Dawn Ellmore Employment's Blog

IP and Legal Industry Updates


March 2017

IBM Files Patent Application for Futuristic Drone Pet-sitter

IBM recently filed a patent application for a drone that can function as a mechanized pet-sitter to watch over dogs and cats when their owners are away at work.  The pet-sitter drone is similar to a standard drone but it has additional sensors (e.g. cameras, microphone and temperature sensor) and enhanced features (e.g. food dispenser with treats and calorie counter) all of these features are designed to keep a close eye on the pet to ensure they are safe and healthy whilst the owner is away.

It works in two phases of observation and engagement as follows:


  • The camera allows monitoring of the pet’s location (tracking them if they wander off into restricted areas of the house), expressions, sounds and movement and checking for odd behaviours (e.g. scratching, excess panting). The camera can be linked to the owner’s smartphone allowing them to spy on the pet whilst away.


  • The drone’s microphone allows interaction with the pet, telling it off for misbehaving or rewarding good behaviour. The patent application indicates that the drone could interact with internet-connected household items (e.g. thermostats, pet feeders, pet doors and automated pet games) controlling the house temperature, pets calorie intake and access to food and toilet areas.  The drone could also initiate a game of fetch launching a ball remotely via an internet controlled pet toy and then reward the ball’s retrieval with treats from the onboard food dispensary.

Whilst it is unclear how animals would react to a drone constantly hovering and monitoring them while intermittently issuing commands it is an interesting technological development which could have many positive benefits, not least giving owners peace of mind that their pets are safe and secure.


Bentley Motors Loses Invalidity Trade Mark Action against Bentley Clothing at UKIPO

British manufacturer & marketer of luxury cars Bentley Motors recently lost a trade mark invalidity action (filed in 2015) against UK based Bentley clothing company over the use of the “Bentley” trade mark on clothing lines.

Bentley Motors (launched in 1919), with a famous reputation in the luxury car market, launched a clothing line in 2005.  The carmaker who owns a “Bentley” trade mark (EU 3925187) in classes 14 & 18 covering jewellery and leather accessory goods felt that Bentley clothing, launched in 1962 but did not file their “Bentley” trade mark for clothing, footwear and headgear until 2009, were infringing the goodwill that they had built up over time with consumers and that there could be confusion between the service offerings with the same name and now in similar markets.

In its recent decision the IPO said that Bentley Motors had failed to provide evidence of use of its mark for any of the goods relied on (jewellery and clothing).  The IPO also stated that the use of the mark by Bentley clothing would not take unfair advantage of Bentley Motors.


Disney’s Oscar Winning Film Zootopia Faces US Copyright Lawsuit

American film producer, director and animator Gary Goldman has filed a copyright lawsuit against Disney concerning their 3D film Zootopia which grossed more than $1 billion worldwide and won Best Animated Feature Film at the 2017 Oscars.

Gary who has over 30 years of experience of writing, directing and producing movies believes Disney took ideas that he had previously pitched to Disney for the film.  He states that the name of the film, plot, characters, setting and artwork are all similar to his original ideas discussed with Disney on two occasions.  The lawsuit he has filed covers the following: copyright infringement, breach of implied-in-fact contact, breach of confidence and unfair competition.


WIPO Announced Record Number of International Patent Applications

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) recently announced a record number of international patent applications filed in 2016 at 233,000 patent applications filed, this represented a 7% increase from 2015.  The technology sectors responsible for the most worldwide patent applications included: Digital communication (8.5%), Computer technology (8.2%), Electrical machinery apparatus, energy (6.9%), Medical technology (6.8%) and Measurement (4.4%).

The top 10 PCT patent applicants were dominated by companies from China, the US, South Korea and Japan.  Chinese technology company ZTE Corporation was the top PCT applicant with 4,123 published patent applications in 2016 (a 91% increase on 2015 filing rates).

The top 10 PCT patent applicants were reported as follows:

1)   Chinese technology company ZTE Corporation (increased by 91% since 2015)
2)   Chinese networking and telecommunications equipment company Huawei technologies
3)   US telecommunications equipment company Qualcomm incorporated
4)   Japanese electronics company Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (increased by 28% since 2015)
5)   South Korean electronics company LG Electronics (increased by 29% since 2015)
6)   US software company Hewlett-Packard (increased by 33% since 2015)
7)   US based semiconductor manufacturing company Intel Corporation (increased by 35% since 2015)
8)   Chinese semiconductor display technologies company BOE Technology Group (increased by 36% since 2015)
9)   South Korean electronics company, Samsung Electronics
10)   Japanese multinational conglomerate, Sony Corporation (increased by 20% since 2015)


£270m Technology Commitment from UK Government in Spring Budget

The UK Government recently announced in the latest Spring budget that £270 million was to be allocated to launch an Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.  The fund is expected to support R&D in universities and businesses resulting in innovation in the following areas:

  • Artificial intelligence and robotics that can function in extreme environments (e.g. offshore energy, nuclear energy and space)
  • Batteries for new electric vehicles to improve air quality
  • Medicine manufacturing technologies to increase patient drug access

This announcement has been welcomed as a positive development by IP attorneys at UK firms.


Patent Lawsuits Increase by a Third in China

The total number of patents issued in 2016 in China increased 24% to over 1.2 million.  Patent lawsuits in China were recently reported to have increased by 37% to 28,916 in 2016 when compared with 2015 figures.  Patent lawsuits related to counterfeit goods increased by 32% to 28,057 in 2016.

The surge in patent disputes in China coincides with Beijing’s five year plan to strengthen intellectual property rights by increasing patents per 10,000 people from 6.3 to 12 and increasing patent royalties from $44.4 billion to $100 billion from 2015 to 2020.


Patent Granted For Skeleton Imaging

ContextVision, a medical imaging software company, was recently granted a patent (originally filed in 2014) on new technology for showing the skeletons of unborn babies during pregnancy from 3D ultrasounds.

The patented technology is based on visualization software and improves the potential for early discovery of skeletal irregularities (e.g. fractures and skeletal malformations) as well as facilitating the early measurement of bone structures.


Adidas Aggressively Defends 3 Stripes Trade Mark

Adidas, the largest sportswear manufacturer in Europe and which designs and manufactures shoes, clothing & accessories, has filed nearly 50 trade mark lawsuits against different organisations in the last five years.

Adidas owns trade marks for a specific 3 stripe design under footwear and clothing classes.  The company’s simple 3 stripe trade mark (made famous in 1950s after its use on shoes) means it could become diluted by too many similar stripe designs from other manufacturers.

Adidas recently contested Tesla Inc.’s 3 horizontal bars logo on an electric car because of plans to extend the use of the logo on clothing. Tesla changed its bar logo to a numeric 3.

Fast fashion retailer Forever 21 (who have been in receipt of trade mark lawsuits from adidas on more than one occasion) feel adidas has become too aggressive with litigation threats and they do not believe adidas should be able to own the market on all striped clothing.


Could the Next iPhone Contain Apple’s Patent for Smart Facial Detection?

Apple was recently awarded US patent No. 9,589,177 (filed in 2015) covering detection of human faces in digital video using depth map information.  Face detection is an integral first step in bio-recognition technologies.  You can read more about Apple’s latest patent here.

The software works by scanning a digital image and extrapolating whether a “window,” contains a face.  The depth mapping system is based on infrared motion tracking technology, similar versions are used in Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect sensor.

Rumours are now circulating that this new technology could appear in Apple’s next iPhone mobile phone.



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