StratVantage Consulting, LLC — Mike’s Take on the News 04/05/01

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StratVantage Consulting, LLC — Mike’s Take on the News 04/05/01

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The News – 04/05/01

Court Decision Limits Patent Rights

Late last November, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit set aside the “doctrine of equivalents,” which grants broader protection and rights to patent holders.

The decision in Festo v. Shoketsu Kinzoku Koygo Kabushiki trims a legal principle that once let inventors claim rights to ideas beyond the scope of their patents. Patent holders were able to claim patent violation against any product that performed an equivalent function of the patented product. As a result of the decision, however, any changes or additions to the initial filing would not be protected under the doctrine of equivalents. The ruling is retroactive, throwing open the whole body of patent legal decisions to new scrutiny.

Critics of the decision say it could encourage a rash of copycat products and mean millions of dollars of lost revenue for patent holders. Especially hurt could be the high tech industry, which relies heavily on patent protection to maintain competitive edge.

The decision’s supports claim it will force companies to be more precise in patent claims by closing one of the loopholes in patent law.

Festo has hired former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr to represent them in a Supreme Court appeal. But plenty of damage could be done by the time the High Court agrees to hear the case. Already the decision is being cited as precedent, and a least one patent claim has been overturned as a result.

Business owners who rely on patents to protect their products and processes need to be aware of this decision and consider amending their patents to specifically rule out copycat products.


Get an MIT Education on the Web – Free!

One of my sayings is: “On the Internet, everything devolves to free.” This story proves this maxim, and how! Thanks to OpenCourseWare, a new plan out of MIT, over the next decade you’ll be able to go to MIT over the Web. Well, you may say, plenty of schools offer distance learning; what’s the big deal? The big deal is, MIT will make all of their course material, including class lectures, reading lists, exams and videos, available on Web for free. You will be able to essentially audit an MIT education. It’s going to cost MIT about $100 million to do this, and it will be voluntary: up to each professor’s discretion. Of course, you won’t get college credit or a degree, but, hey, it’s not the letters that count, right?

According to President Charles M. Vest, the university’s president, MIT is not worried about students opting to avoid the $26,000 in tuition. “Our central value is people and the human experience of faculty working with students in classrooms and laboratories, and students learning from each other, and the kind of intensive environment we create in our residential university. . . This is a natural fit to what the Web is really all about. We’ve learned this lesson over and over again. You can’t have tight, closed-up systems. We’ve tried to open up software infrastructure in a variety of ways and that’s what unleashed the creativity of software developers; I think the same thing can happen in education.

As laudable as MIT’s effort is, one wonders about the various intellectual property challenges, and the possible “MIT aftermarket” that might spring up, repackaging the courseware. In any event, any business whose core purpose is online learning must be quaking in its boots at the possibility that this sort of thing might catch on.

New York Times (registration required)

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