HP Folds the Cards

I read the news today, oh boy.  According to Bloomberg News, Hewlett-Packard Co. is considering spinning off its PC division and that it will discontinue products that run webOS software.  The kill on the HP TouchPad comes about two months after its release.

Since HP lost its way as an engineering company, it has been looking for an identity.  Perhaps a post-computer I.B.M.?  Or, in the same vein, (or vain) an Oracle wannabe?  Either way, leader Leo Apotheker is turning HP into a SAP.

That HP is contemplating “spinning off” the product lines is good news for Samsung.  If Samsung doesn’t jump at the chance to buy the spinoff in view of the recent Google bid for Motorola, it really is a naive entity.  With the momentum that Apple has gained in its patent war with Samsung (and by implication Google) Samsung needs to do something fast.  The preliminary injunction in Germany for it’s tablet (wasn’t that invented by Alan Kay at Xerox Parc in the late 1960’s?) portends an ill wind in the hometown forum of the Northern District of California for this foreign manufacturer.  Not that we locals are xenophobic, but we love a winning home team.

Samsung needs the 2000 patents (not the 5000 previously cited) that Palm collected when it perfected the touchscreen and adapted it to PDA’s and mobile phones.  With the webOS and Apple’s vertical integration business plan, Samsung with its manufacturing strength could take Apple to the cleaners in the worldwide marketplace.

Apple didn’t sue HP, not because it didn’t have reason to because of the defections of key executives from Apple, but because it knew HP could not pull it off with its weak leadership. With the defensive treasury of 2000 Palm patents HP was in a superior legal position.

At the going acquisition rate of $750,000 per blind patent, this is an acquisition cost of 1.5 billion dollars.  Chump change to Samsung.  Thus, HP would net a tidy profit, Samsung would have a credible patent portfolio on mobile touch screen devices, and Google would have some competition as it absorbs a hardware company and becomes more possessive with its Android operating system.

HP, like IBM, can keep its PC patents and still spin the PC part of the failed operation to a Chinese manufacturer that can build price competitive desk top and lap top computers for the rest of the world.

Of course, HP, troglodyte that it is, may simply kill the webOS and like Cisco simply bury a potential ongoing business.

Back in the day, HP was once a great company.

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Battle of the Titans

So, Google, the wallflower at the Nortel dance decides to buy Motorola for 12.5 billion dollars.  This is good news for those holding patents in the mobile handset space.  At 17,000 patents, this works out to $735,000 per patent, plus whatever.

The war of the titans to beef up patent portfolios portends well for systems proposed by this blog where individual patents can ultimately be dissected and qualified like the capital property it is.  Right now it is a crap shoot.  Google doesn’t know what it is getting.  It is relying on the integrity of past Motorola administrators to determine what was worth patenting.  Talk about a pig in a poke.

What nobody is looking at is the vast reservoir of expired patents that provide just as much protection and are frequently tied to a knowledgeable inventor.  As patents are analyzed, it is not only the company portfolios that must be examined, but the stable of inventors.  They are the horses on which the tech industry rides.  Apple did not achieve its position in the universe without the help of thousands of inventors and innovators who contributed to the rapid progress of technology that Apple presents on a platter to the world.

A good inventor is not a one trick pony.  The art of invention is a lifetime devotion that often spans generations.  Patents may be the muscle, but inventors are the brains.

We are entering an age that the mature companies are gaming the system.  A monopoly is a monopoly is a monopoly.  Whether it is the hard earned limited patent monopoly of a maker’s machine, where one is lucky to get a 7% royalty, or an economic monopoly of a closed system, where one can demand a 30% royalty, a monopoly is a monopoly and must be defined and contained to insure competition.

Are there solutions to the patent mess?  Of course, but, all for one and one for all.  We can’t stop rewarding inventors (not just first to filers) and we can’t make special exemptions, particularly for the Wall Street banking industry, an industry that has been particularly egregious in its treatment of technology start-ups.

If this country is going to thrive, we must respect patents and inventors.  To issue good patents, we must have a rational peer review system to build a matrix of prior art in a form that is easily understood to allow the masses to have input through various crowd sourcing techniques.

There is a discontent and malaise that is infecting our country.  We keep trying top down solutions.  They work for some industries, but are dismal failures for others.  Americans have the will to work.  California is a unique state.  It has virtually everything except rational management (public or private) of its resources.  The only boot strap around is invention.  We have got to invent our way out of our present predicament.  Let the games begin.

