Green Mountain IP http://greenmountainip.com Vermont Based Discussions of Patents and Other Intellectual Property Thu, 03 Nov 2016 22:57:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 43935372 Individuals and Small Businesses Get Some Help from the USPTO – the Patent Pro Bono Program http://greenmountainip.com/individuals-and-small-businesses-get-some-help-from-the-uspto-the-patent-pro-bono-program/ Tue, 01 Nov 2016 18:41:06 +0000 http://greenmountainip.com/?p=700 Image from the Patent Pro Bono Launch at the Burlington Generator in Vermont (left to right): Jim Grace, US Senator Patrick Leahey (VT), Justin Daniels of Proskauer Rose LLP, and Jennifer McDowell, the USPTO’s Pro Bono Coordinator

Image from the Patent Pro Bono Program Launch at the Burlington Generator (Patrick Leahy second from left).

When it comes to turning a great idea into a viable business, one of the most significant hurdles for many inventors is the cost of applying for a patent.  The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has recognized this impediment and has, with the urging of Senator Patrick Leahy, launched the USPTO Pro Bono Program (the “Program”), which is available to all inventors and small businesses with limited resources.

Established with the enactment of the America Invents Act, the Program aims to match inventors with volunteer patent attorneys who can assist them with their patent applications on a pro bono basis. In general, the Program is open to individuals and small businesses who meet the resource eligibility requirements.  The Program is managed regionally, with Vermont being a part of the Patent Pro Bono Program of New England.  To be eligible, individual inventors must have an adjusted gross income of less than 300% of the federal poverty guidelines (as of this writing, 300% of the poverty guidelines is $35,640 for an individual and $72,900 for a household of four, as examples) and small businesses must have a total gross income of less than $150,000.  In addition, any inventor seeking assistance under this program must have progressed in the development of his or her invention enough to be able to describe in sufficient detail to allow someone to make it.

Inventors wishing to take advantage of the Program must first apply through the appropriate regional program (the New England Program is available here: http://artsandbusinesscouncil.org/patent-pro-bono-program/), pay a small fee ($55 as of this writing), provide some documents to establish eligibility, and complete a training module to help them become more familiar with the patent process.  Keep in mind that further fees will be due as patent office fees, which can range from several hundred dollars to well over a thousand, must be paid by the inventor.

Pro bono services for patent work is a relatively new area, but has seen rapid growth since an initial pilot program in Minnesota in 2011.  However, since the volunteer patent attorneys are not obligated to accept every eligible inventor in the program, it remains to be seen whether there will be enough attorneys, or, more precisely, enough attorney time, to meet the demand for pro bono patent services as more inventors with limited resources become aware of the program.

Dunkiel Saunders is excited to be a part of the Program so as to assist Vermonters and those throughout New England in pursuing patents to their inventions.  The practice at Dunkiel Saunders is dedicated to serving all inventors and has a special emphasis on those focusing on alternative energy, education, health care, and other inventions that advance social and environmental causes.

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Trademark Basics – Tips, Tools, & Helpful Explanations for Navigating the Trademark Registration Process http://greenmountainip.com/trademark-basics-tips-tools-helpful-explanations-for-navigating-the-trademark-registration-process/ Tue, 03 May 2016 14:14:32 +0000 http://greenmountainip.com/?p=689 When clients come in to discuss their potential trademark filings, they often have misconceptions about what makes a “good” trademark and what value a trademark can bring to a business.  That’s partly because trademarks (or “marks” for short) are easily confused with other types of intellectual property, especially copyright, which is a related but completely separate type of protection over creative works.  Confusion also stems from the somewhat counterintuitive nature of trademark law and the rules regarding trademark registration.

One way to understand what makes a “good” trademark is to know what the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) looks for when granting or denying trademark registration.  To that end, this will be the first in a series of posts on the most common hurdles to trademark registration that we see in our everyday practice.

Whether you’re considering a potential mark to use in your business or you’re already using a mark that you’re thinking about registering, familiarity with these basic trademark issues will make it easier to navigate the registration process and get the most brand value for your business.

