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November 2004
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January 2005

UCSD Discovery Shows How Embryonic

By Kim McDonald

Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have found a fundamental mechanism used by embryonic stem cells to assure that genetically damaged stem cells do not divide and pass along the damage to daughter stem cells.

Full story.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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AOL Spam Down 75 Pct; Net Spam Trends Reverse

Reuters
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Epogen

Loophole boosts biotech profits

OLD U.S. PATENT LAW EXTENDED MONOPOLIES

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.

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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Madison: Cats, dogs will soon be cloned here

00:00 am 12/24/04
Ron Seely Wisconsin State Journal

The company that made headlines around the world this week after announcing it had cloned a woman's pet cat for $50,000 will soon be cloning cats and dogs at a laboratory in suburban Madison.

Ben Carlson, a spokesman for Genetic Savings & Clone, Inc., said Thursday that the company, headquartered in the San Francisco area, is building its main laboratory near Madison and will open for business in the next couple of months.

Carlson said the company is building what will become the "foremost cloning laboratory in the world" in the Madison area. He declined to say specifically where the lab will be located, although he said it is outside of the city of Madison.

"It's just not something I'm authorized to provide," said Carlson when pressed about the location. "I can't give out a specific address. We're just not prepared to do the publicity on that yet."

The company will build its lab here, Carlson said, because the city is already known as a bustling biotechnology hub and, with UW-Madison here, is home to a talented pool of scientists and technical specialists. He added the company will initially employ between 8 and 10 people but said that number will grow as the business expands.

Full story.

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5 Humorous Predictions for Open Source in 2005

Bernard Golden, author of Addison-Wesley's “Succeeding with Open Source,” provides Open Enterprise Trends with his humorous take on What To Watch For in 2005 in the continuously-growing-in-popularity Open Source sector. Whether you're convinced that Open Source is the greatest new technology since the Internet, or still are to be converted, you'll enjoy this list of 5 predictions.

by Bernard Golden
The end of the year is always a good time to sum up the accomplishments of the preceding 12 months and look forward to what the next 12 will bring. For some, future prospects are eagerly awaited with the certainty that things will get much better. For others, the hopes are more modest – only that things won't get worse.

Full story.

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Johnson and Johnson says Levaquin patent upheld

LOS ANGELES, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Johnson and Johnson (JNJ.N: Quote, Profile, Research) on Thursday said a U.S. District Court upheld its patent on the antibiotic Levaquin and found that the patent was infringed by generic drugmaker Mylan Laboratories Inc. (MYL.N: Quote, Profile, Research)

Full story.

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Tercica Sues Insmed in U.S. Court

Biopharmaceutical company Tercica Inc. reported Thursday that it is suing rival Insmed Inc. for patent infringement because of efforts to commercialize its growth hormone SomatoKine in the United States.

Insmed confirmed Tuesday that it received a cease and desist letter from Tercica concerning the commercialization efforts. Tercica said the cease and desist letter applies to U.S. growth factor patents it licenses from biotech company Genentech Inc.

The suit, filed in a Northern California district court, alleges that Insmed's SomatoKine infringes two U.S. patents licensed to Tercica.

SomatoKine is made up of insulin-like growth factor-1, or IGF-1, and insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3, or IGFBP-3, Tercica said.

The suit follows a similar one that Tercica filed Monday in Britain against Insmed and its contract manufacturer Avecia Ltd.

Insmed expects to file a new drug application soon with the Food and Drug Administration for SomatoKine to treat growth hormone insensitivity syndrome.

Full story.

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Fundamental finding yields insight into stem cells, cancer; opens door to drug discovery

DURHAM, N.C. – New research by investigators at Duke University Medical Center has provided insight into a fundamental cellular control mechanism that governs tissue regeneration, stem cell renewal and cancer growth. In humans, malfunctions in the pathway have been implicated in skin and brain cancers, as well as certain developmental defects, according to the researchers.
The team found that the protein beta-arrestin2, earlier linked to a variety of inhibitory functions, also plays a critical role in activating the so-called hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway, which plays a central role in early development and normal cell proliferation. When left unchecked, uncontrolled cell growth spurred by the hedgehog pathway can lead to the development of cancerous tumors.

