Patents March On Despite Pandemic

January 27, 2021

Even during a pandemic, inventors shall invent. What is uncertain is how many of those ideas will eventually make it to fruition. GeekWire reports, “U.S. Patent Rankings: Amazon Moved Up List as Effects from Pandemic on Innovation Still Unknown.” The article points to IFI Claims Patent Services’ annual list of the top 50 patent recipients in the U.S. IFI pulls its data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Writer Taylor Soper summarizes:

“Despite a global pandemic, U.S. patent grants were down less than 1% year-over-year, and patent applications were up nearly 5%. But the effects of the health crisis on innovation progress may not be known for another 18 months due to the long patenting process, according to Mike Baycroft, CEO of IFI CLAIMS Patent Services.”

The article also cites Microsoft’s Peter Lee, who notes the lack of in-person collaboration during 2020 could affect the pace of innovation. IFI reports a few of the fastest-growing technologies appear to be computer systems based on biological models, machine learning, quantum computing, autonomous navigation, and 3D printing. Soper continues,

“IBM continues to dominate U.S. patent rankings; Microsoft is holding steady in the top 10; and Amazon is making a move up the list. IBM had the most patent grants in 2020 with 9,130, followed by Samsung Electronics, Canon, Microsoft, and Intel. Apple ranked No. 8, while Amazon moved up four spots to No. 11, even though its 2020 grants dropped 8% from the previous year. Google came in at No. 17 and Facebook was No. 38. Some of Amazon’s eye-catching patent grants last year included a launch system for snapping payloads into the air; drones that pull skiers and surfers; and robots that drop off bunches of items on delivery routes.”

Eye-catching indeed. Amazon famously searches in every direction for its next big buck. We wonder: Is there a direct correlation between number of patents and financial return, or is an increase in patent activity during a time of social stress an indicator of commitment to staking out knowledge claims? And what about that USPTO patent search system? A gem I tell you.

Cynthia Murrell, January 27, 2021

Tick Tock Becomes Tit for Tat: The Apple and Xiao-i Issue

August 5, 2020

Okay, let’s get the company names out of the way:

  • Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology Company is known as Zhizhen
  • Zhizhen is also known as Xiao-i
  • Apple is the outfit with the virtual assistant Siri.

Zhizhen owns a patent for a virtual assistant. In 2013, Apple was sued for violating a Chinese patent. Apple let loose a flock of legal eagles to demonstrate that its patents were in force and that a Chinese voice recognition patent was invalid. The Chinese court denied Apple’s argument.

Tick tock tick tock went the clock. Then the alarm sounded. Xiao-i owns the Chinese patent, and that entity is suing Apple.

Apple Faces $1.4B Suit from Chinese AI Company” reports:

Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology Co. said in a statement on Monday it was suing Apple for an estimated 10 billion yuan ($1.43 billion) in damages in a Shanghai court, alleging the iPhone and iPad maker’s products violated a patent the Chinese company owns for a virtual assistant whose technical architecture is similar to Siri. Siri, a voice-activated function in Apple’s smartphones and laptops, allows users to dictate text messages or set alarms on their devices.

But more than the money, the Xiao-i outfit “asked Apple to stop sales, production, and the use of products fluting such a patent.”

Coincidence? Maybe. The US wants to curtail TikTok, and now Xiao-i wants to put a crimp in Apple’s China revenues.

Several observations:

  • More trade related issues are likely
  • Intellectual property disputes will become more frequent. China will use its patents to inhibit American business. This is a glimpse of a future in which the loss of American knowledge value will add friction to the US activities
  • Downstream consequences are likely to ripple through non-Chinese suppliers of components and services to Apple. China is using Apple to make a point about the value of Chinese intellectual property and the influence of today’s China.

Just as China has asserted is cyber capabilities, the Apple patent dispute — regardless of its outcome — is another example of China’s understanding of American tactics, modifying them, and using them to try to gain increased economic, technical, and financial advantage.

Stephen E Arnold, August 3, 2020

IBM Lawyers-Up and Other Tech Giants Shiver

March 6, 2018

IBM has not exactly been on the bleeding edge of tomorrow for some years. Still massively important in the tech world, its products just aren’t as sexy as they used to be. Or are they? Turns out some big names have been stealing from Big Blue and that’s about to end, according to a recent GeekWire piece, “IBM Sues Expedia, Alleging Online Travel Giant Built Its Business on Big Blue’s Patents.”

While the title is pretty self-explanatory, here are some important takeaways:

IBM alleges Expedia’s infringements all fall under the umbrella of how online content is delivered, including aspects like ad technology, sign on processes, tracking previous communications with users and more. The lawsuit includes Expedia’s website and mobile apps, as well as its subsidiaries HomeAway,, Hotwire and Orbitz.


