Monthly Archives: March 2013

Leahy-Smith America Invents Act Implementation

Leahy-Smith America Invents Act Implementation.

Leahy-Smith America Invents Act Implementation

President Barack Obama signs the America Invents Act September 16, 2011, at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, VA

MESSAGE FROM JANET GONGOLA, PATENT REFORM COORDINATOR: USPTO Releases First-Inventor-to-File Training Materials, Including Videos

As you all know, the America Invents Act became law eighteen months ago on September 16, 2011, to modernize the U.S. patent system.  One of the provisions in the AIA converted the United States to a first-inventor-to-file system from a first-to-invent system.  The first-inventor-to-file provisions become effective on March 16, 2013—the eighteen month anniversary of the AIA.

The USPTO has implemented the first-inventor-to-file provisions through a series of rules as well as a guidance document.  We presently are conducting first-inventor-to-file training for our examiners, and I’d like to share a bit about that training with you.

During the months of March and April 2013, we are educating our examiners on the new statutory framework for prior art found in AIA 35 U.S.C. 102 as well as explaining to them how to identify whether an application is subject to examination under the first-inventor-to-file provisions of the AIA or the first-to-invent provisions of pre-AIA law.  We have created two videos and a one-hour live lecture to share this information.

This summer, we will delve deeper into the first-inventor-to-file provisions with more comprehensive training conducted with smaller groups of examiners.  In particular, we will detail our first-inventor-to-file final rules along with numerous practical applications, among other topics.  And between March and the summer, we will offer “just-in-time” training for those examiners who have applications on their dockets to be examined under the first-inventor-to-file provisions.  In case you are interested, we are posting all of our examiner training materials on the AIA micro-site on the “Patents Examination” page under the “First-Inventor-to-File” category:

The agency has selected this staged training process for distinct reasons.  First, most examiners will not have an application to examine under the first-inventor-to-file provisions for several months.  Second, we aim to solidify the first-inventor-to-file subject matter for examiners by using an iterative approach.  That way, examiners will have multiple opportunities to master the subject matter and obtain answers to their questions.

In addition to training our examiners on the first-inventor-to-file provisions, we want to help all of you understand the new prior art framework.  To do so, we have prepared a series of four videos.  Each video explains a particular aspect of the new prior art regime.  More specifically, the first two videos address what constitutes prior art under the AIA, and the second two videos cover exceptions that remove prior art from being available to apply against a claimed invention.  Each video is less than 5 minutes and distills the new prior art framework into its basic components for easy understanding.

Lastly, remember that the agency has a special AIA Help Center to answer your first-inventor-to-file questions.  You can either call 1-855-HELP-AIA (1-855-435-7242) or email the Help Center at


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Google Granted Patent on Invisible Text and Hidden Links

A new Google patent was awarded today named Systems and methods for detecting hidden text and hidden links.

The patent was filed on August 25, 2009 by Google’s Matt Cutts and Fritz Schneider. It was awarded today after being in pending status for over 3 years.

Bill Slawski posted on his blog a more human readable explanation of this patent and what it may mean for webmasters and SEOs.

As long as there have been search engines, there have been people trying to take advantage of them to try to get pages to rank higher in search engines. It’s not unusual to see within many SEO site audits a section on negative practices that a search engine might frown upon, and Google lists a number of those practices in their Webmaster Guidelines. Linked from the Guidelines is a Google page on Hidden Text and Links, where Google tells us to wary about doing things such as:

  • Using white text on a white background
  • Locating text behind an image
  • Using CSS to position text off-screen
  • Setting the font size to 0
  • Hiding a link by only linking one small character—for example, a hyphen in the middle of a paragraph


Those are some of the same examples described in a patent granted to Google today at the USPTO:

Systems and methods for detecting hidden text and hidden links
Invented by Fritz Schneider and Matt Cutts
Assigned to Google
US Patent 8,392,823
Granted March 5, 2013
Filed: August 25, 2009


A system detects hidden elements in a document that includes a group of elements. The system may identify each of the elements in the document and create a structural representation of the document.

The structural representation may provide an interconnection of the group of elements in the document. The system may also determine whether one or more elements of the group of elements are hidden based at least in part on locations or other attributes or properties of the one or more elements in the structural representation.

Unsurprisingly, one of the co-inventors behind the patent is Google distinguished engineer Matt Cutts, who has spent a good part of his long career at Google exploring the many different ways that people might try to spam the search engine, and find some solutions.

I really enjoy seeing patents like this one, which may not tell us something new, but provide a reference resource that other people, including clients, can be pointed towards. They sometimes fill in some gaps on how a search engine might do something, and provide some history.

For example, this patent is based upon an earlier one that was first filed in 2003, and it’s not hard to imagine people at the Google of that time trying to figure out how to automate a way to identify text and links that might be hidden by being the same color as the background they appear upon, or being obfuscated by cascading style sheets, or written in lettering so small that it appears to be a line rather than actual text.

The Guidelines above mention the use of a single small character in a paragraph being used as a link, and the patent mentions that extremely small (1 pixel X 1 pixel) images have also been used as hidden links on pages.

As the patent also notes, CSS allows webmasters to mark a block of text as hidden, or to position it outside of visible areas of a page. Java script can also be used to hide text, and to modify documents to replace text.

Part of the process behind identifying hidden text or links on a page may involve analyzing the HTML structure of a page and its elements, such as divisions or section, headings, paragraphs, images, lists, and others. It looks at a Document Object Model (DOM) of pages to learn things about those different elements, their sizes, positions, layer orders, colors, visibility, and more.

