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Did the “inventor” of the fidget spinner really miss out on a fortune?

SpinnerFidget devices are everywhere. My own kids have somehow acquired at least two variants including the fidget cube and the fidget spinner. Recently the explosion in popularity of these toys has been accompanied by a series of news articles (The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The New York Times) focusing on the inventor of the spinner,  Catherine A. Hettinger, a small time inventor who, as the story goes, missed out on a huge payday because she couldn’t afford the renewal fee on her patent for the spinner toy.

This story seems to have caught the imagination of the public (or at least the press) with its story of the lone inventor who was cut off from the success that followed.

Only, it seems to IPcopy that this story is misleading, “fake news” to use the terminology of the moment, since the patent arguably doesn’t cover the fidget spinner device and would not have lasted this long under any circumstances…. (more…)

CIPA Seminar: Getting Practical with European Patents & the UPC – Episode 2

IMG_8533-1Last week IPcopy watched the second webinar in the CIPA UP/UPC series “Getting Practical with European Patents & the UPC – Episode 2 – managing the knowns and the unknowns of the ‘opt-out’” which was presented again by Pippa Allen. IPcopy’s post on the first webinar can be found here.

The subject of the second webinar was the opt-out and the presentation covered the legal basis for the opt-out as well as the pros and cons of opting a classically validated European patent out of the competence of the Unified Patent Court (UPC).

Opting out a classical EP patent from the UPC is seen as essentially preserving the status quo as far as a patent owner is concerned since an opted out EP patent is regarded as no longer being within the competence of the UPC. Assessments of the UPC may therefore tend to play up the risk of central revocation without providing much in the way of a counter point of view.

The second CIPA webinar however looked to provide a more balanced assessment of the UPC and also of the option of requesting unitary effect for EP patents that grant after the unitary patent system comes into force. (more…)

A look at the Case Management System of the Unified Patent Court

IMG_8533[Update: a week, as probably no-one has said before, is a long time in UPC CMS development…

Since posting the article below I’ve realised1 that the CMS has been updated(!), one of the more obvious changes being that the opt-out section of the CMS has had a bit of a revamp. Some of the issues below are still valid concerns but the overall process looks a little different now. We’ll be reviewing the changes and will report back shortly.]

Although the entry into force date of the unitary patent system is uncertain the official line is still that the Unified Patent Court is on track to open its doors. The suggested start date of 1 December 2017 is almost certainly unachievable now that the UK has called a General Election but a go live date around Spring 2018 seems doable.

In light of the “business is usual” message from the Powers That BeTM attention is turning towards the mechanics of working with the UPC. CIPA has recently started its Getting Practical series of webinars and a future session is earmarked for a practical walkthrough of the Case Management System (CMS) that we’re all going to need to get to grips with.

IPcopy recently sat down to play around with the CMS and has some observations on the system. It is our understanding that the whole system has been developed pretty quickly and a lot of progress has been made in a short space of time which is pretty remarkable. That being said, from IPcopy’s point of view, there are still a number of issues that can be improved upon. We’ve only been looking at a subset of the features of the CMS, namely the opt-out process, so we’re not sure whether the issues below extend across the rest of the system. (more…)

UKIPO consultation on new fees for patent applications

ConsultationThe UKIPO is currently running a consultation on proposed changes to patent fees. The fee structure is being reviewed as the Government has made a manifesto commitment to make the UK the best place in Europe to patent new ideas [IPcopy note – this consultation was opened a few days prior to the Prime Minister calling the General Election]. To support this, the IPO is investing in electronic services and increased examination capacity and therefore is considering an increase to their fees. (more…)

CIPA Seminar: Getting Practical with European Patents & the Unified Patent Court – Episode 1

IMG_8533-1This post provides an overview of the recent CIPA webinar: Getting Practical with European Patents & the Unified Patent Court – Episode 1 presented by Pippa Allen. This webinar was the first in a series about the unitary patent system. The next seminar is on Getting practical with European patents and the UPC EP2: managing the knowns and the unknowns of the “opt-out”. Future seminars will cover aspects of the unitary patent system referenced here in more detail, e.g. validity and infringement opinions and also a look at the Case Management System (CMS) that will be used to manage actions in front of the new Unified Patent Court.

It is noted that Getting Practical Episode 1 webinar was an extremely content rich presentation and IPcopy will not cover all aspects discussed. Interested readers are directed to the links at the bottom of the post for further information. (more…)

EPO News: change in practice for applications lacking unity

epologoOn 1 April 2017 the EPO changed its practice slightly for patent applications containing more than one inventive concept (i.e. for applications that the EPO search division has decided lack unity). (more…)

UK Election likely to delay Unified Patent Court?

IMG_8533This week’s snap decision by the Prime Minister to call an early election caught pretty much everyone by surprise and, in IPcopy’s view, is likely to delay (again) the progress of the unitary patent system as the processes around the election seem likely to interfere with the UK’s ratification of the UPC Agreement. In this post we take a look at the timeline for the election and how, in our view, it might potentially push the unitary patent system start date into early 2018. (more…)

Supreme Court Axes Laches: Major Change, But Modest Impact

photo-3rToday on IPcopy we have a summary courtesy of Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, P.C. of a significant patent decision in the U.S. Supreme Court (SCA Hygiene Products v. First Quality Baby Products, LLC).

Summary

On Tuesday March 21, 2017, the Supreme Court issued a 7-1 decision in SCA Hygiene Products v. First Quality Baby Products, LLC, ruling that laches—the notion that a plaintiff prejudiced a defendant by waiting too long to sue—cannot be invoked as a defense against a claim for patent infringement damages that accrued prior to the date of the suit. Explaining that a laches defense would undermine the Patent Act’s statute of limitations for damages, the Supreme Court relied heavily on its analogous copyright decision from 2014, Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., to overrule a 6-5 en banc decision from the Federal Circuit.

SCA is a favorable decision for patent owners, but is unlikely to have a profound impact on patent litigation. Laches defenses were always difficult to prove except in the most extreme situations—situations in which the separate doctrine of equitable estoppel remains available. SCA will likely be most significant in cases where the patent owner never actually communicated with the defendant before the suit but instead silently waited a long time to sue, perhaps until sales of an accused product are greatest, significantly prejudicing the defendant in the process (e.g., as a result of significant investments in the accused products or important evidence becoming unavailable). Even in those cases, the defendant may still cite laches as a reason to deny injunctive relief. (more…)

The unitary patent system: Topics of Interest (Q&A)

IMG_8533Despite there being some more work to do in bringing the unitary patent system online (not to mention the possibility that Brexit could still potentially torpedo or severely slow down the whole process), IPcopy has been asked a growing number of questions recently about the unitary patent and the Unified Patent Court.

What follows below is a selection of questions that we’ve encountered over the last few weeks. This is by no means an exhaustive summary of the current state of play of the unitary patent but we hope the discussion below is useful nonetheless.

A list of topics is below. Click on the topic of interest to jump to the correct part of the post. (more…)

Holding on for a unitary patent

IMG_8533After a five month Brexit induced wobble the unitary patent system appears to be heading toward lift off and is once again figuring in the plans of some patent owners.

Indeed, in the last week, IPcopy was asked whether a currently pending European patent application would be eligible for unitary patent status or if there was a risk it might grant before the system goes live.

In this post we take a quick look at what makes a European patent eligible for unitary effect on grant and how the unitary patent system timescale matches up with the European patent process. (more…)