The researchers report their findings in the Dec. 24, 2004, issue of Science. The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

"Studies have found a wide breadth of functions for beta-arrestins, but none had revealed a role for these proteins in development," said James B. Duke Professor Marc Caron, Ph.D., a researcher in the department of cell biology, the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy and senior author of the study. "The involvement of beta-arrestin2 in the hedgehog signaling pathway provides a previously unappreciated paradigm for its role in promoting growth, differentiation, and malignancies."

Full story.

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Sprucing up open source's GPL foundation

By Stephen Shankland CNET News.com December 23, 2004, 4:00 AM PT

Modernization is coming to the General Public License, a legal framework that supports a large part of the free and open-source software movements and that has received sharp criticism from Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates.

GPL author Richard Stallman said he's working on amendments that could deal better with software patents; clarify how GPL software may be used in some networked environments and on carefully controlled hardware; and lower some barriers that today prevent the mixing of software covered by the GPL and other licenses.

In the 13 years since the current GPL version 2 was released, the license has moved from the fringes to the center of the computing industry. GPL software is now common at Fortune 500 companies and endorsed by most large computing firms. But that prominence has made some eager for an update.

Full story.

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Entrepreneurs' plans sought for contest

00:00 am 12/23/04
Judy Newman Wisconsin State Journal

Calling all would-be entrepreneurs: State officials and local business leaders are putting out an invitation to compete in the second annual Wisconsin Governor's Business Plan Contest.

Last year - the first time the event was held - 330 entries came in from 101 communities around the state. Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council in Madison, said he expects about as many proposals to be submitted this year.

The contest's top prize is $50,000.

Last year, BioSystem Development of Middleton and NovaScan of Milwaukee tied for first place; each received $27,500.

Not only has the money helped but so has the publicity, said NovaScan chief executive officer Larry Wells. "It has provided us with some contacts . . . which will, hopefully, lead to a significant investment," he said.

Full story.

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FTC to Co-Sponsor Town Meetings on Patent System Reform

FTC to Co-Sponsor Town Meetings on Patent System Reform

In February and March 2005, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Academies’ Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy (STEP), and the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) will co-sponsor a nationwide series of town meetings on patent reform. The first three meetings will take place in San Jose, California, on February 18, 2005; Chicago, Illinois, on March 4, 2005; and Boston, Massachusetts, on March 18, 2005. They will bring together government officials, business representatives, independent inventors, scholars, lawyers, and other members of the patent community to discuss the most significant recommendations for patent reform made by the FTC, the National Academies’ STEP Board, and the AIPLA.

Continue reading "FTC to Co-Sponsor Town Meetings on Patent System Reform" »

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California company sells cloned cat, generating ethics debate

- PAUL ELIAS, AP Biotechnology Writer
Wednesday, December 22, 2004

(12-22) 14:24 PST SAN FRANCISCO (AP) --

The first cloned-to-order pet sold in the United States is named Little Nicky, an eight-week-old kitten delivered to a Texas woman saddened by the loss of a cat she had owned for 17 years.

The kitten cost its owner $50,000 and was cloned from a beloved cat, named Nicky, that died last year. Nicky's owner banked the cat's DNA, which was used to create the clone.

"He is identical. His personality is the same," the woman told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The company, Sausalito-based Genetic Savings and Clone, made her available to speak to reporters only on condition that her name or hometown not be used. The woman said she fears being the target of groups opposed to cloning.

Full story.

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Lawmaker to push tougher version of property tax limits

By PATRICK MARLEY and STEVEN WALTERS
pmarley@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Dec. 21, 2004

Madison - One of the main backers of a so-called taxpayer bill of rights unveiled a strict version of the proposal Tuesday, saying he was prepared for a "brutal" fight with some of his Republican colleagues who favor a softer approach to spending limits.

