What do the layout patents from NFC cover?

Aichon

Average Stuffer
Oct 16, 2017
85
230
Unless I misunderstand the patent laws in the US, a patent holder in the US can tell you exactly what you can and can't do with your ideas if they filed before you. The best case scenario being that you can pony 300-400 bucks an hour to hire an IP lawyer in order legally prove the indefensibility of said patent.
Just to expand on something you alluded to elsewhere in your comment, this is hardly unique to the US legal system. In fact, from what I understand (not a lawyer here, so take this with a heaping of salt) literally every single country in the world has standardized on a first-to-file (FTF) system at this point. The US formerly made use of a first-to-invent (FTI) system that allowed an earlier inventor to file after a later inventor, but that system was abandoned in favor of standardizing on FTF in 2013, partly because of the problems you mentioned later in your post. For example, unscrupulous companies would invent something and benefit from it for years while purposefully concealing it until someone else figured it out, at which point they'd file their own application that would trump the first one, thus allowing them—at the expense of society's net advancement—to maximize their length of exclusivity beyond the patent's actual period. FTF addresses that issue by denying them patent protection if they fail to file first, thus incentivizing an earlier public disclosure.

Where the US (and Japan, China, Russia, Australia, etc.) differ from the EU is in whether or not the inventor disclosing their own invention prior to filing counts as prior art. The EU has a strict policy of dismissing applications on the basis of any public disclosures prior to the application, including those made by the inventor, whereas many other countries have a grace period that allows the original inventor to disclose the idea first and then file the actual application later (up to 12 months later for some countries). If you're in a conversation where the distinction about the grace period matters, the countries with a grace period are sometimes referred to as having a first-inventor-to-file (FITF) system.

Otherwise, however, they're all mostly on the same page when it comes to who gets the patent. And, of course, any prior art from third-parties can be used to invalidate patents or get applications dismissed in all jurisdictions.

Worth noting, just because someone is first to file, it doesn't mean that they get exclusive rights to use that invention. For instance, the notion of prior user rights exist in most jurisdictions. If you came up with something on your own and were using it before someone else filed a patent for that same thing (e.g. you were the unscrupulous company in the first paragraph), you're generally entitled to continue using it in the same manner without having to pay any licensing fees. Of course, you'd have to make that argument in court if they tried to sue you for infringement.

-----

P.S. As an aside related to something I'm seeing others mention, patents do not need to be defended to maintain their potency, hence why submarine patents and patent ambushes are concerns for companies. Patents lose their potency when they expire and not a moment sooner, so you almost certainly can sue someone for infringement years after the fact, even if (annoyingly) you knew about the infringement all along. And you do not need to defend your patent equally vigorously against all infringers. Many patent trolls only attack small targets because they know that small companies would sooner settle out of court than run up legal fees while risking a loss in court.

I suspect the source of the confusion is that trademark holders may lose their rights if they don't defend them. Trademarks, unlike patents, can last in perpetuity, so there needs to be a mechanism to retire them—such as a requirement that they be maintained and defended—otherwise none would ever expire. Because patents have an expiration date, there's no need for such a requirement (though I agree with Kmpkt that they last too long as it is).

With trademarks, if you stop fighting for it, a would-be infringer can argue that your product's name is no longer associated with your products in the public consciousness, so you're no longer entitled to the exclusive right to that mark. Most famously, this happens when a trademarked term becomes used generically. For instance, "thermos" eventually came to mean any insulated beverage container in common American usage, "kleenex" meant any facial tissue, and "band-aid" meant any sterile bandage with adhesive, so all of those became generic trademarks to which the original rights holders lost exclusive use. Relatedly, Google had to adjust a lot of their marketing language after they realized that people were starting to use "googling" as a generic term for "using a search engine".

P.P.S. It seems to me that claim 10, particularly the references to the bezel and its design, significantly narrows the scope of the patent, such that it wouldn't be applicable to most or all of the previously cited case designs. Again, I just play an armchair lawyer on the Internet (I've looked up a lot of this stuff over the years for various discussions I've been a part of, but that's as far as my "expertise" goes), so take what Im saying with more than your recommended daily intake of salt, but that's my read on it.
 

prava

Cable-Tie Ninja
Mar 21, 2017
161
244
Just to expand on something you alluded to elsewhere in your comment, this is hardly unique to the US legal system. In fact, from what I understand (not a lawyer here, so take this with a heaping of salt) literally every single country in the world has standardized on a first-to-file (FTF) system at this point. The US formerly made use of a first-to-invent (FTI) system that allowed an earlier inventor to file after a later inventor, but that system was abandoned in favor of standardizing on FTF in 2013, partly because of the problems you mentioned later in your post. For example, unscrupulous companies would invent something and benefit from it for years while purposefully concealing it until someone else figured it out, at which point they'd file their own application that would trump the first one, thus allowing them—at the expense of society's net advancement—to maximize their length of exclusivity beyond the patent's actual period. FTF addresses that issue by denying them patent protection if they fail to file first, thus incentivizing an earlier public disclosure.

