June 13, 2018
Uber has a host of features built into their app, which allow them to monitor their drivers in a bid to improve safety. Recently, Uber has flipped the switch and has filed a patent application for monitoring passengers. This isn’t as malevolent as it sounds though, as the intention in the patent application is to use available data such as walking speed, device angle, and location to identify differences between the user’s behavior at that moment compared to their usual behavior, with the aim of identifying the users “state”.
Why it Matters
Uber has a history of marketing their services in a way to motivate people to not drink and drive. Examples include their partnering with MADD, and campaigns using lickable breathalyzer cards, to help people identify when they shouldn’t be driving and, as a result, book their journey home with a taxi firm. However, this is using the measure of intoxication in a different way and TechCrunch notes that while this could be good in terms of perhaps sending a first-aid qualified driver, there is potential for the data to be used for bad. Not all patented tech makes it to market, so we will have to wait and see the reactions of people should this get implemented.
The US Supreme Court turned heads last year with the surprise decision to limit a plaintiff’s choice of venue for patent litigation. This was seen as an anti-NPE move as there were particular courts, notably that of East Texas, which were something of a favoured venue due to being perceived as being “troll friendly”. The decision was made to limit cases to where accused infringing parties are headquartered. This past month, there have been 3 clarifications to this legislation, surrounding non-US defendants, multiple HQs and the burden of proof.
Why it matters
One of the first questions that arose was that of companies with their HQ outside the US. The worry was that this wouldn’t help anybody but US-based defendants. The federal circuit has clarified that non-US entities are indeed outside of this statute, which will weaken their defensive capabilities in the US. Secondly, they also ruled that it is up to the plaintiff to provide the proof that the choice of venue is appropriate, which should help defendants challenge the venue choice. Finally, they concluded that in states where there’s a choice of districts, there is not free choice over which to use, and that the case should go to the court in the same district as the defendant’s place of business. These rulings generally help US companies, but do nothing to assist international companies being taken to court in the US.
The US taking measures such as the venue choice limitation have been seen as anti-NPE/PAE behavior and there is a fear amongst European businesses that NPEs will be drawn to Europe as a result. According to a recent study, these fears are unfounded, as the 4ip council found that the European patent and litigation system is “functioning well”.
Why it matters
They went as far as to identify six PAE business models, that small businesses actually benefit from. Some PAE models help them generate licensing revenues. This is a different view to the conclusions drawn by the DartsIP study we wrote about, largely because that study didn’t distinguish between types of PAEs. The 4IP report also notes key differences, such as the use of experienced judges over juries, and lack of automatic injunctions, which should keep Europe a safe place for operating companies, both pre- and post-unitary patent.