Perceptual computing: the next big thing

Perceptual computing is a new technique in the already crowded technology area. Perceptual computing may reinvent the way we interact with our computing devices, making it more natural, intuitive and immersive. The computing devices will be able to perceive user actions through new capabilities including close range hand gestures, finger articulation, speech recognition, face tracking, augmented reality experiences, and more.

Perceptual computing is an efficient alternative to  the mouse and keyboard and controls computers with gesture, eye motions, and voice.


Let’s look at the architecture of the Perceptual computer to understand how perceptual computing is implemented.

Perceptual Computer consists of three components: encoder, computing with words (CWW) engine and decoder. Perceptions such as words are provided as an input in order to activate the perceptual computer and  the words are presented as perceptual computer output along with the data, thereby interacting with the user using vocabulary.

The encoder transforms the words into fuzzy sets and leads to a codebook with their fuzzy set models. The output of the encoder activates a computing with words (CWW) engine whose output is other fuzzy sets which are then mapped by the decoder into a recommendation with supporting data. The recommendation may be in the form of a word, group of similar words, rank or class.

The perceptual computer establishes vocabulary for an application and collects data in certain intervals from various sources for all the words in the vocabulary. The perceptual computer maps the collected data into words resulting in the codebook for the application and completes the functioning of the encoder in the perceptual computer. The CWW engine maps the fuzzy sets into one or more fuzzy sets. The CWW engine may consist of If-Then rules and Linguistic Weighted Averages. If there is a CWW engine for the application, then perceptual computer uses its available mathematics to compute its output. Otherwise, the perceptual computer develops mathematics for the new kind of the CWW engine. The new CWW engine should be constrained such that its output resembles the words in the codebook for the application.

Further, the perceptual computer maps the fuzzy set output from the CWW engine into a recommendation at the output of the decoder. If the recommendation is a word, rank or class, then the perceptual computer uses existing mathematical logic for mapping. Otherwise, the perceptual computer develops a new mathematical logic for the new kind of decoder.

Intel is betting big on perceptual computing and has announced devices which work on the technique. Though perceptual computing is still in development stage, it presents innovative way of using your imagination and shows us the vision for the future of computing.


Author, Chandrasekhar is Manager, Patent and Trademark Agent at IP Astra


Why accelerators should look into IP

Why accelerators should look into IP

Recent years have seen a surge of entrepreneur activity all over the world. Introduction of a number of early stage companies has spawned a number of entities which facilitate such companies, examples of such entities being venture capitalists, angel investors, incubators, and accelerators. Each type of entity caters to a different problem faced by start-up companies.

India is going through a phase where there is lot of traction and buzz on start-ups. Several multinational funding agencies have set their foot in India, let alone the scores of domestic funding agencies. One needs to be extra cautious in categorizing the domestic funding agencies as VC’s or accelerators or angel investors as the lines that differentiate them from one another are rather bleak. Added to that, India being multi-lingual and multi-cultural, regionally there exists hordes of funding agencies which are associated with various terminologies colloquially.

Venture capitalists, angel investors, and incubators are nothing new. In fact, they were in existence in one form or another as early as mankind has known to do business. However, a new breed of start-up supporting entities has been introduced in the market in the recent years: The accelerators. The accelerator, or seed accelerator as it is popularly known, is an entity that provides financial support, counselling and infrastructure for start-up companies at early stages of formation. The accelerators make significant effort to market themselves to potential candidates resulting in a large number of applicants vying for small number of seats. The accelerators not only look into the ideas; they look into the talent working in pursuit of the idea as well. The companies are chosen on the basis of both the applicability of the idea as well as the people constituting the team of the company. The funding varies, sometimes in small tranches of few thousand dollars and at times in hundreds of thousand dollars.

It is critical to understand the importance of Intellectual Property protection for start-ups by accelerators. Intellectual property protection which was considered as a nuisance in the past amongst Indian corporates has started getting attention in the last 10 years. More and more corporates have initiated several in house strategies in protecting IP. The various IP forums, associations, and conferences all add fuel to the IP eco system in India. Earlier, during an M&A deal in India, IP was associated only to brand equity and good will. Today, things have evolved and people have started recognizing IP during deals, especially patents. There are several factors that accelerators need to look into before inducing a company into their programs. Not just among the start-up companies, but in among any group of tech-based companies, the risk of patent litigation is very real. So even if the start-up does have patents, and even if you have an exit strategy in place, it is imperative for the investors to play the devil’s advocate and do a thorough prior art search to avoid any future litigation.