DISCLAIMER – These posts are only intended to offer basic information about trademarks and cannot be considered legal advice.  If you have any questions about your particular trademark, contact us.

Trademark Registration Hurdle #1: Descriptiveness

It’s fairly common (and understandable) that clients want to their mark to convey to their customers what their product or service is.  However, from a trademark perspective, this can be problematic as we often have to warn clients that their mark is potentially descriptive.

From a trademark perspective, descriptiveness means that the USPTO may find that the mark describes qualities, ingredients, or characteristics of some or all of the goods or services offered under the mark.  The situation can be serious because a Descriptive mark may not be registrable, and thus not protectable, without resorting to significant expense.

One of the fundamental principles of trademark law is that the more unusual a mark is (i.e. the more unique or different from the goods and services it covers) the stronger the protection the mark offers.  The inverse is also true; the more descriptive the mark is of the goods and services, the weaker the protection—or in the case of merely descriptive marks or generic terms, no protection at all since the USPTO will completely refuse registration.  It’s therefore in a trademark owner’s interest to make the mark as non-descriptive as possible.  The more non-descriptive, the better protection the mark carries and the easier it will be to register with the USPTO.

But what does non-descriptive mean?

Trademarks are divided into four categories: Fanciful, Arbitrary, Suggestive, and Descriptive.  Fanciful, Arbitrary, and Suggestive marks are considered inherently distinctive and are registrable, while Descriptive marks are generally not registrable without evidence of acquired distinctiveness.  There is also a category called Generic, but there is no such thing as a “generic” trademark because generic terms can never be used as a trademark.

Marks that are Fanciful or Arbitrary have no connection to the goods and services they represent (famous examples include APPLE for computers or XEROX for copiers).  The difference between Fanciful and Arbitrary marks is that Fanciful marks are typically made-up words, e.g. GOOGLE and XEROX, whereas Arbitrary marks are actual words that bear no relation to the goods sold or services offered, e.g. APPLE, TWITTER, etc.

With Suggestive marks, there is a connection between the mark and the goods and services, but it’s only “suggested,” meaning that it requires the consumer to think or use their imagination to find the connection.  Last year a federal court in California held that PINTEREST was a “textbook example” of a Suggestive mark for a website that allows users to pin their interests on a virtual board and share it with others.

As mentioned above, Descriptive marks describe some aspect of the goods or services they cover.  For example, a few weeks ago the USPTO refused to register the mark WEEPING ANGEL, finding it merely descriptive of funerary urns featuring (you guessed it) a weeping angel (see case summary and photos here), and a recent federal case upheld NOPALEA as descriptive for a dietary supplement containing nopal juice.  Depending on how descriptive the mark is, a Descriptive mark may be able to “acquire distinctiveness,” which typically requires the mark owner to show continuous, exclusive, and substantial use of the mark in commerce (not always an easy burden).  Really descriptive marks (also called merely descriptive) cannot even use acquired distinctiveness to become registered.

Generic words are a step beyond describing the goods and services in that they use the actual words or synonyms for the goods/services in the mark.  Websites are commonly found to be generic—Hotels.com, Sportsbetting.com, and Buyautoparts.com were all refused registration because they are generic for the services offered by the website. See the case summary for Hotels.com here.

Choosing a less descriptive mark will help you avoid a descriptiveness rejection at the USPTO.  Moreover, beyond registrability, the less descriptive your mark, the stronger it is.  We’ll cover this more in an upcoming post, but for now, the chart below should be a useful guide:

GMIP-photo

Bottom line: Choosing a mark is a challenging task, and business owners often want to pick something that will give customers a good idea about the product or services offered under the mark.  But the more descriptive a mark is, the less trademark protection you get and the harder it is to register.  This can make it even more challenging to distinguish a business in the marketplace and make it harder to compete for customers in the long run.