The patent provides a few different examples of when hidden text might be found on a page, such as in the following:

In this example, server 120 may detect that the webmaster has overridden the value of the <h2> tag. Normally, the “h2″ tag is a heading size, in which H1 is very large, H2 is a little smaller, H3 is smaller still, etc. Here, the webmaster has used CSS to override the value of h2 to mean “for all text in the H2 section, make the text color almost completely black, and make the height of the font be about one pixel high.”

A viewer of this document would not see the text because it is so small, but a search engine may determine that the text is relatively important because of the H2 heading label. In this situation, server 120 may determine that the text in the H2 section is very small, which can indicate that the webmaster is attempting to hide the text in this section.


There are some times when designers use hidden text because they want to use a font on a page that isn’t a standard system font that might come with Windows or Apple or Linux computers, and the page won’t render the way they want. Google’s John Mueller has noted in the past on Google’s Webmaster Help Forum that is probably not a problem:

As I noted above, one of the things that I really appreciate about this patent is that it provides another place to point people to when discussing things like hidden text and links other than just Google’s help pages on the topic. It also puts the problem in the framework of a business that is trying to address a challenge rather than a web institution laying out a guideline that it expects people to follow.

The 3D Printing Revolution

3D printing will soon allow digital object storage and transportation, as well as personal manufacturing and very high levels of product customization. This video by Christopher Barnatt of illustrates 3D printing today and in the future.

For more information, please see…


Many-to-Many Manufacturing

A review of Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, by Chris Anderson. by Tom Igoe

If you’re looking for the future of manufacturing, Chris Anderson, former editor-in-chief of Wired, would have you check the garage. In his latest book,Makers, Anderson describes how inexpensive and increasingly sophisticated digital fabrication tools, a growing culture of do-it-yourself enthusiasts raised on the Internet, and the spread of open intellectual property practices are ushering in a new industrial revolution.

What will this revolution look like? If Anderson is right, manufacturing is seeing the beginning of a change that is analogous to the change already well under way in the media sector, in which large broadcasters—few-to-many content providers—now share their markets with many-to-many content providers, such as app designers and e-book publishers.

Makers builds on the premise of Anderson’s first book, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More (Hyperion, 2006). In The Long Tail, he argued that although the highly networked digital economy might appear to be dominated by a few large players, a wealth of opportunity exists for small players because such an economy does not require distribution scale to reach the ends of the demand curve. These opportunities, Anderson contends in his new book, are supporting the rise of the “maker” movement and changing the face of manufacturing.

The maker movement is native to the Internet, over which weekend tinkerers share plans and post tutorials in online forums. Fueled by websites like and publications like Make magazine, makers are not only making things for themselves and for their friends and colleagues, but also starting businesses that sell components, kits, and finished products.

Several maker businesses have become multimillion-dollar companies in recent years. Anderson cites SparkFun, an electronics component manufacturer with annual revenues around US$30 million; MakerBot, a 3-D printer maker that has attracted $10 million from investors, including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos; and 3D Robotics, which was poised to achieve more than $5 million in sales by the end of 2012. He offers no growth predictions for the movement, but clearly he is betting on it: In November 2012, Anderson left his job at Wired to be the full-time CEO of 3D Robotics, which he cofounded.

What’s different about maker companies, says Anderson, is that they regard their customers as participants in the business. For instance, they publish the plans for their products online, because they know that eager customers will offer improvements. Some companies, such as 3D Robotics, reward or hire these customers for their contributions. Anderson’s description of how his company integrates customers’ work is one of the stronger chapters in the book, and a useful read for any executive who wants to make community more than a buzzword.

Distributed knowledge isn’t the only factor contributing to the growth of the maker movement. Inexpensive digital fabrication tools have played a huge role, and now makers are beginning to make their own 3D printers, laser cutters, and robot mills. (See “A Strategist’s Guide to Digital Fabrication,” by Tom Igoe and Catarina Mota, s+b, Autumn 2011.) Of course, they’re sharing the plans for these new tools online as well.

The impact of these developments on manufacturing could be significant. Launching a successful manufacturing company no longer requires reaching a mass market, as long as you can reach the right customers, wherever they are. Crowdfunding, through presales on such sites as and, is making it possible for manufacturing startups to raise their initial capital without selling ownership stakes to venture capitalists. Online marketplaces—for example, and—are giving unknown designers a greater ability to reach their target audiences, and supplier aggregators such as and make it possible for a garage shop to work with vendors around the world.

Anderson recognizes that the world of makers isn’t a utopia. Yes, makers create jobs. But, he notes, “It’s actually more correct to say that small businesses destroy a lot of jobs that they create, since most small businesses fail before their third year.” A global network of small suppliers is likewise fragile. Its transport infrastructure is subject to the whims of an increasingly volatile global climate and political upheavals, and small companies don’t have the pull that large ones do to put pressure on their shippers when things go wrong. What makes this situation work for small businesses is not that it’s perfect, but that it’s good enough. If part of their enabling infrastructure fails them, they innovate to get around it. It’s the momentum, not the stability, that Anderson is banking on to create growth.

To avoid disruptions, large manufacturers would do well to keep an eye on the maker movement. “General Motors and General Electric aren’t going away,” says Anderson, “but then again, neither did AT&T and BT when the Web arose.” Telecommunications companies are now platforms for many-to-many communication and innovation. Small Internet service providers are their customers, not their competitors. It’s a good lesson for manufacturers: Those companies that see themselves as platforms for innovation will do best in a many-to-many market.