Top Patent, Trademark, and IP Stories from Last Week (8/26-9/1/19)
Every week, we will be highlighting the top patent, copyright, trademark, intellectual property, etc. stories of the previous week in our “In Case You Missed It” segment. The list itself is in no particular order and includes a wide range of stories from the patent world that are informative, noteworthy, or just plain bizarre. The stories included encompass everything from Supreme Court cases to insights into growing industries. Please feel free to comment your thoughts on the stories or share an important one we missed!
“USPTO Announces Federal Register Notice on Artificial Intelligence Patent Issues”
The USPTO recently published a Federal Register Notice regarding the patentability of inventions created by, or with the aid of, artificial intelligence. As of right now, the general consensus amongst patent offices around the world is that an inventor can only be a human person. In 35 U.S. Code § 100, the term “inventor” is restricted to an “individual” or “individuals” aka humans. Given the increasing number of AI inventions and ambiguity surrounding their patentability, transparency on the matter must be addressed.
For example, last month we wrote about “The Artificial Inventor Project” led by a team of academics who believe AI inventions should be patentable with the AI recognized as the creator. The team built an AI that autonomously invents and already has two patented inventions. In that case, is AI just a tool? Who is the patent owner? These are questions the USPTO is currently asking.
The office requests feedback from the public on the matter and has published questions for them to answer. They are doing so in order to determine “whether further guidance is needed to promote the predictability and reliability of patenting such inventions” and to “ensure that appropriate patent protection incentives are in place to encourage further innovation in and around this critical area.” Some questions include:
- “What are elements of an AI invention?”
- “Do current patent laws and regulations regarding inventorship need to be revised to take into account inventions where an entity or entities other than a natural person contributed to the conception of an invention?”
- “Are there any disclosure-related considerations unique to AI inventions?” (algorithms, enablement, etc.)
The USPTO indicates it will examine “the full spectrum of intellectual property policy issues that have arisen, or may arise, as AI technologies become more advanced” in the coming months. Additionally, they will consider “AI’s impact on existing intellectual property rights, including copyright and trademarks” and whether “new legal rights are needed in the wake of more advanced AI.” It will be difficult to set precedents for technology that advances so exponentially but it appears the USPTO is taking a lot of future scenarios into consideration. To read more about this story, click here (via USPTO, August 26th, 2019).
“The Number of New Patents Fighting Climate Change Is Plunging”
According to a new study from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), patents for climate change mitigation technologies (CCMT) are declining worldwide. Examples of such technologies include solar panels, carbon capture and storage (CCS), clean energy, power generation/transportation, etc. Between 2005 and 2012, such patents doubled however the number has dwindled over the past few years with carbon capture and storage patent applications down 44% and clean energy applications down 29%.
“We have benefited significantly in recent years from the research efforts that went into wind and solar power in the 1990s and 2000s, with increasingly competitively generation costs. The evidence presented here based on patents raises concerns about developments in future years,” the report states. Researches cite “maturity” of climate change mitigation technologies as a possible major reason for the decline. To read more about this story, click here (via Quartz, August 27th, 2019).
“LeBron James Seeks to Trademark ‘Taco Tuesday’ for His Entertainment Brand”
In another example of odd celebrity trademark filings, NBA superstar LeBron James has filed to trademark “Taco Tuesday” under his company “LBJ Trademarks LLC.” The phrase has been the focus of a series of popular videos on the athlete’s social media accounts.The filing seeks to protect the term for use on social media, blogging, marketing, podcasting services, downloadable audio/visual works, and online entertainment services. LBJ Trademarks LLC also owns the rights to the use of “LeBron” on footwear, apparel, sporting goods, bags, etc.
As for potential trouble filing the “Taco Tuesday” trademark, there are currently 10 other live filings with the USPTO under “Taco Tuesday.” Applications include griddles and grills, serving trays and cups, gaming machines, apparel, and restaurant services. The first “Taco Tuesday” trademark was filed by “Taco John’s Seasonings” in 1989. To read more about this story, click here (via Los Angeles Times, September 1st, 2019).
“Ford Patents Idea for Building a Movie Projector Into SUV Tailgates”
The Drive found a pretty interesting patent from Ford that would turn an SUV into a mobile drive-in movie theater. Mounted on the lift gate, a video projector would cast the video, video game, laptop, or phone onto a screen or makeshift one such as a wall. Such an addition to a vehicle could be useful for tailgates, camping, or just a movie night at home. Additionally, Ford indicates the projector could also function as a floodlight or bug-zapper.
This is not the first time Ford has considered the idea of turning your car into a mobile drive-in. Back in March we covered the company’s patent for an “entertainment support system” for pickups. Essentially, a giant screen on telescoping arm that could move in either direction with support for a projector and speakers, fitted to your car. It will be interesting to see whether Ford continues to make exterior entertainment accessories a focus in the future. To read more about this story, click here (via The Drive, August 28th, 2019).