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Ryobi Pays Price For Not Licensing Saw Safety IP

Bloomberg – BusinessWeek.com: Victoria Slind-Flor reports on a week’s worth of worthy intellectual property news in her topical piece, Ryobi, Apple, Rio Tinto: Intellectual Property (Update1). Here’s her take on one case of a company *not* licensing potentially finger-saving technology and paying the price anyway after the fact:

Ryobi Ltd. and its U.S.-based power-tool distributor were hit with a $1.5 million personal- injury verdict involving the Japanese company’s failure to take a license to patented safety-tool technology.

Carlos Osorio of Malden, Massachusetts, sued Ryobi in federal court in Boston in April 2006 after he was injured in April 2005 by a Ryobi saw while he was laying hardwood floor.

He alleged that Hiroshima-based Ryobi knew, ever since a November 2000 meeting of a power-tool trade group, that a technology existed to detect the proximity of human flesh to a saw blade and stop the saw instantly.

The inventor of the technology, Stephen Gass, hails for the state of Oregon and had to form his own business to bring the idea of saving fingers to market. Ryobi was found guilty of producing and selling “a product that was defectively designed” without making consumers fully cognizant of the dangers involved with the use of the tool. Win some, lose some, sure, but there’s no amount of money that is going to bring Mr. Osorio’s mangled hand back to full functionality. A cautionary tale to license whatever intellectual property is necessary to keep your company out of the sights of personal injury litigators.

ArsTechnica.com: Academicians aren’t afraid to take on the establishment, no siree. Nate Anderson helps enlighten those outside the hallowed halls of upper education to just exactly what one lofty professor thinks about the US copyright system in his topical piece, Cleaning the barnacles from the S.S. Copyright. He writes:

Bashing current copyright law is easy—just ask Jessica Litman, a professor of law at the University of Michigan. She calls current US copyright a “swollen, barnacle-encrusted collection of incomprehensible prose.” Or, to change the metaphor to aging, copyright law is “old, outmoded, inflexible, and beginning to display the symptoms of multiple systems failure.”

Wow, Nate. Those are some *crazy* mixed metaphors you’re throwing around there. Litman offers up a solution of her own to our copyright woes in an unpublished piece entitled “Real Copyright Reform,” showing how complex and arcane our copyright legal system has grown, unfettered by logic and the passing of time.

 “Copyright lawyers have great affection for the arcane bits of the current system,” Litman writes. “Knowing how to navigate distinctions that make no apparent sense proves our membership in a priestly class of copyright-knowers. The arcaneness of the rules is tolerable when the club of copyright rule followers is small. If we are going to insist that the rules apply more broadly, though, we need to make them sensible, and a necessary first step is to make them simpler.”

To probably change US copyright laws, then, Litman believes that we need nothing less than a wholesale change in the ways that laws are made—a position echoed by Litman’s friend Larry Lessig of Stanford, who currently devotes most of his time to a project called “Change Congress” with exactly this goal. Until the funding mechanisms underlying our democracy are changed, Lessig believes, real advances on a host of issues (including but not limited to copyright) will be difficult to come by.

Fellow teacher Lessig has seen his own fair share of trouble with The Man over his views supporting the creative commons and fair use, so he and Litman stand together with their cries of “Update or die!” outside the doors of the US Patent and Trademark Office. But is Chief Kappos listening?

The Wall Street Journal – Market Watch: A little late for the customary end-of-year Top 10 lists, but that’s not stopping Corporate Counsel, the nation’s leading publication for general counsel and in-house attorneys at corporations and non-profits, from coming up with this gem: Corporate Counsel Names Top Ten IP Litigation Wins of 2009, Including Biggest Patent Award Ever. Here’s just one of the ten to get you started, constant and gentle reader, that’s sure to take your breath away with the size of the award:

Johnson & Johnson’s Centocor Ortho Biotech unit won the record award against rival drugmaker Abbott Laboratories over the latter’s infringement of a patent on Abbott’s blockbuster arthritis drug, Humira, which generates $4.5 billion in annual sales.

That’s gotta be more than the GNP of a number of third-world countries, and maybe a few of them put together. Read the rest of the exciting list at the above linked piece.

Inventors Digest: What happens if a competitor starts producing a product just like yours with the notice “patent pending” stamped on it when your application has been submitted but not yet approved? A fine question, indeed, and one that Patent Commissioner Robert Stoll happily answers in a recent edition of Ask the (Patent) Commish. Here’s the Q&A, or at least enough of it to whet your appetite for more red-hot patent Q&A action:

Q.  I think a large corporate company may be infringing on my patent. They are marketing their product as “patent pending.” Can I bring this to someone’s attention at the PTO so they are made aware of my patent before granting one to this company?

A. The answer to your question depends on the status of the pending patent application and whether the application has been published or has received a notice of allowance.

The “Commish” then goes on to detail just how the questioner can find out the status of their application using a variety of tools, including an online Application Full-Text and Image Database on the USPTO Web site. Read the rest of this telling tale here.

TechCrunch.com: Find out how Google got slapped down in its bid to secure the “Nexus One” name trademark in the timely article, Google Denied “Nexus One” Trademark by Devin Coldewey.

The Daily Cartoonist: Cartoonists are people, too, and they have rights, you know. The White House is calling for input from creatives, including cartoonists of course, to help shape IP Czarina Victoria Espinel’s policies and actions to protect US intellectual property from theft and loss. Check out White House seeks input to improve copyright protection by Andrew Gardner and learn how you, too, can contribute in some small way to the success of Espinel’s promise to help America get tough on IPR enforcement.

Bonus IP piece o’ the day: Should Google Buy Palm? by Ryan Trevisol at these are the DROIDS.

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