Kodak has won a small victory in its ITC case against Apple and Research in Motion (RIM) this week. The case alleges that device’s manufactured by Apple and RIM infringe on Kodak’s picture preview patent. The initial determination by the ITC earlier this year was that the Kodak patent was not valid in relation to the technology used in Blackberries and iPhones.
However, upon review the ITC made some changes to the initial decision and called for a new analysis of the case. Kodak has painted this development as a victory in a recent press release, but experts say that the company may be celebrating prematurely because the ITC judge could once again end up ruling in favor of Apple and RIM in the case review. That final decision will be announced August 30.
As a result of these unresolved claims, Eastman Kodak Co (EK) fell 14 percent in the New York stock exchange. Nonetheless, Kodak is anticipating that the ITC determination on August 30 will help the company extract up to $1 billion in licensing fees from RIM and Apple.
It is helpful to review some of the details of the initial patent case which Kodak brought against Apple and RIM for some context. The company in fact filed three separate legal actions against the two companies. The same patent for picture previews had been at issue in a case they recently settled with Samsung.
One of the three cases against Apple and RIM was filed in the ITC, while the other two are only against Apple in New York district court. One of these New York cases involves Apple’s alleged infringement of both the picture preview patent and another patent which covers technology for image processing at differing resolutions. The third case against Apple is for infringement of several other patents which cover computer program functionality. Kodak has previously enforced these patents successfully against Sun in a case back in 2004.
Apple has applied for a patent on a technology which uses the orientation sensors on a mobile device to correct common photo issues. The technology uses gyroscopes, accelerometers, and compasses to calculate the device’s orientation, and then applies this data to correct for problems like tilt to make photos appear more balanced.
The technology also corrects for a common distortion that occurs when the camera isn’t held vertically. This typically happens when you angle a shot up at a building, for example, and the parallel lines appear to converge. The technology allows for photos to be corrected after they are taken or as they are being taken. It’s a new take on digital camera software which counteracts camera shake and optical lens shortcomings. A startup called Lytrol is also working on light-field technology that lets you focus shots after they’re taken to correct focusing errors.
As the competition in the smartphone market continues to heat up, Apple is hoping the new patent will provide it with an edge. The technology would allow users to worry less about getting every detail of a photo perfectly aligned. Of course, there are users who will want intentionally include perspective and tilt distortion for artistic effect in their photos, and according to the patent, the technology will not interfere with this.
It will be able to distinguish between intentional camera tilts and accidental errors. The technology, which is sure to improve all those drunk vacation shots, should function automatically without requiring the user to do anything special to make it work. Several illustrations that were included with the patent application make it clear how slight adjustments in tilt and perspective can greatly improve photo quality.
A patent reform bill designed to fix the “broken” federal patent review system was sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith of Texas. The bill, known as the America Invents Act, passed the US House last week.
One key aspect of the bill will help to reduce a huge patent backlog of 1.2 million pending applications, and shorten the average wait time for patent approval to less than the current three years. It would also set up a post-approval system to review recent patent awards and help to weed out poor quality patents that may have slipped through the process. Importantly, it will also create a “first inventor to file” standard for patent approval which may help to reduce patent disputes in the future. Smith calls his bill a “job creation bill” that will spur innovation and economic growth.
Chairman Smith praised the passage of the patent reform bill, claiming that the victory will update the patent system for the 21st century and reduce frivolous litigation while speeding up the approval process. He noted that unwarranted lawsuits cost on average $5 million to defend, and this risk can discourage or prevent legitimate inventors and companies from going into business with a good idea.
According to a recent report, China will pass the US for the first time as the world’s largest patent publisher. This provided even more incentive for US lawmakers to remove barriers to innovation that exist in the current system. Smith said that the bill represents a fair compromise between existing patent law and new incentives to spur creativity, which is why the balanced approach gained support from both sides of the aisle.
The California company Eco Vision has announced that they have received a patent on their design for a home compostable Eco Jar package. Utility patent #7.954,640 was granted to the Eco Jar, which is used by consumer brands including Organic Essence. Eco Vision had received an earlier patent on another design as well, known as the Eco Tube.
These designs help to meet rising demand for ethical consumer products with eco-friendly packaging solutions. Consumers seem to be impressed by the fact that the packaging is immediately compostable. It differs from other paper canister packaging in its design, which uses an innovative jar with a jar concept.
This design helps to provide superior protection for the contents and maintains product integrity better than competing packaging. The Eco Jar uses compostable coatings and barrier films which make it suitable for a wide array of products, including foods, personal care and cosmetics.
One of the first applications for the Eco Jar was as a biodegradable cosmetics jar. The patent award recognizes the superior product protection that the jar provides, which is essential for delicate products like cosmetics. The entire Eco Jar, including all labeling and adhesives, are 100% biodegradable and made from 100% certified recycled materials that can be printed with soy inks.
Organic Essence, the sister company of Eco Vision, uses the Eco Jar to package all of their cosmetic products which are also made from certified organic and fair trade products. The only downside of this packaging solution was its high production cost, due in part to antiquated production techniques and low volumes. To overcome this, the inventors created a new technology to simplify production and reduce costs for paper packaging solutions.
In 2010, the Green Packy Award was given to Eco Vision at the Natural Foods Expo. Eco Vision was also selected for the top spot of the Green Packaging sector at the 10th Annual International Package Design Awards.