Where the US (and Japan, China, Russia, Australia, etc.) differ from the EU is in whether or not the inventor disclosing their own invention prior to filing counts as prior art. The EU has a strict policy of dismissing applications on the basis of any public disclosures prior to the application, including those made by the inventor, whereas many other countries have a grace period that allows the original inventor to disclose the idea first and then file the actual application later (up to 12 months later for some countries). If you're in a conversation where the distinction about the grace period matters, the countries with a grace period are sometimes referred to as having a first-inventor-to-file (FITF) system.

Otherwise, however, they're all mostly on the same page when it comes to who gets the patent. And, of course, any prior art from third-parties can be used to invalidate patents or get applications dismissed in all jurisdictions.

Worth noting, just because someone is first to file, it doesn't mean that they get exclusive rights to use that invention. For instance, the notion of prior user rights exist in most jurisdictions. If you came up with something on your own and were using it before someone else filed a patent for that same thing (e.g. you were the unscrupulous company in the first paragraph), you're generally entitled to continue using it in the same manner without having to pay any licensing fees. Of course, you'd have to make that argument in court if they tried to sue you for infringement.

-----

P.S. As an aside related to something I'm seeing others mention, patents do not need to be defended to maintain their potency, hence why submarine patents and patent ambushes are concerns for companies. Patents lose their potency when they expire and not a moment sooner, so you almost certainly can sue someone for infringement years after the fact, even if (annoyingly) you knew about the infringement all along. And you do not need to defend your patent equally vigorously against all infringers. Many patent trolls only attack small targets because they know that small companies would sooner settle out of court than run up legal fees while risking a loss in court.

I suspect the source of the confusion is that trademark holders may lose their rights if they don't defend them. Trademarks, unlike patents, can last in perpetuity, so there needs to be a mechanism to retire them—such as a requirement that they be maintained and defended—otherwise none would ever expire. Because patents have an expiration date, there's no need for such a requirement (though I agree with Kmpkt that they last too long as it is).

With trademarks, if you stop fighting for it, a would-be infringer can argue that your product's name is no longer associated with your products in the public consciousness, so you're no longer entitled to the exclusive right to that mark. Most famously, this happens when a trademarked term becomes used generically. For instance, "thermos" eventually came to mean any insulated beverage container in common American usage, "kleenex" meant any facial tissue, and "band-aid" meant any sterile bandage with adhesive, so all of those became generic trademarks to which the original rights holders lost exclusive use. Relatedly, Google had to adjust a lot of their marketing language after they realized that people were starting to use "googling" as a generic term for "using a search engine".

P.P.S. It seems to me that claim 10, particularly the references to the bezel and its design, significantly narrows the scope of the patent, such that it wouldn't be applicable to most or all of the previously cited case designs. Again, I just play an armchair lawyer on the Internet (I've looked up a lot of this stuff over the years for various discussions I've been a part of, but that's as far as my "expertise" goes), so take what Im saying with more than your recommended daily intake of salt, but that's my read on it.
To me, the patent has 2 main Claims, those being 1 and 10, as explained by another user. The rest of the claims are used to properly explain and define those 2 claims.
 

McSpain

Trash Compacter
Jun 8, 2018
46
54
Patent engineer here. I stumbled upon this conversation when I noticed the claim on NFC's website of holding a patent.

Most of the cases quoted so far don't show one specific feature: The tab in between the I/O-cutout and the PCI-slots for mounting the PCI card to. This basically boils down to that the PCI-card and the motherboard have to face the same direction. This is a feature, which you can hardly find on any case back in that time.

But, there is one case that allowed mounting of PCI-cards both ways. The construction is a bit different to the S4-mini, as the pci-cutouts are inside a recessed area, but the general concept applies:

The AVA Direct GT3 from 2009
 

AdventSign

Trash Compacter
Mar 19, 2018
44
12
Geeze. -_-

If Josh and the people he works with are happy, then who are we to judge?

If somebody on here says why they are doing something, I'm not gonna question them. I trust them enough because of the feats they've accomplished and the mutual respect they have towards others.

Why try to prove something that isn't provable? Only Josh knows Josh.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Biowarejak and el01

generalguy

Minimal Tinkerer
New User
Nov 20, 2018
3
3
Not a patent lawyer, but reading the claims -- which are all that matter -- it would be fairly straightforward to engineer around this.

Perhaps NFC could sue, but it's a fairly specific and poorly worded claim list: no mention of micro-ATX or triple slots. Potentially any deviation from the exact claims would not infringe.

Any company with a legal team could avoid this. It's only going to harm small case makers.
 

McSpain

Trash Compacter
Jun 8, 2018
46
54
Perhaps NFC could sue, but it's a fairly specific and poorly worded claim list: no mention of micro-ATX or triple slots. Potentially any deviation from the exact claims would not infringe.
That's the issue with the most patents from small companies: They only protect the exact product without the underlying idea behind it. This and the fact that many patents are only researched half-assed and attackable through prior-art makes most patents just a waste of money.

I even sometimes see start-ups filing PCT-applications without follow-up national patents, which makes them entirely pointless.
 
  • Like
Reactions: el01