Archive for the ‘Patents and Innovation’ Category

Public Patent Foundation Sues Monsanto on Behalf of Organic Farmers

On March 29th, 2011, the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed a complaint on behalf of organic farmers, seed businesses, and organic agricultural organizations seeking to invalidate Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seeds.

Photo by bloomsberries. Some rights reserved.

One of the primary concerns of organic farmers regarding GM seeds has always been the threat of contamination – “Coexistence between transgenic seed and organic seed is impossible because transgenic seed contaminates and eventually overcomes organic seed,” argues the complaint. However, the plaintiffs take the clever route of preemptively suing Monsanto “to protect themselves” in the event of such contamination, pointing out that they might “perversely” be accused of patent infringement “by the company responsible for the transgenic seed that contaminates them.”

In their prayer for relief, the Plaintiffs ask the court for the following:

A. Declare that each claim of each patent in suit is invalid;

B. Declare that Plaintiffs cannot be held to infringe any claim of any patent in suit;

C. Declare that each patent in suit is unenforceable;

D. Declare that Monsanto is not entitled to any relief if any Plaintiff is held to infringe any valid and enforceable claim of any patent;

E. Enjoin Monsanto from taking any action to enforce any patent in suit;

F. Issue an order requiring Monsanto to pay Plaintiffs’ costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred in connection with this action; and

G. For such other and further relief as the Court deems just.

Law firm Faegre & Benson has published a very thorough article on the topic, discussing the arguments of the case as well as Monsanto’s rebuttals to date. You can also follow PUBPAT’s coverage of the case here.

Canada’s IP Office Follows US Lead on “Green” Patents

Photo by James Jordan. Some rights reserved.

Similar to changes made by the Green Technology Pilot Program, which was launched by the USPTO in late 2009, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office recently announced the approval of amendments expediting “the prosecution of an application when the invention is related to green technology.”

In line with “the Government’s priorities on science and technology, supporting the growth of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), developing a clean energy economy and taking government action on global warming and capacity building,” the amended Canadian rules promise to fast-track patent applications that relate to “technology the commercialization of which would help to resolve or mitigate environmental impacts or to conserve the natural environment and resources.”

Canadian law firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt explains the changes in a recent Update.

The Leaf Blows In

Photo by Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz. Some rights reserved.

Excitement is rising around the Nissan Leaf, America’s first major commercial electric car.  An article in yesterday’s New York Times states that so far, 20,000 people have reserved a Leaf at their local dealerships; the vehicle will be available as early as December here in Washington, along with Oregon, California, Arizona, and Tennessee.  The limited release is targeted toward regions where the Leaf is expected to make a splash; in major cities in Tennessee, electric cars will be allotted their own parking places, allowed in freeway HOV lanes, and offered free public charging stations for convenient “refueling.”

A Zero Emissions Vehicle, the Leaf is 100% electric.  It’s advertised as being able to drive at up to 90 miles per hour, and travel up to 100 miles per charge, which takes place every time you plug in your charging dock or, in a pinch, hook up to a standard wall outlet.

And the perks don’t end there.  The Tennessee government is offering a $2500 cash rebate for those who purchase the vehicle, in addition to federal tax credits and free home-charging units from the Department of Energy.  So even if you fall outside the demographic that Nissan anticipates will be most enthusiastic about this new technology— “affluent, college-educated consumers in their mid-40s who are both environmentally sensitive and willing to take a chance” —you may find that the price is right.

And it is the price, not the technology, that makes the Leaf break out from the pack.  Tesla’s Roadster, an all-electric car that gets 245 miles per charge and goes from zero to sixty in 3.7 seconds, also boasts a prohibitive price tag of over $100,000.  Nissan’s Leaf, on the other hand, is $32,780—and that’s before the subsidies kick in.

The Huffington Post points out that in fact, the electric car has been around almost as long as the automotive industry itself.  The Anderson Carriage Company of Detroit was making the Detroit Electric back in 1907, which they sold for $2650, almost four times the price of the Model T.  Because these electric cars could start without turning a hand crank, it seems the Detroit Electric was quite popular with the ladies.

Green ideas get a boost from USPTO’s Green Technology Pilot Program

December 8, 2010, will mark the one-year anniversary of the USPTO’s Green Technology Pilot Program. The twelve month mark also signals the end of the program (barring any extensions by the USPTO) implemented to “accelerate the development and deployment of green technology, create green jobs, and promote U.S. competitiveness in this vital sector,” according to a USPTO news release.

In an effort to shuffle to the head of the line patents “pertaining to environmental quality, or energy conservation, development of renewable energy resources or greenhouse gas reduction,” the program granted certain pending “green technology” patent applications the eligibility to be given expedited examination. The current average wait for a final decision on these patents is 40 months. The program aims to reduce that time by a year.

Photo by Chuck Coker. Some rights reserved.

The specific requirements for participation in the program were laid out in the federal register shortly after the USPTO’s announcement. However, one condition in particular – limiting participation to applications in only certain green technologies – ruffled the feathers of some potential participants, who found the requirement unnecessarily restrictive. The USPTO later overturned the restriction, opening participation to applicants from any technology areas.

Foley & Lardner recently published an update examining the impact of the program so far (see the fifth story down). The program was originally capped at 3,000 participants, and 1,500 petitions have been filed so far. Of those, more than 700 have been granted approval for participation in the program. The USPTO released this short but sweet “report” with the exact numbers late last month. Interested inventors with qualified pending applications (filed before December 8, 2009) are still invited to apply.

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