Dawn Ellmore Employment's Blog

IP and Legal Industry Updates



Amazon Patents System of Storing Stock Underwater

Amazon filed for a patent entitled Aquatic storage facilities” in September 2016 that was recently granted.  The aim of this patented system is to increase warehouse space by increasing storage space by depth.

The proposed system would create underground warehouses by wrapping containers of stock items in waterproof packaging with depth control devices (to raise and lower the items) and storing them in giant water pools submerged under current Amazon warehouse floors.

The patent also mentions the possibility of using airplanes or drones to drop packages (fitted with GPS tags) into natural rivers or lakes where they would be stored at the bottom of the water until they were needed and they could then be retrieved using a sonar signal.

You can read more about the patent here:

Emotion-sensing Technology Patented by Facebook

American corporation and online social media and social networking service Facebook have patented emotion-sensing technology that uses a user’s laptop webcam or smartphone camera when it is not turned on to detect the user’s emotions.  Using a sophisticated algorithm the technology is able to determine  whether users are happy, sad, depressed or excited (based on their facial movements and expressions) and display Facebook content that is more relevant to user’s current mood.  The adjustment in targeted advertising and content would happen in real time as a response to the data received about a user’s current state of mind.  It would also prevent irrelevant or upsetting content (any content that the user averts their eyes from) being shown to the user again.

You can read more on the patent here:

The patent for this technology was actually granted in 2015 but Facebook has not currently developed it.  Not all patents are precursors to consumer products and technology but they are usually a good indication of future technological focus for companies.  Fears over users’ loss of privacy could be one reason why the technology has not been currently launched.


Intel Found Innocent of $2bn Infringement in Recent US Patent Trial

The case started in 2010 when AVM Technologies sued Intel on the basis that its Intel Pentium 4 and Core 2 designs infringed its intellectual property (of on US patent 5,859,547 for a dynamic logic circuit patent owned by AVM Technologies).  Joseph Tran is the President of AVM and also the co-inventor of the patent in question.  A number of patents from Joseph Tran’s earlier company, Translogic, had been licensed by Intel.  The 2010 court action was dismissed on account of insufficient evidence.

Five years later AVM re-filed their lawsuit claiming Intel continued to infringe the patent in further Intel designs (including: Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge and Haswell).

The $2bn estimate for damages related to the alleged patent infringement related to the broadness of the claims made within the law suits.  Intel tried on multiple occasions to have the case dismissed but was unsuccessful in this attempt.  Finally in 2017 a US jury recently decided (following a 6 day patent trial looking at years of arguments and hundreds of submissions) that Intel had not infringed on US patent 5,859,547, thus upholding earlier court decisions on the same basis of insufficient available concrete evidence.  This decision was the latest and final decision in a long seven year legal battle between AVM Technologies and Intel.


Google Files Patent Application for Infrared Sleep-Tracking Device

Google recently filed a patent application for a device that monitors a person while sleeping using infrared technology.  The device measures the amount of infrared radiation bouncing off the person and returning to the device which aims to give information on the person’s sleeping patterns and behaviours.  The patent also mentions the possibly of interpreting breathing and heart rate patterns.

Devices that have the ability to log a person’s sleeping patterns represents technology that is not new – there are currently several devices that do this on the market today.  What is unique about the device mentioned in this patent application is that it is a stand alone device, meaning that users do not have to wear other devices (such as wristbands or watches) in order for it to work.  The independent, passive nature of the device mentioned in this patent application is its unique selling proposition as it would not disturb people when they are sleeping so the behaviours recorded would be the truest possible versions of the person’s sleeping patterns.  The device merely monitors users sleeping patterns from a distance using infrared beams of radiation that cannot be picked up by the human eye.

The other benefit of the device mentioned in the patent application is that it connected to a home alarm system which rings the alarm or alerts another family member in the house if the device finds the user’s breathing suddenly becomes very low.  This device thus has great safety potential for monitoring the healthy sleep cycles of both children and adults.


