In one of its last acts before its summer 2010 recess, the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in the long-awaited case of Bilski v. Kappos (S.Ct. 2010 80-964). In the Bilski case, the inventor was seeking to obtain a patent on a method of hedging risk. The Supreme Court found that the method was not patentable because it was merely an abstract idea. In earlier jurisprudence from the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), the CAFC had used a “machine-or-transformation test” to determine whether business methods were patentable. In Bilski, the Supreme Court refused to say that the machine or transformation test was the sole test for determining patentability, and the Court did not reject the machine or transformation test. Instead, the Bilski court stated that the machine or transformation test is a useful tool, but not the only tool, for evaluating whether an invention is proper subject matter for patent protection.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Decides Long-Awaited Patent Case

Beginning at 12:01 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time), on Saturday, June 13, 2009, members of the social networking website, Facebook, will be able to claim usernames to associate with their Facebook accounts and Facebook pages. This will allow Facebook pages to be accessed by using a url such as,, or something similar.

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As we continue our shift to a more knowledge-based economy, frequently the greatest assets of a company reside in the creativity of its employees. This is especially true for service companies in which the services can be repeated for multiple customers (example: software). Whether or not a company owns something that has been created by one of its employees will depend to a great extent on the category of intellectual property into which the creation is classified. Generally, the creations or discoveries of employees will fall into the intellectual property categories of copyright, patent, or trade secret.
Continue Reading Great Ideas by Employees – Who Owns Them?

eBay is in litigation with a small company that claims that its patents cover the online auction method used by eBay. Blackberry users were a judge’s pen stroke away from an injunction that would have stopped all Blackberry use in the U.S. In that case, the patent owner, again a small company, claimed that the famous Star Trek type devices infringed the company’s patent. These patents might have been detected during a patent search, if eBay or Blackberry undertook such searches. This article will discuss each type of patent search, the cost, and the purpose.

Patentability Searches

Suppose your company develops a new product that appears to be innovative. You would like to obtain a patent if it is feasible. Before spending the money for a patent application (the initial filing cost could range from $8000 to $20,000), it may be wise to conduct a patentability search. The purpose of this search is to look through the issued patents and published patent applications at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) to find those patents which are relevant to the invention. Once you know of the existing patents, known as the prior art, you can make a better determination of your chances at obtaining a commercially viable patent. A patentability search and report can range from $500 to $2500, depending on (1) the complexity of the technology and (2) whether the results are reported in a formal opinion or are merely discussed in a meeting.Continue Reading Patent Searching

Someone once observed that most car accidents occur within 10 blocks of the driver’s home. We see a analogous trend in Intellectual Property “crimes” – i.e. infringement of patents, trademarks, or copyrights; or misappropriation of a trade secret. Intellectual Property (IP) disputes between two parties that are strangers to one another are the exception, not the rule.
Continue Reading Intellectual Property Disputes

It is a situation we see repeated all too often. A successful small business owner is considering a major expansion – either by franchising or by opening more company-owned offices. The business has many of the key ingredients for success. However, as we investigate the trademarks of the business, we learn of potential problems.
Continue Reading Mr. Mirliton’s – A Recipe for a Dangerous Mix of Trademarks and Copyrights

In a given year, the average American teenager and young adult will spend 868 hours (36 days) online. Roughly 20 percent of this time is spent IM (IM). One recent study showed that of the 24 million U.S. teens that go online, one in five, or about 5 million, considers IM their primary means of communicating with their friends. Why are so may young Americans hooked on this technology? What can the American business man or woman learn from his/her son or daughter? If IM is such an important form of private communication in America, is there room for it in the American workplace? Can IM be an efficient and profitable means of conducting business? Or is IM just another type of electronic communication gadget along with e-mail, voice mail, paging, Blackberries, and cellular?
Continue Reading Instant Messaging: Does It Belong In the Workplace?