Nominees Sought for National Medal of Technology and Innovation (deadline is 29 May 2009)

National Medal of Technology and Innovation

Nomination Guidelines.

According to the USPTO’s website:

“The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is seeking nominations for the nation’s highest honor for technological achievement. The USPTO administers the NMTI program on behalf of the Secretary of Commerce. The deadline for nominations is May 29, 2009.

“The nominations can be made for an individual, a team of up to four individuals, a company or a division of a company. The honorees are chosen for their outstanding contributions to the nation’s economic, environmental and social well-being through the development and commercialization of technological products, processes and concepts; technological innovation; and development of the country’s technological manpower.”


Nominate yourself if you want. Or nominate the inventor in the next lab. Or, if she’s an inventor, nominate your next-door neighbor. It’s quite an honor for an inventor to receive this medal. The contribution for which the medal is given DOES need to be something that really helps out in the art in which the invention lies. Examples of prior winners include Steve Jobs; Steve Wozniak; IBM; Industrial Light & Magic; Ralph Baer (the guy who basically invented video gaming); eBay; and others of like contributory scale. The President of the US awards the medal every year.

Microsoft Wins 10,000th Patent

Microsoft Wins 10,000th Patent – Channel News by CRN and VARBusiness.

US Patent No. 7,479,950, issued to Microsoft, applies to Surface tabletop computing technology, which provides instant access to digital information in a novel, useful and nonobvious way, the goal being to make interactions between the physical and virtual worlds more seamless.

Microsoft is famous for aggressive protection of its intellectual property; that they now have 10,000 patents (and counting) backs that position up. They spend about $8 billion per year on R&D and regularly haul out the guns in patent warfare; their current target is open-source software, which they claim violates at least 40 Microsoft patents.

This is why Microsoft stock does well. This is why they survive, despite the worldwide snarl that the name engenders. Microsoft is a prime example of a company that has leveraged nothing but intellectual property into a multi-billion-dollar enterprise.

And to think it all started with a college drop-out.

Patent Lens Home

Patent Lens Home.

Patent searching is an art. This is one spot that touts its search engine for patents worldwide.

Different parts of the world have different patent laws; the page contains links to explanations of patent rights in different parts of the world. The site promotes “[t]ransparency of the worldwide patent system [as] an international public good.”

If you’re interested in searching out your invention, this site is likely to be a good starting place.

Patent office rejects subdomain patent claims – CNET News

Patent office rejects subdomain patent claims  – CNET News.

Well, isn’t this interesting. The subdomains claimed in patent no. 6,687,746 are rejected as obvious by the USPTO in a third-party re-exam of the patent.

I do note that this rejection is not a final office action. The patentee has some time to respond to it and try to convince the Examiner to back off on the rejection. However, under KSR v. Teleflex, persuading the Examiner to do so may be … um … challenging. It’s interesting to note that KSR was decided in 2007; the patent application had long been written by the time this decision came down — which, of course, means that the sands are shifting under the feet of patent holders.

If the Examiner stands his ground and upholds the rejection, the patentee can then appeal to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences and/or to the US District Court in Washington DC, and thence to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and on up to the US Supreme Court, if the Supremes grant certiorari. The patentee can stop the appeal process at any time, making the final decision just that … final.

If the rejection stands, the patent will be invalidated. Invalidating this patent will open the claimed subdomains up to the public domain.

Invention Convention

Get ’em while they’re young….

I sit on a committee at the Schenectady Museum that deals with educating kids about invention and the inventive processes. My job is to go to schools and talk about invention with kids. Understand that these kids are mostly elementary age children, 4th and 5th graders (that’s age 9-11 for any readers who don’t know the US grade system).

Teachers all want their children to behave beautifully for the visitor; I learned early on to warn the teachers that I want the kids to get rowdy. And they do.

I did such a talk today, at an elementary school in Canajoharie, New York, a tiny little town not too far from Cooperstown (Cooperstown is the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame). The kids were very rowdy and very, very fun to talk with. Part of my talk is to get the kids to think up inventions — whether practical or fantastical, and get them to think about how to actually make these things. I do this with light bulbs and with the fact that I need someone to PLEASE invent a transporter such as the one in Star Trek. Heck, flip phones come from Star Trek imagery; why can’t we have a device that disassembles and reassembles atoms? These two things seem to get the juices flowing and we get many fantastical inventions — x-ray vision goggles, flying, fire-breathing dragon aircraft, and the ever-present improvements on the commode (these are 10-year-old boys we’re talking about here). The kids have fun coming up with this stuff, and I love listening to them and encouraging their inventions.

Once each kid has come up with something could be patentable under 35 USC 101, that kid has to set about building a model and developing instructions for making and using the invention. These inventions are then entered at the regional Invention Convention competition at the Museum. The entries are judged by a panel (which I do not sit on) made up of scientists, engineers, and patent lawyers. This panel selects 100 top inventions, then selects 50 from those 100. Those 50 inventions are modeled by their young inventors and the models are put on display for a month (in May) at the Museum. The judges then select a regional winner. The winner of the regional competition gets to go to the statewide Invention Convention competition; that winner gets to enter the national Invention Convention competition. At the national level, there are some serious prizes involved.

