Patent Pros Highly Sought After

How’s this for a start to a recent article in the New York Times:

“Patent lawyers are in such demand that their specialty may account for more than 15 percent of law firm job openings while representing just 3 percent of lawyers in the United States.”

Yes, intellectual property is booming in the U.S., thanks in part to the America Invents Act, which allows for more patents to be applied for and issued.

One of the central hubs for patent careers is in the San Francisco Bay area, where a close proximity to Silicon Valley  the demand for protect all the innovation coming from the myriad tech businesses there. Hip, temperate, and cosmopolitan, with plenty of fine restaurants and endless cultural happenings—not a bad place to start a career…

Interestingly, the article also states that overall hires “among law school graduates continue to weaken… the employment rate among American law school graduates fell 4.7 percent last year” according to the National Association of Law Placement.

Which is another plus for patent professionals, who with the help of a Masters in Patent Law from Notre Dame, need only to pass the patent bar to be able to prepare patent applications and administer cases with the USPTO—all without the time and expense spent at law school.

In keeping with the haute opportunities available to those with a patent background, it seems if the world of law were the world of cuisine, it’s fair to say that patent professionals would be the succulent black truffle mushroom: rare, in great demand, and able to fetch a premium price!

Google / Oracle patent lawsuit at fever pitch

The Google/Oracle patent lawsuit is a bell-ringer of a bout when it comes to IP and technology. And if you happen to use an Android device, you’re holding Exhibit A in your hot little hand.

The gist of it: Oracle claims Google infringed on two patents related to its Java programming platform. (Remember that coffee cup that always pops up wanting you to update? Turns out, it’s very important.)

Not only does Oracle claim infringement, they say they were willfully infringed upon—that Google knew it was lifting patented technology when building the Android platform. This question of willfulness has a heavy bearing on the amount of reparations should the jury rule in Oracle’s favor.

The nuts and bolts of the case are, in essence, a technical he-said, she-said. Oracle claims Android works like Java, Google says it works differently. If you know your code and programming, you can check out the specifics at Wired.

The spectacle, however, is the courtroom drama and corporate intrigue—Oracle makes its case for “willful” infringement on the fact that one Android engineer worked with Java at Sun Microsystems (which Oracle bought, along with all their patents), and another is listed as co-inventor on one of the patents in contention.

The case also has a bearing on the intellectual protection status of API’s—application programming interfaces—basically, the specifications that allow software to “talk” to each other. The Oracle/Google case could set a precedent on whether API’s are subject to copyright.

And the most recent twist—a juror has been dismissed, leaving just 11 people who are now deliberating on the outcome.

More Alumni Support for Patent Law!

The Master of Science in Patent Law continues to get support from successful professionals in the field!

Now on board is Mike Wack, a patent agent at Biomet, a premier medical implant and instrument innovator out of Warsaw, IN. Though Mike started as a product development  engineer with two other Warsaw-based biomedical companies, he has since moved to patent agency and now does portfolio management, patent preparation and prosecution, and manages outside counsel for the company as well.

“Having spent over twenty-one years in product development of medical devices, and now working in the intellectual property field in the same industry, I know how important it is to have well-trained, technical people to assist corporations and law firms in the filing and prosecution of patent applications,” he says.

And regarding our focused curriculum: “It is outstanding and well-suited for the objective. Simply taking a patent bar review course will certainly not give the depth of knowledge or practical experience necessary to prepare you or make you very marketable for employment. The Notre Dame Masters of Science in Patent Law will fulfill that need.”

Mike (center in the photo below) comes from a large Notre Dame family that includes his father, two brothers, son Thomas (Class of 2015; left), and daughter Claire (Class of 2016; right). In fact, we have his son to thank for spreading the word.

“I was really excited to hear about this program,” Mike says, “and I’m looking forward to becoming as involved as possible!”

Not only has Mike agreed to mentor a student through the Capstone Project next year, but along with Tom Mauch—a Notre Dame Law School graduate who also works at Biomet—the two will host the students of the Master of Science in Patent Law for an on-site visit to Biomet corporate headquarters for an in-depth look at the business of innovation and its intellectual protection.

Our great thanks to Mike! Apply now and be part of the action!

Tech patents mean big business, again!

Right on the heels of Facebook buying a hefty patent portfolio from IBM, an even bigger deal has gone down—to the tune of a billion dollars.

The sum was spent by Microsoft, who won an auction for 800 patents held by AOL. They also have licenses for the remaining 300 patents still held by AOL, and likewise, they have licensed back to AOL the 800 patents purchased.

It may be a lot of back-and-forth, but it’s all part of the strategy. Says Brad Smith, General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Legal and Corporate Affairs for Microsoft, “by participating [in the auction], Microsoft was able to achieve our two primary goals: obtaining a durable license to the full AOL portfolio and ownership of certain patents that complement our existing portfolio.”

It’s worth noting that Microsoft already has a lion’s share of tech patents, and makes millions from those that are licensed to Google’s Android platform alone.

Incidentally, this deal may be good news for Facebook as well, who after being sued for infringement by Yahoo, may have been a target for a similar suit from AOL. But as Microsoft is one of Facebook’s earliest investors, it seems they may not have much to worry about.

Just another example of the high stakes, power, and intrigue that is Patent Law!

For tech business, patents are power

You may not know it, but patents are working behind the scenes in virtually every part of our lives, including everyone’s favorite social network.

In advance of their initial public stock offering, Facebook recently bought a set of 750 patents from IBM, with the apparent aim of bolstering its patent portfolio in defense of a infringement lawsuit brought on by Yahoo.  The patent infringements are said to be linked to advertising technologies, as well as customization and messaging features.

Spokespersons for Facebook say they intend to “vigorously defend ourselves,” as an unfavorable outcome “could be material to our business, financial condition or results of operations.” It is speculated that some of the patents Facebook purchased may actually be licensed to Yahoo and essential to their operation, which would put Facebook in a state of advantage during the pending litigation.

Though the dust has yet to settle, this all goes to show that in a world where business is increasingly intertwined with technology, patents are power. And just as powerful as patents are, so is an education that provides the valuable skills required to work with them.

USPTO to open offices in Detroit, elsewhere

Proof that the patent field is booming: this spring the US Patent and Trademark Office is opening a brand new branch in Detroit! The office opens this July in a historic riverfront building and will provide over 100 new high-paying positions, a number that could expand over time if the new Regional Patent Office model proves successful.

The new Detroit office is just the beginning—the USPTO has engaged in President Obama’s Nationwide Workforce Program, and plans to hire more patent examiners and seek out additional technical expertise in locations across the country. There’s an apparent backlog of patent applications in Washington, and several more regional offices are slated to open up around the country to remedy the situation. That’s good news for new patent professionals—who’ll now be able to take their pick of location!

Detroit was singled out for the first phase due to the high percentage of scientists and engineers in the workforce, access to major research universities, and a high volume of patenting activity in the area. It seems cars aren’t the only thing that’s “imported from Detroit”—the city is a wellspring of newfound innovation and vitality.

And if that wasn’t enough, here’s a fun fact: not only does the state of Michigan rank 7th in patents issued in the United States, but if Michigan were a country, it would rank 9th in the world.

Director of the USPTO, David Kappos, says the regional expansion outside Washington is “part of our ongoing effort to recruit and retain the nation’s top professionals.” Will you be among them? Apply to Notre Dame’s Masters in Patent Law and be a part of the country’s resurgence of invention and innovation!