Stay tuned for our next post on: Names in Trademarks

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B&B Hardware v. Hargis Industries and the implications for Trademark Law Practice http://greenmountainip.com/bb-hardware-v-hargis-industries-and-the-implications-for-trademark-law-practice/ Tue, 28 Apr 2015 15:43:33 +0000 http://greenmountainip.com/?p=679 hitech

Best in class…and infringed by SEALTITE

Imagine this situation: you have a trademark and someone else is using and trying to trademark a similar name. You decide to sue them for trademark infringement in district court and oppose the registration at the USPTO. Your opposition is successful and is based on likelihood-of-confusion grounds (the same grounds that will win the day in court) – does the district court judge have to abide by the USPTO’s determination? The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in B&B Hardware, Inc. v. Hargis Indus., Inc., No. 13-352, 575 U.S. __ (2015), says yes, but only under certain conditions. The Court’s decision leaves trademark practitioners struggling to grasp = level of impact it will have, if any, on the everyday practice of trademark law.

The second of two trademark cases heard by the Court in 2014, B&B Hardware addresses the question of whether the doctrine of issue preclusion applies to registration decisions of the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) in later civil litigation over trademark infringement.  Issue preclusion prevents parties from re-litigating issues that have already been decided by a court (or in this case, an agency)—meaning that if a second case arises between the same parties related to the same issue as the first case, the first court’s decision on the issue stands, and the second court is precluded from finding differently on that issue. Registration opposition and an infringement action are two separate trademark proceedings that can be filed by a trademark holder over similarities between the same two marks, and thus there is the potential for issue preclusion to apply. Here, B&B Hardware opposed Hargis Industries’ registration of the mark SEALTITE on the basis that it was too similar to its own registered mark, SEALTIGHT— and while the TTAB was deciding the registration issue, B&B brought suit against Hargis for trademark infringement in District Court. Ultimately, the TTAB sided with B&B, barring registration of SEALTITE on the grounds that it was likely to be confused with SEALTIGHT. B&B then argued that the TTAB’s likelihood-of-confusion analysis should preclude the district court from conducting its own analysis and determining an opposite result.

In the 7-2 decision written by Justice Alito (with Justices Thomas and Scalia dissenting), the majority reversed the Eighth Circuit and held that issue preclusion does apply to administrative agencies such as the TTAB where the issue decided by the agency is “materially the same” as the issue before the court. The Court determined that even though the likelihood-of-confusion analysis conducted by the TTAB in the context of registration varies somewhat from the likelihood-of-confusion analysis conducted by a court in an infringement suit, they are not materially different standards.

Although, as Ronald Mann of SCOTUSblog points out, the decision may well be cited for its clear recitation of the doctrine of issue preclusion, the extent to which it will affect the everyday practice of trademark law is less clear.  The Court itself acknowledged that for “a great many registration decisions issue preclusion obviously will not apply because the ordinary elements will not be met”  (such as when there are different parties or issues presented).  And in her concurrence, Justice Ginsberg clarified her understanding that the decision would not invoke issue preclusion for contested registrations where the likelihood-of-confusion analysis only compared two marks in the abstract, and not their marketplace usage.

It appears that most legal commentators agree that the decision is unlikely to affect most trademark registrations. Laura Chapman and Toni Qui of the National Law Review suggest that litigants can attempt to bypass preclusion from a negative TTAB decision by appealing to the district court for a de novo review (which the Court also alluded to). John Welch of TTABlog agrees that the de novo review is a critical loophole, and adds that B&B Hardware may just be the very rare case where the opposition to registration and infringement action were simultaneous, and the TTAB’s decision was not appealed.

Thus, while the stakes of not appealing a negative decision from TTAB on registration have been raised somewhat in that TTAB’s analysis could carry forward into any future infringement litigation, the likelihood that issue preclusion will affect most trademarks seems pretty remote. There may be some carryover for patent law, says Dennis Crouch of PatentlyO, since the same reasoning the Court applied to the TTAB could likely be applied to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB)—unless, unlike trademark’s Lanham Act, the Court views patent statutes as barring the application of issue preclusion. All in all, SCOTUSblog may be right that the biggest impact the case may have on trademark practice could well be the Court’s descriptions of the processes and procedures of trademark registration and infringement litigation as they get applied and interpreted in future litigation.

