1.21 GigaWatts!

Okay, so as everyone knows, Doc Brown’s time-travelling DeLorean DMC-12 was powered by a flux capacitor that required a massive amount of electricity – 1.21 JigaWatts (as the Doc himself correctly pronounced it). That amount of electricity could only be provided by a bolt of lightning or the handy Mr. Fusion.

But DMC now has an actual EV that requires far less power to achieve the mythical 88 mph. You can keep the full self-drive mode, I’m more interested in the time-travel OTA update that I’m sure is coming any day now.

But it’s been a rough road getting up to temporal-shifting speeds. Today, 2022.08.08, Karma Automotive LLC filed a complaint against several of their former employees and the company they formed, alleging all sorts of bad acts. The story goes like this:

Karma was exploring a deal with DeLorean to put the iconic 1980s DeLorean chassis on the Karma frame, electric powertrain, electronics, and whatnot (the so-called “skateboard”). The result to be an electrified vintage-looking DeLorean EV that would hopefully fly off the shelves, if not off the road. Several employees were tasked by Karma to develop this project.

Somewhere along the line (as minutely detailed in the complaint, 4:22-cv-2644 TXSD), the employees so tasked decided that they would band together, start a company, (allegedly) misappropriate Karma’s trade secrets on the project, and work a deal with DeLorean themselves, to the exclusion of Karma. How that was going to go unnoticed by anyone, most notably Karma, I have no idea. This lawsuit was the eminently predictable result.

I couldn't figure out a cool way to work in the phrase "back to the future" in this post. Your comments are earnestly solicited.

Covid-Era Altruism Collapses?

Moderna filed patent infringement cases against Pfizer today in both federal court in Massachusetts and regional court in Germany, alleging infringement of their US patents 10898574, 10702600, and 10933127 (I didn’t look up the German pleading to see what patents were asserted therein). The US complaint alleges that Pfizer opted to use Moderna’s patented mRNA spike protein technology in its Covid vaccine, even though it had three other options available to pursue.

Moderna voluntarily pledged on 2020.10.08 that, “while the pandemic continues, Moderna will not enforce our COVID-19 related patents against those making vaccines intended to combat the pandemic,” but later announced on 2022.03.07 that Covid was now endemic, and they expected companies using their technology to seek a license for any product manufactured outside of the AMC-92 (poorer) countries. Today’s lawsuit is in response to the crickets that they have apparently heard from Pfizer since then.

So, I would ask you – wherein did the altruism cease? Is it in the party that refuses to pay for technology that they had been able to use for free for so long, or is it in the party that no longer makes such life-saving technology available for free?

Of course, that’s a very black-and-white view of the matter, skewed heavily toward Moderna. Pfizer would inevitably frame the matter differently.

It will be interesting to wonks like me to see how Pfizer defends the action. Will they assert that the patents are invalid? Will they assert that they don’t use the technology claimed in the patents? More than likely, it will be both, and other defenses as well.

As an aside, I had the Pfizer jab, while my wife had Moderna. Are we a house divided? Will one of us have to give our antibodies back?


Michael – I Am Your (IP) Father

Old villains, like old intellectual property franchises – never really die. They just reboot into the next incarnation.

If the news can be believed, the final installment of the Michael Myers / Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween franchise will be released this coming October. Entitled “Halloween Ends,” you’ll forgive us if we’re a little skeptical of the title. “Halloween Ends – Until The Next One,” might be more appropriate.

These days, the big Hollywood franchises appear to have more lives than the storied Michael Myers himself. And with good reason – these stories with a history pull down huge revenues. Everyone wants to know the latest exploits of Hulk, Luke, Jason, Ren, Maverick, Thor, Obi-Wan, and Ethan. You knew every one of those intellectual property franchises just by a main character’s first name, didn’t you?. Which proves the point. We want to see characters that we know and love in new and deadly situations yet again.

This, of course, causes all of us to turn our thoughts to how wonderful it is that intellectual property can be protected. That’s what you were thinking, right? If it was, then you should give me a call and I’ll help you out with that.


Duke Caboom Will Never Be Evel Knievel

If you’re my age – you remember Evel Knievel. I loved watching him trying to do severe damage to himself in the name of highly dangerous and equally impressive motorcycle and rocket stunts. He was a young boy’s hero because he had no fear (and perhaps the same amount of judgement?), rode a motorcycle, and wore a cape. What was not to love?

If you’re much younger, perhaps you’re more familiar with the Toy Story movie persona of Duke Caboom, who is also a stuntman (stunttoy?), that rides a motorcycle, performs death-defying jumps, wears a cape, and strikes a pose at every opportunity. His Fu Manchu is reminiscent of the 70’s, when Evel Knievel was performing at the height of his career.

