Oregon startups turn to patents

| Print |  Email
Articles - February 2013
Monday, January 28, 2013

BY BRANDON SAWYER

0213 Data 01Working a high-stress job for a certain semiconductor company in Hillsboro, Mark Tipperreiter needed a good night’s sleep. In the nightly battle to get comfortable, he improvised a device to support the bedcovers above his feet and legs in order to relieve pressure on them and ease sleep. A friend who suffered from gout noticed his device and asked where he could get one. Tipperreiter found through research that foot and leg pain from ailments and injuries was quite common, so he decided to build a business, Blanketbooster, around his invention. But before he could, he knew he needed a patent on his simple, effective design, which would be too easy to knock off. Within three years, in November, he received a patent, which grants him a 20-year monopoly on the device, manufactured in Portland and sold online and at Relax the Back stores in the U.S. and Canada.

“It was the right choice,” he says. “It was a cost of doing business. The cost of not filing a patent in the long run would be more expensive.”

Tipperreiter’s story shows how patents can work, but the system is beset by chronic problems that are now being addressed by new laws and policies. While it’s too early to tell how exactly these reforms will impact Oregon’s innovators, they remain undeterred by the system’s flaws or its new laws, and still find value in patents.

Problems include years of application backlog, complaints of poor-quality patents, and mounting infringement litigation clogging district and appeals courts and costing companies huge sums of money and time. This has led high-tech behemoths like Intel to stockpile patents through acquisitions and flood the system with filings. Thus armed, high-profile legal battles have resulted.

Much of the strife today is rooted in a late 1990s decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to allow patents on software processes. Many of these patents should have been rejected, but examiners did not initially have the resources to properly judge them. This mountain of dubious patents has given rise to so-called “patent trolls,” firms holding large patent portfolios that don’t produce anything. Their only function is to threaten and sue accused infringers for licensing fees and damages.

0213 Data 02 233pxW

 



 

More Articles

The Health Guru

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Mohan Nair channels a visionary.


Read more...

An uncertain future

Guest Blog
Thursday, May 21, 2015
norristhumbBY JASON NORRIS | GUEST BLOGGER

Uncertainty is a part of doing business, whether in through the lens of investment opportunities and risks or the business of running an enterprise.


Read more...

5 questions for inDinero CEO Jessica Mah

The Latest
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
jessicathumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

inDinero, a business that manages back-office accounting for startups and smaller companies, recently announced it would relocate its headquarters from San Francisco to Portland. We talked to CEO Jessica Mah about what drew her to Portland and how she plans to disrupt the traditional CPA model.


Read more...

Fighting Fire With Fire

May 2015
Friday, April 24, 2015
BY BEN DEJARNETTE | INVESTIGATEWEST

Timber companies and environmental groups take a stab at collaboration to boost logging and restoration in Oregon fires.


Read more...

Celestial Eats

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER AND EILEEN GARVIN

A power lunch at Solstice Wood Fire Cafe & Bar.


Read more...

Letting Go

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

As baby boomers sell their businesses, too many forget the all-important succession plan.


Read more...

Emperor of the Sea

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY COURTNEY SHERWOOD | Photos by Jason E. Kaplan

Pacific Seafood, one of the world’s largest processors, is rebranding as a more transparent and consumer-friendly operation. A controversial CEO and monopoly accusations from coastal fishermen complicate the tale.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS