Major tech groups and financial organisations were waiting with baited breath during a recent US Supreme Court case which focused on the eligibility of a specific software patent. Those in the space were worried that in striking the patent application down, the Supreme Court might issue broader guidelines which would have hurt developers’ ability to patent their software technologies. However, in striking down the claim the court issued no further guidelines, and instead actually seemed to reaffirm that many inventions that existed in code would be eligible for intellectual property protection, though saying that “adding a generic computer to an abstract idea does not make an idea patentable”. However, the lack of new guidelines are a blow in themselves, as they leave inventors with little reference point to what is or is not patentable in the government’s eyes. Many received the decision on the case positively because it showed that the courts were determined to crack down on “low quality patents” which have caused costly legal battles for US industry.
FINSUM: This is a great piece for understanding the murky and litigious intellectual property space, and especially the protections for software.
Automakers and the transport world are finding themselves in a Betamax vs. VHS situation as makers battle between two types of green vehicles, only one of which is likely dominate the market. Fuel cell vehicles and full electric vehicles each have their pros and cons, and automakers are split on which technology they are choosing. Fuel cell vehicles, which are powered by a mix of hydrogen and oxygen, offer virtually zero emissions, and have up to a 500km range, are a specialty of Chrysler, Toyota, and GM. Electric cars have a shorter range and longer refueling time, but Nissan is betting the farm on the success of the vehicles and has banded together with BMW and Tesla to build a network of standardised charging stations. Analysts say that major auto companies, especially those in the US, are not viewing the green car space as an area of massive profits or growth, but an area where they need to invest because of government imposed fuel economy and emissions guidelines. The automakers want to make models, get customer feedback, and then adjust.
FINSUM: Interesting to see the split in strategy from the world’s major carmakers. It seems like this battle will ultimately be decided by which cars can be delivered at lowest cost, and which technology allows for the simplest refueling stations.
After years of speculation, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos yesterday announced that his company was entering the smartphone market with a new device called the Fire. The phone has several new hardware and software features over other phones, including a new technology, called Firefly, which allows users to simply point the phone at anything they want to lookup and the phone will automatically link it online information that gets displayed to the user. Amazon is employing a very different business model than most device makers, like Apple or Samsung, in that its entire platform is more about facilitating sales on the greater Amazon retail network than on earning money from the sales of devices themselves. What this means is that the phone will start selling for as little as $199, similar in business plan to Amazon’s kindle, which sells on relatively low margins for Amazon, but earns the company much more in sales after it is in a user’s hands.
FINSUM: So Amazon has finally launched its smartphone, but it appears the approach it is taking is radically different than other companies in that it will monetize the device through the aftermarket purchases rather than upfront. What will be interesting is whether consumers warm to the device or simply see it as a content-providing Amazon cash cow.
Just as the US seems to be gaining market share in the solar industry, China appears to be gaining in the all-important LED production market. The turn round is a remarkable one for China, as merely a year ago their domestic light-emitting diode industry looked like an example of policy failure—scores of factories had been built with lavish subsidies all at a time when prices and demand were dropping fast. However, demand has picked up mightily, and by offering low costs, China is taking market share from the US, Japan, South Korea, and Europe, much like it did in the solar industry. Some say this is just another example of China stealing a western-founded industry through unfair intellectual property and trade practices, but the reality is more complex because of segmentation in the industry. As opposed to the West, China specialises in producing the cheapest and lowest margin LED products, mostly low wattage bulbs and cell phone backlights, which are fairly generic and harder to defend commercially. However, China is facing accusations of low quality as their bulbs often die after only a year, as opposed to the decade they are supposed to last.
FINSUM: This is a very good story for understanding the LED industry as well as the dynamics behind how industries get “lost” to manufacturing in the Far East.
For the first time in history a scent has been transmitted transatlantically by a group of Harvard scientists. The scientists sent a passion fruit macaroon-scented message from Paris to New York via proprietary technology. Evidently, the technology, called an “oPhone”, works by tagging scents on one end and using small pipes within the device to transmit it out of the receiving device. The technology has three thousand scents stored and can blend them to create the scent the sender desires to share. The Harvard group plans to turn the technology into a business, and has an Indiegogo page trying to raise $150,000. At first the technology will need hotspots, or installed central devices which house the full range of smells, but the company hopes that in the next few years all devices will be able to hold the full capacity of scents.
FINSUM: This is a crazy idea, but obviously it works. Very interesting to see what the future applications of such a technology could be.
Despite a handful of globally recognised brands being the major players across the world mobile market, in India the rapid expansion of the mobile space has seen the growth of low cost domestic manufacturers. Such makers, like Micromax, Karbonn, and Lava, have taken significant market share from companies like Apple and Samsung by focusing on the third tier and fourth tier markets. The phones gained a foothold by offering phones with similar functionality to top brands, but at 30% or more discounts. India has the world’s fastest growing mobile markets, with total unit sales up 20% last year, and domestic companies now hold a significant market share at 30% combined. The companies have also found success in offering Indian language-first phones as only 10% of Indians speak English and many are uncomfortable using the language to type on handsets.
FINSUM: Looks like successful local competitors are starting to challenge global players in India. This trend may not be limited to the mobile sector and watching such developments could yield good investments in the long run.