A conversation about patent valuation and the market

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Efrat Kasznik (pictured left), who is President of Foresight Valuation Group. Kasznik specializes in performing valuations of intangible assets for financial reporting, tax compliance, transfer pricing, litigation damages and business liquidations. She is also starting to work with start-up companies at earlier stages in order to help them develop a strong IP portfolio and to prevent them from making mistakes that later cannot be fixed.

What follows are the highlights of my long form interview, which took place on Tuesday, December 23, 2014, and was published on IPWatchdog.com on January 7, 2015.

I spent some time discussing whether investors should seek patent protection or whether they should freely share their ideas, which is what some VCs actually recommend.

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Key Republicans on Patent Reform in 114th Congress

Over the last several days on IPWatchdog.com, we have published articles introducing the Republicans serving on the House IP Subcommittee and the Republicans serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the coming days, we will publish similar profiles of the Democrats.

Today, we focus on four key players on the Republican side of the aisle that will influence any patent reform efforts – Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Each of the aforementioned Members of Congress are on record supporting patent reform of some kind during the 114th Congress.

Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

The primary subcommittee dealing with intellectual property matters in the House of Representatives is the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, which is a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. This means that Congressman Bob Goodlatte will have an extremely important role with respect to shepherding any intellectual property legislation through Congress over the next two years. Goodlatte has signaled that he will focus his own energies on copyright reform, deciding to keep any copyright reforms the purview of the entire Judiciary Committee. Still, Goodlatte has shown keen interest in the patent system over the years, including the most recently failed patent reform legislation during the 113th Congress. You can rest assured he will be heavily engaged in the 114th Congress.

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J&J Eye Care Patents Abound

The patenting activities of Johnson & Johnson are definitely robust. During 2013 (the latest year for which we have patent statistics available), J&J was 29th globally in terms of patent grants received from the USPTO with 1,107 U.S. patents, an increase of more than 10 percent over the company’s 2012 totals.

Once again, contact lenses and other types of ophthalmic lenses took center stage in terms of patents issued to Johnson & Johnson in recent months. A contact lens with the ability to make more than one focal power available to a wearer is disclosed and protected by U.S. Patent No. 8906088, which is titled Variable Focus Ophthalmic Device Including Liquid Crystal Elements (pictured left). The patent protects an energized ophthalmic lens device with a variable optic insert which is in a portion of an optical zone and comprises a layer of liquid crystal material; the lens also includes a dielectric material layer which is disposed proximate to the optic insert. The dielectric and liquid crystal layers of this invention provide a contact lens which has the ability to adopt variable focal characteristics.

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LG Receives Patents on Robotic Cleaners, Refrigerators and Smartwatches

LG Electronics may not have the largest share of consumer electronics markets, even in its home country South Korea, but the corporation has lately been a patenting juggernaut. LG was awarded the 5th most U.S. patent grants during 2013 and was one of only five companies to eclipse 3,000 patents awarded in that year; LG still played second fiddle to Samsung, which was 2nd place last year with 4,652 patents. LG actually maintains a thorough list of its patent portfolio, sorted so that a reader can easily find which LG products are using which patented technology, on its website. The corporation recently invested $4 million to form Unified Innovative Technology of Delaware, OH, which some have speculated is a move intended to protect LG’s international intellectual property interests. In early November, the company also announced a 10-year agreement with Google for global cross-licensing of patents, similar to a deal signed by Google with Samsung earlier this year.

Korean tech companies love robots. Our recent coverage of Samsung featured a bevy of robotics technologies, so we were piqued when we noticed a patent issued to its neighbor in the same field. U.S. Patent No. 8903590, which is titled Robot Cleaner and Method for Controlling the Same, protects a robot cleaner with a travel unit that responds to a travel mode command, a detection unit for detecting items to be cleaned and a control unit that generates a map for cleaning. This technology is designed to achieve a more efficient and accurate method of generating a map for cleaning within a robotic cleaner.

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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.