Rep. Frank Lasee (R-Bellevue) said a constitutional amendment with tougher limits than those proposed in summer was needed because government spending is out of line.

The issue was dropped in summer mainly because Republican lawmakers couldn't agree on a method to limit taxes. One casualty of the impasse was then-Senate Majority Leader Mary Panzer (R-West Bend), who lost her re-election bid in fall to a fellow Republican who accused her of being soft on taxes.

"We have moderate to liberal Republicans who look at this in terms of protecting the government from the people who pay the bills, and I look at this as protecting the people who pay the bills from the government," Lasee said.

If his proposed limits had been enacted a dozen years ago, they would have forced a spending cut of as much as $1.3 billion, or 11%, from this year's $11.7 billion general fund budget, according to the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Full story.

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Supercomputer to simulate nuke explosion

Ensuring U.S. stockpile is still safe, reliable, effective
Updated: 8:26 a.m. ET Dec. 22, 2004LIVERMORE, Calif. - Leading nuclear scientists with top security clearances will gather next summer at a screening room east of San Francisco and witness the results of the greatest effort ever in supercomputing.

Using a computer doing 360 trillion calculations a second, scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Lab will simulate the explosion of an aging nuclear bomb in three dimensions. The short, highly detailed video produced by the world's fastest computer will attempt to illustrate how missiles dating back to the Nixon administration would perform today.

Full story.

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More invention promotion company complaints filed

The USPTO Independent Inventors site has been updated recently with the complaints from a number of inventors against invention promoters/promotion firms. Both the complaints (and in due course) and the invention promotion company’s response are available for viewing (even though the USPTO’s links appear to be mixed up..some of the complaints are linked to responses, etc.)

Complaints filed in 2004 include complaints against: Advent Product Development, American Inventors Corp., Davison & Associates Inc., International Patent Consultants, Invent-Tech, Invention Consultants, U.S.A, IP&R, New Product Advisory Group and Patent Trademark Institute of America.

Full story.

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Broadband Use Surpasses Dial-Up in U.S.

By Anick Jesdanun
The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 21, 2004; 10:47 AM

As prices dropped over the past year, broadband use at home has surpassed that of dial-up in the United States, reaching 53 percent of residential Web users in October, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

For now, what people do online hasn't changed as much as its frequency and duration, although some people are beginning to make telephone calls on the Internet or use cheap webcams for video chatting.

When Mark Suhre built his five-bedroom, three-story home in Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay, Suhre made sure each room had its own high-speed network jack. Wireless access points extended the Internet's reach to the swimming pool.

Full story.

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Raptor Tests Suspended After Crash

By Renae Merle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 22, 2004; Page E01

The Air Force suspended testing of its Lockheed Martin F/A-22 Raptor fighter jets yesterday, a day after one of the stealth aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

The pilot, who was conducting a training mission, ejected safely and was unharmed in the crash near Las Vegas on Monday afternoon, according to Air Force officials. It marked the first loss of a non-prototype version of the F/A-22 Raptor, designed to replace the F-15 as the nation's most powerful air-to-air fighter, according to Air Force and industry officials.

Full story.

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DNA to assemble nanosized electronic parts.

Take a little DNA; add a pinch of carbon nanotubes; sprinkle in a few grains of gold, all on a clean silicon surface, and whip up a batch of nanotransistors – that’s pretty much what the research group of Prof. Ron Naaman of the Chemical Physics Department of the Weizmann Institute did. Only, they began with even more basic ingredients: tiny spoonfuls of phosphates, sugars and nucleotides that were used to create unique strands of DNA programmed to form attachments with carbon nanotubes.

Next, they used the same method to create another set of DNA strands that would hook up to miniscule electrical contacts made of gold that were anchored on the silicon surface. Afterwards, they added the first group of ingredients to the second and mixed well. The DNA strands fastened to the carbon nanotubes latched on to the strands attached to the gold contacts. The end result was a sort of carbon nanotube “bridge” spanning the silicon surface between two gold contacts.

