Pam Fletcher was propulsion system chief engineer on the first Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid and is now executive chief engineer for electrified vehicles at GM, overseeing electrified vehicles company-wide. A while ago you had a chance to ask about her work and the future of electric cars. Below you'll find her answers to your questions.
Mark Wilson writes: Patent lawsuits in the world of technology are nothing new, and the case between Apple and Samsung resulted in one of the largest fines ever being handed down. Samsung was order to pay $930 million in damages after a court found that the company had violated Apple patents with its smartphone and tablet designs. Today the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned part of the original ruling, saying that the jury was wrong to say that Samsung infringed on Apple's trade dress intellectual property. The exact details of what this will mean are yet to come out, but it should lead to a fairly hefty reduction in Samsung's legal costs.
An anonymous reader writes: The in-vehicle wireless charging technology adopted by Ford, Chrysler, Dodge, RAM, and Toyota has been released to the public domain without royalties or licenses. This technology that you probably never heard of before is in 12 vehicles; more vehicles than all the other wireless charging standards combined. The open standard web page shows schematics, app notes, and certification information to get companies to make compatible wireless charging products.
smaxp writes: Consumer market researcher Nielsen leads the pack, with patents describing ways to detect brain activity with EEG and translate it into what someone truly thinks about, say, a new product, advertising, or packaging. Microsoft Corp. holds patents that assess mental states, with the goal of determining the most effective way to present information. "Neurotech has gone well beyond medicine, with non-medical corporations, often under the radar, developing neurotechnologies to enhance work and life," said SharpBrains Chief Executive Alvaro Fernandez at the NeuroGaming conference in San Francisco.
eldavojohn writes: The staggering ingenuity of the U.S. Patent system has again been showcased by the EFF's analysis of recent patents. This week's patent and follow-up patent cover the futuristic innovative idea that when you order something, you can update your order and add additional amounts to your order while it's being processed. But wait, it gets even more innovative! You may one day be able to even to notify when you would like it delivered — on your phone! I know, you're busy wiping all that brain matter off your screen as your head seems to have exploded. Well, it turns out that inventor and patent holder Scott Horstemeyer (aka Eclipse IP, LLC of Delray Beach, FL) found no shortage of targets to go after with his new patents. It appears Tiger Fitness (and every other online retailer) was sending notices to customers about shipments. Did I mention Horstemeyer is a lawyer too? But not just a regular lawyer, a "SUPER lawyer" from the same firm that patented social networking in 2007, sued Uber for using location finding technologies in 2013 and sued Overstock.com as well as a small time shoe seller for using shipping notifications in 2014. A related article at Vox makes this case: "The primary problem with the patent system is, well, the patent system. The system makes it too easy to get broad, vague patents, and the litigation process is tilted too far toward plaintiffs. But because so many big companies make so much money off of this system, few in Congress are willing to consider broader reforms."
An anonymous reader writes: Five ISPs have been given orders by the UK High Court to restrict access to sites offering downloads of popular movie streaming service Popcorn Time – a move which follows complaints from the Motion Picture Association referring to the software's use as a platform for viewing pirated content. According to the new regulation, Virgin, BT, Sky, EE and TalkTalk are now required to block access to popcorntime.io, flixtor.me, popcorntime.se and isoplex.isohunt.to – all sites which link to Popcorn Time downloads. In the High Court order, Justice Birss cites under Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, that the 'Popcorn Time application is used in order to watch pirated content on the internet.' Popcorn Time operates as a BitTorrent client, despite its slick user interface, and is used mainly for illegal content – although, as its supporters argue, it is also a handy tool for streaming public domain films. It is unclear how successful the ban will be – the blocked sites are not the only places to find Popcorn Time online. Additionally, at ISP level, it will be challenging to monitor as there is not a single version or developer to seek out, with the code available as open source.