This competition is annually held for the New York Capital District and surrounding areas at the Schenectady Museum for school kids of all ages — elementary through high school. If your school does not participate, perhaps you might consider suggesting that it be incorporated into the curriculum. 

There’s nothing like the thrill of solving a problem to get a kid’s juices flowing — perhaps for life.

CAFC precedential case on patent claim construction

Boston Scientific Scimed et al. v. Cordis Corp. et al., __ F.3d __ (CAFC 2009)

This case, which deals with a drug-eluting stent that is implanted in a blood vessel to prop or widen the lumen of the vessel after a vascular incident, discusses the patent claim construction methodology used by the US District Courts. There is nothing particularly new here; the Court reminds us that they review claim construction de novo on appeal, and reminds us that “To determine the meaning of “[a particular term in the claim],” we begin by considering the language of the claims.” They reassert that the District Court correctly uses dictionary definitions of terms when the patentee has not provided, in the specification, a definition of a particular term to be used in constructing the claims.

This case also provides an application of the 2007 US Supreme Court case of KSR v. Teleflex, 50 U.S. 398, 127 S.Ct. 1727 (2007), a decision that redefined the 35 USC 103(a) obviousness standard in patents.

I think it’s important to keep an eye on how the Federal Circuit (aka CAFC) handles cases like this one, and to see how they interpret rulings of the higher court. The CAFC has a tendency to interpret things in its own way; indeed, the Supreme Court took the Festo case (FESTO CORP. v. SHOKETSU KINZOKU KOGYO KABUSHIKI CO., LTD., ET AL., 535 U.S. 722 (2004)), which dealt with the so-called Doctrine of Equivalents, to “slap” the CAFC back into line after they had ruled that the Doctrine of Equivalents was no longer valid in a really quite direct nose-thumbing at US Supreme Court precedent. The CAFC comprises a bunch of scientist-judges (Judge Gayarsa, for example, holds degrees in electrical engineering — from Rensselaer, one of my alma maters — and economics, as well as in law) who actually understand the patents that come before them on appeal. It is interesting, though, to watch the interplay between the CAFC’s scientist-judges and the n0n-scientist, traditional judges who sit on the US Supreme Court, which is the only court in the country with the power to overrule them.

I doubt Boston Scientific Scimed will get to the Supreme Court, but you never know…I wouldn’t have expected the Supremes to take Erie Railroad Co. vTompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938) either, and look what they did with that (Erie is not a patent case). So stay tuned!

Late-Night Infomercials

Information About Some of the Late-Night Infomercial Companies.

This link is why NOT to use the services of the late-night infomercials that tell you that your patent can be pending in as little as 24 hours and promise you the moon.

A bona fide patent attorney or agent does not make promises about marketing your invention; we merely do our best to obtain protection for you. We can sometimes send you to bona fide marketing experts who might be able to help you with your invention’s market, but that is the end of our involvement with your marketing.

A bona fide patent attorney or agent does not promise you the moon. In fact, I spend a lot of my initial meeting with inventors popping their bubbles and letting them know, as best I can, what the required investment in their patent will be. If the inventor wants to pull the plug at any time, all s/he has to do is tell me; I don’t threaten to sue over breach of contract if an inventor runs out of money; I simply inform him or her that no money means no work and what the consequences are of that. It then becomes entirely the inventor’s decision as to whether or not to proceed.

A bona fide patent attorney or agent wouldn’t be caught dead advertising in a glitzy half-hour commercial.

A bona fide patent attorney or agent will charge you a fair price for the work to be done. Yes, we often require that the funds be deposited with us, but we then earn our fees.

You can check out who is a real, live patent attorney or agent by visiting the USPTO’s website at and doing a search. Fill in as many or as few of the fields as you believe would give you meaningful results.

Be very very careful before you invest with a late-night television invention promoter; you don’t always get what you pay for, as demonstrated in the link above.

Inventors Resources and Information

USPTO’s Resource’s Page Inventors Resources and Information.

This is a page from the US Patent & Trademark Office’s (“USPTO”) webpage that provides really, really good information about patents, the patenting process, and how to go about finding a patent attorney or agent, among other excellent tidbits of knowledge.

In general, the USPTO’s website, at, is a plethora of really, really good information. I heartily recommend checking it often (the information on it changes) and noodling around to learn something about patents and trademarks. You might be surprised at what you didn’t know….

The USPTO, NIHFF & Ad Council are inspiring invention

Press Release, 08-41.

This is so cool. A contest for inventive kids. Open to elementary, middle and high school kids, the “inspiring innovation” campaign, launched in 2007, is working at making invention and idea development a part of the everyday lives of American kids (and more power to them); the idea is to motivate kids to pursue careers in invention and innovation.

Keep it coming, folks! American kids need this and programs like it. The US is beginning to struggle to stay at the top of the pile (oh…you hadn’t noticed that?) in part because the kids turn their noses up at math and science. Well, math and science aren’t so dull, boys and girls, when math and science let you do cool things like play video games, turn on a light, and watch cable TV.

I really hope that the teachers can be encouraged to get their kids participating in programs like this one; here in the wilds of upstate New York, schoolkids are invited to participate in the Invention Convention. Yes, we get a goodly few, but there are a lot of kids who don’t participate but could with their teachers’ help…


USPTO = US Patent & Trademark Office

NIHFF = National Inventors’ Hall of Fame Foundation