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glowend writes "James Temple writes in the San Francisco Chronicle: 'In the fall of 2011, Max Levchin took the stage at a TechCrunch conference to lament the sad state of U.S. innovation. "Technology innovation in this country is somewhere between dire straits and dead," said the PayPal co-founder, later adding: "The solution is actually very simple: You have to aim almost ridiculously high." But for all the funding announcements, product launches, media attention and wealth creation, most of Silicon Valley doesn't concern itself with aiming "almost ridiculously high." It concerns itself primarily with getting people to click on ads or buy slightly better gadgets than the ones they got last year.' I feel like this may be true as more money and MBA types invade the Silicon Valley. There's a lot of 'me-too' startups with some of the best and brightest figuring out ways to sell me stuff rather the working on flying cars."

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We all know about the patent wars that have dominated the mobile industry over the last couple of years.

Apple and Samsung, Motorola and Microsoft, Oracle and Google — to name just a few. But there are also the patent disputes that you never hear about.

Many of these lawsuits are filed by little-known companies whose sole purpose in being is to bring patent actions and collect money for their owners. Often dubbed patent trolls, such non-practicing entities now make up the bulk of patent suits.

Within the broader category of non-practicing entities are different types of firms, including defensive patent collectors, start-ups as well as companies whose sole business is suing companies with products in the market. That last category now accounts for more than three-fifths of all patent action, according to a study by Santa Clara University Law School professor Colleen V. Chien.

Chien, who presented her findings at a Department of Justice/Federal Trade Commission event on Monday, said that while the economics of bringing suit help keep overall patent actions in check, the economies of scale have made patent trolling into a profitable business.

First of all, while companies that make goods are typically countersued for infringing on their target’s patents, non-practicing entities don’t make anything and therefore can’t be countersued.

Secondly, while big companies like Apple, Samsung and Google rack up huge legal fees in their battles, non-practicing entities have found a more cost-effective option. Much like injury victims, the patent firms often find lawyers willing to work on a contingency basis.

That leaves the companies with only the direct expenses related to their lawsuits, which are themselves often minimized by filing multiple similar suits against different companies. That spreads out the costs and lessens the impact of losing any one case.

As a result, the incentives that may be forcing deals such as Apple’s recent settlement with HTC aren’t having the same effect on the non-practicing entities.

“The assumption is that companies will eventually tire of the smartphone wars between operating companies,” Chien told AllThingsD. “Suits invite countersuits and are expensive, disruptive, and messy. These restraints don’t apply to companies that assert patents as a business model.”

And for every suit brought, there are dozens more that get settled before a court action is filed, in large part because the targets know it is cheaper to settle in many cases than to fight things out.

While many of these non-practicing entities have names few people have ever heard of, the field has spawned some big players, perhaps most notably Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures. (Several spinoff businesses have come out of Myhrvold’s firm, which touts its in-house invention capabilities in addition to its collection of acquired patents.)

Even start-ups, particularly well-funded ones, are finding themselves in the crosshairs, Chien said.

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form 1 (kickstarter)

3D Systems, a company that manufactures a range of 3D printers, has sued FormLabs and Kickstarter for patent infringement. The suit alleges that Formlabs and Kickstarter infringed at least one of its patents (US 5,597,520) related to light-based printing with the Form 1 printer, and that the infringement was a violation of Kickstarter's terms of use. Formlabs successfully funded the Form 1 project on Kickstarter on October 26th, raising $2,945,885 — a hefty sum beyond its goal of $100,000. 3D Systems argues that Kickstarter participated in the infringement by handling sales of the Form 1.

There's no way to know what success 3D Systems will have with the lawsuit at this point — the patent is long, detailed, and covers multiple claims...

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jfruh writes "In the mid-00s, more and more people started learning about Android, a Linux-based smartphone OS. Open source advocates in particular thought they could be seeing the mobile equivalent of Linux — something you could download, tinker with, and sell. Today, though, the Android market is dominated by Google and the usual suspects in the handset business. The reason nobody's been able to launch an Android empire from the garage is fairly straightforward: the average smartphone is covered by over 250,000 patents."


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google project glass patent

Filed on October 26th last year and approved today, a design patent at the USPTO grants Google the rights to the ornamental design of its newly unveiled Project Glass augmented reality glasses. Patent D659,741 lays claim to the whole appearance of the whole "wearable display device," however looking at the images presented, the actual glass element that serves as the display isn't covered by the patent. It's represented by hashed lines, which serve to only illustrate design patents — what Google has the rights over is the frame and overall construction of the device. Engadget was first to spot the new information on the US Patent and Trademark Office website, while also noting a pair of other design patents, referring to some alternate...

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Supreme Court Courtroom

Abstract ideas, laws of nature, and mathematical formulas can't be patented under US law, and both Google and Verizon want the US Supreme Court to better define the bounds of that legal tenet as it applies to Internet technologies. Google and Verizon recently filed a joint amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief in the case of WildTangent v. Ultramercial, asking America's highest court to formally clarify that an unpatentable abstract idea, such as a method of advertising, can't magically become patentable subject matter by simply implementing it over the Internet. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also filed an amicus brief in the case similarly asking the court to assign understandable boundaries to patentable subject matter.

U...

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Over the last few years, wide swathes of the game industry, and the downloadable app industry in general, have been revolutionized by a single idea: letting people play for free while charging some of those players for in-game items. Now, it seems, a shell company is claiming that it has sole ownership of that idea, and is going to court to stop a wide range of game companies from using it.

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