Similar nanobridges between electrical contacts made of conducting materials such as gold may one day form the basis of tiny nanotransistors that will be used to build tiny, fast and efficient electronic circuits. In addition, the use of DNA may allow other biological molecules to be integrated into the circuit design that would interact with the DNA strands, thus modulating the behavior of the device. In their experiment, the results of which were published in Applied Physics Letters, the team managed to create nanotransistors with 10 percent of the available gold contact pairs, a figure they are currently working to improve.

Full story.

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USPTO to make Freeland CIO

BY Florence Olsen

"Welles: Teleworking lingo" [Federal Computer Week, Aug. 4, 2004]
U.S. Patent and Trademark officials are expected to name David Freeland as the agency's new chief information officer, pending clearance from the Office of Personnel Management.

Freeland, deputy commissioner for management information systems at the Texas Department of Human Services, has 25 years of information technology experience and oversees a staff of 600 career employees. He is credited with setting up a successful project portfolio management repository for the department, among other things.

At USPTO, he would be responsible for a $250 million budget, a staff of 500 career employees and a complex IT environment.

Full story.

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WTO ruling gives Anheuser-Busch a boost in Europe

Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc.'s Budweiser and Bud names can no longer be challenged by Czech brewer Budejovicky Budvar in Europe under a ruling Tuesday by the World Trade Organization.

The WTO ruled that the European Union can only protect regional food names and those geographic indications cannot be translated, according to published reports. The ruling means that Budvar can't challenge A-B on the Budweiser and Bud names in 20 of 25 European nations where they are registered.

Full story.

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Patent in Non-Thermal Plasma Technology

December 21, 2004
Recently, a patent for a segmented electrode capillary discharge, non-thermal plasma apparatus and the process for promoting chemical reactions (plasma reactor) was awarded to Dr. Christos Christodoulatos, director the Center for Environmental Systems at Stevens; Dr. Erich Kunhardt, dean of Stevens’ School of Sciences and Arts; Dr. George Korfiatis, dean of Stevens’ School of Engineering; and Richard Crowe, a technologist and Stevens graduate alumnus (1999) of the Executive Master’s in Technology Management program.

“This is an excellent example of a building block of the Technogenesis® environment at Stevens,” commented Dean Korfiatis. “Interdisciplinary collaboration in the lab, with the purpose of creating new technologies that benefit society, is the focus for the Institute, both in the lab and the classroom. And we are seeing great results.”

The Stevens plasma reactor is more energy efficient than conventional devices and does not require a carrier gas to remain stable at atmospheric pressure. It has a wide range of application, such as the destruction of pollutants in a fluid, the generation of ozone, the pretreatment of air for modifying or improving combustion, the destruction of various organic compounds, and surface cleaning of objects.

Full story.

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Apple sues three for posting 'Tiger' on the Web

December 21, 2004 - 16:22 EST In its second lawsuit this month to thwart unannounced products, Apple is suing three men for illegally distributing beta versions of Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) on a file-sharing Web site. Apple claims in its suit that the men released two different versions of Tiger in BitTorrent format on or about Oct. 30 and Dec. 8 of this year.

Full story.

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Plea Rejected in AOL Spam Case

By Erin McClam
The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 21, 2004; 1:58 PM

NEW YORK -- A federal judge refused to accept a guilty plea Tuesday from a former America Online software engineer accused of stealing 92 million e-mail addresses and selling them to spammers.

Judge Alvin Hellerstein of Manhattan federal court said he was not convinced Jason Smathers, 24, had actually committed a crime under new federal "can-spam" legislation that took effect earlier this year.

Smathers, of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., planned to enter guilty pleas to charges of conspiracy and interstate transportation of stolen property. But the judge turned him away and scheduled another hearing for January.

