.

You read through the SEC filings to see if this is a IPO scam, a dodgy crowdfund, or simply an uber-risky pink-unicorn investment.

On the plus side, the Business Insider article that started this blog post, YayYo IPO advertised on TV - Business Insider:, is a wonderful overview of the whole JOBS act and really good uses of it to fund smaller businesses and give smaller investors an opportunity to play. Companies that seem to have real products and interesting market niches are Elio and Knightscope. "Regulation A+ IPOs include Elio Motors, which is working on an inexpensive three-wheeled car, and Knightscope, which designs robotic security systems."

Ironically, Uber (global) and Lyft (US only) are both private companies, not public, valued at approximately $68B  and $7.5B, respectively. Real revenues in 2016 of about $6.5B and $700m.

Uber has 298 US patents in force with 117 applications pending (via PatentBuddy), amassing a serious war chest organically and through acquisition. Not just anybody is gonna go jump into this market.

Lyft got their first patent issued in Sept 31 of 2016 for music preferences ("jukebox") and its second patent for "ride chaining" almost exactly a year later. The ride chaining patent is about a pickup and drop-off sequence, weaving through a rough terrain of of (Uber) patents.

I vote for dodge the dodgy, IPO or no.

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Monday, November 20, 2017

Welcoming and Commending New Patent Legislation

The America Invents Act (AIA) was passed in 2011 and we are about to start the eighth year since its inception. (See description here included such changes as a move to “first to file” from “first to invent”.) Intellectual Property time since then has been, to say the least, tumultuous.  We have seen significant Supreme Court decisions, the rise and spread of the troll as an intimidator of patent-owning small and medium size businesses and infringement litigation run wild.  “Beware of the law of unintended consequences.”
In response to these and other post AIA problems, Senator Patrick Coons (D-DE) introduced the “Support Technology and Research for our Nation’s Growth and Economic Resilience (Stronger) Patents Act.” Co- sponsors include Tom Cotton (R-AR), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mazio Hirono (D-HI).
There is a lot in the bill as one can see in the article.  But, one condition not covered is that of patent examiners.  First, funding is needed to significantly increase the numbers of examiners as annual patent applications increase and overwhelm the existing workforce.  Second, the increasingly complex and variety of technologies in patent applications, such as Artificial Intelligence, make it imperative that highly educated people be hired, and trained. Plus pay and benefits must be competitive to keep them working at the Patent Office, not jumping ship into the private sector.
Third, the incidence rate of infringement claims that ultimately lead to patent invalidity is much too high.  USPTO time and expenses incurred to settle claims in a drain on the organization and cause delays in getting valid products to market.  New techniques, more training, special masters or other aids such as special computer systems (WATSON-like) are needed to insure that patent claims are validated and not infringing issued patents.  “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Thursday, June 29, 2017

For a More Productive Workforce, Scientific Know-How Helps - WSJ

For a More Productive Workforce, Scientific Know-How Helps - WSJ:

So a plant run without scientists and engineers will be 4.4% less productive. This might be for several reasons, but most likely because off efficiency. Scientists are always trying to figure out a better way to do stuff.

It is good to have empirical evidence to support the value of scientists outside of the labs. Engineers could help improve the entire production and supply chain.

Here is the working paper: NBER Working Paper№23484, “The Effects of Scientists and Engineers on Productivity and Earnings
at the Establishment Where They Work,” June 2017, by Erling Barth, James C. Davis, Richard
B. Freeman, and Andrew J. Wang.

There's several questions that would be interesting to know. All would require a much more careful read of the paper. Why would companies have plants that do not have scientists and engineers? These are outside of the labs where basic research is done.

Hall & Hinkelman (2013) argue that a cross section of the organization would be use starting early in the basic research stage and going all the way through to production. This Enabling Technology Unit (ETU) team would include engineers, scientists and marketing folks. Since they would be working together, it would not make much difference if the scientist/engineer was in the lab or in the factory/plant.

Maybe the ETU approach would offer even more efficiencies than those found by moving some scientists into the plant.


Hall, E. B. & Hinkelman, R. M. (2013). Perpetual Innovation™: A guide to strategic
planning, patent commercialization and enduring competitive advantage, Version
. Morrisville, NC: LuLu Press.
Retrieved from:

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Even with patents, the past can be prologue