IBM is seeking an injunction against Expedia and its subsidiaries from using the patented technology, as well as up to triple the amount of damages awarded in a jury trial. IBM also “seeks royalties on the billions of dollars in revenue that defendants have received based on their infringement of IBM’s patented technology,” according to the lawsuit.

This is not the only iron IBM has in the patent fire. They also recently settled with Priceline for using the patented material. Looks like IBM might be a little more relevant than we gave them credit. It’ll be interesting to see if they can turn this momentum into new activity in 2018. We doubt it.

Patrick Roland, March 6, 2018

You Cannot Patent Public Domain Property

October 24, 2017

Oh, Google!  Is there no end to the amount of mischief you will cause to make a dollar?  Bleeping Computer reports that, “Google Is Accused Of Trying To Patent Public Domain Technology” and that is not right.  A Polish assistant professor named Jaroslaw Duda invented a technology called Asymmetric Numeral Systems.  He said he released it to the public domain so it would not be trapped in restrictive licenses.

Duda’s Asymmetric Numeral Systems (ANS) is a powerful family of entropy coding methods that is used in data compression systems.  These include Apple’s LZFSE compressor, Facebook’s standard compressor, and Google’s Draco 3D compressor.  Technology companies love ANS, because it has faster compression and decompression speeds with minimal data loss and computational costs.

Duda has a sarcastic response to Google trying to patent his technology, saying it was a nice “thank you” from a “don’t be evil” company.  He is also bringing a very strong case against Google and also strong supporters:

The International Search Authority [ISA], a WIPO department tasked with searching prior patents, has already sided with Duda on the topic and published a scathing review, calling Google’s patent as not comprising ‘an inventive contribution over the prior art, because it is no more than a straightforward application of known coding algorithms.

Writing on online forums, Duda said he had high hopes when he first reached out to Google.

There was a moment they gave me hope for a formal collaboration with my University so I could build a team, but then silence … probably due to this patent application,” the researcher wrote. ‘[Right now,] Google is not responding, probably currently rewriting the patent – showing its determination to reach this monopoly..’

Google might have deep pockets and powerful lawyers, but Duda released ANS as public domain technology in 2014.  Good luck trying to overcome that, Google!  Not really.

Whitney Grace, October 24, 2017

Ambercite: A Patent Similarity Service

July 20, 2017

We learned about an Australian start up called Ambercite. The company’s service allows those wanting to know the answer to a question like this:

What patents are similar to US7593939?

Most of the online patent search systems do not deliver quick, comprehensive similarity results. When I have to think about patent similarity, I have found that several services have to be consulted and then some old-fashioned, billable time must be generously applied. Ambercite wants to change this approach to one powered by a more practical system. The company says:

Ambercite can help you quickly find patents and commercial opportunities, in many cases, missed by others, with its tools and services.

For more information about the firm, point your browser to this link. Worth watching.

Stephen E Arnold, July 20, 2017

US Patent Search Has a Ways to Go

January 3, 2017

A recent report was released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office entitled Patent Office Should Strengthen Search Capabilities and Better Monitor Examiners’ Work. Published on June 30, 2016, the report totals 91 pages in the form of a PDF. Included in the report is an examination by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) of the challenges in identifying relevant information to an existing claimed invention that effect patent search. The website says the following in regards to the reason for this study,

GAO was asked to identify ways to improve patent quality through use of the best available prior art. This report (1) describes the challenges examiners face in identifying relevant prior art, (2) describes how selected foreign patent offices have addressed challenges in identifying relevant prior art, and (3) assesses the extent to which USPTO has taken steps to address challenges in identifying relevant prior art. GAO surveyed a generalizable stratified random sample of USPTO examiners with an 80 percent response rate; interviewed experts active in the field, including patent holders, attorneys, and academics; interviewed officials from USPTO and similarly sized foreign patent offices, and other knowledgeable stakeholders; and reviewed USPTO documents and relevant laws.

In short, the state of patent search is currently not very good. Timeliness and accuracy continue to be concerned when it comes to providing effective search in any capacity. Based on the study’s findings, it appears bolstering the effectiveness of these areas can be especially troublesome due to clarity of patent applications and USPTO’s policies and search tools.

Megan Feil, January 3, 2017

Palantir Technologies to Square Off Against Skadden, Arps

October 14, 2016

Palantir Technologies asserted that an investor in Palantir of taking information from the Shire. Armed with the treasure trove of secret Hobbit lore, the investor in Palantir filed patents using the seeing stone-type information.

Sound like a Netflix or Amazon binge watcher?

My hunch is that the legal dust up between Palantir Technologies and Marc Abramowitz may be almost as much fun as the Google-Oracle dispute or an El Chapo extradition hearing.