The judge, who said he dropped his own AOL membership because he received too much spam, said it was not clear that Smathers had deceived anyone -- a requirement of the new law.

Full story.

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Clothing maker sues over 'Calvin' trademark

Posted on Mon, Dec. 20, 2004


HARRISBURG, Pa. - A Scranton clothing manufacturer is suing apparel giant Calvin Klein Inc., accusing its parent company of "a frontal assault" over a trademark that threatens to run the Calvin Clothing Co. Inc. out of business.

The federal trademark-infringement lawsuit, filed Friday in federal court in Scranton, seeks a court order to prevent Calvin Klein and Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. from using the mark "Calvin" and to make them destroy any stock bearing that label.

The lawsuit claims Calvin Clothing, named in 1935 for the owner's young son, did not oppose Calvin Klein's use of the name in marketing as long as it was never shortened to simply "Calvin."

"Over the years there is ample evidence of the two companies' 'understanding' of this tacit agreement, and it was in the interest of both companies to maintain this status quo," according to the complaint.

Full story.

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New MS Drug Becomes First Antibody Engineered By MRCT To Reach Market

MRC Technology (MRCT) was delighted to learn that Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) and Elan Corporation, plc (NYSE: ELN) were granted Accelerated Approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the use of TYSABRI, formerly known as ANTEGREN (natalizumab), as treatment for relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis and have launched the new product. TYSABRI was “humanised” on behalf of Elan by the Antibody Engineering Group in MRCT's laboratories at Mill Hill, London, then known as MRC Collaborative Centre. It is the first antibody humanised by MRCT scientists to obtain regulatory market approval. TYSABRI is one of seven humanised antibodies developed by MRCT scientists on behalf of its collaborators that have reached clinical trials.

Antibody humanisation, also known as CDR-grafting was invented at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the UK by Sir Greg Winter and first patent applications were filed by the MRC in 1986. The technique, which overcomes the common human reaction to mouse antibodies, revolutionised the use of antibodies for human treatment and diagnosis. Antibody humanisation involves the genetic transfer of the active parts of mouse antibodies into human immunogloblins to make antibodies that minimise the anti-mouse reaction. A total of nine therapeutic humanised antibody products have now been approved by the FDA.

Full story.

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Judge Awards $1 billion in Spam Lawsuit

By Associated Press
December 18, 2004

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — A federal judge has awarded a Clinton Internet service provider over $1 billion in a lawsuit against companies that used the service provider's equipment to send spam, the Quad-Cities Times reported Saturday. ADVERTISEMENT
It's believed to be one of the largest judgments against companies accused of sending junk e-mails.

U.S. District Judge Charles Wolle ruled Friday that Robert Kramer's business, CIS Internet Services, was harmed by the unsolicited e-mails.

"It's definitely a victory for all of us that open up our e-mail and find lewd and malicious and fraudulent e-mail in our boxes every day,'' Kramer said.

Kramer is unlikely to ever collect the large judgment, which was made possible through an Iowa law that allows plaintiffs to claim damages of $10 per spam message, said his attorney, Kelly O. Wallace of Atlanta.

"We hope to recover at least his costs,'' Wallace said.

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Racial DNA sparks debate

Police use of so-called indicators isn't reliable or fair, geneticists say

FRANK D. ROYLANCE

Baltimore Sun

From ever-tinier bits of tissue, crime fighters are tweezing out the DNA evidence they need to identify and convict violent offenders. The same technology has saved hundreds, possibly thousands of innocents from jail or execution.

But some bioethicists warn there might be a problem in the expanding use of genetics by criminal investigators.

Police are using "racial markers" from crime scene DNA to steer investigators toward the likely race or ethnicity of unidentified suspects. But medical geneticists say there's not much evidence that those markers can reliably predict a person's ancestry or appearance.

Genetic inferences about a suspect's race have led to a least a dozen dragnets in the United States. Thousands of innocent people have been asked to volunteer their DNA for comparison with a suspect's. Some who refused have been served with search warrants.

