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Will patent law support Walmart's application for new system

Most Americans, Texas residents included, do at least some online shopping. This means that traditional brick and mortar businesses like Walmart need to find a way to stay relevant and up-to-date in order to compete with other online retail giants like Amazon. In fact, Walmart is now hoping that patent law will support its application for a new online system that is already being touted as similar to the "Dash" buttons that Amazon uses.

The patent describes an "automated home subscription system" that appears to be based on Amazon's easy reorder system. Walmart's application says its system goes beyond Amazon's. Walmart's new system would not require customers to push a button in order to reorder a frequently used and ordered item. Instead, it uses the Internet of Things to track the usage and expiration of products.

What does patent law say about utility patents?

Once a Texas inventor creates something, he or she needs to take the next step to secure the legal rights to it. Patent law provides for three general patents, one of which is a utility patent. This type of patent covers the inventions functionality and structure. A design patent covers the way an invention looks, and a plant patent covers new variations of plants that are asexually reproducible.

Most people here in Texas and elsewhere apply for utility patents. Through this type of patent, an inventor secures the associated property rights. It bars anyone else from using, manufacturing or distributing a product covered by the patent. The owner reserves the right to allow someone else to use it in exchange for payment. If a party uses it without permission, the patent provides an avenue for legal action.

Patent law issues: Responses to an application

Texas inventors know that securing their intellectual property rights is essential. They carefully fill out their patent applications and send them to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to await a decision. At this point, they know that under patent law, they must wait for a response from an examiner.

Understanding the types of responses that a Texas inventor could receive might help alleviate some of the trepidation that often accompanies waiting for a response. There are three different types of responses a patent examiner can send in reference to an application. They are an office action, a notice of allowability and a notice.

Two More Patent Casualties to Alice Ruling

On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh ruled that two patents held by Twilio Inc. were invalid under Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank because the patents fell under the category of abstract ideas implemented by a computer. This blog has highlighted several patents over the past few months that included an Alice analysis, and this case follows the same line of thinking.

Louis Vuitton Loses Trademark Claim, May Need a Larger Purse for Damages

On Monday, April 10, Law360 reported that a small company who successfully defended itself against trademark infringement and dilution claims in January is now seeking nearly $1 million in attorney fees. My Other Bag, Inc. is a small company who sells parody versions of designer handbags and purses, which feature cartoon drawings of designer logos. These bags generally sell for between $35 and $55, significantly less than a genuine Louis Vuitton handbag. After the original suit was filed in 2014, the case was dismissed on appeal in January, with Judge Jesse M. Furman telling Louis Vuitton that it can be "better to accept the implied compliment in a parody and to smile or laugh" rather than sue. 

Sen. Orrin Hatch weighs in on patent law case before the USSC

When filing a lawsuit against a company, it needs to be filed in the place where the company was formed or where it has substantial business ties. This location represents the "venue" where the case is heard, which for some companies could include a variety of locations. When it comes to patent law cases, lawsuits are often filed in locations where goods that supposedly infringe on another's patent are sold. It might surprise many people to know that in 2015, a favorite venue for these cases was right here in Texas, according to Sen. Orrin Hatch.

During that year, as many as 45 percent of all patent infringement cases in the United States were filed in the Eastern District of Texas. In fact, as many as 33 percent of the cases filed in that court were before one judge. This is because that federal court is known to be "plaintiff-friendly." Defendants could spend thousands of dollars from the start of the cases, and a large percentage of the cases actually go all the way to trial, even as proceedings continue in the Patent and Trademark Office.

Dow Seeking En Banc Hearing in Patent Infringement Suit

On Monday, April 3, Law360 reported that Dow Agrosciences, LLC ("Dow"), a subsidiary of Dow Chemical, has requested an en banc hearing by the Federal Circuit to review a prior ruling by the Federal Circuit. In March, a three-judge panel awarded Bayer Cropscience NV ("Bayer"), a Bayer Corp. subsidiary, a $450 million judgment in a dispute between the companies over patents controlling weeds. The ruling, issued March 1, held that the review of arbitration awards is "very limited." Dow is now arguing this interpretation is incorrect because the decision violates public policy.

Texas Court Registers a Victory For Karaoke Fans

On Tuesday, Law360 reported Judge Lee H. Rosenthal of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas partially dismissed a trademark suit brought by karaoke music publisher Phoenix Entertainment Partners LLC against several bars in the Houston area. The suit originated from the Houston bars playing several karaoke tracks while displaying the Sound Choice brand of karaoke tracks during the performance. Judge Rosenthal ruled that the suit should have been brought as a copyright claim, rather than a trademark claim, which follows several recent appellate-level decisions. This decision follows a similar January ruling in the Ninth Circuit.

Approved patent law application could charge up smartphones

How many Texas residents have found their smartphones running out of battery life with no way to charge them? Well, that could change now that Sony's patent law application was approved. The tech giant patented a way for one smartphone to draw battery power from another.

The technology is based on the concept of near-field communication, which allows devices to share data and for the use of mobile payment apps that do not require contact to work. Using this technology to transfer data was also included in the patent. Sony obtained its new patent just as the demand for wireless charging of devices such as smartphones is gaining ground.

Costco Teeing Up A Patent Lawsuit Against One Of Golf's Heavy Hitters

The end of March is always an exciting time for golfers. Spring time is on the horizon, daylight savings has provided us with more sunshine at the end of the day, and the Masters is right around the corner. This year is shaping up nicely - most of the world's top players are playing well early in the season, and Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, and Rickie Fowler have each already won this year. But a few weeks before the Masters, a surprising name is making a splash in the golf industry. On Monday, multiple sources reported that Costco Wholesale Corporation has filed suit in the Western District of Washington seeking a declaratory judgment that it does not infringe on eleven patents for golf balls held by Acushnet, the parent company of industry leader Titleist.

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