The Taj Mahal is a breathtaking architectural splendour. One look at its poor imitation in Aurangabad, the Bibi Ka Maqbara, catapults the beauty of the Taj to greater heights. This is pretty much the same story every time you look at imitations of popular buildings such as the Malaysian Towers or the Tian’anmen Rostrum. In an age when inventors have begun protecting their inventions rigorously, the architecture industry is catching up with the trend, albeit very slowly. In our two-part series, we will take you through the world patenting trends, reasons to patent architectural inventions and introduce you to five of the most wonderful architecture patents in the world.
Architectural splendours are not just limited to the Seven Wonders of the World. Many architects today are donning the creative hat and designing fabulous buildings that are not just spacious, but adhere to ‘green rules’ as well. From Greenfield airports to energy self-sufficient commercial structures, architectural marvels are increasing in number. However, the patent world barely has any records of patented architecture.
Da Vinci, Picasso and Michelangelo are stalwarts in their own right. Their paintings and sculptures are unique and stand testimony to their talent. However, their style, themes and designs have been replicated over and over again over the years by thousands and in varying degrees. If their work was patent protected, would it create a barrier against creative progress? Well, this is a question that architects face. When it comes to structural systems, design details, concepts and material used in an architectural design it becomes difficult to pin point a copyright infringement. This is possibly where a utility patent can help protect the design invention better.
While a utility patent covers the invention of a device or process, a design patent solely protects the ornamental features of functional articles such as buildings. Some architects may resort to copyrights, but a copyright is a weaker shield for an architectural design as it does not prohibit anyone from coming up with an identical design. A design patent, on the other hand, arms the patent holder to issue injunctions and demand damages in case the patented design is infringed upon.
Designs that wear the shield
The trend to patent architectural designs is yet to catch up. However some leading corporations such as Apple, Proto Homes, Nomadic Comfort, Prescient and Quatro Houses have taken the lead to patent their unique architectural designs.
The graph below charts the number of patents approved across Japan, USA and Europe.
While the numbers have dwindled in Japan during this 15-year period, the US Patent Office has witnesses an encouraging increase in the number of architectural patents for fixed constructions, while the numbers in Europe have been running on a stable line.
US opens its doors wide
In a bid to encourage utility patents in the architecture industry, the USPTO designated Class 52 to include static structure utility patents. Today, there are at least 9,057 utility patents filed under Class 52 that include designs of building components such as roofing, flooring, foundation material, walls, and also complete building designs of stadiums, auditoriums and even skating rinks. Besides, the Class D52 of the USPTO holds vital patents that protect building units and construction elements like a shield.
Why protect your architectural marvels?
Be it a utility patent or a design patent, filing for one must be weighed carefully to align with the overall objective of the engineering firm. It is an open secret that engineering firms are plagued by the demands of the RFP-low bidder-engineering as a commodity model. However, there is a bounden right to protect your structural design and any other innovative architectural work, including material composition, processes and apparatus that will hold tangible value for a firm’s business and differentiate it.
To be continued…
In the final blog of our five-part series on the music industry, our bloggers showcase the top trademark infringement litigations that found companies fighting tooth and nail to protect their identity.
Jabra under a new umbrella
Imagine the day when you look up the availability of products that your company manufactures and the search engine pops up a website that bears your company’s name but has no relationship with you. Denmark-based hands-free telephonic headsets manufacturer GN Netcom, which owns the Jabra brand of headsets, was in for such a rude shock when it found Pennsylvania-based Foundation One, Inc. had purchased and registered the domain name jabra-headsets.com
In its infringement contentions, GN Netcom stated that Foundation One had not just used a name that related to its unique world-class brand of headsets, but also designed its website in a manner that would goad a customer into believing that it was affiliated to the brand Jabra. GN Netcom sought an injunction and pleaded the court to order Foundation One to not just stop its infringing practices, but also hand over all the infringing domain names that it holds to GN.
The skeletal suit
Headphone and music-related apparel & accessories manufacturer Skullcandy took it in the offensive when music-related accessories and apparel brand Skelanimals registered its trademark on lines similar to the Park City company.
Skullcandy, which was established in 2003 and grew to capture a sizable market in the action sports and music headsets collaborative industry, stated that the logo of Skelanimals, which earned a copyright only in 2008, was damaging its value. Skullcandy’s trademark image is believed to be a distinctive logo that brings music, fashion and actions ports under one roof. However, Skelanimals’ logo could confuse consumers, it contended.
Many of Skelanimals logos on the headphones, earphones, mp3 players, portable media players, digital audio players, protective helmets and clothing bear a striking similarity to Skullcandy’s. This is despite the fact that Skullcandy’s target customers are the sporty youth and Skelanimals primarily caters to the interests of children and pre-teens. However, when it comes to protecting its trade in a wholesome way, Skullcandy wants to take no chances with its marketing face.