"Too often, the mere availability of data and technology, rather than ethical considerations of social needs, drives its use in unintended ways," says Mildred Cho of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, writing in a special issue of the journal Nature Genetics with Pamela Sankar of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics.

They want medical geneticists and experts in legal, ethical and social issues to look harder at how forensic geneticists fight crime. Their paper is part of a growing scientific debate over the implications of human genome research for our 400-year-old concepts of race.

Research shows that our relatively recent origin as a species -- and millenniums of mixing our DNA -- have made us 99.9 percent identical at the genetic level.

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Biotech crops pose legal issues

Farmers could face lawsuits because of contracts preserving manufacturers' rights

By KRISTIN COLLINS, Staff Writer

A farmer whose pollen drifts on the wind from his cornfield to a neighbor's could face a lawsuit from a multinational corporation.
A farmer who saves his own seed and plants it the next year, as many have done for generations, could also be sued.

These are real risks for the thousands of North Carolina farmers growing genetically modified crops, such as soybeans, corn and cotton plants that have been bred to withstand weed killers, according to a new report from farm advocacy groups.

"Farmers are signing contracts, but we're finding that many people have no idea what the small print says," said Michael Sligh, policy director of the Pittsboro-based Rural Advancement Foundation International. "We see it as a trend toward the reduction of farmers' rights."

Sligh's foundation, along with Farmers Legal Action Group based in St. Paul, Minn., released a report outlining the terms under which genetically modified crops are grown.

More than 90 percent of soybeans grown in North Carolina are genetically modified, Sligh said. He estimated that half of the state's cotton, and a lesser percentage of corn, is also genetically modified.

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Pentagon misses missile shield deadline

Limited shield won't be ready by year’s end as hoped
The Associated Press
Updated: 9:12 p.m. ET Dec. 17, 2004

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A limited national missile defense system is not expected to be activated until at least early 2005, missing the Bush administration’s year-end goal, a military spokesman said Friday.

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Cord Blood Stem Cell Banking Victory

Judge Rules in Favor of CorCell in Patent Litigation; Cord Blood Stem Cell Banking Victory

PHILADELPHIA, Dec 17, 2004 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- A new judgment by U.S. District Court Judge Gregory M. Sleet dealt the second and final blow to PharmaStem in its Stem Cell Patent Case against CorCell, Inc. and three other defendants. The Dec. 14 ruling of the Wilmington, DE court stated that, "There was no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find that all, or any specific number, of the defendants cord blood units infringe the '681 patent." This judgment follows a Sept. 14, 2004 ruling by Judge Sleet stating that the defendants did not infringe on the '553 patent, the first of two PharmaStem patents in question. The earlier judgment overturned a $7 million award to PharmaStem.

"This victory is not just for CorCell and the other defendants, but for the entire umbilical cord blood industry. Public cord blood banks as well as private banks benefit from this ruling," said Marcia Laleman, President and CEO of CorCell, Inc. "Most important, this is a ruling in favor of all the parents who want to store their baby's umbilical cord blood for the treatment of a growing number of diseases."

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New IE Exploit Spoofs Web Sites

By Matthew Broersma
December 17, 2004

Security researchers have uncovered a spoofing flaw in Internet Explorer that could turn out to be the perfect holiday gift for scammers.

The bug, which has been confirmed on a fully patched Windows XP system with IE 6.0 and Service Pack 2, could allow a scammer to display a fake Web site with all the attributes of a genuine, secure site, including the URL and the icon indicating SSL security, according to researchers.

Because the vulnerability is found in one of Internet Explorer's default ActiveX controls, scammers could use it to spoof the content of any site, researchers said. Users could be lured to the fake site via a link in an e-mail message, a tactic that continues to prove effective despite efforts to educate users.

"Ordinarily, to spoof a site you have to have some issue on the Web site that you want to manipulate, which restricts what you can do," said Thomas Kristensen, chief technology officer at independent security firm Secunia, in a telephone interview. "Because this is embedded in IE by default, it's possible to inject content into any Web site. There's no way for a Web site to protect itself against this."