New submitter jeffkoch writes: Last year, the United States Senate failed to pass bipartisan legislation to combat patent trolls when it was killed by then-Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Congressional-insider newspaper Roll Call reports today that, "Knowing Reid would no longer control the Senate's legislative schedule in 2015, staff for John Cornyn, (a Republican from Texas), and Charles E. Schumer, (a Democrat from New York)", began work in February to assemble a new bill and to build support among fellow members of the Senate. Patent law is usually not a partisan issue, and President Barack Obama has called for getting an overhaul to his desk on several occasions including in his 2014 State of the Union speech. The last overhaul of United States patent law, the America Invents Act, took several years to be developed. The U.S. Congress is likely to act on the proposed legislation before they recess in August. "Patent trolls are taking a system meant to drive innovation and instead using it to stifle job-creating businesses around the country. Main Street stores, tech startups and more are being smothered by the abuse that is all too common in our patent system, and it's time for that to end," Schumer said in a statement. "This bipartisan bill shifts the legal burden back onto those who would abuse the patent system in order to make a quick buck at the expense of businesses that are playing by the rules."
An anonymous reader writes: Google has announced an experimental marketplace called the Patent Purchase Promotion, which aims to keep patents out of the hands of patent trolls. From the announcement: "By simplifying the process and having a concentrated submission window, we can focus our efforts into quickly evaluating patent assets and getting responses back to potential sellers quickly. Hopefully this will translate into better experiences for sellers, and remove the complications of working with entities such as patent trolls."
An anonymous reader writes: We read about a lot of patent troll cases. Some are successful and some are not, but many such cases are decided before ever going to court. It's how the patent troll operates — they know exactly how high litigation costs are. Even without a legal leg to stand on, they can ask for settlements that make better financial sense for the target to accept, rather than dumping just as much money into attorney's fees for an uncertain outcome. Fortunately, some companies fight back. TV-maker Vizio is one of these, and they've successfully defended against 16 different patent trolls, some with multiple claims. In addition, they're going on the offensive, trying to wrest legal fees from the plaintiffs for their spurious claims. "For the first time, it stands a real chance, in a case where it spent more than $1 million to win. Two recent Supreme Court decisions make it easier for victorious defendants to collect fees in patent cases. The TV maker is up against a storied patent plaintiffs' firm, Chicago-based Niro, Haller & Niro, that has fought for Oplus tooth and nail. ... For Vizio, the company feels that it's on the verge of getting vindication for a long-standing policy of not backing down to patent trolls."
BrianFagioli writes: Microsoft may not be winning in the mobile arena, but they're still making tons of money from those who are. Patent licensing agreements net the company billions each year from device makers like Samsung, Foxconn, and ZTE. Now, Microsoft has added another company to that list: Qisda Corp. They make a number of Android and Chrome-based devices under the Qisda brand and the BenQ brand, and now Microsoft will be making money off those, too.
smaxp writes: Contrary to reports, Google didn't become a mobile carrier with the introduction of Google Fi. Google Fi was launched to prove that a network-of-networks serves smartphone users better than a single mobile carrier's network. Patents related to Google Fi, filed in early 2007, explain Google's vision – smartphones negotiate for and connect to the fastest network available. The patent and Google Fi share a common notion that the smartphone should connect to the fastest network available, not a single carrier's network that may not provide the best performance. It breaks the exclusive relationship between a smartphone and a single carrier. Meanwhile, a story at BostInno points out that Google's not the only one with a network-hopping hybrid approach to phone calls.
Ars Technica reports some good news on the YRO front. An excerpt: A year-and-a-half after the Electronic Frontier Foundation created a crowd-funded challenge to a patent being used to threaten podcasters, the patent has been invalidated. In late 2013, after small podcasters started getting threat letters from Personal Audio LLC, the EFF filed what's called an "inter partes review," or IPR, which allows anyone to challenge a patent at the US Patent and Trademark Office. The order issued today by the USPTO lays to rest the idea that Personal Audio or its founder, Jim Logan, are owed any money by podcasters because of US Patent No. 8,112,504, which describes a "system for disseminating media content representing episodes in a serialized sequence." The article points out, though, that the EFF warns Personal Audio LLC is seeking more patents on podcasting. Mentioned within: Adam Carolla's fight against these patents and our Q&A with Jim Logan.