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Vermont Artist’s Award Against USPS Affirmed http://greenmountainip.com/vermont-artists-award-against-usps-affirmed/ Thu, 05 Feb 2015 13:26:35 +0000 http://greenmountainip.com/?p=674 Korean War Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Korean War Memorial, Washington, D.C.

On February 4, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a prior decision by the Federal Court of Claims that the United States Postal Service (USPS) should pay $573,000 to Vermont sculptor, Frank Gaylord (Barre, VT), for the USPS’s infringement of his soldier sculptures in formation that constituting part of the Korean War Veterans Memorial.  USPS put a portion of the monument on a postage stamp without Mr. Gaylord’s permission and profited mightily ($30.2 million in revenue) in doing so, but didn’t want to pay anything or very little (less than $5,000) to license the work. Further details of the case can be found here.

This has been a long running saga for Mr. Gaylord.  Prior opinions can be found: here and here.

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Innovation in Vermont? http://greenmountainip.com/innovation-in-vermont/ http://greenmountainip.com/innovation-in-vermont/#comments Tue, 27 Jan 2015 14:37:43 +0000 http://greenmountainip.com/?p=671 I’m often asked whether there is a a significant amount of innovation occurring in Vermont aside from IBM (enough to warrant my existence as patent attorney, I guess).  Fortunately, the Agency of Commerce & Community Development has put together a slideshow showcasing the innovative culture we have here in the Green Mountain State.  As the list of companies makes clear, there is a wide variety of innovations occurring here – from the somewhat expected ski inventions (Renoun Ski Company) and zero sort recycling (Casella Waste Management) to the less expected robots (Terasem Movement Foundation) and virtual reality systems (IrisVR).  We may not be Silicon Valley, but we’ve got a culture that fosters all types of intellectual and artistic endeavors.

Got an innovation not on the Agency’s list that should have been? Tell me about it.

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Cycling Inventions – Innovations for Road-warriors http://greenmountainip.com/cycling-inventions-innovations-for-road-warriors/ Tue, 27 Jan 2015 02:29:48 +0000 http://greenmountainip.com/?p=518 If you’re a cycling enthusiast (as I am), its always interesting to see what is on the horizon for new products (or the next gimmick).  Along those lines, a (semi) recently published patent from Reynold’s Cycling addresses issues with asymmetrical wheel rims (dished rims that accommodate larger cassette sizes).

Specifically, the invention addresses the following problems, among other things:

  • Potential adverse tension as the spokes attempt to align the median plane of the spoke face with the median plane of the tire interface.
  • Load balancing between the flat and curved part of the asymmetric rim; and
  • Lowering the wheel weight.

How does it do this? In short, by provided a rim with a straight sidewall and a curved sidewall as shown below (right – (normal rim shown left)):

Capture2

While this change to the rim shape does not seem dramatic, it is somewhat impressive when viewing the entire wheel:

Bike Wheels

FIG. 1A is a standard symmetrical rim, FIG. 1B is a partial asymmetrical rim with only a partial deflection, and FIG. 1C is fully asymmetrical rim.  It is very noticeable that the fully asymmetrical rim allows for (at least as shown in the illustration) uniform spoke lengths.  A lack of symmetry, however, generally has it’s drawbacks – namely an unbalanced structure that would have difficulty maintaining its form under load.  Reynolds’ addresses this issue by increasing the thickness of the straight sidewall relative to the curved sidewall.  The asymmetry and wall thickness form the basis of the very concise independent claim 1:

1. A bicycle wheel comprising:
a hub;
a fully asymmetric carbon fiber rim comprising:
a curved sidewall; and
a straight sidewall, wherein the straight sidewall is thicker than the curved sidewall; and
a number of symmetric left and right spoke connecting the hub to the rim.

