Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) -- International Business Machines Corp. amassed more U.S. patents than any other company for the 21st straight year, helped by its push into big-data services, which glean insights by mining large quantities of information.
IBM’s 6,809 patents in 2013 scored an annual record, the company said yesterday in a statement. With inventors in 41 countries, more than 31 percent of the patents came from overseas. South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. and Tokyo-based Canon Inc. ranked second and third. While computer-related patents can take almost three years to process, the annual list shows where companies are seeking growth opportunities.
As sluggish demand for computer hardware has dragged down revenue, IBM is focusing more on fast-growing areas such as analytics and cloud computing. Last week, IBM said it’s forming a separate division for its Watson tool -- a so-called cognitive technology that can analyze vast amounts of data and answer questions in plain English. Bernie Meyerson, vice president for innovation at IBM, said the unit relies on recent patents.
“The work on cognitive is based on numerous of the patents that were just issued related to Watson,” Meyerson said in an interview from IBM’s headquarters in Armonk, New York. “That new division is now a major commercial focus. By funding research in that area, you will fund patents in that area.”
Samsung claimed the No. 2 spot in the U.S. patent tally, which it has held since 2007. It received almost 4,700, an 8 percent drop from the previous year.
Once again, only two U.S. companies made the top 10 in addition to IBM. In 2013, it was software maker Microsoft Corp. and phone-chip maker Qualcomm Inc.; the year before it was Microsoft and General Electric Co.
Google Inc., which ranked 11th, and Apple Inc., coming in at 13th, both rose into the top 20 for the first time together, research firm IFI Claims Patent Services said in a statement. BlackBerry Ltd. was 20th in 2013, up from 29th the previous year.
Allergan Wins Order Blocking Copies of Lumigan Until 2027
Allergan Inc. won a patent-infringement lawsuit that will prevent copies of its Lumigan 0.01% glaucoma treatment from entering the U.S. market until 2027.
Novartis AG’s Sandoz unit, Actavis Plc, Hi-Tech Pharmacal Co. and Lupin Ltd. would infringe Allergan’s patents on the medicine, U.S. District Judge Michael Schneider in Tyler, Texas, said in an opinion posted on the court’s website yesterday. The judge also rejected arguments that the patents were invalid, and ordered that regulatory approval not be granted until they expire.
Lumigan, which comes in different solution formulas, generated $452.7 million in sales for the nine months ended Sept. 30 and accounts for about 10 percent of the Irvine, California-based company’s revenue. The solution slows the progression of glaucoma, which can cause blindness.
The case involved five patents. Four expire in 2025 and the fifth in 2027, according to the website of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The generic-drug companies argued that the patents were little different from ones covering Lumigan 0.03%. An appeals court last year upheld a patent on that treatment that expires in August. The judge said the newer patents are for a solution that limited red eyes, which caused some patients to stop taking the treatment.
Bonnie Jacobs, a spokeswoman for Allergan, said the company had no comment. Officials with the generic-drug makers either had no immediate comment or didn’t immediately respond to queries.
Lumigan is Allergan’s second-biggest drug, after Restasis eye drops. Allergan yesterday received a new patent on Restasis.
The case is Allergan Inc. v. Sandoz Inc., 11-cv-00441, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas (Tyler).
Microsoft Sued for Infringement by Former Litigator’s Client
Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software company, was sued for infringement by a company whose lawyer has litigated patent cases in the past for Microsoft.
IpLearn-Focus LLC filed its lawsuit Jan. 10 in federal court in San Francisco. The Mountain View, California-based company is represented by Matthew D. Powers of the Tensegrity Law Group LLP of Redwood Shores, California.
Powers, who left New York-based Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP in 2011 to form a patent-litigation firm, represented Microsoft in cases including a lawsuit filed in June of that year against TiVo Inc. He defended the Redmond, Washington-based software maker in a 2007 case brought by patent owner I4i LP, according to court files.
As of yesterday afternoon, the electronic docket for the IPLearn-Focus lawsuit didn’t show an entry of any motion by Microsoft to disqualify Powers. No counsel for Microsoft is listed.
The lawsuit concerns three patents covering learning methods and systems that use a remote sensor. IpLearn-Focus said Microsoft’s Xbox video-game console and services infringe patents 8,475,174, 8,538,321 and 8,538,320. According to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, those are the only three patents belonging to IpLearn-Focus.
The company, which doesn’t have a functioning website, also is listed as the owner of patent application 20140004498, which was published in the office’s database Jan. 2. That application is related to the use of detached sensors in a learning environment.
IpLearn-Focus said in court filings that it put Microsoft on notice of its alleged infringement on Nov. 1 and that at the time the complaint was filed it had received no response from the software maker.
The company said it’s seeking money damages and a reasonable royalty. It asked that damages be tripled for Microsoft’s allegedly deliberate infringement. It also requested attorney fees and litigation costs.
Microsoft didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment on the lawsuit.
The case is IpLearn-Focus LLC v. Microsoft Corp., 14-cv-00151, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).
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Matryoshka to Be Mark of Federal Agency, Voice of Russia Says
An image of the nesting dolls known as Matryoshka dolls will be used as a trademark for Russia’s Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation, the Voice of Russia reported.
The mark will be used at events prompting international development in which Russia is involved, as well as on various Russian air carriers, according to Voice of Russia.
Alexi Mukhin, general director of Russia’s Center for Political Information, told Voice of Russia the Matryoshka symbol was chosen because it has “a deep philosophical meaning” standing for “motherhood and fertility.”
The logotype that accompanies the image has already been created and registered in the six official languages of the United Nations, Voice of Russia reported.
Blur’s Alex James Seeks to Register ‘Britpop’ in U.K., BBC Says
Musician Alex James is seeking to trademark “Britpop” in the U.K. for use on alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, the BBC reported.
James has applied to register the mark with the U.K.’s Intellectual Property Office, according to the BBC.
The performer, a member of the band Blur, has a farm in Oxfordshire and, with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, produces “the Big Feastival,” a food and music gathering, the BBC said.
James’s farm produces eight kinds of cheese, with such names as Blue Monday, Figgy Pudding and Farleigh Wallop, the news service reported.
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University of Toronto Refunds Students’ Copyright License Fees
Students at the University of Toronto were given a C$13 ($11.87) refund for fees they paid to Access Copyright, Canada’s copyright licensing agency, the Varsity student newspaper reported.
After the university ended its license with Access Copyright in December, it chose to refund the fees, according to the Varsity.
Content-producers’ organizations, including the Canadian Authors Association, the Canadian Publishers Council and the Canadian Educational Resources Council have gone on record with their disapproval of the school’s choice to end the license, saying the university isn’t respecting their work, the Varsity reported.
Under the school’s present policy, if 10 percent or less of a work is used by a professor, the school considers this fair use under Canadian copyright law, and no license is required, according to the Varsity.
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Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage
Energy Panel Head Decries Number of Fracking Secret Claims
The head of a panel convened by the Obama administration to look at safety issues related to hydraulic fracturing said trade secrets claims about fracking made by the oil and gas industry harm the industry itself, E&E Publishing’s EnergyWire reported.
Professor John M. Deutch of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, at a meeting at the U.S. Energy Department of the panel he heads, said people are “dramatically interested” in the makeup of fracking fluids and that the industry’s trade secret claims damage public’s confidence, according to EnergyWire.
At the same meeting, Eric Milito of the American Petroleum Institute, said he disagreed with Deutch and the disclosures being made by the industry are adequate.
The committee was meeting to look at the effectiveness of the FracFocus website, on which oil and gas drillers identify the chemicals they use in their fracking fluids, according to EnergyWire.
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