Friday, July 31, 2009

Apple Computer IP: 2,612 is the number today

Here you go Apple Computer watchers, a short URL to all their US patents and apps, now numbering 2,612:

Updates automatically whenever Apple's US-based IP changes.

On Twitter, we're inventionsofman. And check out our University Patent Portfolios here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Netflix: 6 Patents Now, More May Come from Netflix Prize

Netflix (Los Gatos, CA; NASDAQ: NFLX) has 6 U.S. patents as of this moment (short URL =

This Netflix patent is interesting, Approach for estimating user ratings of items from 7/22/2008--

According to another embodiment of the invention, an approach is provided for estimating how a user would rate an item that the user has not yet rated. The approach is applicable to any type of items, including rental items such as movies and games, and the invention is not limited to any particular type of item. The approach is applicable to a wide variety of contexts and is ideally suited for automatically selecting rental items to be recommended for rental. One or more items that have been rated by the user are identified. Then, one or more other users are identified that have rated the one or more items and given ratings to the one or more items that are substantially similar to ratings given by user to the one or more items. Finally, an estimation is made how the user would rate the item that the user has not yet rated based upon how the one or more other users rated the item.

The five inventors include the Netflix CEO & Founder Reed Hastings--
  1. Hastings, Reed W. (Santa Cruz, CA)
  2. Hunt, Neil Duncan (Mountain View, CA)
  3. Randolph, Marc B. (Santa Cruz, CA)
  4. Ciancutti, John Robert (Mountain View, CA)
  5. Lanning, Stanley Miguel (La Honda, CA).
And more IP is likely coming for Netflix, thanks to the Netflix Prize, the status of which the NY Times captured on July 18, 2009--

The Netflix Prize is a stellar example of crowdsourcing. In October 2006, Netflix, the movie rental company, announced that it would pay $1 million to the contestant who could improve the movie recommendations made by Netflix’s internal software, Cinematch, by at least 10 percent. In other words, the company wanted recommendations that were at least 10 percent closer to the preferences of its customers, as measured by their own ratings.

(Cinematch analyzes each customer’s film-viewing habits and recommends other movies that the customer might enjoy. More accurate recommendations increase Netflix’s appeal to its audience.)

The contest will end next week because a contestant finally surpassed the 10 percent hurdle on June 26, and, according to the rules of the competition, rivals have 30 days from that date to try to beat the leader. The frontrunner is a seven-person team, and its members are statisticians, machine learning experts and computer engineers from the United States, Austria, Canada and Israel. It is led by statisticians at AT&T Research.

The leading team is a very elite crowd, indeed, but it is also one that was made possible by the Internet. The original three AT&T researchers (one has since joined Yahoo Research, but remains on the contest team) made good strides in the first year of the contest. But to make further progress, they went looking for people with other skills and perspectives. So they reached out eventually to a pair of two-person teams, who were among the leaders in the rankings posted on the contest Web site.

“The leader board was right there,” said Chris Volinsky, director of statistics research at AT&T. “It was pretty obvious who the top teams were.”

Though leading, his team may not win. But the teams in close pursuit are similar collaborations of skilled researchers and engineers.

The Netflix contest has lured experts worldwide not only because of the prize money but also because it offered a daunting challenge. The contestants’ algorithms must find patterns nestled in a collection of more than 100 million movie ratings. What is learned in tackling such a large-scale data analysis and predictive-modeling problem could well be applied in many industries, like Web commerce or telecommunications. “It made sense for us both from the perspective of AT&T and scientific research,” Mr. Volinsky explained.

In the Netflix contest, the winning idea is simply the one with the highest score. But often, companies rely on a contributing crowd for ideas, though management then chooses. I.B.M., for example, conducts online brainstorming sessions it calls Jams — 13 over the last seven years.

On Twitter, we're inventionsofman. And check out our University Patent Portfolios here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hershey's: Confectionary IP

Hershey's (Hershey, PA) has 46 U.S. patents and patent applications as of this moment (short URL =

The Hershey Company (NYSE: HSY) is the largest North American manufacturer of quality chocolate and sugar confectionery products. With revenues of nearly $5 billion and almost 13,000 employees worldwide, The Hershey Company markets brands such as Hershey's, Reese's, Hershey's Kisses, Kit Kat, Twizzlers, and Ice Breakers.

This patent application caught our attention, Process for preparing a sugar coating on an irregular shaped confection from 1/31/2008, for irregular treats--

The present invention is directed to a process for forming a hard sugar coating on an irregularly shaped chocolate confection which tapers into a pointed tip on said confection on a non-base portion thereof, which comprises forming a rounded contour on the base thereof and applying at least two coating syrups and preferably three coating syrups onto the surface of the confections under specific conditions and optionally polishing said confection. The present invention is also directed to the product formed from the process.

The four inventors are--
  1. Benjamin, Susan M. (Harrisburg, PA)
  2. Bennett, Shawn M. (Palmyra, PA)
  3. Bew, James C. (New Cumberland, PA)
  4. Swank, Jordana L. (Hamburg, PA).

On Twitter, we're inventionsofman. And check out our University Patent Portfolios here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

ExxonMobil: 13,453 Patents & Patent Apps

ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) is the biggest company in the USA, with $443 billion in revenue, up 19% from 2007.

The Irving, Texas company has 13,453 U.S. patents and patent applications as of this moment (short URL =

Their most recent patent is #7,464,756, Process for in situ recovery of bitumen and heavy oil from 12/16/2008, for pulling more useful "black gold" out of a given well--

A process is described for in situ recovery of bitumen or heavy oil from a reservoir having a horizontal injection well and a horizontal production well. The process includes a first phase in which steam and a heavy hydrocarbon solvent are injected into the reservoir, a second phase in which the steam and heavy hydrocarbon injections are transitioned to a light hydrocarbon solvent injection, and a third phase in which a light hydrocarbon solvent is injected without further steam or heavy hydrocarbon injection. A displacement gas may be added during any of the phases, and production of hydrocarbons continues throughout all phases. The process employs a high-production start-up phase, followed by lower cost phases which progress a depletion chamber within the reservoir.

The inventors are--
  1. Gates, Ian Donald (Calgary, CA)
  2. Gutek, Anthony Martin Harold (Calgary, CA).
ExxonMobil isn't just about fossil fuels-- in our hometown of Baltimore last month they announced support for an Electric Car Program.

On Twitter, we're inventionsofman. And check out our University Patent Portfolios here.