K&K Promotions, the inheritor of Evel Knievel’s IP, brought suit against Disney, the putative creator of Duke Caboom, for infringed K&K’s intellectual property and publicity rights by creating Duke Caboom and using the character to sell merchandise. The district court granted Disney’s motion to dismiss, and today the 9th Circuit affirmed.

So whereas these holdings state that Caboom doesn’t infringe Evel Knievel, we find ourselves feeling to look at it in the opposite direction, in that nobody, NOBODY will ever be Evel Knievel.


Apple's Sizing You Up

I don’t have an Apple watch. In fact, I don’t wear a watch at all. My wife once asked me how I get anywhere on time if I don’t know what time it is. I said that nothing important ever seems to happen until I show up. <sound of lead balloon>

But apparently, if you have an Apple watch, you also want one or more of the veritable thousands of really cool watch bands that are available from Apple and a variety of third parties. And also, apparently, it can be very difficult to determine the size of watch band that is needed. I guess I should ask literally anyone else in my household about this because they, like everyone else that I know, actually have Apple watches.

In a pair of patent applications that published today, Apple provides details on an application for determining the size of watch band that you wear. You start the application on your Apple phone (do you think they’ll come out with an Android app for this?), rotate your hand and wrist in view of the front-facing camera – all under the supervision and instruction of the application – and it will then reward a job well done with an appropriate size of watch band – which may or may not be size 5.

The last time that I wore a watch – and actually had to buy a watch band – was sometime deep into the prior millennium. I think I just stood in front of a display and said, “I’ll take that one.” I don’t think that either I or the guy behind the jewelry counter at Walmart was even looking at my wrist. It fit.

Things were easier back then.


This One Goes to 11

Our eyes are drawn to the most subtle of curves, lines, and shapes. Sometimes an item will just stand out to us, appeal to us somehow, and we don’t even know why.

This is the world of the designer – those folks who seem to have that insight into the human psyche, and can draw us toward their hat, their dress, their shoes, or even – yes – their amplifier.

Such is the case with storied electric guitar inventor and accessory maker Gibson. Who can deny the beauty of the subtle curves in their guitar bodies? When we see Chet Atkins, Jeff Beck, George Benson, Eric Clapton, The Edge, Jerry Garcia, Jimi Hendrix, or any one of the additional hundreds of famed musicians who are devotees of the Gibson lean into a solo, we’re as fascinated by the beautiful guitar itself as we are of the music it produces.

Now Nashville, Tennessee inventors James Decola and Cesar Gueikian have been awarded US design patent D960859 in the name of Gibson Brands, Inc. for an amplifier design. At first I couldn’t see what they were claiming. In a design patent, you use dashed lines for whatever is NOT a part of your patented design – and the entire amplifier appeared to be dashed.

But upon closer inspection I saw the beautiful sweeps of the yoke design that curves through the upper portion of the amplifier at just the right height, with just the right inflections, and just the right weight to make this amplifier design an instant classic. The drawings don’t show the round-y or the shine-y of the yoke, but I just bet they’re there. And they're perfect.

A tip to all the would-be guitar heroes out there – start with the right equipment and the fans won’t even know why they’re so impressed with you. But then bring some skills. Yeah, you have to have skills too.


Why is This Car Here?

We’ve all seen cars that appear to be abandoned on the side of the road – either for a short period of time or a long period of time. Sometimes these cars have something added – like a neon green or pink label, that I assume has been put there by the police. Sometimes these cars have something removed – like tires. It all depends on where that abandoned car might be.

If you’re like you wonder about the story involved. Why is that car there? Why did whoever leave it? What’s wrong with it? When are they coming back? Was that a squirrel?

Well now Cumberland Gap Tennessee inventor Edward Barnett has received patent number 11417248 for an abandoned vehicle messaging sign that can help answer at least some of those questions. It doesn’t appear to identify squirrels, but it provides a means for displaying a message from within your car to whomever might be lurking around it. Perhaps the message could say, “Please don’t steal my tires,” or “I’ll be back Tuesday to add some oil.”

The messaging sign has lights in addition to the display, so that the message is easily found by passers-by. The whole shebang plugs into (what we used to call) the cigarette lighter to get power.

I imagine that I’ll be seeing these for sale soon at the new Buc-ee’s that just went in down the road.


Fishin’ Lid With Lure Patch

Those Tennessee inventors have been at it again – coming up with brilliant inventions for the benefit of people like us – and by people like us, I mean to say fishermen. Patent 11412804 issued 2022.08.16 to Tennessee inventors Christian Svendsen and Jon Elliot, and Utah inventor Erik Svendsen, for a fishing hat that can be in the style of our beloved ball cap. The improvement is a patch of closed-cell foam 112 that is useful for holding your hooks and lures.

This is great news for those of us who have – at one time or another – stuck that spare hook a little too deep into our cap and ended up catching a bit of scalp (hey Jed - you think I need to get this looked at?). Or stuck a lure in the bill of the cap, only to later forget it was there and hook a finger adjusting our lid.

