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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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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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Making Slack actionable makes you productive

(TECHNOLOGY) Slack is an amazing productivity tool, but of course can add more to your plate – this feature puts you back on track.

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You know when you’re using Slack and you’re having a conversation with your teammate about whether or not you should grab lunch or go to Soul Cycle, but before you can answer, your editor Slacks you about deadlines and your design partner messages you proofs and suddenly you snap back to reality and remember that you’ve been working on a blog post for an hour and your concentration is completely shattered? You know, the exact moment when your productivity is officially derailed?

Well, Slack now offers Actions to help make sure that doesn’t happen. Your day may get busy, but at least nothing will slip through the cracks, work-wise.

Integrated with project management tools like Asana, Zendesk, and Jira, Actions allows users to create and comment on tasks, tickets or issues within conversations. That means no clicking through tabs or apps until you can no longer remember why you started clicking in the first place. More importantly, Actions keeps track of the work you need to do and when you need to do it.

So, how do Actions work?

1. Need to create a deadline or set up an appointment? Anything you see in Slack that needs a follow-up can be turned into an action when you click the ••• icon and choose an “action.”

2. When you’ve completed an action, a message appears in your Slack channel and lets your team know you’ve flagged it for follow-up.

3. Whichever app you’ve integrated with will alert Slack at which point you and your team can determine the next steps.

Bottom-line, Actions help keep your workflow moving. While it may not stop the onslaught of Slack messages from breaking your concentration, at least you’ll know what you should to be concentrating on.

If you’re curious to know more about Actions, the company has ample info on their API pages for your perusal.

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Freezetab streamlines how you save tabs in Chrome

(TECH NEWS) Freezetab is the newest chrome extension that allows you to organize saved tabs in a myriad of ways.

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Internet made easier

With the browser becoming more and more of a workspace than merely an application, the built in bookmarks tool may leave you a bit hungry for more.

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Chrome users who need better tools to organize and manage bookmarks may find the power they need in Freezetab.

Bookmark’s cooler, hotter younger brother

Freezetab seeks to answer the questions of “what if I could organize my bookmarks by website” or “I only want to save all but two of these tabs on zen office designs.” It seeks to give you more options beyond the “one or all” choices in chrome. Here is the lowdown:

  • The calendar feature remembers WHEN you saved a tab – so if you can’t remember the title you can just go back to the day.
  • Chrome either lets you save one or all tabs. Freezetab expands those options to include: all, current, everything but current, right of, left of, or pick and choose.
  • If you are sharing a collection of tabs with a workgroup or a partner, it exports as a nice textbox that is easy to share in integrated messaging, IM, or email. Or even social media!
  • Sorting is robust, and there is a solid search feature that searches as you type.
  • That quick save feature saves all the tabs and closes them – and you can adjust that quick save feature to meet your needs.
  • There is a handy little star feature to note important bookmarks (i.e. recipes and excel techniques).
  • Enhances your close tab capability to close everything to the left and specific tabs – this great if you work in chrome and have 75 tabs open that have one letter names.
  • It is easier to sort tabs after you save them – you can search for them and then sort into folders you create rather manually organizing them into folders.
  • As a bonus: for those who don’t want to have to sort bookmarks – unlike Chrome which requires you to pick a folder or risk turning your bookmarks to an unorganized mess, the extension automatically organizes it for you.

Freezetab findings

After spending a few moments with Freezetab, it does fit in nicely with a workflow. Solidly reviewed, the developer did solve an issue with “pinned” tabs in the 1.2 update. – so it doesn’t remove or add them. The features are nice and easy to use, and it doesn’t require more than five minutes of playing around.

One complaint – if you choose to the right or left of the current tab to close, it did close the active tab as well – which was a little funky. But once you get comfortable with the nuances, it’s easy to use.
The interface is function over form, but you won’t have any problem using or customizing this extension. Now Bookmark smart y’all!

#FreezeTab

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We’ve all seen job listings for UX writers, but what exactly is UX writing?

(TECH NEWS) We seeing UX writer titles pop up and while UX writing is not technically new, there are new availabilities popping up.

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The work of a UX writer is something you come across everyday. Whether you’re hailing an Uber or browsing Spotify for that one Drake song, your overall user experience is affected by the words you read at each touchpoint.

A UX writer facilitates a smooth interaction between user and product at each of these touchpoints through carefully chosen words.

Some of the most common touchpoints UX writers work on are interface copy, emails and notifications. It doesn’t sound like the most thrilling stuff, but imagine using your favorite apps without all the thoughtful confirmation messages we take for granted. Take Eat24’s food delivery app, instead of a boring loading visual, users get a witty message like “smoking salmon” or “slurping noodles.”

Eat24’s app has UX writing that works because it’s engaging.

Xfinity’s mobile app provides a pleasant user experience by being intuitive. Shows that are available on your phone are clearly labeled under “Available Out of Home.” I’m bummed that Law & Order: SVU isn’t available, but thanks to thoughtful UX writing at least I knew that sad fact ahead of time.

Regardless of where you find a UX writer’s work, there are three traits an effective UX writer must have. Excellent communication skills is a must. The ability to empathize with the user is on almost every job post.

But from my own experience working with UX teams, I’d argue for the ability to advocate as the most important skill.

UX writers may have a very specialized mission, but they typically work within a greater UX design team. In larger companies some UX writers even work with a smaller team of fellow writers. Decisions aren’t made in isolation. You can be the wittiest writer, with a design decision based on obsessive user research, but if you can’t advocate for those decisions then what’s the point?

I mentioned several soft skills, but that doesn’t mean aspiring UX writers can’t benefit from developing a few specific tech skills. While the field doesn’t require a background in web development, UX writers often collaborate with engineering teams. Learning some basic web development principles such as responsive design can help writers create a better user experience across all devices. In a world of rapid prototyping, I’d also suggest learning a few prototyping apps. Several are free to try and super intuitive.

Now that the UX in front of writer no longer intimidates you, go check out ADJ, The American Genius’ Facebook Group for Austin digital job seekers and employers. User centered design isn’t going anywhere and with everyone getting into the automation game, you can expect even more opportunities in UX writing.

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