Top Patent, Trademark, and IP Stories from Last Week (9/30-10/6/19)
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!
“Why Are so Few Women Inventors Named on Patents?”
A new study from the Intellectual Property Office of the United Kingdom outlines the recent trends in female inventorship in the UK and around the world. The study indicates that only 13% of patent applications are submitted by female inventors. Despite such a low number, the number of applications submitted by women has actually doubled since 1998 when the rate was 6.8%.
On a gender breakdown, 25% of UK applications were submitted by all-male teams versus 0.3% all-female teams and 43% by individual males versus 6% individual females. The staggering disparities highlights the findings of a 2018 WIPO study that found “female scientists and engineers are less than half as likely to obtain a patent for their research as their male colleagues.”
The trend is mostly true across the top ten countries with the most patent applications. Russia accounts for the highest proportion of female inventors at 18% and South Korea the lowest at 6%. In the middle is the U.S. with 10% of applications submitted by females. That said, there are some positive findings in the study however. For UK patents related to biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, female inventors were part of more than 50% of those submitted. Expect the number of female inventors to increase as women continue to increase their participation in STEM jobs. To read more about this story, click here (via BBC News, October 2nd, 2019).
“Peter v. NantKwest to Kick off Busy IP Term for Supreme Court”
On Monday (October 7th), the Supreme Court heard Peter v. NantKwest, Inc. In this case, the Court is questioning whether the line “all the expenses of the proceedings shall be paid by the applicant” in § 145 “Civil action to obtain patent” includes attorneys’ fees. In this case, Dr. Hans Klingemann had filed a patent in 2001 for treating cancer with a natural killer cell line termed “NK-92.” In 2010, the examiner rejected the patent on the basis of it being obvious when Klingemann attempted to assign the patent to NantKwest, Inc., a determination the the PATB affirmed. NantKwest then challenged the ruling in district court and lost. The USPTO then cited § 145 when seeking reimbursement including the nearly $80,000 in attorneys’ fees. In 2018, the Federal Circuit determined attorney fees are not included [Source: Oyez].
In their petition to the Court, the USPTO indicated § 145 proceedings are the largest expense for the agency as well as the most time-consuming and believe this justifies reimbursement. As for NantKwest, they argue that § 145 “makes no mention of ‘attorneys’ fees” and “only ‘expenses’ are compensable under § 145, and both courts and Congress have historically treated ‘attorneys’ fees’ and ‘expenses’ as distinct.” Several organizations have submitted amici in support of NantKwest including The American Bar Association, Intellectual Property Owners, and many more. Will a ruling support of the USPTO’s ability to collect attorneys’ fees discourage those who believe their patents were wrongly rejected from doing so? That is something the Court must weigh as well. To read more about this story, click here (via IPWatchdog, October 3rd, 2019).
“Would You Wear ‘Smart Clothing’? Apple Patents Tech to Be Sewn Into Clothes”
A new patent from Apple outlines a wearable, stretchable band embedded into clothing that would wrap around a body part such as an arm or leg. Using sensor circuitry technology, the band would take “electrocardiogram measurements, blood pressure measurements, respiration rate measurements, and other measurements.” The data taken by the bands would be able to sync with apps on a smartphone or smartwatch via a wireless communication device in the band.
As for receiving power, the patent indicates a “coil formed from conductive strands in the fabric-based item may be used by wireless power receiving circuitry in the fabric-based item to receive wireless power.” The patent also alludes to the possibility of a microphone in the device that can take voice commands from the user. Would you wear such a device? To read more about this story, click here (via FOX Business, October 4th, 2019).
“Microsoft Filed a Patent for a Virtual Reality…Mat?”
Microsoft has filed a patent for a “Virtual Reality Floor Mat Activity Region” which will serve to both enhance VR user immersion as well as prevent users from bumping into tables and other furniture. The “fiducial markers” and “spatially distributed pressure sensors” under the mat would provide the VR with the user’s location based on pressure data received. This would allow the VR console to augment the VR experience relative to the user’s positioning on the mat as well as create virtual barriers in the VR world to prevent the user from stepping off the mat in the physical world. To enhance the VR experience even more, the mat will also vibrate. To read more about this story, click here (via Gizmodo, October 6th, 2019).