An anonymous reader writes A lawsuit between Apple and Google could drastically change the power balance between patent holders and device makers. "The dispute centers on so-called standard-essential patents, which cover technology that is included in industry-wide technology standards. Since others have to use the technology if they want their own products to meet an industry standard, the companies that submit their patents for approval by standards bodies are required to license them out on 'reasonable and non-discriminatory',(paywalled) or RAND, terms." If Apple wins, the understanding of what fees are RAND may decrease by at least an order of magnitude.
An anonymous reader sends this report from TechDirt: As you know, last year the Supreme Court made a very important ruling in the Alice v. CLS Bank case, in which it basically said that merely doing something on a general purpose computer didn't automatically make it patentable. ... However, the USPTO apparently was offended at parts of the EFF's comment submission, claiming that it was an "improper protest." Protest or not, the EFF denies in strong terms that the original comments were improper.
wabrandsma points out this Reuters story, according to which: Apple is not able to launch its new smartwatch in Switzerland until at least the end of this year because of an intellectual property rights issue, Swiss broadcaster RTS reported on its website. The U.S. tech giant cannot use the image of an apple nor the word 'apple' to launch its watch within Switzerland, the home of luxury watches, because of a patent from 1985, RTS reported, citing a document from the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property.
zoobab writes The Unitary Patent for Europe is being challenged at the Belgian Constitutional Court. One of the plaintiffs, Benjamin Henrion, is a fifteen-year campaigner against software patents in Europe. He says: "The Unitary Patent is the third major attempt to legalize software patents in Europe. The captive European Patent Court will become the Eastern District of Texas when it comes to software patent disputes in Europe. As happened in America, the concentration of power will force up legal costs, punish small European companies, and benefit large patent holders."
ciaran2014 writes With Microsoft proudly declaring its .NET runtime open source, a colleague and I decided to look at the licensing aspects. One part, the MIT licence, is straightforward, but there's also a patent promise. The first two-thirds of the first sentence seems to announce good news about Microsoft not suing people. Then the conditions begin. It seems Microsoft can't yet bring itself to release something as free software without retaining a patent threat to limit how those freedoms can be exercised. Overall, we found 4 Shifty Details About Microsoft's "Open Source" .NET.
rtoz writes: A group of scientists in California have successfully created eye drops that temporarily enable night vision. They use mixture of insulin and a chemical known as Chlorin e6 (Ce6) to enable the user to view objects clearly in darkness up to 50 meters away. Ce6 is found in some deep-sea fish and often used to treat night blindness. The solution starts to work within an hour of being applied to the user's eyes, and lasts for several hours afterward. The test subject's eyesight returned to normal the next day. The organization Science for the Masses has released a paper detailing the experiment on their website.
An anonymous reader writes: A new patent pool, dubbed HEVC Advance, has formed for the HEVC video codec. This pool offers separate licensing from the existing MPEG LA HEVC patent pool. In an article for CNET, Stephen Shankland writes, "HEVC Advance promises a 'transparent' licensing process, but so far it isn't sharing details except to say it's got 500 patents it describes as essential for using HEVC, that it plans to unveil its license in the third quarter, and that expected licensors include General Electric, Technicolor, Dolby, Philips and Mitsubishi Electric. The group's statement suggested that some patent holders weren't satisfied with the money they'd make through MPEG LA's license. One of HEVC Advance's goals is 'delivering a balanced business model that supports HEVC commercialization.' ... HEVC Advance and MPEG LA aren't detailing what led to two patent pools, an outcome that undermines MPEG LA's attempt to offer a convenient 'one-stop shop' for companies needing a license." Perhaps this will lead to increased adoption of royalty-free video codecs such as VP9. Monty Montgomery of Xiph has some further commentary.
An anonymous reader was one of many to point out that Boeing doesn't want to rely on a sad devotion to an ancient religion to protect aircraft and conjure up the stolen data tapes, but plans on using force fields instead. "Boeing's new patent may let the force be with you even in real life. The aircraft and defense company has taken a cue from science fiction with its plan to develop a Star Wars style force field that would use energy to deflect any potential damage. Just liking the luminescent shields seen in the film, Boeing's "Method and system for shock wave attenuation via electromagnetic arc" could provide a real-life layer of protection from nearby impacts to targets. The downside: It won't protect from direct hits."