My head and fingers thank these guys for their brilliant invention. We hope to see it in stores soon.


I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me

Does this describe you? Even when driving your car? Well, if Ford is successful, at least they (and hopefully you as well) will be able to know if there is a device that is trying to commandeer your ride.

Ford’s patent application for a device detection, monitoring, and reporting system published today, and describes a system (a blend of apparatus and method) that might someday be installed in your car. It works by someone (maybe even you, but probably not) initiating a search request for signals of unknown origin (as far as your car is concerned) and using sensors that are deployed in your car to find any such. If such signals are found, the signatures for the device creating the signals are recorded and sent to a server for analysis and action. Such action might include disabling one or more of the car functions, or perhaps disabling the operation of the car altogether. Another option – which I hope is always selected in addition to any others – is to notify the vehicle owner and hopefully give her the final say as to what should be done.

What’s the benefit of such a system? Nothing less than to thwart the electronic hijacking of cars. Which is apparently a thing. Although I don’t think it could happen to my ’68 Chevy truck, which doesn’t care too much about electronic signals. But to a brand-new Ford EV – oh, yeah – I can see that happening. I’m glad that someone’s looking out long term into issues like this.


Who's That Lady?

The Isley Brothers might not know this lovely lady, but her phone will, even with a mask on. US patent application 20220253628 published for a system that can recognize faces and other body characteristics, even with a mask on or with other impediments to traditional recognition.

Here is an invention apparently borne of the covid era, when we all had to wear masks in the airport, on the plane, and in other public spaces. I recall seeing many people sheepishly pull their masks down on a flight as they waited for their phone to recognize their face and unlock, hoping feverishly that the flight attendant wouldn’t see them and duck-tape them to their seat. Well with this invention, no more.

Of course, a system such as this has wider application than just your phone. It could also be used in public places by big brother to recognize the obvious terrorist in the drawing provided above, even if she wears a mask, flips her hair over her shoulder, or (gulp) grows a beard.

However, there’s an even darker side to this invention, as stated in the specification, “The system can identify a user's facial and body's changes, like weight gain or similar changes, alerting the user in real time.” Wait a minute – my phone is going to tell me in real time that it thinks I’m getting fatter? Will it “alert me” audibly? In public? I don’t think I need that. Might as well call this system WIFE 2.0.

If this makes it into Android 27, I will keep my phone speaker OFF.


Skynet Will Never Get a Patent

Okay, so you remember Skynet – the computer network that Cyberdyne developed in the Terminator universe to protect the planet that ended up becoming sentient at 2:14 am EDT on 1997.08.29 and tried to wipe out mankind? Yeah – that one.

Well, it might yet win the war for global dominance if Terminator reboots, but it will never be able to get a patent – that according to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in a decision that was fittingly issued in this same month a mere 25 years later.

We know this because Stephen Thaler has been trying to get a couple patents on inventions made by his DABUS (Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Science) artificial intelligence system. The applications were shot down by the patent office because there were no human inventors listed, which decision was upheld by the Easter District of Virginia, and which has now been yet again upheld by the Federal Circuit – who stated that no metaphysical matters involving the nature of invention was needed. The applications fail merely because “inventors must be natural persons; that is, human beings.”

And neither DABUS nor Skynet are.

So whereas Skynet might win an existential battle someday, it will never even so much as own its own IP.


Fair Use Doesn’t Apply to Ephemeral Lake

You Can’t Steal This Picture!

This picture was taken by renaissance man Elliot McGucken, who just happens to be an author, a Ph.D physicist, and a photographer extraordinaire. You should check out his website – it’s amazing.

Dr. McGucken – at personal expense and apparent great effort – hiked into Death Valley after a day of unusually (biblically) heavy rain, and captured some pictures of a short-lived lake. Between the unusual subject matter (come on, a lake in Death Valley?) and his photography skills, the pictures were a hit, and were licensed by several news agencies and other interested publishers.

But one publisher decided that they didn’t need a license from the good doctor – they appropriated 12 of the 28 images that Dr. McGucken posted to his Instagram account, and worked them into a story that they published online.

Elliot sued the publisher in federal district court, the appropriate venue for such an action, but the district court granted summary judgement in favor of the defendant – ruling that the publisher’s use of the images was a so-called “fair Use.” Fair Use is like a copyright escape clause, where use of the copyrighted works of another can be used to a limited extent and for limited purposes.

Luckily, Dr. McGucken appealed that ruling to the 9th Circuit, who found that Fair Use did not apply to the facts at hand, and bumped it back down to the district court for further proceedings. We wish the good doctor well.

By the way, the picture that I’ve used in this post is one that I took from the pages of the circuit court’s ruling. Dr. McGucken didn’t sue the circuit court for using it, and I’m hoping that he won’t sue me either.