Mr. Abramowitz has hired Skadden, Arps, which is shorthand for Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom or SASMF. Fascinating acronym to decode if one does not know the full name of the the outfit which has been named America’s best corporate law firm for more than a decade. The 2,000 lawyers are supported by more than 2500 others. This is better than most cruise ships’ passenger to staff ratios.

How will Skadden, Arps deal with the allegations of making patents out of Hobbit labor? According to “Palantir Investor Taps Skadden in Trade Secrets Feud,” Skadden, Arp legal maestro said:

“Though artfully pled as a series of putative state-law claims, the operative complaint seeks to have plaintiff Palantir Technologies Inc. declared the sole inventor of three separate technologies that were in fact invented and developed by Mr. Abramowitz as the sole or joint inventor. Palantir’s claims necessarily raise substantial questions of federal patent law that can be resolved only by a federal court.”

Palantir seeks remediation under California law. Skadden, Arps is going to pop up a level. The Palantir legal eagles at Perkins Coie may have to tap into the Palantir seeing stone to foretell what the trajectory of a federal level patent case will be.

I don’t have a seeing stone. I am not even a Hobbit. I don’t work in the Shire. I labor in rural Kentucky. I consulted the fellow at the gasoline station and asked, “What’s the likely outcome of the Palantir-Abramowitz legal matter?”

He replied without looking up from his brown paper sack stuffed with a greenish bottle, “Expensive.” Bingo.

Stephen E Arnold, October 14, 2016

Google Patent Search: Wake Up Call for Derwent and TotalPatent

July 17, 2015

Patent documents are not something that high school students read. To be more accurate, patent documents are confections of legalese and engineering incantations read by those [a] paid to read them or [b] folks who have a dog in the fight.

The Google was not into patents in its Backrub days. That changed over time. Now the Google is inventing its way to a Great Wall of China patent fence.

Along the way, the Google hit upon the idea that some patent documents could be scanned and made searchable. The public version of the service became available in 2006. You can explore the collection at Google Patent Search.

After nine years of Google style evolution, the system includes US, European, and World Intellectual Property Organization documents.

The system returns results without ads. I ran a query for Sergey Bring and received this list of results. I noticed that some documents do not show a thumbnail of the document image. In my experience, some functions work; others do not. Glitch or feature?

I read “Google’s New, Simplified Patent Search Now Integrates Prior Art And Google Scholar.”

The write up points out that Google Patents includes information germane to the user’s query from Google Scholar and “results of Prior Art.” I read:

The idea is that the new patent search will be easier to use both by experts in the field as well as the general public to look for patents and related materials. Given the rising interest in safeguarding IP among developers and founders who may have never had to consider patents much before, this could prove to be especially useful.

When I click on a patent, I see additional options:


The “find prior art” button displays:


The service is likely to get some tire kicking by those interested in patents.

My take on the new service is that the Google may have an opportunity to generate some fresh revenues.

Patent searches conducted on the for fee services from Thomson Reuters and Reed Elsevier can be expensive. There are also some useful “free” services such as

The Google with a bit of effort can add some bells and whistles and charge for them. For the “free” crowd, the Google can continue to integrate open source content, not just books and references to scholarly literature. Prior art often has a generous embrace.

For the for fee crowd, the Google can add the types of entity functions, among other advanced features, that the for fee services offer.

In short, the Google may be looking at the hundreds of millions of revenue available from those with a must have motivation and add some functions that make advertisers sit up and take notice. Maybe the USPTO would consider the Google as a source for its search technology.

I see this development as an important one because the GOOG can make some waves in a market most humans know little about. Think of the ads the Google can run for student debt advice.

My question remains, “Why has Google been so slow to take advantage of market niches in which complacent competitors and providers of free services have been slow to innovate?”

Stephen E Arnold, July 17, 2015

Semantic Search and Challenging Patent Document Content Domains

July 7, 2015

Over the years, I have bumped into some challenging content domains. One of the most difficult was the collection of mathematical papers organized with the Dienst architecture. Another was a collection of blog posts from African bulletin board systems in a number of different languages, peppered with insider jargon. I also recall my jousts with patent documents for some pretty savvy outfits.

The processing of each of these corpuses and making them searchable by a regular human being remains an unsolved problem. Progress has been slow, and the focus of many innovators has been on workarounds. The challenge of each corpus remains a high hurdle, and in my opinion, no search sprinter is able to make it over the race course without catching a toe and plunging head first into the Multi-layer SB Resin covered surface.

I read “Why Is Semantic Search So Important for Patent Searching?” My answer was and remains, “Because vendors will grab at any buzzy concept in the hopes of capturing a share of the patent research market?”

The write up take a different approach, an approach which I find interesting and somewhat misleading.

