The next patent battleground: your dinner table

When you think of intellectual property the first things that come to mind are likely cutting edge technology firms: Intel, Apple, Google, Oracle. It’s doubtful you’d suspect the cut of meat you’re eating at dinner was subject to patent. The people over at Oklahoma State University (OSU) didn’t let that stop them from patenting a process involving a new cut of steak.

Jacob Nelson, a “value-added meat-processing specialist,” (the best job title I’ve ever come across) at OSU’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center, deserves credit for creating what has now been dubbed the “Vegas Strip Steak.” The new cut of beef is supposed to be very similar to the New York Strip in both flavor and tenderness and has “little connective tissue or visible fat.”

Given how long humans have been eating cows it comes as a shock to many that a new cut could be found. According to Nelson, the Vegas Strip steak will likely be the last cut found on a cow and will be one of the first to receive its own patent. The patent is currently pending, and, as such, the university is keeping quiet about the exact location of the meat, only saying that it comes from a section of a beef carcass that previously ended up as hamburger.

Nelson says OSU’s goal s to attract attention for the steak and drum up interest from restaurant chains. The school intends to partner with major meat packing plants and will charge a licensing fee to the plant in exchange for their services.

Some may be perplexed about how a person could patent meat and the matter deserves some clarification. The meat isn’t actually the subject of the patent as the university explained. “The patent actually claims the kind of knife strokes that you make in order to create this cut of meat.”

This is referred to as a patent on a process and isn’t actually new. Many existing software and business methodss also patent processes. The novelty is that this process involves cutting up a cow. In the future what process might others decide to patent? Hairdressing? Make-up application? Oil changes? Only time will tell.

Source:Google, Vegas Strip Steak, Microsoft: Intellectual Property,” by Victoria Slind-Flor, published at Businessweek.com.

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Rhode Island Gets Into the Videogame Business

New Patent Exchange For Exchanging Patent Rights

Rhode Island Gets Into the Videogame Business

38 Studios, the videogame company behind the success of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, is said to have missed payroll earlier this week and recent reports indicate the company’s financial condition has only deteriorated further. It was just announced that the company defaulted on a $1.125 million loan guarantee payment that was due on May 1st to the State of Rhode Island.

Joystiq reported on the terms of the deal, which put a $75 million loan guarantee in the owner’s, former Major League pitcher Curt Schilling’s, hands in exchange for moving the studio to Rhode Island. The goal was to create 450 jobs for the economically battered state. The company put up its existing and in-production intellectual property as collateral. Given the odd terms of the agreement this means that if 38 Studios doesn’t quickly rectify its financial problems Rhode Island will soon be the proud owners of a series of popular role-playing games.

38 Studios’ intellectual property rights and other collateral were pledged to the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC) and assigned to a trustee. Any proceeds made from the sale of the collateral would go back to the holders of the $75 million in bonds issued by the state. The agreement covers “all rights, title and interest in any projects, including video game projects,” such as Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and “Project Copernicus” – the latest title in development at the studio.

While the state could sell off the intellectual property of 38 Studios to recoup some its investment, it’s unlikely that a sale will cover the $50 million already pumped into the studio. Given Rhode Island’s lack of experience developing successful video games it will likely move for an expedient end, taking a lower than market value payment to close the matter quickly. Practically speaking, assets sold after repossession are usually a fire sale situation and rarely break even.

The unraveling of the deal represents a failure not only for the company but also for the state’s attempt at economic development. Reports indicate that only 288 of the 450 promised jobs were ever created in Providence. The big question on many Rhode Islanders minds is what happened to all the money?

Breaking down the numbers, the studio not only blew through the almost $50 million it’s drawn down from the loan to date, but also any revenues from the sales of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning which has thus far sold some 410,000 units in the U.S. alone. The startup costs, not to mention the ongoing maintenance, server needs and marketing to make a game succeed evidently burned through tons of cash.

The Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation held an emergency meeting yesterday to determine the fate of 38 Studios. At Schilling’s request, the meeting was held in private, a decision which irritated many taxpayers in the state. The loan to the studio was already a hotly contested issue with residents worried about being left on the hook should the company go belly-up, a prescient worry given the current state of affairs. No decision was made at the meeting and no comment has been issued so far by 38 Studios.

Source:Rhode Island owns Amalur, all other 38 Studios intellectual property if studio defaults,” by Alexander Sliwinski, published at Joystiq.com.

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New Patent Exchange For Exchanging Patent Rights

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New Patent Exchange For Exchanging Patent Rights

The Intellectual Property Exchange International (IPXI) is a new financial exchange that allows companies to buy, sell and hedge patent rights. The idea behind the new approach is to commoditize intellectual property and trade it as if it were any other asset.

The idea is to offer a patent or collection of patents which will be sold as “unit license rights” (ULRs), which can be bought and sold like shares of stock. The purchase of a ULR will entitle a one-time right to use a certain technology in a single product.

The hope is that the marketplace allowing buyers and sellers to interact directly with one another will make things easier, faster and cheaper than the current process which involves drawn out negotiations between teams of highly paid attorneys. The current process makes it difficult if not impossible for medium companies to participate given the high cost, something the IPXI market intends to remedy. The approach is not a panacea and will not work for all varietiesof intellectual property, for example, exclusive licensing situations.

IPXI has already signed up 30 members including electronics powerhouse Philips. Ruud Peters, chief intellectual-property officer at Philips, said that IPXI’s novel approach is ideal for the open, non-exclusive licensing of smartphone-related patents and is excited by the prospect. The exchange is set to open later this year. Though it may bring good news for technology companies,the plan could spell trouble for the legal industry.

Source:Marketplace of ideas,” published at Economist.com.

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Who owns ideas in the “Cloud”?

Anti-Software Patent Rhetoric Heats Up After Yahoo v. Facebook

Who owns ideas in the “Cloud”?

In the Information Age the definition of “property rights” has shifted to include things you might not have initially considered. Ideas are now more accessible than ever and it’s critical to understand who owns them.

The issue was raised recently when, as the Los Angeles Times reported, Google announced that its Google Drive came with the promise that users will “retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content.” However, when a user save files to Google’s hard-drive folder in the cloud, the terms of service you sign off on grant Google “a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works, communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute [your] content.” No questions asked.

When questioned about the inconsistency and the IP problems the language presented Google responded by saying that the provision exists only to “enable us to give you the services you want – so if you decide to share a document with someone, or open it on a different device, you can.” Sounds simple enough, but is it?

Recently many companies have added language to their terms of use saying much the same thing, potentially granting intellectual property rights over vast troves of data. Email providers, photo-sharing services, social networks, and document hosting firms may all have authority to do as they please with the information you entrust to them. One shocking example occurred in 2009 when Facebook let advertisers distribute users’ photos to market products without ever asking permission.

The companies themselves make the case that intellectual property serves as a substitute for payment for their services. The argument is that the online services users turn to cost money to operate and since no one pays for the service with cash, you instead pay by allowing the companies to monetize the information they have about you.
While the practice isn’t all bad, it’s important that consumers realize that when they mindlessly hit “Agree” while opening an account they may have given away more than they bargained for.

Source:Property rights in the cloud,” by David Sirota, published at SFGate.com.

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