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Lessons from Alice in Patent-Land

Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. V. CLS Bank International et. al.. What are the takeaways of this decision?

Here, in a summary form, are five lessons we can learn from Alice:

  1. Financial methods, even if computerized, are not patentable when well-known methods are merely implemented on a generic computer.

Meet the Biggest Patent Troll of All: Microsoft

This is not the first instance of a major, high-tech corporation asserting patents for inventions it did not invent and does not practice. This is simply the most recent instance of a major, high-tech corporation asserting patents for inventions it did not invent and does not practice. 

Tesla Tosses its Patents: Do­-Good or Do­-Well Strategy?

If you want to join the Open Source movement, hop aboard an electric car for a ride. Or so says Tesla. Yesterday they opened their patents to all. Their press release begins with a dramatic statement, “Yesterday, there was a wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of our Palo Alto headquarters. That is no longer the case. They have been removed, in the spirit of the open source movement.”

What Would Atticus Do?

Last year, Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the Monroe County Heritage Museum in Monroeville, Alabama. The suit claimed unauthorized use of Lee’s name on souvenirs sold by the museum. 

Wearable Computing Must Be the Next Big Thing!

Microsoft recently paid between $150 and $200 million (based on different press reports) to acquire the Osterhout Design Group. The purpose for the acquisition was Osterhout’s treasure trove of “wearable computer” patents. 

Timing is Everything

As the litigation drags on between Apple and Samsung and each side accuses the other of various acts of infringement, every once in a while an interesting bit of information comes to light. This month, Apple explained that it is entitled to $2.2 billion in damages because of...timing.

Beastie Boys Prevail in Copyright Dispute with GoldieBlox

Remember the toymakers who used a Beastie Boys song without permission and then filed suit against the band when they were asked to stop using the song? (see "GoldieBlox and the Three Beasties").

GoldieBlox had argued that their usage of the Beastie Boys' song "Girls" was fair use because it was a "parody" - actually, that they intended it to transform the song into "a powerful anthem for girls" (with an accompanying video that, conveniently, features little girls playing with GoldieBlox products).

Everything's Bigger in Texas

It recently came to light that Texas-based MPHJ Technology Investments has sent an astounding 16,465 letters to small businesses, requesting that they pay a license fee of $1,000 per worker or face a patent infringement lawsuit. And we know this, in part, because MPHJ has now filed suit against the Federal Trade Commission.

GoldieBlox and the Three Beasties

One of this holiday season's most anticipated gifts is an engineering toy set marketed to girls. The GoldieBlox building sets got a lot of attention from a promotional video that the company released on the Internet and that went viral.

And then the GoldieBlox folks got even more attention because they had used a Beastie Boys song in their video without getting permission from the two surviving members of the band.

Top Secret!

An inventor who approached the U.S. Army with an idea for a "mysterious acoustic wave propagation machine" has been barred by the Army from even talking about the invention, much less filing a patent application on it. And that inventor, Bruce Horton, has now filed a lawsuit against the Army in a California federal court - accusing the Army of having his patent application "illegally frozen and not reviewed nor allowed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office."