Hermann Stainer

IP-Software Developer & Consultant, MBA, CEO of Sympatent Software GmbH

News & Articles

PatForum, the Front Page for Intellectual Property Professionals

PatForum brings all the news of the patent industry to you in a quick-to-grasp and concise manner.

In my efforts to stay up-to-date regarding news, events, and developments in the patent industry, I discovered that there is no central information point where as many of the relevant news as possible come together. Of course, there are the websites of the patent offices, numerous newsletters, magazines, and blogs that report on recent developments or comment on them. But it was challenging for me to keep track without investing a lot of time.

So I created a news hub to fill just this gap: PatForum. Inspired by aggregator-websites such as Reddit, PatForum enables all visitors to have an up-to-date and easy-to-grasp listing of all patent industry news. The details of a news entry can then be reached with just one click.

Screenshot of PatForum.
Screenshot of PatForum.

The idea is that PatForum is set as the default home page in your web browser, or visit it once or twice a day to see everything that’s new. In addition, PatForum is also designed with mobiles devices in mind and e.g. can be added as a button to the home screen of your phone for quick and easy access.

All content is pre-sorted to show you only the most relevant new entries based on your geographic region. For example, a visitor from the US by default sees news related to the USPTO and WIPO, and to organizations associated with those offices, while a visitor from the United Kingdom would see news related to the UKIPO, EPO, EUIPO and WIPO instead. In addition, all entries are categorized into sub-forums such as “Patent Attorneys” or “Inventors”. Another feature is to save news entries: since only the most recent messages are displayed and may disappear, it is possible to add entries to a personal list to save them permanently and quickly find them again later.

PatForum is completely free and all content is publicly available. To publish entries yourself or leave a comment under an entry, a free user account is needed. I hope that you become a regular PatForum visitor as well—if you have any questions or suggestions please contact me!

EPO Launches New Version Of Espacenet

The EPO launched the new version of its patent database Espacenet, currently only as a public test and in parallel to the existing old website.

For the past two years, the EPO has been working on a new take on its popular patent search software Espacenet. While the current website is already one of the best freely available tools to search for publicly available patent data, several factors have led the EPO to the decision to completely start from scratch with a new search interface: the new Espacenet is easier to use in general, and more accessible when using a mobile device such as a tablet or cellphone. Some workflows have been improved, e.g. you are now using a filter function instead of having to enter all parameters in the initial search.

Screenshot of the new Espacenet.
Screenshot of the new Espacenet.

Personally, I think the new layout with search results on the left and opened documents on the right is the de-facto standard nowadays for any patent search software used by patent offices, attorneys, or other patent experts, so it is a very good decision to follow this approach.

To learn more about the new Espacenet, watch the video of the EPO on Youtube.

Why I Stepped In Front Of The Camera

In the end, shooting the video was a lot of fun—but I had to overcome a few personal barriers to step in front of the camera.

In the past few days, the first video for the Patentswatch software went online on all channels—from the website to social networks. Product videos are a must today, not just in the software business, but for anyone who wants to present themselves online. I had previously published videos, but this time a new approach was planned: I did not just want to introduce a software product in the video, but also to step in front of the camera myself.

The Internet is flooded with offers and products of all kinds. It is difficult to draw attention to oneself and the own services. If somebody watches a video, interest is either catched within seconds or not at all. At the same time, software in particular has the problem of being a product that is quite abstract and difficult to grasp for many people.

Numerous studies have shown, however, that there is a way to get the viewer’s immediate, full attention in a video, and also to provide the video with the emotions you want: show a face in the video. Our brain can’t help but respond because we’re born this way. This is known to go as far as recognizing a face where there is none, be it on objects, buildings, or even on Mars. A face in a video not only draws attention, it also immediately creates a more personal atmosphere, and emotions are transported directly to the viewer—not for nothing it is said: “Laughter is contagious”.

Nevertheless, many product videos contain no faces. I can understand the reasons very well: I was never crazy about being in front of the camera. The production of a professional video is quite an effort. And most of all, the audience is mostly interested in the product, not me. But is that really the case?

I thought about this for a while and then made the decision to just try it and appear on the new product video, with the intention of making Patentswatch more personal and accessible as a software product. You can see the result on the Patentswatch website—your opinion and feedback are of course very interesting to me.

EPO Patent Applications At An All-time High In 2017

The European Patent Office has published its annual report for 2017. (Image Source: European Patent Office)

Around 166,000 patent applications were submitted to the European Patent Office in 2017, more than ever before in the history of the Office. According to its recently released annual report of 2017, the increase over the previous year is 3.9% for patent applications and 10.1% for publications of issued patents.

