Patented over the Internet?

By Travis H. Brown

As a patent co-inventor of a system and method for managing legislative information using multiple websites, this Missouri Lawyer’s Weekly article about the WildTangent lawsuit got my attention.

Recently, the United States Supreme Court ordered a lower court to reconsider a decision to allow patent protection for some kinds of internet-based methods such as the one found in the Ultramercial, LLC dispute.  Without reading the details of case WildTangent Inc. v. Ultramercial LLC, 11-962, it is hard to know what kinds of complex computer programming has been put into question.

For those who develop ideas beyond the abstract, and may only have certain protection for that programming time, any carving away from business method patents may not be very good news.  However, that’s why the courts are in place to determine such validity once disputes arise.

Others that often cite the Bilski case have much more to say about abstract ideas.

Mobile Patent Wars: At the Nexus of Nexus

By Travis H. Brown

State lobbying battles and disputes with State Attorneys General for companies like Amazon.com are not the only industry titans who care about creating or defending a nexus.

It turns out that nexus is a big patent issue for, well, nexus phones as well.  Within a brief history of major intellectual property wars within mobile platforms, one can find many cases over essential platform rights over the years.  However, recent judicial activism from this Chicago judge has more than a few telecommunications lobbyists probably wondering where the next battle lines will be across international regulatory platforms.

If this patent system war seems distant to you, think again “Mr. We Deserve a Decent Smart Phone for the Business Man.”  For the last several years, this Missouri lobbyist has struggled with the fact that it is not easy to find a smartphone with solid day long battery life, a decent keyboard, and smooth integration across social mediums.  If Research in Motion was ever going to keep a beltway bandit in their wagon, it should have been me (come on, man).

To find my solution, my technology buddies found me the Google Nexus phone – in Hong Kong.  After a few adaptations, such as its Buck Rogers rocket pack battery, I am getting pretty used to it.

Because entrepreneurs like me will always find ways to seek out the best platforms, it is important not to hate the players just because you don’t always like the game.  It is likewise critical to put such restrictions to technology into the proper legal perspective.  Despite the fact that we all lobby, negotiate, and pitch to get the best devices each year, our patent system is not broken.

 

Thanking Thomas Jefferson

By Travis H. Brown
As Americans, we have so much to be thankful for when it comes to the risks that our Founding Fathers took to form the United States government. Perhaps my favorite leader from this period is Thomas Jefferson of Monticello. When someone questions the value that any one person may have time to contribute, you have to step back and realize just how much legislators like Jefferson were able to accomplish.

In Missouri, our land grant university system in Columbia was modeled after his University of Virginia layouts, at a time when the City of Jefferson opted for the state prison over forming a school of learning west of the Mississippi River. Without Jefferson, the Lewis & Clark expedition may never have passed through the Show Me State, or led to an informed buy of the Louisiana Purchase (I am an interested buyer in antique colonial French maps that show our land as “vast pays inconnue” if you have any such antiquities).

While there are many inventions or social innovations given by Jefferson, perhaps one of the least understood contributions to our United States Constitution at the time would have been Article II, Section 8, founding the makings of our patent system:

“Clause 8: To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;”

Somehow, it seems that our founders knew clearly that individuals must be granted some return for their unique risks to development advancements in science and art, at least for a limited time. The resulting legacy has helped create American ingenuity through the rule of law, and now the United States Patent & Trademark Office (PTO).

Thanks to this system, we can appreciate such famous Missourians as inventor and aviator William Powell Lear, born in Hannibal, MO, who once said:

“There are two kinds of inventors.  There is the inventor who just likes to be clever and come up with a new idea.  And there is the inventor who realizes a need and tries to fulfill it.  I have spent my whole life discovering needs and then finding ways to fulfill them.”

I believe that Thomas Jefferson knew well that if all citizens had the same promise to work on fulfilling some kind of societal needs in higher risk areas, the productivity of our industries would flourish. This had to have been a bold alternative approach to government institutions making such rules across Europe.

At various times since this constitution, we have seen even our administrators of such policies demonstrate how important this freedom to invent really is. However, no one said that such inventions should be easy. In my case, it took nearly five years to complete our patent process for legislative information parsing.

If you have a chance to educate a young person about our sciences, please take a moment to explain how inventors can contribute to society using the pursuit of patents. Perhaps teaching a sense of why good works matter could help a future Jeffersonian learn that “there’s an app for them.”