There is currently no patch for the bug. Users can protect themselves by turning off ActiveX or switching the security level for the "Internet" zone to "high," researchers said.

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Nerve Coating Repair Gene Identified

Gene linked to myelin repair in the brain
17 December 2004

Scientists have identified a genetic repair process in the brain that can re-coat nerves with myelin - fatty 'insulation' - that is stripped away in multiple sclerosis.

In a study published in the December 17 issue of the journal Science, scientists from the Centre for Brain Repair and the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge and the Dana-Farber Institute at Harvard University, report that the gene Olig 1, thought to aid the development of certain brain cells, is essential for the myelin-repairing process in adults with Central Nervous System (CNS) diseases like Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

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Germany: Fat Stem Cells Used to Repair 7-year-old Girl's Skull

Doctors: Fat Stem Cells Used To Repair Major Skull Injury

POSTED: 6:54 am EST December 17, 2004
UPDATED: 7:18 am EST December 17, 2004

Surgeons in Germany are describing a breakthrough procedure in which they were able to use stem cells from fat to help repair skull damage in a 7-year-old girl.

It's believed to be the first time that cells derived from fat have been successfully used to grow bone in a human.

The child's injury was so severe that, at times, her brain could be seen pulsating through the missing patches of skull. Surgeons said after fragments of the child's bone were mixed with her own stem cells, the cells apparently reacted by creating additional bone.

A U.S. expert in reconstructive surgery called the study "a very big deal."

Dr. Roy Ogle at the University of Virginia said it also shows the implanted cells did no harm, which is a concern within the medical community.

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Two New Psoriasis Treatments May Be Ready for Human Testing

THURSDAY, Dec. 16 (HealthDayNews) -- Two separate approaches to treating psoriasis, a painful condition that attacks the skin, have shown promise in the lab and may be rerady to try on humans.

The first is an experimental drug called benzodiazepine-423 (Bz-423) that's a chemical cousin of the anti-anxiety drugs Valium and Xanax, a new University of Michigan study finds.

In human skin cultures designed to model psoriasis, the researchers found that Bz-423 suppressed cell growth. Psoriasis is characterized by unchecked cell growth.

"Currently, the best treatments for skin lesions associated with psoriasis are topical steroids, but the problem with those drugs is that they're not selective for the disease-causing cells. They affect normal cells as well, and repeated use over time can lead to tissue destruction," Gary Glick, a professor of biological chemistry, said in a prepared statement.

"What makes our compound particularly exciting is that it has the potential to be applied topically, and it shows very good selectivity for models of the disease-causing cells versus normal cells. So we believe the problems associated with repeated topical steroid use could possibly be alleviated with compounds like this," Glick said.

He and his colleagues hope to begin human clinical trials with Bz-423 in the near future.

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Testing for radio wave cancer treatments could be on fast track by February

The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH - Testing for a cancer treatment that would spare patients the side effects associated with traditional treatments could begin as early as February, hospital officials said.

Research on a new procedure that uses radio waves has the backing of both U.S. senators from Pennsylvania, who pushed for the inclusion of $200,000 in the recently passed omnibus spending bill in order to begin fast-track testing.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is awaiting a prototype that could be completed by year's end by Energy-Onix, a New York company that produces AM and FM radio transmitters.

"UPMC is looking forward to getting started with preclinical animal testing of the first-generation device," said Dr. David Geller, co-director of the hospital's Liver Cancer Center. "We've received generous seed money that allows this to happen."

Few details about the technology have been released because no patent has been granted. The inventor said the technology destroys cancer cells with radio waves without harming healthy tissue.

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Online Dangers Likely to Continue Growing in 2005

By Brian Krebs, Robert MacMillan and David McGuire
washingtonpost.com Staff Writers
Thursday, December 16, 2004; 7:44 AM

Internet users witnessed yet another wave of spam, worms, viruses and other online attacks in 2004, and experts predict the online world will grow even more dangerous in 2005.

