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SHIELD Act: finally a cure for patent trolling

Anyone in technology has seen how patent trolling has impeded technological innovation, and Congress is making a move to take legitimate action.

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patent trolling

What can be done to stop patent trolling

We have long written about the perils of patent trolling, which is a practice wherein a company files for patents on technologies/inventions they do not plan on ever using, rather sue when someone else “infringes” on their patent. But of course, like no bigot realizes that they’re a bigot, patent trolls do not consider themselves trolls, rather business people.

[pl_blockquote pull=”right” cite=”Boston University”]
“Patent troll suits cost American
technology companies over
$29 billion in 2011 alone.”
[/pl_blockquote]The current American patent system is set up to support trolling, in fact, I would argue that it encourages it, just look at the dockets of courts around the nation (or around East Texas, wink, wink). Last fall, President Obama signed the “America Invests Act” which is divided into three parts – (1) keeping the patent system attractive to global companies by aligning its processes with other countries’ processes, (2) aligning of funding for the U.S. Patent Office with its needs by modifying its fee system, and (3) raising the bar on the quality of the patents so only the most appropriate patent infringement lawsuits are filed. Click here to read the full Act.

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Related:

Infographic on why the current patent system is a problem.
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The President’s “America Invests Act” is not enough

Today, Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced legislation cosponsored by Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) that would protect American tech startups from patent trolls. HR 6245, the SHIELD Act, is a bipartisan effort to put the financial burden on patent trolls, and is already garnering a great deal of support.

“Patent trolls don’t create new technology and they don’t create American jobs,” said Congressman DeFazio in a statement. “They pad their pockets by buying patents on products they didn’t create and then suing the innovators who did the hard work and created the product. These egregious lawsuits hurt American innovation and small technology start ups, and they cost jobs. My legislation would force patent trolls to take financial responsibility for their frivolous lawsuits.”

[pl_blockquote pull=”right” cite=”Congressman Chaffetz”]
“A single lawsuit, which may easily cost
over $1 million if it goes to trial, can
spell the end of a tech startup and the
jobs that it could have created.”
[/pl_blockquote]Chaffetz said, “The SHIELD Act ensures that American tech companies can continue to create jobs, rather than waste resources on fending off frivolous lawsuits. A single lawsuit, which may easily cost over $1 million if it goes to trial, can spell the end of a tech startup and the jobs that it could have created. The tech industry is one of the few bright spots in our economy. It spurs the economy and creates thousands of high-quality jobs. This bill combats the problem of patent trolls by moving to a ‘losers pays’ system for software and hardware patent litigation.”

The Congressmen say the SHIELD Act does not have any impact on innovators with legitimate patent infringement claims and will force patent trolls to pay defendants’ legal bills.

The statement notes that “Patent trolls often buy broad patents that allow them to file flimsy lawsuits against multiple companies for infringement. Despite very thin evidence to back their lawsuits, companies are often forced to settle because going to court can easily cost over $1 million in legal costs even if the company prevails. Patent trolls most often target software and computer hardware companies. According to a recent Boston University study, patent troll suits cost American technology companies over $29 billion in 2011 alone.”

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Seth Siegler

    August 2, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    That’s a huge step in the right direction.  Raising the stakes in the decision of a troll to sue a company that is actually innovating could really cut down on some of the perils of releasing a product that actually solves problems.  I just wish there would be some sort of complete review of all existing, outlandishly broad patents that were somehow granted.  

    • laniar

      August 2, 2012 at 5:19 pm

       @Seth Siegler Agreed. In my personal opinion, this is just one tiny step – the entire system needs to be overhauled, and not in a cutesy “vote for me, I care about patent trolls” way politicians have been doing for the last year, but tear the whole thing down and rebuild it.

      • Seth Siegler

        August 2, 2012 at 5:42 pm

         @laniar Totally.  The best thing about this is that it’s bipartisan.  I forgot that word existed.  Hopefully it’s a start to fixing the actual problem.  Maybe we can even start making mobile apps in real estate, without getting sued!

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Google begins evolving Hangouts into Google Chat

(TECH NEWS) Google is transitioning from Hangouts, and Meet to Chat to offer what they think consumers want. No more competing with themselves.

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Google chat

What is your favorite instantaneous way to communicate with your team these days? Phone call, text, video call, group text message, email, or instant message?

It might depend on the team members and their preferences, but organizations and business owners run the gamut on IM (Instant Messaging) software: Slack, Skype for Business, MS Teams, and Google Chat to name a few. There have also been several that worked well for smaller companies and startups like HipChat by Atlassian. These are often used in addition to still meetings, conference calls, and emails but depending on the culture of the organization, they may love IM, and require it to have a wider range of capabilities that just copy (i.e. photo and file attachments, groupings, privacy settings, focused team, or group channels)

To be fair, there are varying degrees of interest by employees in instant messaging. Some love the idea that you can quickly reach out to a coworker and ask a question, and some find it bothersome and would prefer an email so they can file and sort topics easily (or if it’s really that quick, a phone call or stopping by to ask – if they are in the same space – not COVID-19 alternative working).

This begs the question, does IM allow for more remote working capabilities, and does that mean Google is on to something that they may have just hit the right time and need? The truth of email is that we are becoming less and less interested in reading long forms of copy, and want the information quickly.

Google consolidated their people working on communications tool to one team and is moving Hangouts to Google Chat as well as quickly integrating Google Meet for everyone (you can start a video meeting from within your Gmail, so think Zoom but not having to leave your email – assuming you’re on the G-suite).