      One might characterize the patent market of the past several years as a herd of elephants fighting over the last leaves on a tree.  This might be somewhat crude to many but a scan of the landscape of Fortune-100 corporations spending millions litigating accusations of infringement or suing for infringement makes a case.  Or, the flooding of the PTAB with requests for IPR (inter partes review procedure) to determine patent validity also makes a case.  Turmoil and conflict are the (dis) order of the day among the patent fortresses.  Unfortunately, the considerable ripple effect created reaches to the startup company attempting to file its first application.
     “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come”, said Victor Hugo roughly the same time as the sewing machine patent wars of the 1850s were raging.  The pre-Civil War sewing machine was a disruptive technology comparable today to smart phones, driverless cars and retail sales on the Internet.  There were numerous inventors of the machine and devices that improved it all with patents.  You know what happened- each machine sold infringed on a number of patents.  Elias Howe didn’t make sewing machines.  He licensed his patent on the lockstitch to sewing machine manufacturers.
     There were suits and countersuits by the score matching the complexity for their time as the suits of today.  They were heard by judges and juries largely unschooled in the technology.  Relative peace and calm came in 1856 when the patent owners created the first patent pool.  Fast forward to today, Article by TechCrunch.  Patent pools handle basic building block and Standards patents for a selected product. The reference here is to the data transmission protocols for transmitting high density digital audio content that makes up the Advances Audio Coding (AAC) patent pool administered by Via Licensing Corp of San Francisco.  Dolby, AT&T, Philips, Microsoft, NEC, Panasonic are among those participating.
     This is compensation (revenue) beats litigation (legal and court costs).  Net savings can be substantial.  The patent wars are different today – smart phones, batteries, DNA twiddling, drug targeting. History repeats itself… Sort of.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Supreme Court Limits Where Patent Lawsuits Can Be Filed - WSJ

Supreme Court Limits Where Patent Lawsuits Can Be Filed - WSJ:

Yeah. It's a victory. Maybe a big victory, time will tell.

It seems that 20% or more of the patent infringement lawsuits are filed in a small corner of Texas. Even though there's not really anything there except maybe a bogus office. But, it is a very friendly district for winning law suits by non-practicing entities (NPE) against real companies that make stuff. Such patent assertion entities (PAEs) are often ungraciously referred to as "Patent Trolls".

See our prior discussion on patent trolls.

But the US Supreme court has change the rules that funneled frivolous law suits on patents into these bogus home court districts.

As much as it is good to see patents being used, and enforced, there needs to be a balance. Companies have been paying off frivolous patent assertion law suits because it is too time consuming and expensive to fight; especially if the suit would occur in a distant venue that is famously friendly to the trolls that lurk there.

Way to go supreme court.

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Quality, excellence and (Perpetual) Innovation

Quality Improvement programs like TQM are a key part of building a sustainable competitive advantage for companies. Every couple years there is an improvement or a new flavor of TQM, like six sigma and lean six sigma.

Talking about quality... The Baldrige Program is a rather cool program for improving the process of quality in an organization... Brought to you from the US Department of Commerce through the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Download the 2017-2018 Baldrige Excellence Builder.

easyInsight Assessment for:
There's a discussion at NIST about why you would use the Baldrige Program vs other Total Quality Management (TQM) programs. Generally, they suggest using Baldrige for the over planning and processes, but use lean for the the continuous improvement.

There's an interesting article about TQM programs and implementation of them by Fleming-Farrell, Hall and Blando (2014). It summarizes two TQM-type studies, one focuses on the top of the organization, the other on the six-sigma practitioner. From the top view, there seems to be no correlation between the number TQM-type programs and the performance of them; so going to the next flavor of TQM does not necessarily do much, it is the care and feeding that goes into your quality program that makes the difference.

Oh, and there is almost no relationship between the participation in six sigma and compensation. Black belts get a little more pay, but generally there is no pay increase for working harder and longer at quality improvement. Of course the skill and skill set might prompt a six sigma practitioner, after training and experience, to jump ship and take a big raise elsewhere.
Maybe awards and recognition might help?

Glad you asked, there is also the Baldrige Award.
Or, in Florida, the Florida Sterling Award

Top-down vs Bottom-up Planning. The issue that is often observed about the world of TQM is that it is generally a bottom-up planning tool. Great for managing the factory and incremental improvements. But disruptive innovation and strategic planning, not so useful. Hall and Hinkelman (2013, 2017) approach top-down planning with their Perpetual Innovation(tm) series of books. But they integrate bottom-up planning into the process as well. It really makes no difference where the great ideas come from, provided the organization is in a position to recognize 'em and take advantage of them. Even the best laid plans (of mice and men) must be well executed. Baldrige seems like a perfect way of managing with clear alignment through the organization either in stable state, or transitioning through incremental change.

Want to go to the theater and watch videos? Check them out here: Youtub Videos (popcorn not provided).

Hall, E. B. & Hinkelman, R. M. (2013). Perpetual Innovation™: A guide to strategic planning, patent commercialization and enduring competitive advantage, Version 2.0. Morrisville, NC: LuLu Press. ISBN: 978-1-304-11687-1  Retrieved from:

Hall, E. B. & Hinkelman, R. M. (2017). Perpetual Innovation™: Patent primer 3.1e: Patents, the great equalizer of our time! An overview of intellectual property with patenting cost estimates for inventors and entrepreneurs.  [Amazon Kindle eBook].  ASIN: B01MS53JC5 Retrieved from:   
Fleming-Farrell, L., Hall, E., & Blando, J. (2014, Spring).  Implementation of new TQM programs, communications, and adapting to change. In C. A. Lentz (Ed.), The refractive thinker: Vol. 8: Effective business practices for motivation and communication (pp. 159-181). Las Vegas, NV: The Refractive Thinker© Press.