U.S. and international authorities tried to keep up with the online crime wave in the past year, arresting or convicting at least 11 virus writers and rounding up hundreds of people accused of computer crimes from credit card fraud to outright identity theft.

Still, most fraudsters, hackers and spammers managed to stay one step ahead of the law. "I liken the problem of online crime to the '20s and '30s, when law enforcement was still trying to figure out who all the gangsters were. They'd have a few arrests here and there but mostly the mafia types were just running circles around them," said Marcus Sachs, a former White House cyber-security adviser who now directs the SANS Internet Storm Center, which monitors hacker trends.

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Microsoft Software to Remove Spyware

By Ted Bridis
The Associated Press
Thursday, December 16, 2004; 8:37 PM

Microsoft Corp. disclosed plans Thursday to offer frustrated users of its Windows software new tools within 30 days to remove spyware programs secretly running on computers. But it might cost extra in coming months.

In a shift from past practice, the world's largest software manufacturer said it may charge consumers for future versions of the new protective technology, which Microsoft acquired by buying a small New York software firm. Terms of the sale of Giant Company Software Inc. weren't disclosed.

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Acacia purchase creates Net patent powerhouse

By John Borland, CNET News.com
Friday, December 17 2004 11:26 AM
In the streaming media business, a letter from Acacia Research usually means one thing: the threat of a patent lawsuit.

Now, the little-known but litigious company is expanding its horizons with a move that promises to substantially increase its profit potential while bringing new patent headaches to the high-tech industry at large.

On Thursday, the company agreed to buy Global Patent Holdings, an umbrella company whose various divisions, including TechSearch, have sued or struck patent licenses with Intel, Sony, Samsung and a myriad of smaller technology companies.

The deal would create a patent powerhouse which would own small pieces of dozens of different technologies, many of which are fundamental components of everyday Internet and personal technology businesses. The company said more acquisitions are likely.

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Judge rules inventor does not own patents

By BILL LEWIS
Staff Writer

Vanderbilt physician and inventor Robert Holcomb has lost control in a bankruptcy court dispute of several environmentally friendly discoveries that that he had hoped would be worth billions of dollars one day.

A federal bankruptcy judge has ruled that several companies created by Holcomb no longer owned his possible breakthroughs when they sold millions of dollars worth of stock to numerous investors, including Vanderbilt University, over a period of years.

Chief Judge George Paine ruled that Holcomb and his companies must turn over control of many of his patents and repay $4 million to Holcomb Healthcare Services. That company was founded by Holcomb but is controlled by others today, principally business managers from Memphis and Alabama.

Those investors claimed they, and not Holcomb, have owned his patented ''Green Coal'' process for burning coal without polluting the air, as well as other processes for turning sea water into drinking water and preserving wood without using harmful chemicals since 1996.

During a trial last month, the inventor's opponents argued that Holcomb's other companies gained millions of dollars in investments by selling the same intellectual property over and over. Holcomb Healthcare Services' managers argued that the doctor had assigned the patents for his key discoveries to their company, and he no longer had the right to keep selling them.

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Research in yeast yields missing link in DNA maintenance machinery

HOUSTON - In a finding akin to discovering pages missing from an antique car repair manual, researchers from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center have linked for the first time two biological processes crucial to cell survival.
The finding, reported in the Dec. 17, 2004, issue of the journal Cell, provides the first link between a cell's DNA repair machinery and its DNA storage and retrieval machinery. The two processes have been studied independently, and each is essential for proper care and maintenance of the cell's genetic material, but until now there was little evidence of how the two might work together.

"We have brought together two fields that are essential for proper maintenance of DNA," said Xuetong "Snow" Shen, assistant professor in the Department of Carcinogenesis at M. D. Anderson. "It was generally understood there must be a connection between the two, but no direct connection had ever been seen. We have bridged that gap."

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