The following developments can be read from the annual report:

  1. The demand for European patents is increasing all over the world. The five most active countries of origin were the US, Germany, Japan, France and China. Applications from the United States increased by 5.8%, which is especially interesting since they had dropped in 2016 due to the changes in US patent law introduced in 2013.
  2. For some countries, applications focused on specific areas, e.g. in the case of China and South Korea, the information and communication technology (ICT) sector. By contrast, in most European countries, as well as in the US and Japan, applications are more broadly distributed among different sectors.
  3. The three technology segments with the largest number of patent applications remain identical in comparison to the previous year: medical technology, digital communication and computer technology. The strongest growth in the ten most active technology fields was in biotechnology with 14.5%, followed by pharmaceuticals with 8.1% and measurement with 6.6%.
  4. The company with the most patent applications in 2017 is Huawei from China, followed by Siemens, LG, Samsung and Qualcomm. Large companies account for 69% of patent applicants, with the remaining 31% coming from small and medium-sized enterprises, individual inventors, universities and public research organizations.

Overall, it can be said that there is still only one direction for the number of patent applications: up. For all actors in the patent sector, such as companies and patent law firms, this means that it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of all relevant new applications and their procedural statuses.

Iconic Patents: The Football

Will it be a running play or a passing play? This question did not arise in American Football for a long time, because the balls of the early days could basically not be passed.

About This Series Of Articles

Behind every patent there is a story—and in this series of articles I would like to introduce some of the most well-known. Inventions that caused a sensation and gained cult status. I will also address the inventors and applicants of these patents.

While modern American Football cosists of a variety of plays, it is mainly the long, spectacular forward passes that are associated with the sport. A mostly forgotten fact today is that this type of passing game was impractical over much of the early days of the sport. The reason for this was the most important element of the game: the football. The pioneers of the game had to struggle with numerous problems of their ball.

The story of the manufactured inflatable ball begins around 1849 with English leatherworker Richard Lindon, who happened to have his shop nearby the Rugby School in Rugby, Warwickshire, England, known for being the birthplace of Rugby football. Lindon’s business soon shifted from producing footwear to supplying the pupils of the school with footballs. While the outside consisted of stitched leather, the inside was a pig’s bladder and inflated by mouth using a pipe, a very dangerous process since it was possible that the pig was diseased and oneself could get infected. Lindon therefore had the idea of using natural rubber instead (despite this and numerous other inventions, he never filed a patent application).

Due to the origin of the bladder, there originally was no other way but to play Rugby with a round-shaped ball. It was difficult to carry, and throwing was not only infeasible but also against the rules. However, the switch to rubber opened the possibility of using other shapes, and in 1874, a new ball was used that had a shape similar to a watermelon.

American Football started with such Rugby footballs, but in 1906, the forward pass was legalized and soon after that, new rules allowed the use of a ball that was essentially an oversize version of today’s modern football. But running plays were still the only viable strategy, since the ball was constantly deflating, losing its shape, and as a result was awkward to throw. While this was already a big challenge for manufacturers to overcome, it was also a very complicated and time-consuming process to inflate the ball. Football games sometimes were halted with players taking turns on blowing up the ball. Multiple patents were granted on various inventions to solve this issue, such as a syringe-like device. In addition, for each inflation, the ball had to be unlaced (and then laced up again), and each ball had metal stem valves that not only made it uneven and therefore difficult to throw, but were also dangerous for the players.

Evolution of the football: to the left an illustration from a 1925 patent, to the right from a 1939 patent.
Evolution of the football: to the left an illustration from a 1925 patent, to the right from a 1939 patent.

Patents show the evolution of the football: over the years, its shape was more and more enhanced for making pass plays possible. In his 1925 patent US 1,559,117, John E. Maynard writes: “This invention has for its object to provide a football especially adapted for use in playing the present open game wherein the ball is frequently thrown by hand in the play known as the ‘forward pass’. In the execution of this play, it is necessary that the ball be grasped by the end and quickly and accurately thrown, and in wet weather, when the ball is slippery, it is difficult to obtain a sufficiently grip thereon to accomplish this successfully.”

14 years later, in 1939, patent US 2,182,053 by Milton B. Reach shows the shape further advanced to the football as we know it today, amongst many other improvements. Not much later, in 1941, Samuel “Slingin’ Sammy” Baugh of the Washington Redskins became the NFL’s first well-known passing quarterback. Nowadays, manufacturers continue to improve the football on aspects such as materials used, enhanced grip, and durability.

Next week, the Philadelphia Eagles will play the New England Patriots in the 52nd Super Bowl. While the winner has yet to be determined, one thing is certain: the fans are going to see spectacular passing plays that would not be possible without the great inventions along the development of the football. I wish all fans a great game!

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Hermann, I’m in the software business for 20 years—welcome to my website! Here I write mostly about both the software industry in general and my personal experiences with my company Sympatent.

My specialty is IP (=intellectual property) software, which is used by patent professionals such as law firms or companies that own patents.

If you have a question about one of my articles, something to share or just want to chat, please contact me!