By Debby Winters

I recently met with a potential client who asked me the value of having patents or patent applications. Patents and patent applications offer tremendous value to a company because they are viewed as company assets, just like a building or real property. In fact, for most start-up companies and most technology companies, patents and patent applications are the most valuable assets the company owns, and sometimes the only assets you are trying to raise money for your company or license your idea to another company, then patents and patent applications are essential.

Here are some ways you can make money from your patents and patent applications:

1-License the rights to another party. You can divide these rights up many ways. For example by region (i.e.: North America vs. Europe), by time (i.e.: only license for the first 5 years of your patent’s life), or by scope (i.e.: rights to manufacture only), etc.

2-Sell the patent as an asset. This is done through an assignment agreement where you assign the rights to another party. It is a process that is similar to selling your car or your house.

3- Cross license the patent rights. If you have patents in a certain area and another company has patents covering a slightly different area, you may be able to cross license your rights to expand their product offerings and generate new sales.

4-Sell your product or service at a premium or higher price. A patent should exclude others from making or selling the same product or service therefore reducing competition and allowing you to charge more money.

5-Sue others who are copying your idea. If you find other people are copying your patent, you can sue them for monetary damages.

If you are starting a new, a solid patent covering your idea is essential. A good patent should protect your ideas and serve as an asset for your company. AND remember this asset can be sold or licensed.

Ways you can make money from your patents and patent applications

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Is streaming TV over the internet a copyright violation?

by Debby Winters

Yesterday The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit barred a company that streams live TV shows over the Internet from continuing to transmit the programming, finding that to hold otherwise would “destabilize [an] entire industry” and inflict irreparable damage on the networks. This decision came about in the case of ivi Inc. of Seattle, which allegedly transmitted copyrighted material belonging to media powerhouses such as ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox Television and Major League Baseball. What does this all mean? It is clear that unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content over the internet is a significant problem that will only increase in severity if technology outpaces legal reforms.

There are many ways for users to enjoy streamed content legally, through legitimate video streaming websites like Hulu or Netflix, user generated content sites like YouTube and streaming music services. Streamed content is also often provided legally by content owners through their own websites and Internet portals such as ABC.com and HBO GO. And now users can even stream content through applications on their smart phones or their video game consoles.

As with any technology that provides access to creative content, however, this technology can be misused in ways not originally intended by the developers – to provide the means for thieves to steal huge amounts of copyrighted works. And the technology to do so is surprisingly simple. Often with nothing more than an additional cable or satellite line connected to a television set and readily available (and often free) streaming software, an infringer can capture television programming signals or Internet streams and re-transmit popular television shows and live sporting events over the Internet through unauthorized unicast websites, cyber lockers or peer-to-peer applications.

Unicast websites transmit streams through a central computer server directly to an end user’s computer where software on the computer converts
it for viewing. Unauthorized unicast sites often collect paid subscriptions or are supported by advertising because the technology requires significant computer processing and bandwidth. More recently, peer-to-peer technology has developed to allow users to create a video stream that can be passed on to other users who join the network, without having to maintain the significant bandwidth costs of a central server. Cloud computing services (which allow all types of digital media to be stored, accessed and synced from any web-connected device, including computers, personal tablets and smart phones), cyber-lockers (a particular type of cloud-based service), user-generated content sites (which allow users to upload self-created digital content that is then made widely available) and life-casting sites (which allow users to upload and stream live videos of themselves and those around them) all have legitimate, lawful uses, but can also be used as a mechanism by which users can transmit public performances of copyrighted content without permission of the copyright owner.

It’s not that streaming hasn’t been around for a little while. Indeed, RealPlayer, the pioneer in making streaming available on the Internet, first streamed an audio performance to the public over the Internet in 1995, and in 1997 it launched its video streaming technology. However, for years the bandwidth available to the public has not supported the high-quality video streaming that we have come to know today. Only in the past few years has the widespread proliferation of high-speed Internet connections and the advancement of new transmission protocols made online streaming a viable alternative to delivering video content on traditional television or on DVD copies.

First to Invent or First to File…a constitutional challenge to the new rules.

By Debby Winters

As the First to File system in the U.S. gets closer and closer to the time for it to be implemented, many are wondering if this is the best way for the U.S. to go. In fact, there have been some challenges to this new system, which is a result of the America Invents Act (AIA). One recent lawsuit was filed where the argument was that the Intellectual Property Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article I. Sec. 8) guaranteed the exclusive rights of inventions to “inventors,” and that this term could not embrace another, later in time filer, in the interests of administrative expediency. A small motorcycle engineering company based in Florida, MadStad Engineering, filed the lawsuit against the U.S. government & USPTO to block implementation of the first inventor to file system based on the above theory of unconstitutionality. The basic argument is that when the US Constitution speaks of exclusive rights for “inventors” it should be interpreted to mean “first and true inventor.” The AIA fails because it purposefully rewards the first-to-file a patent application rather than the first-to-invent.

Many times when a law is first enacted it is challenged, and this is not the first time the U.S. patent laws have been under siege. What happens here will be telling for the entire patent system. We will have to wait this one out to see how it all shakes out.