Previous month:
November 2004
Next month:
January 2005

Confidential policies bring contentment

Rainer Teufel
A new product is much more than the combination of materials used to fabricate it.

Companies may own not only the product, but all of the ideas behind the product, the designs, the designs that never made it off the drawing board, the manufacturing process, the brand, and other elements that fall under the general heading of intellectual property.

In addition, they may own everything generated in the creation of the product, such as paperwork, computer files, e-mail memos, sketches, prototypes, even the trash produced during the entire process of getting the item to market.

If one of your competitors discovered that you were intending to create, manufacture and market a lens for cell phone cameras, there could be repercussions. Exposure of this information could lead to your client losing an edge in the market.

A rival company could take that information and use it to either create a better lens or step up production on its own similar product to beat you to market. Your competitor would also know something about your business strategies that could give them a tactical advantage, as well.

Full story.

Restaurants fight over who was 'naked' first

DENVER - A pair of restaurant chains are fighting in court over who got naked first.

Qdoba Restaurant Corp. sued Moe's Southwest Grill in U.S. District Court this month, saying the Atlanta-based company is infringing on its trademark by offering "Buck Naked Burritos."

Qdoba, a Wheat Ridge company that operates Qdoba Mexican Grills, calls its tortilla-less burritos "Naked Burritos" and has held a federally registered trademark for the term since April, according to the lawsuit.

Full story.

The Invisible Fighter

By Michelle Delio December 30, 2004

A popular geek party trick may someday become an important defensive weapon in modern warfare.

The U.S. military is increasingly involved in urban combat, but its gear is still stuck in the jungle. The patterned uniforms, no matter what the color, do little to help conceal solidiers as they move through city streets and back alleys. That has left the armed forces with little recourse but to turn to its own -- and civilian -- researchers who are looking for ways to use emerging technologies to better hide fighting units. The result: complex technological interactions that could render troops and their gear invisible.

This almost mythical power will most likely not come through a new combination of patterns on cloth, but via digital cameras that can capture nearby surroundings and then project that scene on uniforms and vehicles, turning the military into a mobile movie screen that is -- if all goes well -- indistinguishable from the surrounding cityscape.

The idea behind this camouflage has been demonstrated in crude forms at conferences, conventions, and geek gatherings. Really, though, it's just a parlor trick that requires a webcam connected to a laptop. The camera is mounted facing backwards, while the laptop is held facing the onlookers. Poof -- the part of body that's covered by the laptop's display seems to have become transparent.

Full story.

Linux Sneaks into the Small Business Marketplace

By Robin Miller December 28, 2004

But they don't sell Linux or even tell clients they're using it unless they ask, which most of them don't since they are mainly interested in having their systems run as smoothly as possible for the lowest cost, and don't care what software Ace installs as long as it helps them achieve those two goals.

Ace is one of a growing number of information technology service companies that use Linux and open source software to win computer installation and maintenance contracts from cash-conscious small business managers.

"Our main strategy is to reduce their costs by preventing problems proactively," says Perilstein. Ace accomplishes this typically by remotely monitoring clients' computers so that they can "catch some problems early," including "some we can fix before the customer notices [them]."

Full story.

AOL Spam Down 75 Pct; Net Spam Trends Reverse

Monday, December 27, 2004; 12:50 PM

NEW YORK - You've got less spam, according to America Online, the world's largest online service.

The online unit of Time Warner Inc. on Monday said junk e-mail declined by more than 75 percent this year, based on its internal member reports.

Junk e-mail, known as spam, accounted for about 83 percent of computer traffic at one point this year, and have cost Internet providers about $500 million in wasted bandwidth, analysts have said.

Full story.

Patent: #20040260165 Blood sugar level measuring apparatus

Blood sugar levels are measured non-invasively based on temperature measurement. Measured blood sugar levels are corrected using blood oxygen saturation and blood flow volume. The measurement data is further stabilized by taking into consideration the influences of interfering substances on blood oxygen saturation.

Link to summary on Fresh Patents.

