Patent Troll Update – The Speech Technology Consortium One Year Later

It’s been a busy year for the Speed Technology Consortium (STC), which was formed a little over a year ago for the purpose of helping the speech industry grow the market and increase innovation. I first wrote about STC after attending a presentation on patent law at last year’s Mobile Voice 2010 conference in San Francisco. What got my attention was the well-thought out plan to fight patent trolls, who eat up vendor’s monetary resources and stifle creativity in the process. You can read my May 2010 blog on the Mobile Voice panel here for details, as well as a follow-up on a patent case involving Phoenix solutions and West in September 2010 here. Although the focus is on speech technologies, patent trolls and the work the STC is doing is pertinent to all the industries speech touches, including UC/collaboration and contact centers, so the organization is well worth paying attention to and joining.

This year at Mobile Voice 2011, Ria Farrell Schalnat, a patent attorney with Frost Brown, LLC, gave an update on her prior year’s presentation on “Trends in Intellectual Property Against Speech Patent Trolls”.  Ria went over some patent “wins” against patent trolls, reiterated that the cost of litigation starts at a million dollars, but a reexam of the patent only costs $25K, and that going through STC as a group is even less costly and more effective. This year Ria also introduced the Peer-to-Patent organization, best explained by the organizations’ ‘about’ paragraph, as follows:

“Peer to Patent is a historic initiative by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that opens the patent examination process to public participation for the first time. Peer to Patent is an online system that aims to improve the quality of issued patents by enabling the public to supply the USPTO with information relevant to assessing the claims of pending patent applications.

This pilot project connects an open network for community input to the legal decision-making process. The community supplies information and research based on its expertise. The patent examiner makes the final determination on the basis of legal standards. This process combines the democracy of open participation with the legitimacy and effectiveness of administrative decision making.”

Available at Mobile Voice were cards that outlined the accomplishments of the STC in 2010; the contents of which follow as a further promotional effort.

2010 STC Accomplishments:

  • Formed an active board made up of industry leaders
  • Assisted West in win against Phoenix Solutions
  • Analyzed additional Phoenix patents for potential reexam
  • Helped add speech to the United States Patent Trade Office’s (USPTO)s Peer-to-Patent initiative
  • Defined the SpeechMap project with the USPTO
  • Began creating the framework for mapping the industry
  • Developed a strong working relationship with the USPTO

The SpeechMap project is a particularly ambitious and worthwhile project, and is collaboration between the STC and USPTO. The object is to:

  • Create a shared resource for inventors, examiners and defenders
  • Create a link between patent documents and non-patent literature
  • Improve the quality of the existing and new patent pool

As part of the process:

  • Open source content management links the information and the community through group participation
  • Social tagging lets researchers put their own content where it belongs on the map
  • Faceted indexing links not only to topics but multiple advances in the same speech engine, in the same lab, in the same application area, addressing the same problems.

I can’t emphasize enough that while some patents in themselves are a good thing and that some patent litigation is necessary and good. But when companies are formed with the primary or sole purpose of buying up patents, sitting on them, and then suing anyone who breathes near one of them it is only harmful to everyone.

If you would like to join, help or get more information you can check out STC’s website, email info@speechtechnologyconsortium.org.

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