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Walmart Launches “Get on the Shelf Contest”

It has always been difficult for inventors to get their products on store shelves. The decision of what to put on a store’s shelf was typically made by the store buyer who often went with the major brands.
However, Walmart has recently launched the “Get on the Shelf Contest” that allows anyone to submit video online pitching his or her invention. The three products receiving the  most votes will be sold on, and the grand prize winner will get shelf space in select Walmart stores.
The contest ends on February 22. Additional information can be found here.

Attorney Docket Number SIRIP003

Can you guess what Apple’s patent application 2012/0016678 (published yesterday) covers?
Hint #1:
The abstract of application reads as follows:
An intelligent automated assistant system engages with the user in an integrated, conversational manner using natural language dialog, and invokes external services when appropriate to obtain information or perform various actions. The system can be implemented using any of a number of different platforms, such as the web, email, smartphone, and the like, or any combination thereof. In one embodiment, the system is based on sets of interrelated domains and tasks, and employs additional functionally powered by external services with which the system can interact.
Hint #2:
The application claims the benefit of a provisional application with “attorney docket number SIRIP003P“.
If you guessed that this application relates to Siri, Apple’s intelligent software assistant and navigator for the iOS operating system, you are right!
For an interesting discussion of this application, see Apple introduces us to Siri, the Killer Patent in the Patently Apple blog.
And, presumably, the attorney docket number of the non-provisional is SIRIP003 (without the “P”).

USPTO to Open Detroit Satellite Office

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has announced that it will finally open its Detroit satellite office. The office will house about 100 patent examiners in the former Parke-Davis Lab. (Perhaps more interestingly, the building was formerly the headquarters of Stroh’s Brewery.)  Plans for a Detroit satellite office were announced in December 2010 but put on hold because of budget constraints.

The Patent Office has plans for at least two more satellite offices.  But where?

So far, efforts have been made for Austin, Texas and California.

Public comments on the location of the next two satellite offices can be made by end of this month to

Wikipedia to Close Down — for 24 Hours

Founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales has announce via Twitter that the web site will be shut down for 24 hours this Wednesday in protest of proposed legislation known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

In his “tweet”, Wales wrote:

“Student warning! Do your homework early. Wikipedia protesting bad law on Wednesday! #sopa”

On Wednesday, instead of being able to access Wikipedia, users will see instructions on how to reach members of Congress to protest the proposed legislation.

As currently written, the SOPA bill would allow copyright holders to seek court orders against websites that facilitate copyright infringement.

Opponents of the bill claim that SOPA chills free speech.

Microsoft’s “Avoid Ghetto” Patent

Microsoft has been issued a highly controversial patent that allows one to create a pedestrian-based route that avoids traveling through an “unsafe neighborhood”. Dubbed the “Avoid Ghetto Patent”, a “generation component…can analyze the information and construct a direction set that allows the user to take paths that take him to his home in a quickest amount of time while keeping the user relatively safe (e.g., taking the user through neighborhoods with violent crime statistics below a certain threshold).”
The system can employ an “artificial intelligence component” to draw “inferences” or “capture logical relationships such as theorem provers or more heuristic rule-based expert systems.” So if the “artifical intelligence component” determines that a potential pedestrian path might cross into an area having certain demographics, presumately the software would advise avoiding this area.
One can see how “inferences” might be drawn between the ethnicity or race of persons in an area and the area being considered “unsafe”.
So the question is: Why would Microsoft want the bad PR from such a controversial patent?
What were they thinking?