The trouble with the start-up companies today is that though they are encouraged by the wide array of VCs, accelerators, incubators, and such, they are also targeted. They are targeted by patent trolls who sniff out the deals occurring between start-ups companies and their funding agencies and target those start-ups for million dollar settlements. As a result, unless the start-up does find a way out of the troll litigation, it would not be viable for the accelerators to invest in such companies. Hence, it is important that accelerators ensure there is a good IP strategy in place before they invest in start-ups.

Startups and Intellectual Property

So you want to start a start-up. You believe that you have the next big idea in you. The idea that would take you into the leagues of other legendary men who had brilliant ideas like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Sergey Brin. So what next?

The most important step you take at this stage towards sustainable development would be keeping your idea sealed unless it is protected by an efficient non-disclosure agreement. That’s right, that one big idea should stay in your head before you protect it. Do not disclose it to anyone.

There are chiefly three types of intellectual property that you should consider before getting into your business:

  • Trademarks
  • Copyrights
  • Patents


       Trademark is often regarded as the oldest and yet most ambiguous form of intellectual property and quite rightly so. For example trademark issues could potentially arise between a company named “bar space” and a company named “space bar” because of their names, though they sound differently. So it is highly advised to consult a professional with expertise in the field of trademarks before trademarking your product.

        Trademarks include crucial aspects of your company like company name, brand name, logo design, taglines, among other things.


         Copyrighting your content is also a nice way to ensure that your work won’t be blatantly copied by others. As much as copyrights help you, they could prove a hazard unless you are careful not to infringe others copyrights. Cases of start-ups made to pay penalties for infringing copyrights occur occasionally.

         Your website design, content in your brochure, layout, etc all come under the domain of copyrights.


         A right to stop anyone from making, using, and selling your invention, sometimes patents don the role of the game-changer, sometimes of an expensive wallflower. Depending on the practise areas covered by your start-up, patents could well be the most critical factor in achieving market success.

         The sum total of all the intellectual property rights make up the IP portfolio of your company. A good IP portfolio is critical for success in today’s IP driven economy. The foundation for a good IP portfolio is laid during the earliest stages of a start-up company. The first few patents and trademarks filed for a company goes a long way. Take for example, US patent US6285999, or more famously, the first patent by google. The patent “Method for node ranking in a linked database” lists Google co-founder Lawrence Page as inventor. However, the patent was assigned to Stanford University. Google licensed the patent from Stanford for a 2% stake in the company. In 2004, Stanford University cashed its stake in the company for a sum of 337 million dollars. The single patent served as the cornerstone for what was to become Google’s mighty IP portfolio.

         As far as semiconductor and bio-technology start-ups are concerned, the IP portfolio, especially the patent portfolio of the company is of vital importance, and not without reason:

                  1. Strategically placed patents ensures competitive advantage for the company. A strategic patent is one which ensures that the competition cannot operate within the market space without infringement.

                  2. A good patent portfolio convinces the customers and prospective investors that you take matters related to your technology seriously.  It convinces them that you invest in your technology and your company is strong from the inside.

                  3.  It garners respect for your organization from the big corporates. Patents enable you to compete with people who have deeper pockets. Good, strategically placed patents inhibit others from operating in your space and as a result, add value to your business.

                  4.  It provides venture capitalists confidence to fund you. Especially, because of the potential revenue stream received through licensing. The venture capitalists have the confidence that even if your company fails, they can make the leased amount by licensing the patent. Some even go to the extent of seeking the help of patent trolls to gain back the money leased.

                  5.  Patents also enhance the bargaining power of your company, especially in cases where your company is in the process of cross licensing patents with another company. A good patent portfolio provides leverage in such circumstances.

                  6. The number of potential revenue sources has increased in the past decade. Patents are monetised in a number of ways such as securitization and auctions.

         Building an efficient patent portfolio requires vision. Necessity for vision arises from the fact that there is no such thing as a global patent. Patents are subject to jurisdictions, and as a result, the first step towards building a patent portfolio would be to decide the number of jurisdictions you would want to practise the invention. In any case, to file a patent abroad, you would require filing a domestic patent first. So naturally, the next step would be to file a domestic patent in your respective jurisdiction.

         Filing a domestic patent would provide you the exclusive right to practise the invention within your jurisdiction, and would further provide you with a limited period of time to file the patent in other countries.

         Filing a patent in another country, in the case it has already been filed domestically is called national phase entry. Depending on the mode for performing national phase entry, the time and expense varies. Moreover, various nuances of the patent law are different in different counties. So you are advised to select the countries where you would like to file the patent carefully.

