Facebook wants to make thought-hearing glasses

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Plus smart glasses from Google, transforming drones, AR clothing and other patents from Big Tech.

It’s the weekend! Time to switch my digital avatar’s outfit from a suit to lounge pants. I don’t actually live in VR yet (though I did try working in it this week), but a new patent from Amazon might make that a reality sooner rather than later. The company’s also working on drones that could get deliveries to me even quicker than its other drones, and Facebook is working on making immersive videos work on any screen in my house. Who needs to go outside when I can bring the entire world to my couch? Big Tech’s patents this week seem very on board with me staying at home as long as I want to.

And remember: The big tech companies file all kinds of crazy patents for things, and though most never amount to anything, some end up defining the future.

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In a first, China knocks U.S. from top spot in global patent race

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The headquarter of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is pictured in Geneva, Switzerland

GENEVA (Reuters) – China was the biggest source of applications for international patents in the world last year, pushing the United States out of the top spot it has held since the global system was set up more than 40 years ago, the U.N. patent agency said on Tuesday.

The World Intellectual Property Organization, which oversees a system for countries to share recognition of patents, said 58,990 applications were filed from China last year, beating out the United States which filed 57,840.

China’s figure was a 200-fold increase in just 20 years, it said. The United States had filed the most applications in the world every year since the Patent Cooperation Treaty system was set up in 1978.

More than half of patent applications – 52.4 % – now come from Asia, with Japan ranking third, followed by Germany and South Korea.

Ownership of patents is widely seen as an important sign of a country’s economic strength and industrial know-how.

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Ford patents drone that pops out of a car’s trunk

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IMAGE VIA U.S. PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE/FORD

 The spare tire stashed in your car’s trunk for emergencies might soon be joined by a drone.

On Thursday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark’s office published a patent application submitted by Ford Motor Company subsidiary Ford Global Technologies. It seems the American automaker is developing a system that would allow drivers to deploy and control a drone stored in their car’s trunk.

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Top 10 inspiring women inventors and their greatest inventions: Infographic

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Unfortunately, we will never know how many women inventors were there before the 20th century. Women were not able to own property – not just in the U.S., but also around the world – until after the turn of the 20th century. That not only applied to home ownership but also to owning intellectual property and patents.

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Preventing Patent Trolling

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The last decade was a boom time for patent trolls. Their names and lawsuits made the news; This American Life dedicated two hour-long episodes to them. The number of defendants in patent troll lawsuits increased sixfold from 2003 through last year. But now the tides seem to be turning for them: After growing very rapidly since 2009, the number of lawsuits filed by “non-practicing entities” will be significantly lower this year compared to 2013. Although the level of litigation will still be at a historic high, is this indicative that they are finally being reigned in?

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Top 10 reasons 3D printing hasn’t caught on yet

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3D printers may not be as easy to use as they seem. Photo credit: FredKahl/Flickr

3D printing stands to completely transform the way we make, replace, and transport products and will disrupt nearly every major industry. However, the technology is still geared toward passionate, motivated makers and hobbyists—not the average citizen.

 

 

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Patent system gets streamlined makeover

Margaret Focarino, Commissioner for Patents, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) was in a state of crisis in 2009. There was a huge backlog of pending patent applications and it was growing. The process for reviewing patents had not changed in decades and was out-of-date. Employee job satisfaction was low and the longstanding distrust between management and the patent examiners union was ever-present.

 

 

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3D printing brings new life to old inventions

An 1875 flower stand.

The key battleground in today’s high-tech lawsuits may be the US Patent and Trademark Office, but it is also home to a trove of inventions that have fallen into the public domain. Martin Galese, a patent lawyer, is trying to bring some 21st century tech to the charming ideas patented in the 19th and 20th centuries. He’s dug up eccentric creations — from an Escher-esque building block to a combination comb and hair clip — and is rebuilding them using digital modeling tools, allowing anyone with a 3D printer to own a once-patented work from the past.

 

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Why 3D printing is set to explode in 2014

Brook Drum, the founder and CEO of Printrbot.

Patents have been holding back 3D printing, the technology that’s supposed to revolutionize manufacturing and countless other industries. In February 2014, key patents that currently prevent competition in the market for the most advanced and functional 3D printers will expire, says Duann Scott, design evangelist at 3D printing company Shapeways.

 

 

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Why does chemotherapy cost $70k in the U.S., but only costs $2.5k in India?

By rejecting patent applications, developing countries have kept down the costs of much-needed medications.

Gleevec, a leukemia drug, costs $70,000 per year in the United States, but only costs $2,500 in India. Why does that drug cost so much more in the U.S.?

 

 

 

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Gene patents could stand in the way of personalized medicine

Researchers worry that gene patents compromise their ability to tailor treatments to individuals based on their DNA.

One day in December 1995, scientists at Myriad Genetics, a a genetic diagnostics company in Salt Lake City, Utah, were competing in a race to discover the sequences of two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, that reveal a woman’s risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.  Sean Tavtigian rushed to his job that day  at Myriad because he knew he could solve the final piece of the puzzle just in time to win Myriad the rights over both genes.

 

 

 

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Six important things for inventors to do to thrive under the “first-inventor-to-file” patent system

The first-to-invent patent system will be replaced with what is often called a first-inventor-to-file system for patent applications.

President Obama signed the America Invents Act (AIA) into law in September 2011. Under one of the most important provisions of the AIA, the longstanding first-to-invent patent system will be replaced with what is often called a first-inventor-to-file system for patent applications with an effective filing date of March 16, 2013 or later. In the run-up to next March, there is likely to be significant attention in the press – and plenty of misinformation – regarding how first-inventor-to-file works and how it will impact entrepreneurs.

 

 

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