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Use of Patents in Social Media Marketing

As many people know, a significant volume of patents issues each week.  A number of folks appreciate that even great innovations typically need integration with solid business execution to enter and move forward in the marketplace.

Primer

For background on today’s business and intellectual property (IP) discussion, a few posts came to mind:

Patent Portfolio Incentives – summary of patent portfolios and incentives to patent owners;

“That’s an iPod®!” – review of Apple’s pursuit of multifaceted trademark protection.

Context

My blog posts have been somewhat on a monthly basis, being driven largely by my talks over the past year.  In general, I prepare blog posts when something strikes me of value to clients and contacts.  My regular billing work involves much writing as well as conversations with creative and business-oriented people.  Local meetings, online interaction, and reading keep me abreast of business, social, and technological developments.

With another talk scheduled for February plus my volunteer work leading an organizational team for the MITEF Chicago March 24 event “How to Use Web 2.0 to Promote Your Business” featuring prominent speakers from successful entrepreneurial businesses in Chicago, I saw convergence from the buzz about a particular patent recently issued to Apple, among numerous patents Apple holds and continues to pursue.

My initial impression wearing my patent lawyer hat was to explore how a popularly-discussed patent satisfied the latest requirements by Patent Examiners (in the context of Patent Office policies and recent Federal Circuit and Supreme Court opinions) and contributed value in the marketplace.  Upon reviewing the prosecution history of the particular patent and further considering the discussion including traders on StockTwits (disclosure: I have received a StockTwits hat) whom I follow to their posts and comments on blogs, I found my takeaway has less to do with the nuts and bolts of Apple’s patent, as the consumer and stock market play Apple has experienced from the patent.

Buzz

For discussion purposes, we can assume Apple’s intellectual property portfolio strategy envisioned the buzz from issuance of the subject patent.

General Twitter search result for “Apple” and “patent”.

Twitter search result for “AAPL” (Apple’s stock symbol) and “patent”.

Silicon Alley Insider – Apple Has Multi-Touch Patent, Palm Stands Ground

Gizmodo – Dissecting Apple’s “Multitouch” Patent: Can It Stop Palm?

Mashable – Apple Gets Their Multi-Touch Patent; Is Palm Screwed?

U.S. Patent No. 7,479,949 to Jobs et al. Entitled “Touch Screen Device, Method, and Graphical User Interface for Determining Commands by Applying Heuristics” Issued January 20, 2009

Nuts and Bolts

A representative image from the issued patent follows.

Apple “Multi-Touch” Patent FIG. 4A

For reference, the independent claims are reproduced below.

1. A computing device, comprising: a touch screen display; one or more processors; memory; and one or more programs, wherein the one or more programs are stored in the memory and configured to be executed by the one or more processors, the one or more programs including: instructions for detecting one or more finger contacts with the touch screen display; instructions for applying one or more heuristics to the one or more finger contacts to determine a command for the device; and instructions for processing the command; wherein the one or more heuristics comprise: a vertical screen scrolling heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a one-dimensional vertical screen scrolling command rather than a two-dimensional screen translation command based on an angle of initial movement of a finger contact with respect to the touch screen display; a two-dimensional screen translation heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to the two-dimensional screen translation command rather than the one-dimensional vertical screen scrolling command based on the angle of initial movement of the finger contact with respect to the touch screen display; and a next item heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a command to transition from displaying a respective item in a set of items to displaying a next item in the set of items.

11. A computer-implemented method, comprising: at a computing device with a touch screen display, detecting one or more finger contacts with the touch screen display; applying one or more heuristics to the one or more finger contacts to determine a command for the device; and processing the command; wherein the one or more heuristics comprise: a vertical screen scrolling heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a one-dimensional vertical screen scrolling command rather than a two-dimensional screen translation command based on an angle of initial movement of a finger contact with respect to the touch screen display; a two-dimensional screen translation heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to the two-dimensional screen translation command rather than the one-dimensional vertical screen scrolling command based on the angle of initial movement of the finger contact with respect to the touch screen display; and a next item heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a command to transition from displaying a respective item in a set of items to displaying a next item in the set of items.

17. A computer readable storage medium having stored therein instructions, which when executed by a device with a touch screen display, cause the device to: detect one or more finger contacts with the touch screen display; apply one or more heuristics to the one or more finger contacts to determine a command for the device; and process the command; wherein the one or more heuristics comprise: a vertical screen scrolling heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a one-dimensional vertical screen scrolling command rather than a two-dimensional screen translation command based on an angle of initial movement of a finger contact with respect to the touch screen display; a two-dimensional screen translation heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to the two-dimensional screen translation command rather than the one-dimensional vertical screen scrolling command based on the angle of initial movement of the finger contact with respect to the touch screen display; and a next item heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a command to transition from displaying a respective item in a set of items to displaying a next item in the set of items.

Strategy and Negotiation within the Patent Office

The negotiation with the Patent Office falls in a realm of regular activity.  From a portfolio and marketing standpoint, I was interested to see the subject patent resulted from a Continuation Application on a patent application which has yet to be examined, where the Continuation Application enlisted an Accelerated Examination Request.

Takeaways

As I say often, I view intellectual property protection as a decision about creativity/technology, business, and legal opportunities and exposure.  The strategy Apple pursued objectively appeared to seize fast issuance of a patent on particular technology (the Accelerated Examination in the Continuation Application), while maintaining a regular pace for subsequent consideration of another patent on the technology (the pending Parent Patent Application).  For discussion purposes, we can consider the financial investment in legal work needed to obtain the issued patent under Accelerated Examination, while also funding the pending parent patent application, to at least in part relate to marketing and further buzz over Apple’s products, atop competitive advantages more closely related to the actual patent rights.

While focusing on the Social Media Marketing aspects for purposes of this blog post, I appreciate Apple’s patent and remaining IP portfolio are also tools Apple may wield at its discretion against competitors.

TECH cocktail Community Contributed Knowledge

Bob Brill applies business sense and cost-effectiveness in counseling on patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, licensing, litigation support, and other intellectual property matters for a wide variety of clients including startups, small to midsize companies, Fortune 500 companies, and universities worldwide. Bob Brill’s experience covers a wide range of electrical, software, medical, computer, imaging, financial, telecommunications, and mechanical technologies.

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