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Keys to the Kingdom

The system proposed probably makes no sense to the uninitiated. For a quick primer, I would suggest, “The Chicken Qabalah of Rabbi Lamed Ben Clifford,” authored by Lon Milo DuQuette. It parrots my query, “Whats the difference between Qabalah, Kabbalah, and Cabala?” Well, it was probably intellectual escapism by the science oriented from the religious zealots of the time. If god were only more complex than a simple image of man, then the mathematically inclined intellectuals could have something to discuss and rationalize.

The break came with the creation of Adam before Eve.  Adam Kadmon became the man in the image of god set free in the Garden of Eden before complaints arose that Adam was lonely and unhappy.  Actually, Adam at this time was sexless since god had not created Eve and so was not really a “man.”  Unfortunately, the definitive drawing of Adam Kadmon in relation to the Tree of Life depicts Adam with a rather full beard.  Clearly, medieval rabbis were not about to give up any ground to women at this time, an apparent problem with most organized religions.

Nevertheless, superimposed on the physique of this androgynous being is the foundation node and link diagram associated with the 10 node 22 link diagram that has become the standard depiction of the Tree of Life.  Deliberately or somewhat ironically, the top node is a crown, that is, not a part of Adam Kadmon.  This of course allows discourse whether this ring (halo?) represents god, heaven, infinity, zero or any number of things that may inspire the philosopher.

However, to the engineer, the ten node twenty two link Tree of Life is simply a project management network having a defined beginning and an open end.  When dropped into a grid of 5 x 10 cells, it stands upright like Adam Kadmon and is a useful mnemonic for storing up to 50 memory objects, with locational association to the human body.  Better yet when stretched diagonally across a 10 x 10 grid it is a convenient mnemonic for storing up to 100 objects in a relational pattern.  The illustration of Apple v. Samsung at Start of Litigation is our first example.

When one takes the Tree of Life one step further and generates a node and link structure running diagonally through a cube of 1000 cells of a 10 x 10 x 10 lattice, one discovers that there are not just 10 nodes, a number an engineer is comfortable with, but 13!  This digression will be left for later.

Two dimensional flat files are convenient for visual display of information.  Here, an item of information such as an IP object has multiple expressions.  At this time we are concerned with the IP icon, which allows the object to be presented as a thumbnail, the IP card, which allows the object to be presented as a card, and the IP document, which is the source for the card and the icon and is typically, in this situation, the official patent, trademark, copyright or other IP object that can thereafrer link to whatever.

Key to placement of IP icons in the matrix is a ranking system that ranks cards and icons according to their temporal importance, and ranks the one hundred cells in the matrix according to their innate hierarchy.  While card rank may change, cell rank remains constant and determines the location of the ranked cards.  Simple huh?  Well, maybe we need a few pictures.


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It’s Not Just About the Patents, It’s About the Inventors

Missing in the recent controversy about the Apple/Microsoft consortium on the acquisition to 6,000 patents and patent applications in a bankruptcy auction of Nortel assets, is the absence of any mention of inventors. This is likely in keeping with the new paradigm that elevates first to file above first to invent. Thus, one can have the 300 page compendium patent with 25 inventors listed as Jobs et al, US Patent No. 7,479,949 that ostensibly covers the iPhone (particularly the two finger pinch) yet, it curiously is not listed either in the original complaint or the amended complaint of the Apple v. Samsung battle.

What gives?  This IP object has been given a star classification in the “info map” that is the starting point of the litigation.  To speculate, while Steve Jobs would like the honor of being considered the inventor of the iPhone, the pains of interrogation by some of the smartest suits in the business may likely push Jobs to distraction. Of course, the strategy of deposing the inventor is certainly more difficult when 25 inventors are listed. Courts often limit the number of depositions a side can take and choosing among 25 “joint” inventors is a difficult and risky task. Obviously, Jobs would be number one on the list.

The blitzkrieg by Apple in the Samsung case is further complicated by the very number of IP objects brought into the litigation obligating Samsung to come up with a fairly large number of its own in retaliation. Typically a patent fight involves only one or two patents, and even then can run into the millions of dollars to litigate.

Maybe there is a less hysterical way to view patents. Presidents of this grand country have been promising that when you are awarded a patent, take it to the bank and the bank will be honored to finance your venture. Yeah, right.

