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Google, The Economist, Airbus, The Simpsons, Cecil the Lion – the week in IP

Google giving some details of its patent purchase programme, The Economist calling for patents to be fixed, Airbus applying for a patent on a “ultra-fast” plane, Fox being sued for using a Goodfellas actor’s likeness, and trade mark applications on Cecil the Lion were in the IP headlines in the past week


Google reveals patent purchase details

Google has revealed some details about its Patent Purchase Promotion, which began in April and closed last week.

IEEE Spectrum reported that Google bought 28% of the patents it thought were “relevant” to its business. Google said the median price of submissions was about $150,000. Half of the submissions were under $100,000, while the lowest price paid was $3,000 and the highest was $250,000.

Kurt Brasch, senior product licensing manager at Google, told IEEE Spectrum the number of submissions was “well beyond what we expected”.

The Economist calls for patent overhaul

In an editorial that is sure to irk patent supporters, The Economist this week revealed a cover story focusing on innovation, along with an editorial titled “Time to fix patents”.

“Patents are supposed to spread knowledge, by obliging holders to lay out their innovation for all to see; they often fail, because patent-lawyers are masters of obfuscation,” said the newspaper.

The Economist noted that in the 19th Century it had called for patents to be abolished completely. It stops short of that stance now. But it noted that an aim of the system should be to rout “the trolls and the blockers”, that patents should come with a “use it or lose it” rule, that they should be easier to challenge without the expense of a big court case, and that the burden for overturning a patent in court should be lowered.

It added that patents last too long.

“Today’s patent regime operates in the name of progress,” The Economist concluded. “Instead, it sets innovation back. Time to fix it.”



Ultra-rapid IP

Plane manufacturer Airbus this week attracted attention for its application for a patent on a plane that could fly from Paris to Tokyo in three hours, reports The Guardian.

The patent, titled “Ultra-rapid air vehicle and related method for aerial locomotion”, covers a plane that would climb 100,000 feet, as compared with planes today flying at about 30,000 and 40,000 feet. The application notes the fuselage would have “gothic delta wings”.

Don’t get too excited about planning a one-hour trip from London to New York any time soon, however. The Guardian quoted a spokesman for Airbus noting it is just one of many patents the companies applies for.

“Airbus Group and its divisions apply for hundreds of patents every year in order to protect intellectual property,” he said. “These patents are often based on R&D concepts and ideas in a very nascent stage of conceptualisation, and not every patent progresses to becoming a fully realised technology or product.”

Simpsons likeness case? Fuhgeddaboudit

An actor who starred in Goodfellas has had his case claiming $150 million for his likeness appearing in The Simpsons dismissed, reports the Pirated Thoughts blog.

Frank Sivero played Frankie Carbone in the 1990 Martin Scorsese gangster movie. The Simpsons created the character of Louie, a “wise guy” in the mafia the following year.

Sivero claimed that the character looks and acts like him and was created without his permission. He filed a complaint in October last year.

The judge this week found that Fox’s use was a parody of mob characters and was protected by speech under the First Amendment. The judge added that he did not even think the character and Sivero were that similar. Sivero had pointed to the character’s curly hair and side burns.


A lion’s share of patents

With the internet still ablaze with righteous anger over an American dentist shooting a lion called Cecil in Zimbabwe, it did not take long until the inevitable trade mark applications looking to take advantage of the story came rolling in.

As of August 4, four trade mark applications had been filed with the USPTO. They were filed to cover “paraphernalia”, which would cover T-shirts, stuffed animals and the like.

In addition, toy maker Beanie Baby launched a Cecil the Lion Beanie Bay (pictured right) to raise funds for animal conservation.

Also on the blog this week:

IP news summer roundup: Asia and Africa

IP news summer round up: Europe

In our news and analysis this week:

Applicants likely to use Unitary Patent, but uncertain about UPC

New version of TPP IP chapter leaked

US patent litigation down 27% in July but new multi-filers debut

Who’s moving firms in Europe?

MPHJ brings free speech challenge to Vermont deceptive letters law

USPTO points to case law and gives examples to determine “abstract” in new guidance

Spain cracks down on IP crime

Federal Circuit cuts down $1.17 billion Marvell award

Data – Ericsson most-targeted company in PTAB filings in July

Ninth Circuit upholds RAND award in Microsoft v Motorola

Analysing the Eastern District of Texas's approach to Alice motions

India Supreme Court decision calls into doubt future of IP Appellate Board

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