 

On my brief read of the publication, the disclosure does not appear to discuss the impact on of an asymmetric rim on aerodynamics, but possibly this design is primarily intended for shallower rims, which have less aerodynamic benefit anyway.

All in all, very interesting and likely has applicability to a mid-priced wheelset that minimizes maintenance and allows for larger cassettes.

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Patent Troll Legislation Update http://greenmountainip.com/patent-troll-legislation-update/ Tue, 28 Oct 2014 13:55:43 +0000 http://greenmountainip.com/?p=638 CaptureSeveral states passed laws in the last year to go on the offensive against patent trolls, following in Vermont’s footsteps. Some variants of Vermont’s law of note:

1. Several states have codified the jurisdiction of the state courts to include the conduct of out-of-state patent trolls. However, it’s fairly clear that this provision cannot pass constitutional muster – personal jurisdiction is simply not established by the mere sending of a demand letter. With that said, however, it would be interesting to see how this would play out with the AG of a state involved and with the law being interpreted as a quasi-criminal matter (for example, Louisiana’s AG is the only entity allowed to go after patent troll activities). As Judge Toor made clear a few weeks ago, the constitutional protections offered to patent holders to send demand letters may not be as broad if their conduct trends toward nefarious activity.

2. Several states did not include a bond – it may be that this is already allowed generally in their jurisdictions, but it seems odd not to mention or delineate any boundaries.

3. Some states only allow their AG’s to prosecute patent troll activity.

Interestingly, no state has attempted to take on some of the more vexing activities of patent trolls. For example, there is no attempt to get past the endless shell corporate structures that these entities employ to avoid potential liability. I would think that a state could require an entity to provide notice to the state (similar to what Minnesota negotiated with MPHJ) of its desire to send an infringement letter and in that notice the state could require a) evidence of actual use of the patented technology by the entity and/or b) identification of the real party-in-interest with assets sufficient to present a bond (could they be required to register as a foreign corporation?). This would at least make the AG aware of patent litigation activity in the state (if a troll is sending thousands of letters, requiring notice may dissuade them from doing so).  But I’ve talked about some of these issues before.

Links to each state’s legislation and a brief summary of the differences from Vermont’s law are just below:*

VERMONT:

Standard Bad Faith/Good Faith Assertions of Patent Infringement used.

Bond: Motion by target, determination by court. Troll must post bond equal to good faith amount target would pay to litigate the assertion (not to exceed $250K).

Damages: Standard range of damages.

ALABAMA: No significant differences.

GEORGIA: No significant differences.

IDAHO:

Includes 3 year statute of limitations.

Regarding Bond: No upper limit (typically $250K) imposed by statute. The target of a patent troll must establish a reasonable likelihood that a person has made a bad faith assertion.

LOUISIANA:

Only the state’s attorney general has the authority to investigate and pursue claims.

Person’s (or entities) from outside the state making an assertion in-state is subject to the jurisdiction of the state.

No bond provision.

MAINE: No significant differences.

MARYLAND: No bond provision.

MISSOURI: No bond provision.

OKLAHOMA: Only state attorney general has authority to investigate and pursue claims.

OREGON: No bond provision.

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Includes an exception for publicly traded companies and patent owners using the patent in manufacturing and production of products and materials (in addition to the VT exceptions for higher education and technology transfer organizations for higher education institutions).

TENNESSEE: No bond provision.

UTAH: No significant differences.

VIRGINIA:

No bond provision.

Person from outside the state making an assertion in-state is subject to the jurisdiction of the state.

$2,500 civil penalty for each infraction.

WISCONSIN: No bond provision.

*Many thanks to Mathew Kryman, student at Vermont Law School and former intern at Dunkiel Saunders, for his help in analyzing the statutes.

*Thanks also to Rupalee Rashatwar, Program Coordinator/ Acting Legislative Coordinator at the National Association of Attorneys General for the compiling the legislative activities.

