Monday, June 30, 2014

Lunch Talk: Inventions of the 1990s

A Discovery Channel episode about major inventions of the 1900s.

Featured inventions: Hubble Space Telescope, Wind Up Radio, Camera Phone, Mars Pathfinder, The Neurotrophic Electrode.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

(BN) Philips, Google, AB InBev, News: Intellectual Property

(Bloomberg ) Royal Philips NV (PHIA) won a U.K. court ruling in a global battle over patents for recognizing hand gestures and motion on Nintendo Co. (7974)'s Wii computer-gaming devices.

In a June 20 ruling, Judge Colin Birss said a Nintendo unit infringed two Philips patents. Nintendo, the world's largest maker of video games, didn't violate a third patent pertaining to modeling a body in a virtual environment, Birss said.

Nintendo said the two patents are invalid and it will seek to appeal the decision. The company has been selling the device in the U.K. since 2006.

"We believe Nintendo infringed the patents and have tried to settle since 2011, but as that hasn't worked out we had to take this step," said Bjorn Teuwsen, a spokesman for Philips.

The case is Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV v Nintendo of Europe GmbH, case no. HC12E04759, U.K. High Court of Justice, Chancery Division.


Google Complaints Shouldn't Derail Planned EU Pact, Almunia Says

More complaints targeting Google Inc. (GOOGL) shouldn't derail the European Union's plans to clinch a settlement with the world's largest search-engine company, the EU's antitrust chief said in a letter to colleagues.

Joaquin Almunia defended his plans to settle a 3 1/2-year probe into Google in a letter to fellow commissioners seen by Bloomberg News.

He told them the current investigation into Google's search engine couldn't look into issues such as net neutrality and copyright infringement, which are outside the scope of his powers to police antitrust violations, or other products such as Google Plus and YouTube.

Complaints filed in recent months by French and German publishers, Deutsche Telekom AG, an images industry group and an advertising platform "either came too late" to be added to the current probe "or raise concerns on practices and markets that lie beyond" the scope of antitrust regulators, Almunia said in the letter.

Anheuser-Busch InBev Says 'Natty Greene's' Would Infringe

Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (ABI) is trying to block registration of a U.S. trademark by Natty Greene's Brewing Co. of Greensboro, North Carolina.

According to a June 18 filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Anheuser-Busch said a Natty Greene's trademark would infringe its NattyLight, Fatty Natty and Natty Daddy trademarks, and confuse consumers.

The North Carolina brewery has until July 28 to respond.


Daily Mail, News Corp Wage Copyright Battle in Australia

The U.K.'s Daily Mail & General Trust Plc (DMGT)'s Daily Mail Australia accused Rupert Murdoch's News Corp Australia (NWS) of using its stories without authorization on at least 10 occasions, the Guardian reported.

The Daily Mail was responding to legal action in Australia by News Corp.'s Australian newspaper, which accused the Mail of copyright infringement and plagiarism, according to the Guardian.

The hostility has become so intense that a media-business reporter for the Australian has been barred from any of the Mail's social functions for advertisers during the Cannes Lions advertising festival, the Guardian said.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Google Ordered to Remove Defendant's Domain Worldwide

Google Inc. (GOOG), which isn't a party to a Canadian trade-secret suit, was ordered to remove the defendant's entire domain from all search results worldwide.

The underlying suit involved a maker of industrial equipment who claimed one of its former distributors has used the company's trade secrets to make and sell a competing product.

Google earlier removed some specific Web pages and Web addresses from searches originating in Canada. The plaintiffs said that wasn't enough to halt the sale of infringing products, and British Columbia's Supreme Court agreed.

The case is Equustek Solutions Inc., v. Jack, 2014 BCSC 1063, Supreme Court of British Columbia.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

An excellent education idea from France!

This is a programmer's equivalent of wilderness survival challenge or a tech incubator on steroids:

The basic idea of École 42 is to throw all the students — 800 to 1,000 per year — into a single building in the heart of Paris, give them Macs with big Cinema displays, and throw increasingly difficult programming challenges at them. The students are given little direction about how to solve the problems, so they have to turn to each other — and to the Internet — to figure out the solutions.

Yet École 42 is harder to get into than Harvard: Last year, 70,000 people attempted the online qualification test. 20,000 completed the test, and of those, 4,000 were invited to spend four weeks in Paris doing an intensive project that had them working upwards of 100 hours a week on various coding challenges. In the end, 890 students were selected for the school’s inaugural class, which began in November, 2013.

The most valuable resource in today's technology world is highly motivated, skilled people. The new school may set a good example for discovering and creating peak performers, both individuals and (more importantly!) teams.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Why Tesla gives away its patents to copycats?

Wired reports on the latest in patent news:

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced today that his company will not “initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.” In plain English, that means that if other car companies want to produce electric cars, they can use Tesla’s technology to do it, and, in turn, advance Musk’s sustainability vision.
What's the significance of that?

I looked up Tesla's patent portfolio on the US PTO website this afternoon: 156 issued US patents and nothing of great importance there. In comparison, BMW and Toyota have thousands of patents. In a patent fight against its direct competitors Tesla has a slim to none chance to win. Therefore, giving away a weak patent portfolio is not a big loss for Tesla. On the other hand, if the company succeeds inducing the competitors to give up their patents, that would be great! Besides, Tesla promises to gives its patents to those who want "to use our technology" only. Interesting. This brings our attention to Tesla's new business model.

Recently, the company announced that it is going to build a huge battery-making plant in the US. For this project to be successful, Tesla needs economies of scale: a lot of electric cars made by those who use Tesla batteries and electric drive technology. Selling batteries to a potentially huge market would be more profitable than trying to enforce weak patents in a small market. Giving away the patents is a shrewd PR move by Elon Musk. This reminds me of an ancient Chinese stratagem called "Tossing out a brick to get a jade gem." It means "Bait someone by making him believe he gains something or just make him react to it ("toss out a brick") and obtain something valuable from him in return ("get a jade gem")."

In the system model terms (see our book Scalable Innovation), Tesla intends to make money on the battery, i.e. the Packaged Payload, while encouraging others to build more electric cars, i.e. the Tools.

Creating a new Silicon Valley is more difficult than the original Silicon Valley

The original Silicon Valley started in the late 1950s. Since then, many countries tried to reproduce Silicon Valley success, but only Israel could sustain high-tech development over two consecutive innovation waves.

One of the major difficulties in creating a new Silicon Valley would be to talent retention. That is, it is easier than ever for a talented entrepreneur, engineer, or scientist to move to the greater Silicon Valley, which today includes San Francisco. A recent infographic from Bloomberg shows the impact immigrants make on high-tech innovation in the Bay Area (click to enlarge).

In 2010, Asian Americans became the majority of the high-tech workforce in the valley. One third of SV startups are founded by Indian Americans.

tags: silicon valley, innovation, demographics, tool, source