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

Oregon Business expands events portfolio

The Latest
Friday, March 27, 2015
htctfacebookBY OB STAFF

New events series brings magazine to life.


Read more...

Photos from the 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon awards celebration

The Latest
Friday, February 27, 2015
IMG 9975cneditPHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Images from the 2015 celebration of Oregon's great workplaces.


Read more...

6 highlights from the Craft Brewers Conference

The Latest
Friday, April 17, 2015
thumbPHOTOS BY  JASON E. KAPLAN

The 32nd annual CBC attracted a record number of attendees (11,000)  to the Oregon Convention Center.


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...

Get on the bus!

April 2015
Thursday, March 19, 2015
BY APRIL STREETER

How the private sector can ride the next transit revolution.


Read more...

Downtime with the executive director of Greater Portland Inc.

April 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015

Janet LaBar, Executive director, Greater Portland Inc.


Read more...

Announcing the date of the 100 Best Green Workplaces in Oregon event

News
Friday, March 20, 2015
OBM-100-best-Green-logo-2015-250pxwBY OB STAFF

Join us to celebrate and network with Oregon’s best green workplaces!


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