Patent:#20040259249: Method of making stem cells from differentiated cells

Disclosed are methods of creating a stem cell. Specifically described are methods of creating a pluripotent stem cell by reprogramming a differentiated cell. The method of creating the stem cell comprises the steps of obtaining a cytoplast from an existing embryonic stem cell; fusing the cytoplast with a differentiated cell to produce a cybrid; and culturing the cybrid to yield a pluipotent stem cell.

Link to summary on Fresh Patents.

The Problematical Dr. Huang Hongyun

By Horace Freeland Judson Jannuary 2005

Anesthetize the rat. Lay it belly down. Shave a patch along its spine and cut to the bone. Do a laminectomy, that is, take the bone off a short length of the back of the spine, exposing the spinal cord. Suspend a 10-gram rod above the spinal cord, at a height of 12.5 millimeters, or 25, or 50 millimeters. Let it drop.

The result will be a bruise, or more technically, a contusion, of the rat’s spi­nal cord. The bruise interrupts nerve transmission, paralyzing some muscles and blocking sensation. The location and severity of the damage will depend on the site of the blow and the height of the drop—and the consequent behavioral changes are reproducible. The procedure was developed in the early 1990s in the laboratory of Wise Young, a neurologist then working at New York University and now at Rutgers. He wanted to create a model for spinal-cord injury, in order to test and evaluate proposed treatments to repair the damage and restore some degree of function. Not long before, three scientists at Ohio State University had devised a rating scale for precise scoring of loss of function in spinal-cord injury. Young adapted the scale to his rat model, based on how well or poorly an injured creature could walk. In 1995, he showed that the behavioral rating varies in direct proportion with tissue damage at the injury site. In a recent conversation, he said, “This was the first behavioral outcome measure that correlated with morphologi­cal damage in the spinal cord.” Although no one measure is universally accepted ­in spinal-cord-injury work, Young said, “This comes close.”

The spinal cord is remarkably well protected, by bone and by its tough outer layer, the dura. In humans, only about 10 percent of spinal-cord injuries, caused by mishaps like a bullet through the spine, interrupt the cord completely. Ninety percent are contusions. Nerves in the adult central nervous system, including the spinal cord, do not spontaneously regenerate. Some nerves in the peripheral system, however, can—importantly, in the presence of Schwann cells, a type of cell that provides an environment favorable to new growth of nerve axons. Many attempts have been made to transplant such cells into damaged spinal cords, to promote regeneration, but they have all failed.

Enter olfactory ensheathing glial cells—bearing the hope of a way to fix, or at least to ameliorate, spinal-cord injuries. In 1984, Ron Doucette, at the University of Saskatchewan, described a new kind of cell, which he had found in the olfactory nerve and the olfactory bulb. The olfactory nerve is the only central-nervous-system nerve that continually regenerates throughout adult life. It is made up of neurons that arise in the mucous tissue of the nose and run the short distance to the olfactory bulb, one of the most primitive parts of the brain.

We sniff substances all the time that are toxic to these neurons, which die and must be replaced.

Full story.


Loophole boosts biotech profits


By Paul Jacobs

The death of the key patent covering the drug Epogen came Oct. 27, exactly 17 years after it was issued.

Many expected the patent's demise to usher in a new era of cheap generic versions of the miracle drug, which boosts the body's production of red blood cells and is far and away the most lucrative biotech product ever.

The copycat drugs would bring relief to the U.S. consumers and taxpayers who shelled out $6 billion last year for Epogen and its chemical twin, Procrit.

But today, as consumers and government officials fret about rising health care costs and drug prices, there are no cheap, generic versions of Epogen -- or, for that matter, any other biotech drug.

Why? Blame a patent system all too easily manipulated by companies eager to extend their lock on billion-dollar drugs.

Amgen, based in Thousand Oaks, isn't the only company to use the patent system to extend a lucrative drug monopoly. Several other companies making blockbuster biotech drugs, including Biogen Idec and Genzyme, also took advantage of loopholes in the old U.S. patent law to get multiple patents on a single drug, adding years of life to their government-sanctioned monopolies.

But the case of Epogen, the bestselling product from the biggest biotech company in the world, is the most telling example of how the patent system can benefit the industry at the expense of consumers. In Epogen's case, Amgen won as many as 12 extra years of protection beyond that first patent, which will keep the price high until 2016.

Full story.