The write up states that there are two ways to search for information: Navigational search sort of like Endeca I assume and research search, which is the old fashioned Boolean logic which I really like.

The article points out that keyword search sucks if the person looking for information does not know the exact term. That’s why I used the reference to Dienst. I wanted to provide an example which requires precise knowledge of terminology. That’s a challenge and it requires specialized knowledge from a person who recognizes that he or she may not know the exact terminology required to locate the needed information. Try the Dienst query. Navigate to a whizzy new search engine like and plug away. How is that working out for you, but don’t cheat. You can’t use the term Dienst.

If you run the query on a point and click Web search system like, you cannot locate the term without running a keyword search.

The problems in patents, whether indexed with value added metadata, humans laboring in a warehouse, or with semantic methods are:

  1. Patent documents exist in versions and each document drags along assorted forms which may or may not be findable. Trips to the USPTO with hat in hand and a note from a senator often do not work. Fancy Dan patent attorneys fall back on the good old method of hunting using intermediaries. Not pretty, not easy, not cheap, and not foolproof. The versions and assorted attachments are often unfindable. (There are sometimes interesting reasons for this kettle of fish and the fish within it.) I don’t have a solution to the chains of documents and the versions of patent documents. Sigh.
  2. Patents include art. Usually the novice reacts negatively to lousy screenshots, clunky drawings, and equations which make it tough to figure out what a superscript character is. Keywords and pointing and clicking, metaphors, razzle dazzle search systems, and buzzword charged solutions from outfits like Thomson Reuters and Lexis are just tools, stone tools chiseled by some folks who want to get paid. I don’t have a good solution to the arts and crafts aspect of patent documents. Sigh sigh.
  3. Patent documents are written at a level of generalization, with jargon, Latinate constructs, and assertions that usually give me a headache. Who signed up to read lots of really bad poetry. Working through the Old Norse version of Heimskringla is a walk in the park compared to figuring out what some patents “mean.” I spent a number of years indexing 15th century Latin sermons. At least in that corpus, the common knowledge base was social and political events and assorted religious material. Patents can be all over the known knowledge universe. I don’t know of a patent processing system which can make this weird prose-poetry understandable if there is litigation or findable if there is a need to figure out if someone cooked up the same system and method before the document in question was crafted. Sigh sigh sigh.
  4. None of the systems I have used over the past 40 years does a bang up job of identifying prior art in scientific, technical or medical journal articles, blog posts, trade publications, or Facebook posts by a socially aware astrophysicist working for a social media company. Finding antecedents is a great deal of work. Has been and will be in my opinion. Sigh sigh sigh sigh. But the patent attorneys cry, “Hooray. We get to bill time.”

The write up presents some of those top brass magnets: Snappy visualizations. The idea is that a nifty diagram will address the three problems I identified in the preceding paragraphs. Visualizations may be able to provide some useful way to conceptualize where a particular patent document falls in a cluster of correctly processed patent documents. But an image does not deliver the mental equivalent of a NOW Foods Why Protein Isolate.

Net net: Pitching semantic search as a solution to the challenges of patent information access is a ball. Strikes in patent searching are not easily obtained unless you pay expert patent attorneys and their human assets to do the job. Just bring your checkbook.

Stephen E Arnold, July 7, 2015

Google Expands Patent “Service”

April 27, 2015

Have you followed Google’s patent application flow? Well, it continues to creep up. Have you explored Google’s free online patent search? Well, it does not get too many upgrades.

What is getting attention is a new service explained in the Googley manner in “Announcing the Patent Purchase Promotion.” According the write up, you can participate in an experiment that will send your intellectual property to Mother Google. I read:

today we’re announcing the Patent Purchase Promotion as an experiment to remove friction from the patent market. From May 8, 2015 through May 22, 2015, we’ll open a streamlined portal for patent holders to tell Google about patents they’re willing to sell at a price they set. As soon as the portal closes, we’ll review all the submissions, and let the submitters know whether we’re interested in buying their patents by June 26, 2015. If we contact you about purchasing your patent, we’ll work through some additional diligence with you and look to close a transaction in short order. We anticipate everyone we transact with getting paid by late August. 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.

I flagged this as a quote to note:

We’re always looking at ways that can help improve the patent landscape and make the patent system work better for everyone. We ask everyone to remember that this program is an experiment (think of it like a 20 percent project for Google’s patent lawyers), but we hope that it proves useful and delivers great results to participants.

With a Xoogler in the PTO and trolls on the defensive, I am confident there may be some deeper, economic thinking behind this “experiment.” I love the Google. I am confident that it will add more patent documents to its patent service. I am confident that Google will continue to be Google even as it faces some financial challenges.

Stephen E Arnold, April 27, 2015

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