Ray Van Dyke Teaches Course on Intellectual Property at SMU

Next week at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, I reprise my course on intellectual property. Excerpts from the course description are set forth below and available online at  http://lyle.smu.edu/~matula/IPIT/

Dr. David Matula and I have taught the class since 2000, and I am honored to teach the class again on January 16 and 17, 2015. The Course is open to everyone and I hope to see those that can attend next week. Engineers, scientists, corporate and business people, faculty and students have praised the class, and 2015 will be no exception! My presentation includes all the basics on IP, current developments, and purposes of IP to our society (and the past).

I hope to see you there!

Ray, vandyke@acm.org


What is intellectual property? Why should I patent my innovation? How do I draft my claims?  This course will address the importance of technology and intellectual property in America, the fundamentals of patent, copyright, trademark and trade secrets for the lay person, and the real world application of those rights.

Fair use, open source, and alternatives will be described and interpreted.

Current developments and changes are also covered. In particular, the America Invents Act of 2011, the most monumental change to patent law since 1836, will also be discussed, and the significant effects on universities, small inventors and companies highlighted. Supreme Court, Legislation and other developments that affect these rights will also be covered in this popular and engaging presentation.


  • History and Philosophy of Intellectual Property Rights and their role in the information age
  • Intellectual property’s impact on information system design and development
  • The inventor’s role in recognizing a patentable idea
  • Analysis of ground breaking industry patents
  • Impact of Emerging Technologies on Intellectual Property


Computer Science & Engineering Department

Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering

 15th Annual Short Course on Intellectual Property and Information Technology

January 16 & 17, 2015:  Friday 9:am-5:pm, Saturday 9:am-1:pm

Palmer Conference Center for Engineering Leadership

Caruth Hall, Rm. 406

3145 Dyer Street, Dallas, TX  75205

Short course fee:  $200 (group rates available)

SMU Students:  Credit – one hour:  Register for CSE 5111/7111

Non-credit complimentary SMU student registration available (contact beth@lyle.smu.edu)

IP in 2014: The Good, the Bad and the Idiotic

For those in the Washington, DC area, I am giving a talk at INCA (http://www.dcinventors.org/) next Monday evening. INCA, which stands for the Inventors Network of the Capital Area, is a nonprofit educational organization whose members are interested in patents, the innovation process, product design, marketing, licensing, prototyping and other product development issues. I am a proud member of INCA.

Hope to see you there!

Ray Van Dyke, vandyke@acm.org, www,rayvandyke.com

Breaking Bad Patents

Breaking Bad Patents

In AMC’s Breaking Bad, high school chemistry teacher Walter White, although starting out as a protagonist, descends into depravity and ruin.  Clearly, not all high school chemistry teachers are Walter Whites.  Similarly, not all scientists, innovators and patent owners are evil. Yet Congress, at the urging of lobbyists, is ready to label many innovators and patentees as “patent trolls,” categorically unworthy of participating in the patent process and subject to stiff penalties.

It seems that patents are always in the news.  The reason is their value and the market power involved.  A patent is a limited, exclusionary government grant designed to protect an inventor from infringers — i.e., copyists and others who desire to take advantage.

Patents represent one way the little guy with an idea can succeed in today’s economy.  Indeed, the U.S. Founding Fathers recognized the value of a patent system to foster innovation and incorporated it in the Constitution.  For more than two centuries, the U.S. patent system, like a faithful and sturdy machine, has been operating to protect American innovation and propel the country forward.

However, the patent system — the poster child of capitalism — can be controversial.  In the 1840s, the sewing machine patent wars created controversy. Likewise, Morse’s telegraph, Bell’s telephone, Edison’s inventions and the Wright Brothers’ flying machines all generated controversy in their day, triggering a hue and cry against the patent system.  Today, we have the smartphone patent wars, due entirely to the quest for market dominance — and this controversy too will pass.

In response to cries for patent reform, Congress passed the America Invents Act of 2011, which was recently enacted. It was meant as a response to the so-called patent trolls, also termed “patent assertion entities,” or PAEs.  The Act includes numerous new U.S. Patent Office governmental proceedings designed to challenge patents — e.g., oppositions and reexaminations — on top of the existing mechanisms to challenge and invalidate patents.

Through these various proceedings, dubious patents can be overturned without the necessity of resorting to a trial.  In the congressional hearings for the AIA, numerous corporations proclaimed the need for the Act.  Now, the U.S. Patent Office has hired hundreds of judges to oversee these new proceedings, and patent attorneys across the country have had to tell their clients about the brand new provisions, some of which overturned more than 210 years of patent law.

Even though the ink on the AIA is hardly dry, Congress is poised to enact rather serious legislation to curb so-called patent abuse, which the AIA was designed to do.  Also, the Federal Trade Commission is once again engaged in studying the patent system.  What is going on? Various large corporations and their lobbyists, although instrumental in pushing the AIA through, want more — far more than they got legislatively.

The fear, however, is that the proposed new measures, designed to kill trolls, may destroy what few advantages the small inventor and small companies may have to enforce their rights.  For example, there is a fee-shifting provision in a current bill that would shift attorney fees onto an unsuccessful troll.  Although penalizing a troll sounds OK, who is the troll?  Answer: anyone given the label.

“Trolls,” as the term is now understood, include those not practicing their invention — e.g., someone who has no business — only a patent.  Under this definition, universities are trolls.  Small inventors driven out of the market by a larger entity are trolls.  Nonetheless, there are bad actors out there, and there are bad patent lawsuits.  However, the AIA and its patent-challenging provisions are the mechanism that should come into play — not new legislation.

There is also a challenge against new technologies, primarily software.  To critics, all software patents are unpatentable as being too abstract even though the Supreme Court and numerous judges have elucidated guidelines to address this.

Further, software is an American specialty.  Is the U.S. to allow this national resource to go unprotected, allowing everyone to copy?  Just as the telegraph, the phone, electricity, flight, plastics, and other disciplines became subject to patenting — and controversies — software will in time join the technologies of yesterday and be supplanted by the technologies of tomorrow, which will hopefully be patentable as well.  Singling out software for exclusion from patenting is both short-sighted and asinine.

The AIA is not perfect, but it is a creature of pretty much the same lobbyists who are now crying for more.  The American patent system is strong, but it is not indestructible.  American invention is strong, and this national resource must not be hindered.

As Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said, “Innovation never comes from the established institutions. It’s always a graduate student or a crazy person or somebody with a great vision.”

If the U.S. government curtails patents enough, undermines the patent system, or otherwise disincentivizes innovators, the nation will suffer.

Demonizing inventors as greedy or evil — equating innovators with Walter White or other bad characters — undermines the Founding Fathers’ hopes for the U.S.  The AIA was an unpleasant pill that the patent system had to swallow; let’s let it work before forcing more unpleasantries on inventors.

One thing is certain: Heisenberg is dead.

Raymond Van Dyke is a patent practitioner and educator in Washington, D.C.

– See more at: http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Breaking-Bad-Patents-79079.html#sthash.KAZwwGs3.dpuf