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EFF files brief in support of challenging bad patents


The Patent Office doesn’t always do the best job. That’s how Personal Audio managed to get a patent on podcasting, even though other people were podcasting years before Personal Audio first applied for a patent. As we’ve detailed on many occasions, patents are often granted on things that are known and obvious, giving rights to patent owners that actually belong to the public. As a result, it’s important for the public to have the ability to challenge bad patents.

Unfortunately, challenging bad patents in court can be hard and very expensive. In court, challenges are often decided by a judge or jury with little technical knowledge. Courts also require a high level of proof (“clear and convincing”) that can be hard to come by, especially after the passage of time.

In order to help alleviate that problem, in 2011 Congress passed the America Invents Act, which created new procedures at the Patent Office to challenge patents. Those challenges are heard by an expert panel and can lead to the patent’s cancellation if a challenger can show “by a preponderance of the evidence” that the patent should not have issued in the first place.

This procedure, known as inter partes review or IPR for short, has been controversial. Some patent owners claim that IPRs make it too easy to invalidate patents. EFF and others have supported the IPR process, because it provides an efficient alternative to litigation for companies threatened by bad patents and because it provides an opportunity for groups like EFF to challenge bad patents that harm the public interest.

A company called Oil States is challenging the procedure at the Supreme Court, arguing that it violates the Constitution because it allows a panel of experts at the Patent Office to decide a patent’s validity, rather than a judge and jury. Together with Public Knowledge, Engine Advocacy, and R Street Institute, EFF filed an amicus brief explaining why that’s incorrect, and why members of the public should remain free to challenge bad patents at the Patent Office.

In our amicus brief, we detail the long history of patents being used as a public policy tool, and how Congress has long controlled how and when patents can be canceled. We explain how the Constitution sets limits on granting patents, and how IPR is a legitimate exercise of Congress’s power to enforce those limits.

We also discuss how IPRs also make policy sense. We discuss why IPRs were created in the first place. The Patent Office often does a cursory job reviewing patent applications. There is some justification for this given that the Office receives over 600,000 patent applications per year. The vast majority of these patents will never be valuable and will never be asserted against others. Given that it is hard to tell during the application phase which patents are going to become economically important, it makes some sense to focus energy on more closely reviewing patents only when they do become important. IPRs allow for that “second look” to make sure the Patent Office didn’t make a mistake in issuing a patent, and are generally only brought to challenge patents that have become economically valuable.

But if Oil States’ argument is successful, a company can take advantage of the more-than-lax Patent Office examination to get a patent, and then prevent that “second look.” The public will be burdened with massive costs and uncertainty in being forced to only challenge those patents in court, in front of judges and juries who, despite best efforts, are often overwhelmed by technology.

Inter partes review is one of the few ways members of the general public can challenge bad patents. It’s the procedure EFF used to challenge the infamous podcasting patent that was used to threaten small podcasters. The Patent Office found that the claims EFF challenged shouldn’t have been issued, and that decision was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. (The case remains on appeal as Personal Audio has requested that the appeals court rehear the case en banc.) More recently, the Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-Mak) has used inter partes review to challenge patents held by Gilead on a drug used to combat Hepatitis C. I-Mak estimates [PDF] that patents on the drug increase the costs to consumers by approximately $10 billion.

This story originally appeared on the EFF’s blog.

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Ms. A. C. Kennedy
My name is Ms A C Kennedy and I am a Health practitioner and Consultant by day and a serial blogger by night. I luv family, life and learning new things. I especially luv learning how to improve my business. I also luv helping and sharing my information with others. Don't forget to ask me anything!

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Existing EV batteries could be recharged five times faster

Lithium-ion batteries have massively improved in the last half-decade, but there are still issues. The biggest, especially for EVs, is that charging takes too long to make them as useful as regular cars for highway driving. Researchers from the University of Warwick (WMG) have discovered that we may not need to be so patient, though. They developed a new type of sensor that measures internal battery temperatures and discovered that we can probably recharge them up to five times quicker without overheating problems.

Overcharging a lithium-ion battery anode can lead to lithium buildup, which can break through a battery's separator, create a short-circuit and cause catastrophic failure. That can cause the electrolyte to emit gases and literally blow up the battery, so manufacturers impose strict charging power limits to prevent it.

Those limits are based on hard-to-measure internal temperatures, however, which is where the WMG probe comes in. It's a fiber optic sensor, protected by a chemical layer that can be directly inserted into a lithium-ion cell to give highly precise thermal measurements without affecting its performance.

The team tested the sensor on standard 18650 li-ion cells, used in Tesla's Model S and X, among other EVs. They discovered that they can be charged five times faster than previously thought without damage. Such speeds would reduce battery life, but if used judiciously, the impact would be minimized, said lead researcher Dr. Tazdin Amietszajew.

Faster charging as always comes at the expense of overall battery life but many consumers would welcome the ability to charge a vehicle battery quickly when short journey times are required and then to switch to standard charge periods at other times.

There's still some work to do. While the research showed the li-ion cells can support higher temperatures, EVs and charging systems would have to have "precisely tuned profiles/limits" to prevent problems. It's also not clear how battery makers would install the sensors in the cells.

Nevertheless, it shows a lot of promise for much faster charging speeds in the near future. Even if battery capacities stayed the same, charging in 5 minutes instead of 25 could flip a lot of drivers over to the green side.

Via: Clean Technica

Source: University of Warwick

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