A Survey of Some Interesting New Patents from Microsoft

According to statistics released earlier this year by the Intellectual Property Owners Association, Microsoft is near the top of the list when it comes to companies applying for and receiving U.S. patents. In 2013, the company was issued 2,814 patents, the 6th-most globally for that year and an increase for Microsoft by 4.1 percent over the previous year’s totals.

While Microsoft is primarily known for computer software, personal computers and other consumer electronics, they pursue a wide assortment of intriguing innovations, as evidenced by a recent review of issued U.S. patents to Microsoft.

As a major developer of computing products, it makes sense that Microsoft would have invested a lot of time and money into creating enhanced user interfaces for its computing products.  The natural user interface (NUI) developed by Microsoft for its Xbox Kinect system is further enhanced by U.S. Patent No. 8897491, which is titled System for Finger Recognition and Tracking (image shown left). This patent claims a method for generating a model of a user’s hands including one or more fingers which involves analyzing position and depth data of an image to recognize a user’s hand and techniques for discerning features of a hand. This system is capable of identifying commands made by fingers, which have typically been too small and subtle for conventional NUI systems to identify.

Speech recognition is an important field of development in user interfacing for computer resources and Microsoft has extended its holdings in this field through the issue of U.S. Patent No. 8892439, entitled Combination and Federation of Local and Remote Speech Recognition. This patent claims an article with a computer-readable storage device containing instructions that enable a computer to receive audio data indicating a task and performing speech recognition on the audio data utilizing local and remote recognizers. This system is intended to support the proliferation of applications utilizing automatic speech recognition (ASR) which can require access to large stores of data, slowing down mobile processes.

Intriguing mobile interfaces are also the focus of U.S. Patent No. 8902255, issued under the title Mobile Platform for Augmented Reality. This patent protects a system comprising a mobile image processing manager that obtains three-dimensional image data associated with an observation environment within a line of sight of an imaging device and a navigational plan engine for determining a navigational plan for a mobile platform. This system would enable the superimposing of digital features onto an image captured by a mobile device or may otherwise project virtual images onto a surrounding environment.

A couple of patents which caught our eye during our recent survey of Microsoft would aid a variety of meetings which use Microsoft computing products as meeting platforms. Techniques for identifying the participants of a meeting who are located inside of a physical meeting room are outlined by U.S. Patent No. 8892123, which is titled Identifying Meeting Attendees Using Information from Devices. The computer-implemented method involves automatically recognizing the physical presence of a mobile device in proximity to a physical meeting place and including a profile associated with that mobile device as an attendant at the meeting. This innovation is designed to remove the manual nature of confirming a roster of meeting attendees at a physical meeting place. Meetings taking place through online platforms are the target of the technology protected by U.S. Patent No. 8890926, titled Automatic Identification and Representation of Most Relevant People in Meetings (image shown below). The method involves presenting participants of a meeting in order of their relevancy which involves categorizing the participants based on a set of factors and presenting participants in a user interface gallery which emphasizes relevancy categories by utilizing a spatial grouping scheme. This system is configured to present meeting participants to other meeting participants in a way that provides a better meeting context than systems that focus on presenting the loudest talker.

We’ll close our discussion of patents recently issued to Microsoft with a look at a technology that will help those with strict dietary restrictions find the perfect meal while eating out at a restaurant. U.S. Patent No. 8903708, which is titled Analyzing Restaurant Menus in View of Consumer Preferences, claims a method of analyzing food items available at a restaurant that involves storing a list of food criteria on a mobile device, receiving menu data about available food items at the device and displaying menu data on the mobile device which has been filtered based on a user’s dietary needs. This invention should be of interest to those with medical conditions, like high blood pressure or diabetes, as well as other preferences, such as price or calories.

Innovation Focus: Cisco Pursues Telepresence Technologies

Cisco Systems, Inc. of San Jose, CA, is a corporation that is heavily involved with designing and manufacturing networking equipment along with other information technologies. A new inventory of products for Cisco’s Unified Computing System server business has many speculating that the company is trying to build a stronger base in enterprise server computing solutions. Cisco is seeking to develop systems for modernizing various areas of our country’s infrastructure, including a smart system called Connected Rail with applications for railroad transportation. The corporation has also recently announced an expansion of its partnership with open source developer Red Hat for development of the OpenStack system for deploying private cloud services.

In 2013, the company’s 885 patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office placed it 40th among all patenting entities for that year. Occasionally, we look at applications filed and patents issued for these top patenting companies, and as with any look at Cisco, you will find that research and development operations are still strong this year. Many of Cisco’s recent inventions have focuses on technologies for online meetings and teleconferencing for long-distance business conversations.


On the Record with Sherry Knowles

I recently had an opportunity to speak with Sherry Knowles (pictured left) on the record. Most in the patent community are familiar with Knowles as the former Senior Vice-President of GlaxoSmithKline who took on the United States Patent and Trademark Office during the claims and continuations fight back in 2007 and 2008.

In 2008, Managing IP magazine named Knowles one of the top 10 most influential people in Intellectual Property, and  in 2010, the New Jersey Intellectual Property Lawyers Association awarded her the Jefferson Medal for exceptional contribution to Intellectual Property. In November 2011, Intellectual Asset Management magazine listed Knowles among the top 50 individuals, companies and institutions that shaped the IP marketplace over the preceding eight years.

Knowles left GSK several years ago and is now the head of her own strategic patent consulting firm. I caught up with her for a telephone interview on November 20, 2014. What appears below are several of the highlights of our conversation.


Samsung Pursues Alternative Energy Innovations

Periodically, we take a look at some innovative companies on IPWatchdog.com as a part of what we call the Companies We Follow series.

Recently, when reviewing the latest published patent applications and issued patents for Samsung, we stumbled across a number of innovations that broadly relate to alternative energy solutions.There are many issues to be solved by engineers in the energy sector, from fossil fuel-based pollution to dwindling energy resources. Samsung has made commitments to alternative energy projects all over the world, including a sizable financing project for a 180-megawatt wind farm to be built in Kincardine, Canada. Samsung’s sustainable, low-cost alternative energies is even supporting the development of digital villages in Africa.


CAFC Issues Non-Precedential Claim Construction with a Dissent

The Federal Circuit recently issued a non-precedential opinion in Vehicle IP, LLC v. AT&T Mobility, LLC. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this decision was that it was a non-precedential opinion with a dissent, which to some extent seems a bit contradictory.

The tale begins back on December 31, 2009, when Vehicle IP filed a patent infringement action against the Appellees in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. The patent infringement lawsuit asserted that Appellees infringed U.S. Patent No. 5,987,377 (“the ’377 patent”). On December 12, 2011, the district court issued an order construing the disputed claim terms of the ’377 patent, including “expected time of arrival” and “way point(s).” The district court construed “expected time of arrival” as “time of day at which the vehicle is expected to arrive somewhere (and not remaining travel time).” The district court construed “way point(s)” as “intermediate point(s) on the way to the final destination (and not the final destination itself).”

After the district court construed the claims, Appellees filed two motions for summary judgment. The district court granted both motions. On April 19, 2013, the district court entered judgment in favor of Appellees. Vehicle IP appealed the entry of judgment, challenging the district court’s claim constructions and summary judgment rulings.