         The first step towards patenting an invention should be to consider the following questions:

  1.  Is my invention patentable?
  2.  How much could I afford to patent the invention?

         The first question, about patentability, can be answered by understanding the four concepts for patentability:

  1.  Novelty
  2.  Non-obviousness
  3.  Usefulness
  4. Patentability issues that are subject to jurisdictions.

        Novelty and obviousness of an invention can be determined by searching in various paid and public databases. Patent consultancies offer prior art searches that serve the same purpose.

        Usefulness of an invention generally refers to industrial applicability, as in the invention can be made or used in an industry for commercial purposes.

         Patentability largely refers to whether the inventions that is deemed to be patentable according to the patent law of the jurisdiction. For example, inventions relating to atomic energy, food materials and agricultural practises are non-patentable in India.

         The answer to the second question determines the number of patents you will be filing and the patent attorney you will be hiring for the purpose. Selecting a patent attorney is a tricky process. One of the most common mistakes that start-ups make is that they overvalue their patents and overspend for patent drafting. Always remember that your chief concern must be executing your idea rather than protecting it. Moreover, spending money for a patent makes sense only if you make more money from the patent than what you have spent for it.

            So, money spent for the patents should be kept at an optimal level. Ideally, the selected patent attorney must charge well within the budget allocated yet should be able to deliver with required amount of correctness. So you are advised to do a lot of groundwork before selecting your patent attorney. One method of reducing the cost would be to outsource to places which are reputed to perform, yet are affordable.

             Once after the patent attorney has been selected, the patent attorney most likely would take an invention disclosure interview with you. After a few days after the invention disclosure, the patent attorney sends you the first draft of the drafted patent. The patent attorney files your patent after he considers all your opinions about the first draft.

             If you want to buy more time before filing the patent, you are advised to file a provisional and then file the complete specification at least one year later.

             Once the patent has been filed, comes the long and arduous process of patent prosecution. In India, the specification is published after eighteen months of filing the patent. After this, the patent office accepts opposition to the grant of patents. Further, the applicant should request the examiner to examine the application.

              On average, a patent takes 2 to 5 years to get granted based on the jurisdiction. Once granted, the patent provides the owners 20 years of monopoly for practising the invention. The twenty years of monopoly is a fitting reward for the strenuous effort of coming up with the patentable idea and further, patenting the idea.

              It is significant that the patent right is a negative right. Patent right is a sword, not a shield. It does not protect you from infringement. However, it does provide you with the right to take legal action against people who infringe your product. The patent right helps you to stop others from making, using or selling your invention. Moreover, it enables you to obtain an injunction against other people who are already using your invention and even acquire money from infringers as compensation.

            Inventions result from investments of considerable amount of time, energy and money. Patents provide a channel for the inventors and the enterprises backing them to obtain high returns for the time, energy and money invested on their part. Intellectual property rights is what keeps world innovating. As Abraham Lincoln rightly said, ”Intellectual property feeds fuel of interest to the fire of genius.”

Author, Leo Paul Johnson is a patent engineer at IP ASTRA

Patenting process in the wake of the Government shutdown

So the US government has partially shut down for the first time in seventeen years, in a spate of recent events regarding the Affordable Care Act. Several government funded organizations have had to cease operations because of lack of funds. These are hard times indeed for the myriad government employees who have been furloughed in the wake of the shutdown. However, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has confirmed its decision to function normally using reserve funds from prior fee collections.

The reserve fund shall last for another four weeks, after which a majority of USPTO workers will have to be furloughed. Even then, USPTO shall function with a skeletal staff and accept new patent filings and patent maintenance payments.

In the case of Federal Courts, Federal courts shall be up and running off reserve funds. Parties are still allowed to make electronic filing. However, the patent litigation cases might witness some rescheduling. The US Supreme Court continues to operate as normal.

The US International Trade Commission is putting all investigations on hold during the shutdown. All near-term filing deadlines, for example, deadlines to file requests for review of preliminary rulings et cetera, shall be extended by the length of the shutdown and all hearings shall be postponed.

Author, Leo Paul Johnson, is a patent  engineer at  IP ASTRA

Obama overrides I.T.C ruling

A few days back, the obama administration vetoed a ban on the import of older iPhones and iPads, imposed by the US International Trade Commission (ITC).

The move has its ghosts of familiarity. back in 1987, the US government under Ronald Reagan had overturned a similar ban involving samsung computer chips. Surprisingly, in both cases, the disappointed party was quite the same: samsung.

Sometime ago, Samsung had filed infringement charges on Apple regarding several patents. However, ITC found only one of the Samsung patent to be infringed by Apple: Patent No. 7,706,348, dubbed by Samsung as a “standard essential patent” or a basic patent. To facilitate the adoption of industry standards, standard-essential patents should be licensed at stress-free prices to anyone who wants to use them. (This is called “fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory,” or FRAND, licensing.)