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MPHJ’s Losing Streak Continues http://greenmountainip.com/mphjs-losing-streak-continues/ http://greenmountainip.com/mphjs-losing-streak-continues/#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 12:31:49 +0000 http://greenmountainip.com/?p=615

The State of Vermont has continued its winning ways against MPHJ.

A recent Vermont court decision continues the shut-out being tossed by the state of Vermont against MPHJ. You can read the full decision here.

Just to recap the proceedings before getting to the latest decision:

  • On May 13, 2013 the State of Vermont sued MPHJ in Vermont state court alleging violations of Vermont’s consumer protection law.
  • MPHJ removed the case to federal court and requested dismissal of the case due to a lack of personal jurisdiction.
  • Vermont filed a motion to remand on July 8, 2013 and District Judge William Sessions heard arguments on February 25, 2014.
  • Judge Sessions found that the federal court lacked jurisdiction and thus granted the state’s motion to remand on April 15, 2014.
  • MPHJ appealed to the Second Federal Circuit*, which affirmed the remand. State of Vermont v. MPHJ Technology Investments, LLC, Nos. 2014-1481, 2014-137, 2014 WL 3938955 (2d Fed. Cir. Aug. 11, 2014)

With the case in state court, Vermont Superior Court Judge Helen Toor heard the parties’ positions on the propriety of personal jurisdiction over MPHJ (note that Judge Sessions declined to decide this issue as he believed it was premature), i.e., whether MPHJ had minimum contacts with the state and whether it would be fair to exercise jurisdiction over MPHJ in the event that minimum contacts exists.

MPHJ and the state’s position differed mainly in the characterization of the letters that MPHJ sent.  MPHJ indicated that it was just a patentee defending its rights.  MPHJ relied on long-standing precedent that allows patentees to send demand letters to allegedly infringing parties (generally) without fear of being hailed into the infringer’s jurisdiction.  In contrast, the State (and ultimately, the Court) focused on the alleged illegality of the letters themselves.  In other words, since the State has alleged the letters violate Vermont’s consumer protection statute, the letters are sufficient, in and of themselves, to establish minimum contacts with the state where the letters were received.  The court analogized to cases involving text messages and mailings in violation of consumer protection laws, libel suits where the libeler was in a different jurisdiction than the libelee, and phone calls made in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

The importance of the court’s insight should not be understated. My brief review of the cases cited by the court allow for much fewer contacts with the forum state than one would normally expect under standard personal jurisdiction factual scenarios.  We are basically in a hybrid civil-criminal scenario, where illegal activity, once committed in a state comes under the jurisdiction of that state.  We wouldn’t bat an eye at a state prosecutor charging an out-of-state person for a crime committed in the prosecutor’s state, and in much the same way, we shouldn’t be surprised if a business sends an illegal letter to a state resident and the state decides to prosecute.

The court then assessed whether or not, in spite of the minimum contacts, it would be fair to MPHJ to defend itself in Vermont.  Weighing heavily against MPHJ is the fact that it was the state, itself, as the plaintiff, and that MPHJ’s letters threatened suit of the alleged infringers (which would necessarily take place in Vermont) and ultimately the court found that it would be fair to subject MPHJ to the suit in Vermont courts.

Next up for the court will likely be discovery issues…this could take a while.

*ed. Thanks to Walter Judge of Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC for pointing out that it was the Federal Circuit that reviewed the remand decision of Judge Sessions, not the Second Circuit as set forth in Judge Toor’s opinion.

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Decision on Personal Jurisdiction http://greenmountainip.com/decision-on-personal-jurisdiction/ http://greenmountainip.com/decision-on-personal-jurisdiction/#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 11:51:34 +0000 http://greenmountainip.com/?p=620 Ruling on Mtn to Stay Mtn to Amend and Mtn to Dismiss (3)_Page_1 Ruling on Mtn to Stay Mtn to Amend and Mtn to Dismiss (3)_Page_2 Ruling on Mtn to Stay Mtn to Amend and Mtn to Dismiss (3)_Page_3 Ruling on Mtn to Stay Mtn to Amend and Mtn to Dismiss (3)_Page_4 Ruling on Mtn to Stay Mtn to Amend and Mtn to Dismiss (3)_Page_5 Ruling on Mtn to Stay Mtn to Amend and Mtn to Dismiss (3)_Page_6 Ruling on Mtn to Stay Mtn to Amend and Mtn to Dismiss (3)_Page_7 Ruling on Mtn to Stay Mtn to Amend and Mtn to Dismiss (3)_Page_8Ruling on Mtn to Stay Mtn to Amend and Mtn to Dismiss (pdf)

