Friday, February 23, 2007

Google's Patent Search [International]

The US Patent and Trademark Office had better watch out. There's a new patent search engine in town.

In December, Mountain View, Calif.-based Google Inc. debuted its newest search tool, Google Patent. The new engine unleashed a frenzy of patent searches across the Internet, as Internet surfers looked up everything from sex toys to bongs. Bloggers unearthed celebrity inventions like rocker Eddie Van Halen's patent on a guitar support and actress Jamie Lee Curtis's creation of a diaper with a side pocket for wipes.
Intellectual property lawyers were less excited. For professionals, Google Patent is just another entry in the already-crowded field. The PTO, Lexis-Nexis Group, West Publishing Corp. and several other companies all offer patent search engines. "Everyone had the same reaction," says Fish & Richardson patent prosecutor Scott Harris. "It's nothing new, just one more way to get the same information."
Patents are in the public domain, meaning they're free for anyone to read, search and republish. All Google did was give the patent library a face lift, with a cleaner, more accessible interface. Results come faster: While the PTO's search engine takes a couple of seconds, Google's is practically instantaneous. Generally, Google Patent also reports more results. A search for "flying machine," the Wright brothers' famous 1906 patent on the airplane, got 95 hits on the PTO site and 787 on Google.
But more hits don't mean more patents. Google's database includes approximately 7 million patents from the 1790s through the middle of 2006. That lag is a problem for patent lawyers, who depend on completely current information.
"[Google Patent's] value to lawyers will be dependent upon Google's ability to stay up-to-date with the actions of the Patent and Trademark Office," says Kaye Scholer's Jason Hoffman, an associate in the firm's patent litigation practice.
Even if Google's database is not totally current, IP litigators might find a good use for Google Patent in infringement cases. All 7 million patents are stored on Google servers, so the company clearly knows about them. That could be a courtroom danger, opening up the company to claims of willful infringement if Google itself faces any patent litigation, say patent lawyers. Maybe Google should stick to its own patents.

Is a communist-era statue of Lenin art, should it be subject to royalties and is it less artful when covered by a black plastic bag? [Lithuania]

Is a communist-era statue of Lenin art, should it be subject to royalties and is it less artful when covered by a black plastic bag?
Those questions are at the heart of a copyright dispute being played out at a quirky theme park in Lithuania popularly known as "Stalin's World."
A copyright watchdog agency is demanding the park owner hand over royalties amounting to 6 percent of the income he receives every year from the hundreds of thousands of people visiting the park and its collection of communist-era statues.
The Lithuanian Copyright Protection Association says the statues and the Soviet anthems blasting from the park's loudspeakers are subject to copyright rules. It claims to represent seven Lithuanian artists who carved some of the sculptures during the five decades the Baltic country was part of the Soviet Union.
"It does not matter if they were made in Soviet times. If one makes profit from displaying artwork he has to pay fees," the agency's director, Edmundas Vaitiekunas, told The Associated Press.
The park's owner said the agency would not receive a cent, arguing that royalties could not be applied to works commissioned by an occupying power.
"This is absurd. They want us to pay for those stone idols that were used for 50 years to serve the occupant regime and terrorize people's minds," said Viliumas Malinauskas, a millionaire who created Grutas Park in 2001.
"We also display sculptures from Russia and other former Soviet republics, but no one from those countries is asking for money," he added.
To protest the agency's claims, he has turned off the music and wrapped plastic bags over the Lenin and Stalin statues sculpted by the seven artists.
"Stalin's World" spans 50 acres of drained swamp about a half-hour drive from the capital, Vilnius. Next to the sculptures, monuments and paintings charged with communist ideology is a merry-go-round, a restaurant and a small zoo.
Malinauskas, 65, said he invested 6 million litas ($2 million) in the park and that he could incur 1 million euros ($1.3 million) in losses if part of the Soviet exhibition is closed.
Still, he says he is used to opposition. Several years ago a group of lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to shut the park down.
"The new attack against our park proves there still are people in Lithuania who miss Soviet times and are eager to feed off someone else," Malinauskas said.

Jury Finds Against Microsoft in $1.5 Billion Patent Dispute With Alcatel-Lucent [US]

Microsoft Corp. must pay $1.5 billion in damages to telecommunications equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent SA for violating two patents related to digital music, a federal jury ruled Thursday.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software company said the patents in question govern the conversion of audio into the digital MP3 file format on personal computers.
In 2003, Lucent Technologies Inc., which last year was acquired by Alcatel, filed 15 patent claims against Gateway Inc. and Dell Inc. In April 2003, Microsoft added itself to the list of defendants, saying the patents were closely tied to its Windows operating system. The PC makers are still defendants.
Microsoft said a judge threw out two of the 2003 patent claims, and scheduled six separate trials to consider the remaining disputes. The case that was just decided went to trial in San Diego on Jan. 29.
"We think this verdict is completely unsupported by the law or the facts," said Tom Burt, a Microsoft deputy general counsel.
Microsoft disputed that Paris-based Alcatel-Lucent's patents govern its MP3 encoding and decoding tools, and said it licenses the MP3 software used by its Windows Media Player from Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, a German company.
"We believe that we properly licensed MP3 technology from its industry recognized licenser -- Fraunhofer. The damages award seems particularly outrageous when you consider we paid Fraunhofer only $16 million to license this technology."
Microsoft said the damages were calculated by multiplying Windows sales volumes and PC sales prices worldwide since May 2003.
"We've made strong arguments supporting our view, and we are pleased with the court's decision," Alcatel-Lucent spokeswoman Mary Lou Ambrus said.
The court will consider the next of the patent suits, which relates to speech coding, in March or April, Microsoft said. Other areas in dispute include video coding on Microsoft's Xbox game console and Windows' user interface.
Shares of Microsoft slipped 3 cents to close at $29.32 on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Alcatel-Lucent's stock added 10 cents to end the day at $13.17 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Monday, February 19, 2007

New Database on Plant Variety Rights [Case Law]

The Community Plant Variety Office has a new database on Plant Variety Rights case law. It consists of a compilation of cases combined with a search tool.

The database provides summaries of case law exclusively in English. It also provides the full text judgments in their original language. Please note that the documents supplied are not the official version of the decisions taken by jurisdictions within the EU. If you wish to have access to the official text, please directly consult the organism which officially took the decision concerned.
The Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) implements the European system for the protection of plant variety rights. The system allows intellectual property rights, valid throughout the Community, to be granted for plant varieties.