However, Apple decided to use the technology in the patent without licensing it. Instead of going to federal court to sue, Samsung went to the I.T.C. The I.T.C.’s most attractive offering being that it can ban infringing imports without going through a federal court’s narrow criteria. This is what Samsung wanted: it asked the I.T.C. to ban the import and sale of the iPhone 3GS, the iPhone 4, and older iPads entirely. For Samsung, a ban on Apple’s imports would have been far better than a one-time billion-dollar jury verdict. The ban would have derailed Apple’s current strategy of selling older models to compete with Samsung’s cheaper line of phones.

President Obama’s veto should dim the attraction of the U.S.I.T.C. as a forum for patent disputes. For the first time since 1987, we find USA bailing out its home-grown high tech champion by overriding its own IP controls. Obama has hence showcased his plans to use the Oval Office to reform the US patent system. By stifling the judicial system, the US government has shown that an american company does not have to be bound by the intellectual property framework that it expects the rest of the world to follow. Even more problematic, a subsequent ITC ruling found that Samsung infringed upon two Apple patents – and that its products could therefore be banned in the US. Will the Obama administration once again intervene against the ban?

The US government has two options: one, intervene in this ban too and reinforce its claim that the ITC rulings are more determinations of principles rather than determinations of any legal consequence. Or it can follow the easy, legal but morally reprehensible act of allowing the ban to stand, citing the importance of ITC ruling.

Author, Leo Paul Johnson, is a patent engineer working at IP ASTRA

Teens awaiting their first patent

Seeking Patent protection is not limited to giant corporates, research institutes, or companies anymore. Increasing number of youngsters seek protection for their innovation through patents. Moreover, the youngsters are coming up with great beneficial inventions.

Did you know that the technology for television was invented by a 14 year-old boy? Young people are great inventors!

The new young Patentees are finalists of this year’s Intel Science Talent Search(STS) which includes Naomi Chetan Shah, Catherine Wong, Alison Dana Bick and Pavan N.

Naomi, a 17 year old girl develops a computer program to process the indoor air and predict the health risks caused by indoor pollution. For this, Naomi collected and analysed air samples, further collected lung health data, and then the computer program formulated by her will diagnose the health risks. It was very late when she realised that her invention has to be patented to protect it from theft. Because according to US patent Law, once inventors publish, or make public, their inventions, they have to file a patent application within 12 months. Therefore, Naomi is trying to seek patent on the revised version of the computer program.

While Catherine, another 17 year old girl was quicker to apply patent for her invention on a Wireless stethoscope and a Wireless device for transmitting information about hearts electrical signals.

Using this revolutionary invention doctors could diagnose illness in faraway patients.

Alison Bick, 19 invented a way to test for bacterial contamination in drinking water using household materials like cell phones, light and a plastic bag. She was smart enough to patent the invention on her own.

At the same time, Pavan 18, during his internship at Teledyne Scientific & Imaging discovered a solution to merging two fuel cells, one microbial cell and another alcohol based fuel cell. Pavan formulated a membrane that would allow alcohol to pass from first fuel cell to the second, by blocking the unwanted byproduct and thus made a novel solution. The company patented his discovery.

There are many more such teens lined up in the path of innovation and further into acquiring patents. We need more teens to come forward with such amazing discoveries. We wish them all Goodluck in their future endeavours.

Author, Trishala Joseph, is a senior patent engineer working at IP ASTRA

Design patents in fashion enter patent war

Design Patents were thought to be weak and fluffy. Not anymore! Design Patents have hit fashion and they have entered into patent litigation as well. Lululemon Atletica Inc., the Canadian retailer filed a lawsuit accusing fashion giant Cavlin Klien of infringing patents for pant designs. Lululemon claimed that Calvin Klein was infringing on design patents for its popular $98 “Astro Pant.” Lululemon claimed Calvin Klein’s Performance pants use the same waistband design elements and overall style of its Astro line of pants, the design patents for which was filed on September 2011.

The waistband featured on Lululemon’s Astro line of pants, consists of a series of angular pieces of fabric that form a v-shaped waistline that can be rolled down to sit lower on the waist.

However, Lululemon and Calvin klien finally settled the case out of court, but details of the settlement are confidential. Generally, designers haven’t had much success in protecting designs of clothing. But Lululemon showed a new trend of design patents for clothing. And hurray to Lululemon who dared to use its design patents in yoga patents to sue those who infringed their patents. Thus comes a new dimension to patent war.


Author, Trishala Joseph, is a senior patent engineer working in IP ASTRA.