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Brewing Technology At Keurig Green Mountain? http://greenmountainip.com/brewing-technology-at-keurig-green-mountain/ http://greenmountainip.com/brewing-technology-at-keurig-green-mountain/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:52:55 +0000 http://greenmountainip.com/?p=557 More than just coffee at Keurig? Could we have known earlier?

More than just coffee at Keurig? Could we have known earlier?

Keurig Green Mountain (formerly Green Mountain Coffee Roasters) made a few headlines this summer when discussing its brand change, plans to broaden its current product offerings, and entering new markets.  A paragraph in an article at The Moltey Fool caught my attention:

Indeed, Green Mountain officials contend that while fiscal 2014 will be a time of focusing on the fundamentals, fiscal 2015 will be about launching new innovations. “It’s one format, (K-Cups), but the brand is actually one that going forward will be getting into other things — water filtration, carbonation. It will all be under the Keurig umbrella,” Riddick said. “The brand going forward must be known by consumers for things other than K-Cups and coffee.”

A brief search on Google Patents shows that GMCR has, in fact, been busy of late, submitting patent applications to the very technologies referenced in the paragraph above.  For example, at least the following applications have all been filed in the U.S. between December 2010 and August 2012:

  1. Method and apparatus for cartridge-based carbonation of beverages

    www.google.com/patents/US20130129870
    App. – ‎Filed Aug 2, 2012 – ‎Published May 23, 2013 – ‎Thomas J. Novak – ‎Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.

    Systems, methods and cartridges for carbonating or otherwise dissolving gas in a precursor liquid, such as water, to form a beverage. A gas source can be 

  2. Beverage formation apparatus and method using vibratory energy

    www.google.com/patents/US20120308688
    App. – ‎Filed Jun 15, 2012 – ‎Published Dec 6, 2012 – ‎Peter Peterson – ‎Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.

    Apparatus and method for forming beverages using a beverage cartridge and sonic energy. A cartridge may include a sonic receiver, such as a feature that 

  3. Compositions, systems and methods for portion-packaged soups and meals

    www.google.com/patents/US20120321756
    App. – ‎Filed Jun 15, 2012 – ‎Published Dec 20, 2012 – ‎Richard Estabrook – ‎Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.

    Methods and systems for producing a food product having a liquid component and an insoluble component, such as soups or stews. A food product assembly 

  4. Method and Apparatus for Cartridge-Based Carbonation of Beverages

    www.google.com/patents/US20110226343
    App. – ‎Filed Jan 31, 2011 – ‎Thomas J. Novak – ‎Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.

    Systems, methods and cartridges for carbonating a precursor liquid, such as water, 

  5. Beverage Formation Apparatus and Method Using Sonic Energy

    www.google.com/patents/US20110151075
    App. – ‎Filed Dec 17, 2010 – ‎Peter Peterson – ‎Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.

    Apparatus and method for forming beverages using a beverage cartridge and sonic energy. A cartridge may include a sonic receiver, such as a feature that 

Additionally, the applications listed above have 7 child applications (most unpublished) and I would imagine there will be more filings as the applications get closer to issuance.

Reviewing these patent portfolio additions, Coca-Cola’s purchase of a significant amount of Keurig stock should strike us as nothing unexpected – Keurig has been planning the expansion into carbonated beverages for many years. What this little analysis also confirms is that stock reports and other typical business information can be supplemented by trend analysis of patent filings (even if the publication information is a delayed representation of the actual patent filings).

 


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