Apple’s Latest Patent to Repel Water From iPhones

Apple recently had a patent published concerning the use of a hydrophilic coating on the speaker grille and inner side of Apple iPhones to repel water from the inside of iPhones.  The inner side hydrophilic coating would serve to speed up the removal of any water out from the iPhone.  The patent also mentions a sensor within the acoustic chamber which senses whether the device has any water within it.

The patent also mentions that Apple plans to add a specially designed speaker.  According to the patent application this speaker would have the ability to sense the water and then send an audio pulse blast (inaudible to the human ear) to repel the water out of the iPhone.

Many smartphones on sale today have a coating over the screen to repel much of the natural oil from the finger when touching the screen to avoid smears and smudges on the smartphone.  Apple’s patented use of a hydrophilic coating combined with speakers sending audio pulse blasts to expel water is a uniquely innovative development.


Land Rover’s Latest Patent Has Military Technology!

Land Rover recently patented a central tyre inflation system which aims to make going go off-road easier, improve fuel economy and correct tyre pressure for gradual wear and tear over time.

Although similar technology already exists in military vehicles, what is unique about Land Rover’s patented system is its ability to inflate or deflate tyres to specific pressures depending on the selected driving mode (which can be automatically detected based on sensory data).  Land Rover’s patent application for the central tyre inflation system has illustrations of 4 driving modes with associated tyre pressure levels, they are as follows:

1) on-road – most common setting for normal driving

2) economy – on this setting the tyres the tyres would fill with increased air pressure allowing for better fuel efficiency

3) off-road – at reduced speeds the tyres would deflate and once traction control finds the vehicle is stuck the tyres would inflate to the correct air pressure for the set off road condition.

4) recovery mode

The patented central inflation system would also be able to correct tyre pressure for general wear and tear over time which most consumers would find an added bonus.


Walmart’s granted patent will track when products are low and reorder them for you

American multinational retail corporation Walmart was recently granted a patent that will track when customer’s products are getting low at home and then automatically reorder those products for customers.  The technology would also be able to track how frequently products are used.

The abstract of the patent reads as follows:
“A system and method for item replenishment comprising a subscription device that associates tags with items, a tag tracking device for collecting data on the tags associated with the items, and a management system that monitors changes in use of the items, including analyzing use patterns to determine when the items should be replenished, replaced or upgraded.”

The frequency tracking offered by this patent could tell Walmart how often someone wears a pair of shoes, thereby allowing Walmart to calculate how quickly the shoes wear out and make suggestions to customers about what pair they might consider ordering next through personalised promotions.

This type of technology is not completely new, for example Amazon has dash buttons and a dash replenishment service which allow customers to reorder items when they are low at the touch of a button in their home.  What is unique about Walmart’s patented solution however is that it requires less work than similar solutions offered by competitor firms.  With Walmart’s technology customers would not need to do anything to prompt the reordering of a product.


USITC to Investigate BMW, Honda, Toyota for Alleged Patent Infringement

Intellectual Ventures II (patent holders for thermoplastic parts used in motors, water pumps, electronic power steering units) claim that some car manufacturers including Honda, BMW, and Toyota as well as other part suppliers have infringed their patents.

The United States International Trade Commission (USITC) recently responded to these allegations of patent law infringement by announcing that it will investigate 25 companies for alleged patent infringement for thermoplastic components in cars sold in the country.  The investigation is expected to take approximately 45 days to reach a conclusion.


Japan to Simplify Patent Screening Processes Using Artificial Intelligence at the JPO

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) reportedly plans to use artificial intelligence (AI) technology to automate some tasks involved in the process of patent, trade mark and design applications.

The JPO is set to apply AI technology from April 2018 to 20 tasks where enough documentation exists to train software and where pattern analysis and recognition would be useful.  The aim is to automate time consuming tasks to make operations more efficient and decrease long working hours for employees.  Examples of the tasks where AI may assist include in literature reviews i.e. searching through large volumes of files to ensure a technology or similar piece of intellectual property has not been previously and classifying applications by field.

The JPO started to use an AI system from December 2016 to respond to patent queries where the results showed the technology to have performed almost as well as human employees.  Testing for the accuracy and cost-effectiveness of the next set of AI IP administrative tasks is due to start in the summer of 2017.


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