The power of wave
It is no secret that Bose Corp. can tie heaven and earth down to protect its patents and trademarks. As a company that prides in its highly advanced acoustic products, Bose earned name and fame with its range of loudspeaker systems that were equipped with its registered Wave and Acoustic Wave technologies. It was no wonder that when OSC Audio Products, LLC applied to register its trademark POWERWAVE for its amplifiers and power amplifiers, Bose objected stating that the ‘WAVE’ was its exclusive trademark and QSC’s use of it could confuse consumers.
However, Bose was unable to provide strong contentions to thwart QSC’s application to register the POWERWAVE. The Board hearing Bose’s contentions ruled that the company was not entitled to claim fame for its registered marks. Besides, it could not demonstrate any major similarities between its trademark and that of POWERWAVE.
Bose then went on to appeal to the circuit judge at Clevenger where its appeals were recognized and accepted with due benefit given to the company’s claim to fame with its trademarks. Consequently, QSC was denied the registration of its POWERWAVE mark. It was with much struggle that QSC managed to prevail over Bose and go ahead to trademark and release its POWERWAVE amplifiers.
In November 2011, the world was gifted its first Bluetooth mono headset with active noise cancellation technology. Created by Jabra, this revolution in Bluetooth headset technology set the ball rolling for several manufacturers in the music industry, encouraging them to create headsets that enhance acoustic experience. In the fourth of a five-part series on the music industry, our bloggers look at the ways in which two of the best headset makers in the world have helped create better products for professionals who need to use headphones to answer calls for long stretches every day.
Gone are the days when people listened to songs from an entire album at a stretch. And nearly gone are the days where people still buy music cds where the sounds are controlled throughout the hearing experience. These are the times when music is downloaded from scores of websites, with each having its own pitch of music output. These are the times when people listen to mixed music… songs from different albums jumbled into their preferred choice of listening. Listening to such music has become even easier today with companies such as Sennheiser and Jabra bringing into the market Bluetooth headsets that allow the listener to walk all over the house with their headphones on, swaying to tunes and rapping to the beats. But then comes the big problem… one song is all melodious but the volume is low so you need to increase it, and jarrrrr… the next song is way too loud and you again need to adjust the volume level to your hearing comfort.
Wondering how long one will have to keep doing this? Well, the answer is “Not anymore”. Investing heavily in its acoustic research and development of ear-friendly products, many acoustic companies have developed products that help regulate sounds to a level of the listener’s comfort as and how they come through the headsets.
Jabra weaves its magic
But imagine you are having a teleconversation with your team that is located across various places in the world. In the middle of the conversation, there’s the sound of wind whooshing through, a child screaming somewhere, thunder roaring and a cooker whistling. That can be extremely disturbing to the ear and your senses, especially when you are discussing something of great import. It is for situations like this that the Bluetooth headphones by Jabra come into handy. Equipped with anti-noise technology, Jabra’s Supreme range of Bluetooth headphones have electronic chipsets embedded that actively remove ambient noise real time, creating a niche listening experience and improving the overall call experience.
Patents 20110096921 and 7937117 B2 hold within them the technology used to create the perfect acoustic ambiance through noise-cancellation technology, enabling a user to enjoy a hands-free and noise-free experience.
Sennheiser gets ear-friendly
In a serious bid to protect professionals who need to use phones throughout the day, Sennheiser has created Bluetooth headphones that come with its patented ActiveGard technology. This technology has been designed to protect such headphone users from potential acoustic shocks and sudden sound bursts. What’s more, a range of Sennheiser’s products come with multi-connectivity abilities that allow it to seamlessly work along with Smartphones, laptops and tablets. Besides, these products from Sennheiser employ a form of noise cancellation technology that externalizes the sound in the user’s head and gives the impression that he/she are speaking to someone in the same room.
The image below shows two embodiments of this communication system comprising a compressor circuit according to the patent. It involves a system comprising a telephone and a listening device connected via a wired interface comprising a PC or other computer device and a listening device connected via a wired interface. There is also a system comprising a cellular telephone and a listening device connected via a wireless interface.
Headphones open up
But this was an idea developed much later. The first brainwave came by when an engineer at Sennheiser realized that the bulky closed model headsets were quite an impediment. A little research here and a little experiment there found him inventing the world’s first open headphones what we popularly know through the product HD 414.
If statistics are anything to go by, then the following graph gives a brief idea of Sennheiser’s patent filing trend:
Reaching its peak in invention of excellent acoustic devices in 2010, Sennheiser is now majorly working on developing these inventions to offer better headset experiences for everyone.Earlier Posts »