If timing is everything, this could be a really smart move for them. Do you even remember Google Hangouts? This was a product launched originally as a feature of Google+, and then became a stand-alone product in 2013. It incorporated video and voice call capabilities for individuals or groups. The thing is, in 2013, I think many people were still using IM through their work email (which was dominated by Microsoft Outlook and PCs). For whatever reason, people just weren’t really using it that way. Most likely people could use it with their internal teams, but would have to use Chat for external users.

The history of Instant Messaging is kind of fun to review – starting with AOL in 1997 when they launched AIM. Now pretty much every platform has a version of the instant message, and people are extremely accustomed to short exchanges and ways to reach out quickly. People frequently use text, Twitter, iMessage, GroupMe, and Facebook Messenger among other ways to quickly reach out, break through the clutter, and hopefully hear a response back pretty quickly.

It appears that Google hopes to offer the capabilities that their users need – when they realized it seemed that business users were using Chat within their organizations, but having to use Hangouts to speak to those outside of that company. Right now, this is only for business users, but they are likely to see how to roll it out to all customers now that they’ve added the Meet capabilities.

According to Android Police, “Furthermore, it’ll soon be possible for G Suite users to message other G Suite users from outside their organization starting May 26. Anyone not in your company will have an ‘External’ label next to their name in the Google Chat UI so there’s no confusion. You’ll also be able to add any contacts to group chats so long as you designate them as ‘External.’ This will only apply to new rooms, though — any you’ve already created will have to remain internal-only rooms.”

It looks like Google is working on getting rid of Hangouts for good, and broadening Google Chat, but there could be some other products in the meantime. Will this change how you use your G-suite?

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A look into why AI couldn’t save the world from COVID-19

(TECH NEWS) AI is only as powerful and intelligent as the teams building it, but we just don’t have the data yet. So perhaps, we just aren’t there quite yet.

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COVID-19 AI

Even in the best of times, the human race can hardly be defined by our patience in the face of uncertainty. COVID-19 has rocked our feelings of safety and security. Hospitals have struggled to keep up with demand for care, and researchers are working tirelessly to create a vaccine. Early on in the fight against this virus, some looked to artificial intelligence technology to lead the pack in finding a solution to the global health crisis, but science takes time and AI is no different.

Over two months ago, when COVID-19 was still most prevalent in China, researchers were already attempting to use AI to fight the virus’ spread. As Wired reports, researchers in Wuhan, China attempted to screen for COVID-19 by programming an AI to analyze chest CTs of patients with pneumonia.

The AI would then decipher if the patient’s pneumonia stemmed from COVID-19 or something less insidious. This plan failed for the same reason many pursuits do – a lack of time and data to pull it off.

The United Nations and the World Health Organization examined the lung CT tool, but it was deemed unfit for widespread use. The lung CT tool, and all other AI driven projects, are limited by the humans designing and operating them.

We have struggled to collect and synthesize data in relation to COVID-19, and as a result tools, like the lung CT scans, cannot hope to succeed. AI is only as powerful and intelligent as the teams building it, so perhaps, we just aren’t there quite yet. Our tenacity and optimism continue to drive AI forward, but progress can only be sped up so much.

Like all science, AI has its limitations, and we cannot expect it to be a miracle cure for all our problems. It requires data, experimentation, and testing just like any other scientific pursuit. There are many problems to unlock before AI can be a leader in the driving force for positive change, but its shortcomings do not outweigh its potential. AI couldn’t save us from COVID-19, but as researchers continue to learn from this global event, AI may still save us in the future.

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Tech News

Chrome can now group and color code your open tabs

(TECH NEWS) Do you have too many tabs, and can’t tell what’s what? Google has tab groups that make it easier to find what you’re looking for.

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google tabs group

Are you a tab collector? That’s Google’s name for people who have tabs upon tabs upon tabs open on their Google Chrome browser. And while third party apps are already available to help collectors manage tabs, Google is now stepping in with Tab Groups.

Tab Groups, try it here, allows users to color-code, group and add text or emoji labels to separate clusters of tabs in their browser.

Right-click on any tab and choose Add to New Group. A gray dot will appear to the left of the tab and outline it in the same color. Clicking on the dot lets users update the color, label and name the group. Once grouped together, the tab groups can be moved and reordered. They’re also saved when Chrome is closed and reopened.

Google said after testing Tab Groups for months, they noticed people usually arranged their tabs by topic and that appeared most common when people shopped or were working on a project.
“Others have been grouping their tabs by how urgent they are, “ASAP,” “this week” and “later.” Similarly, tab groups can help keep track of your progress on certain tasks: “haven’t started,” “in progress,” “need to follow up” and “completed.”

Of course, this new feature does nothing to dissuade users from opening too many tabs, despite research that says multitasking may change the structure of your brain and Chrome is notorious for using too much RAM. So now you can’t concentrate, and your computer is running hot and slowing down.

A solution? Use Chrome extensions such as The Great Suspender, which suspends tabs that have been inactive for a specific amount of time. Don’t worry, you can whitelist specific websites so if you always need a tab for Twitter open, it won’t be suspended.

Another tip is to focus on one task at a time using the Pomodoro Technique, breaking tasks and your workday into 25-minute bursts of productivity with five-minute breaks in between. FocusMe uses a timer and website blocker to reduce the risk of getting distracted. You’re on the internet, after all.

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