Let me start this week’s report with a “thank you” to readers who have provided feedback. I do appreciate your comments.

On that note, a good friend of mine, Gerry Barañano, the president of The RevLaunch Company, offered some additional insight into the patent prowess of the top management consulting companies after he read my comments about Accenture in last week’s post.

“The Accenture data was a real eye-opener,” he commented, and went on to share tallies of patent awards for the top consultancies. Accenture’s 1,046 patent lead is eye-popping; of the six competitors Gerry investigated, the closest in number was Kearney at 46. Deloitte had 12, and the rest had none.

Clearly, Accenture’s patent prowess ties to its go-to-market strategy, and that strategy appears to be highly divergent from its competitors. Gerry sagely asked the rhetorical “next” question: Can Accenture monetize the value of its trove of patents? With thanks to Gerry, we will keep an eye on this going forward.

Speaking of “patent prowess,” is it an accurate leading indicator for innovation leadership among companies? In a post in The Motley Fool on January 18 Mark Morelli commented on the question, “Who Is Winning the Battle for Tech Innovation?” His cogent analysis and conclusion may surprise you.

Apple had 26 patents awarded this week, with one being particularly intriguing. Patent 8633898, entitled “Sensor Arrangement for Use with a Touch Sensor That Identifies Hand Parts,” describes “apparatus and methods … for simultaneously tracking multiple finger and palm contacts as hands approach, touch, and slide across a proximity-sensing, multi-touch surface. Identification and classification of intuitive hand configurations and motions enables unprecedented integration of typing, resting, pointing, scrolling, 3D manipulation, and handwriting into a versatile, ergonomic computer input device.” I have underlined the word “unprecedented” for emphasis. Take a look at the schematic drawing of the hands on the sensor arrangement, and interesting applications in a broad range of consumer-facing situations come readily to mind. Let’s see how Apple commercializes this one.

Nuance Communications (www.nuance.com) was awarded Patent 8635237 for a “Customer Feedback Mechanism in Public Places Utilizing Speech Recognition Technology”. You may have heard of Dragon speech to text productivity tools? They are the public face to the company, which also has an extensive B2B portfolio of applications and services. This new patent falls more into the B2C area, potentially allowing companies to measure a customer’s spoken evaluation (spoken words matched to a scorecard with values) at a store or other public venue, dynamically reporting the scored results through a GUI  (graphical user interface) to one or more companies, called a “potential customers” in the patent Abstract. I can envision Nuance offering a subscription-based service to Brands and retailers, which would access continuously updated customer evaluations through a dashboard application. In short, here we see the bundling of a connected device (the microphone embedded at the product display) that captures voice data and sends it via a network to another device (central host server) which interprets the data, the results of which are provided to users through another connected device (tablet, smartphone, and laptop) over a network.

Google had an interesting award this week. Patent 8633970, “Augmented Reality with Earth Data,” is complex but relates to the improvement of the determination and overlay of geographic data on a user’s view of terrain. The “aha” moment came to me when I looked at figure 6B in the specifications. It reminded me of a new fitness app that I captured and posted to my Flipboard magazine, NewTechRep Review. Here’s the link to the video, RaceYourself. You can see how such an app would benefit from improved rendering of terrain information that the patent describes.

Golfers, great news! Acushnet Co., (http://www.acushnetcompany.com/), the makers of the Titleist brand golf ball, was awarded three patents for a ball with improved flight performance. Patent 8632424 in particular stated that the intent of the design is to help golfers with very high swing speeds (160 to 170 mph) achieve increased flight distance. Patents 8632425 and 8632426 relate to improvement in the ball’s dimpling.

2 comments so far

  1. These are great utility patents.

    Recent big news about design patents may foretell a sea change in the way the world views the importance of design patents. Clearly the Apple vs Samsung fight over design patents is Exhibit A.

    Design patents traditionally have had a much lower status to utility patents. They have been thought of as providing little real protection because designs are easy to get around; as cheap and easy to get; and as a way to boast that your product has a patent.

    As the world embraces devices that ware characterized by their elegant designs (think Apple i-products, NEST, others), the importance of design patents will increase.

    And patent attorneys will need to be write design patents with greater thought and care. Michael Hages in his blog at Core77.com writes:

    “What most patent lawyers and designers alike tend to not realize or appreciate is that the general approach to claiming an invention in a utility patent application can also be used in design patents. Of course, the language used to implement the claim strategy and the overall context of the claims are vastly different. In a utility patent the claims are written to describe the technical characteristics of a product, but in a design patent the claims are literally drawn to illustrate a product’s visual characteristics. Regardless of the language used, just as in utility patent claims, the claim of a design patent can be tailored to include the essential elements of a design while leaving out what’s unimportant. In addition, just as in a utility patent, a design patent (or a number of related design patents) can claim the important and inventive aspects of a design separately. ”

    As more Apple employees start their own companies (I am working with one currently), they will take a page from Apple’s book and make good use of strong design patents. And they should.

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