Happy Halloween

For your amusement, here are a few Halloween-related patents:

US Patent No. 5,222,802 to Beck

US Patent No. 6,001,434 to Zinbarg et al.

US Patent No. 5,195,638 to Zinbarg

Limewire File Sharing Site Shut Down

First there was Napster, then there was Grockster, each file sharing sites shut down for violations of copyright.  Now Lime Wire joins the group.

Today federal judge Kimba Wood ordered Lime Wire shut down, and as the information on Lime Wire’s corporate web site indicates, the site has indeed shut down.

The issue in the case (and other like it) is whether providing the tools to users to share copyrighted material constitutes a violation of copyright laws.   Judge Wood ruled that Lime Wire was guilty of inducing copyright infringement and vicarious copyright infringement.

An excellent discussion of the legal issues in this case can be found at the New Leaf Legal Blog.

Facebook Receives Geo-Location Patent

Soon you may be able to use your mobile device to see which of your Facebook friends is geographically nearby.  Well, at least that is the subject matter claimed by Facebook’s recently issued patent entitled “Systems and methods for automatically locating web-based social network members”.

Claim 1 recites:

A method of sharing locations of users participating in a social networking service at a geographic location, the method executed by a computer system and comprising:

    receiving location information and status information from a mobile device of a first user of the social networking service, the location information representing a geographic location of the first user, the status information manually provided by the first user on an input module of the mobile device;
    associating the location information with the status information of the first user in a database; and
    sending the status information and the location information of the first user to a second user for display.

Amazon.com v. Canada

Amazon's One-Click Feature

In an important decision for those interested in perusing patent protection in Canada, the the Federal Court of Canada reversed a decision by the Canadian Patent Office that business methods represent unpatentable subject matter.

The decision concerned Amazon.com’s famous one-click method for paying for items in an online shopping cart (see above).  This patent was issued in the United States (and later was reissued after being challenged by a third party).  (Interestingly, in Europe, Amazon filed a patent application for the one-click invention and it was considered to represent patentable subject matter.  The European patent application was rejected on other grounds).

Amazon v. Canada (2010 FC 1011) can be accessed here.

The Levytator

Escalators have been around for about 150 years, the first patented escalator being issued to Nathan Ames in 1859.   Also called a “moving staircase”, the basic design has been to move people up or down in a linear fashion.  That is, until now.  Meet the Levytator, the world’s first escalator that can negotiate turns.  The inventor, Prof. John Levy, teaches mechanical engineering at City University in London.  His device is the subject of U.S. Patent No. 6,899,216.  Here is claim 1 of Levy’s patent:

1. An escalator for negotiating curves comprising a plurality of steps disposed sequentially in a curved path along which the steps are driven,

    each step having a head with a leading and a trailing edge in the direction of movement of the escalator,

    wherein the treads are shaped such that the trailing edge of the head of one step is curved to match a corresponding curve of the leading edge of the tread of the subsequent step, so that the steps fit together as they move about the curved path,

    and each step:

    a. is adapted to rotate about a vertical axis through the step, wherein the vertical axes between adjacent steps are restrained relative to each other to have a fixed horizontal distance; and

    b. each step is adapted to vertically translate with respect to the vertical axes of its adjacent steps.

This is a nice broad claim that should provide valuable protection to the inventor… and it just goes to show that when you’ve truly invented something original and pioneering, broad patent protection may be available!

Miscelaneous IP Nuggets #2

Several developments at the Patent Office are worth noting:

1)  Effective October 1st, the Patent Office has revised its operating structure.  Two new “offices” reporting to Director Kappos have been created:  Office of Chief Communications (which will be involved with public affairs) and Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity.  Most importantly, the reorganization now places the Board of Appeals and Interferences (BPAI) directly under Kappos (rather than the Office of General Council).  It appears also that changes will be made to ensure that the backlog at the BPAI is reduced.  The revised operating structure at the Patent Office is shown here.

2) As mentioned in an earlier post, the stated goal of the Patent Office was to reduce backlog of new patent applications to below 700,000 by the end of the 2010 Fiscal Year (which ended on September 30th).   According to a source at the Patent Office, it appears that this goal was not quite reached.  Meanwhile, the “Patent Dashboard” still has stats for August…..

3) It has been reported that the Chief Judge of the BPAI has left that position to assume another in top management at the Patent Office.  Accordingly, the position of Chief Judge is vacant…. and needs to be filled.