The irony of this myth was expressed in the movie, “The Tree of Life.” Starring Brad Pitt as Mr. O’Brien, the tough 1950’s dad who exemplified the Tea Party do-it-yourself modern man. Mr. O’Brien (his first name is apparently not mentioned) worked at a salaried job, but through his own efforts to better himself, obtained multiple patents that led to
a failed, around the world attempt to exploit the inventions.

The reality is that there is not yet a comfortable way to value a patent.  Once issued, it is a wasting asset.  It lasts twenty years from the filing date.  Unlike a house where concrete data such as size, age, location, market trends give some real information about the value of real property (not that banks cared about such data in no-equity, inflated market value valuations) patents are incorporeal assets (having no corpus) and thus difficult to evaluate.  Being difficult to value does not mean impossible.

Therefore, we need a means of placing a monetary value on an issued patent.  If there are approximately 100,000 patents issued each year, there can be no more than 2 million existing patents that have not expired.  Given the new “maintenance fee” of keeping issued patents alive, there is probably no more than 1 million patents that are enforceable.  Given that inventors in a field typically hold multiple patents, there are probably only 500,000 or so inventors that have skin in the game.  Weeding out the bogus patents leaves probably about 100,000 patents worth more than the money paid to obtain them.  Why for a tech industry is this such a hard number to deal with?

Ironically, the tree of life is a traditional node and link mechanism to relate information.  It is at the core of this author’s system to organize information and should be done automatically or at least collectively by consensus.  Keys to this kingdom will be forthcoming.

The information organized can be patents in a litigation or simply a patent and its related art.  When a patent portfolio is valued at $750,000 per patent or application, then I think it is time to start appraising the patents issued so a disgruntled player like Google can have the opportunity of amassing a credible portfolio of its own.  It is not just about patent trolls.  It’s about rewarding inventors.

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Apple v. Samsung at Start of Play

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Patent Wars – Apple v. Samsung

     It has been said, “Patent litigation is the sport of Kings.”  This blog investigates the gamification of patent litigation.

     Apple forever changed the typically limited nature of patent litigation to an intense intellectual property assault involving trademarks, trade dress, design patents and multiple utility patents against the foreign electronics Goliath, Samsung.  This multi-prong attack is a sophisticated revisit of the Apple v. Microsoft litigation over the look and feel of the graphic user interface pioneered by Apple and Xerox Parc in the 1980’s.

     “Gamification” is meant literally.  The author of this blog, SFreptile, is a player in this arena, so everything must be taken with a grain of salt.  A portfolio of relevant patents controlled by this author expired on July 31, 2011, so the field of associating cards with items of intellectual property is wide open and ready for crowd sourcing.  Help with applying this format to other situations is welcome.  So let the games begin.

     The protocols are relatively simple.  Intellectual property objects or items are represented by playing cards sized to a conventional credit card.  The relatively small size limits the amount of information that can be contained on the card.  Since the system is visual, a large part of the card includes a drawing or picture ideally taken from the IP object represented by the card.

     To adapt the card for location in a cell of a 10 x 10 grid, the IP card has a thumbnail or icon representation that includes the card graphic, but only a limited amount of critical information, such as, a three digit number representing the registration or application number of the IP object.  In addition, the thumbnail includes a letter indicating the object type, i.e., trademark, patent or design patent, the month and date of the earliest priority date of the object, a class symbol suggesting an appropriate class of the IP object, and a rank or value number applied to the object to signify its importance.

     At present, SFreptile will play dungeon master and relocate the objects in response to events happening in the litigation (such as Apple’s recent Motion for Summary Judgment, which certainly elevates the value of recited IP objects) and in response to any comments that indicates insight or understandable favoritism.  Ideally, a wiki would let the interested public push the IP objects on the game board like chess pieces, according to consensus.

     The game theory is that the human mind is comfortable with only about a hundred objects in a network.  Even social networks should not have any more than 150 people.  A hundred is a good number to work with.  When up to a hundred objects clutter a ten by ten playing board (a checker board has only 64 squares), then the solution is to get another board.

     Hopefully, the format of the 20/10 will allow the individual cards to be ported to a photo gallery and the static overview of the gameboard will be able to fill the width of the column to maximize visual identity of the miniature graphics, which are sometimes selected from the referenced IP by how they will look when small.  The first visual is the initial gameboard.  Without this visual com’on the blog is a bust.  But if the format is right, then we will populate the site with the cards in a gallery, and the transformation to the present with updates for the Amended Apple Complaint and its up the stakes Motion for Preliminary Injunction.

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