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Microsoft/Dell licensing deal, Leahy bill hearing delayed, USPTO issues 700,000th design patent – the week in IP



Michael Loney


A new Android patent deal for Microsoft, the Senate mulling further provisions for patent reform, InterDigital reportedly agreeing to FRAND terms for its patents in China, the Wu-Tang Clan’s novel approach to releasing music, and the USPTO's 700,000th design patent were among the IP stories hitting the headlines this week

Managing IP had a busy week, holding the US Patent Forum and North American Awards 2014 dinner in Washington DC.

You can read coverage from the forum here, including Michelle Lee urging lawyers to volunteer for new USPTO initiatives, IP practitioners being horrified by USPTO guidelines on Myriad, and Judge Sharon Prost giving insights into the workings of the Federal Circuit. You can also read our Storify round-up of the highlights from the forum here.

You can find out the winners of the awards here.

Below are some of the other intellectual property stories grabbing the headlines this week.


Microsoft and Dell agree licensing deal

Microsoft revealed another Android patent deal this week, this time with Dell.

The two firms have agreed to license each other’s applicable intellectual property related to Android and Chrome IS devices and Xbox gaming consoles. They agreed to royalties for Dell’s products running on the Android or Chrome platforms and on consideration to Dell for a licence for Xbox gaming consoles.

The firms described the deal as "continuation of a nearly 30-year business relationship between Microsoft and Dell to deliver world-class technologies to consumers". Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice-president and deputy general counsel of the innovation and intellectual property group at Microsoft, added: "We have been partnering with technology manufacturers and vendors for many years to craft licensing deals, instead of litigation strategies."

The FOSS Patents blog said the deal is Microsoft’s 23rd known Android deal and 29th in total, and included a list of all the deals in a blog post. This year alone, Microsoft has been involved in deals with Huawei, Voxx Electronics and Hop-on.

All of this progress was recognised this week when Microsoft received an award for In-house Licensing Team at the Managing IP North America Awards 2014 (Gutierrez pictured with the award, above right).

Leahy bill hearing delayed, fee shifting under consideration

Progress on Congress passing a patent reform bill was set back this week when a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Senator Patrick Leahy’s bill was delayed.

The committee was scheduled to consider the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act of 2013 on March 27. This has been pushed back to April 3 after some members of the committee including Senators John Cornyn, Orrin Hatch and Chuck Schumer pushed for more changes.

Leahy (left)  released a statement yesterday providing an update on his bill. He and co-sponsor Mike Lee are working on a manager’s amendment that "will bring in additional provisions to deter abusive conduct by patent trolls". This includes the controversial issue of fee shifting.

"One provision that is important to Senator Cornyn, Senator Grassley and others would send a strong signal that patent trolls who pursue lawsuits with no reasonable basis should pay reasonable attorneys fees. I am working with Senator Hatch on a provision to address the problem of shell companies that cannot be held accountable because their corporate structure makes them judgment-proof. We are also working on other provisions to improve the process in patent suits," wrote Leahy.

In addition, following feedback from investors, businesses, practitioners and consumers, Leahy and Lee are also making changes to the "customer stay" provision in the manager’s amendment.

Protect Ya Neck (and ya copyright)

Hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan – known for hits including Protect Ya Neck and CREAM – is planning a novel way of protecting copyright on its music. It will release just one copy of an upcoming album.

The album, called "The Wu – Once Upon a Time in Shaolin", will sit in an engraved silver and nickel box and will be taken on a tour or festivals, museums and galleries to allow fans to hear the music. It will then be released for private sale, according to a website for the album.

In addition to expecting to sell the album for a multi-million dollar sum, the group is hoping the move will spark a discussion about the value of music.

Wu-Tang Clan chief producer RZA and the album’s producer Cilvaringz said in a statement: "By adopting a 400 year old Renaissance-style approach to music, offering it as a commissioned commodity and allowing it to take a similar trajectory from creation to exhibition to sale, as any other contemporary art piece, we hope to inspire and intensify urgent debates about the future of music. We hope to steer those debates toward more radical solutions and provoke questions about the value and perception of music as a work of art in today’s world."

InterDigital to play fair in China

US wireless technology firm InterDigital Communications has agreed to license use of its patents in China at fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, according to a report. The firm has also pledged to withdraw IP complaints with the US International Trade Commission against Huawei and ZTE.

InterDigital has been investigated by China’s National Development and Reform Commission about whether it has abused its dominant market position to charge higher prices.

InterDigital and Huawei have negotiated over licensing agreements since 2008 but failed to reach agreement. According to local reports, Huawei turned down InterDigital’s offer because it is 19 times the rate for Apple and more than double the rate for Samsung.

InterDigital filed complaints at the ITC and in a Delaware court claiming infringement of seven patents. The ITC said in a preliminary ruling last year that one of the patents is invalid and Huawei did not infringe the other six.

USPTO issues 700,000th design patent

The USPTO commemorated the issuance of the 700,000th design patent this week during a ceremony with United States Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker at Langdon Education Campus in Washington, DC.

The patent for the ornamental design for a "Hand-Held Learning Apparatus"was issued to Jason Avery of Berkeley, California and is assigned to Emeryville, California-based LeapFrog Enterprises.

Michelle Lee, deputy director of the USPTO, noted: "The design area has increased from twenty five and a half thousand applications in 2009 to just over thirty five thousand filings in 2013."

The ceremony also included the launch of a new IP Patch (right) developed as a joint project between the USPTO, Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital and the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation.

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