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

Kill the Meeting

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

Meetings get a bad rap. A few local companies make them count.


Read more...

Old school: Paulsen's Pharmacy maintains old fashion ethos

The Latest
Thursday, December 18, 2014
121914-pharmacy-thumbBY MEGHAN NOLT

VIDEO: Under the radar — complete with a soda counter, the traditional Paulsen's Pharmacy looks to compete with big box retailers.


Read more...

Streetfight

News
Sunday, December 07, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

On Friday, Uber switched on an app — and with one push of the button torpedoed Portland’s famed public process.


Read more...

Election Season

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014

We didn’t intend this issue to have an election season theme. But politics has a way of seeping into the cracks and fissures.


Read more...

Behind the curtain: What students should know about accreditation and rankings

Contributed Blogs
Thursday, December 04, 2014
120414-edurating-thumbBY DEBRA RINGOLD | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

How important are institutional and/or program evaluations provided by third parties in selecting a college or university program?


Read more...

See How They Run

January-Powerbook 2015
Friday, December 12, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Studying ground-running birds, a group that ranks among nature's speediest and most agile bipedal runners, to build a faster robot.


Read more...

The short list: 5 hot coffee shops for entrepreneurs

Contributed Blogs
Friday, November 14, 2014

CupojoeBY JESSICA RIDGWAY

Oregon entrepreneurs reveal their favorite caffeine hangouts.


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