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How High Is the Patent Bar Now?

Has the Supreme Court's ruling eviscerated the patents for hosts of products--even Apple's iPod?

5 min read

This spring, the U.S. Supreme Court made it harder to patent things by raising a standard known as ­”obviousness.” A lot of people had figured that this bar had fallen so low you could practically step over it. Now some people are talking as if there’s no longer any point in getting a ­patent—but that’s going too far. Still, some existing patents proba­bly will fall by the wayside.

I procure patents much more than I litigate them, but within only a month of the decision, even I found myself in court, using the Supreme Court case as ammunition against a patent. I am not alone: within days of the ruling, Vonage, based in Holmdel, N.J., asked to retry a US $58 million lawsuit it had lost in March for infringing on New York City�based Verizon’s patents. The real question for engineers, though, seems to be this: Just how high is the obviousness bar now?

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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