Watch the confirmation hearing live

David Kappos, IBM Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, Intellectual Property Law, has been nominated by the Obama administration to the position of Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the agency in the United States Department of Commerce that issues patents to inventors and businesses for their inventions, and trademark registration for product and intellectual property identification.

If approved, Kappos will replace John J. Doll, the acting Director since the resignation of Jon W. Dudas who vacated the post in January of 2009.

Watch the confirmation hearing live

Kappos' confirmation hearing is scheduled to take place on July 29, 2009 beginning at 10:00 am, US Eastern Time.

You can access the US Senate's live broadcast here:



Guest Blogger: Manny Schecter on Peer-to-Patent Two Year Anniversary

We at IBM are very excited about the success of the Peer-to-Patent project, which reached its second anniversary June 15, 2009 and recently released a report detailing the program’s progress over the past two years.

Peer-to-Patent is a groundbreaking social networking project which connects the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to a worldwide collaborative network of technical experts to improve patent quality. These experts review patent applications currently under consideration by USPTO examiners and offer commentary and “prior art”, information which helps examiners determine whether inventions are new and non-obvious, therefore meriting patent status. This second anniversary marks a number of important achievements, three of which I’d like to touch on here.

First, with the expansion last year to include business method and e-commerce inventions, the number of participating applications nearly tripled. A substantial factor in the dramatic increase was a successful outreach effort by both the project leadership and the USPTO. This represents, in part, a change in attitude by some who previously adopted a “wait-and-see” approach; the project’s success has begun to attract more patent applicants. Through the first two years, applications have been submitted by GE, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Cisco, Disney, eBay, Novell, Red Hat, Sun, Xerox, and Yahoo, as well as by smaller firms and individuals.

Second, the project has sustained its strong performance. According to the second anniversary report:

Peer -to-Patent continues to contribute relevant prior art relied upon by the USPTO in more than 25% of the applications it handles. Since Peer-to-Patent launched, 66 office actions have been issued for applications that have undergone peer review on our Web site. In total, the USPTO used Peer-to-Patent submitted prior art references to reject one or more claims in 18 patent applications.

That’s quite a decent batting average, and demonstrates that interested members of the public have the ability to provide meaningful assistance to examiners. Another important fact about the prior art submitted is that more than a third of all prior art submitted by Peer-to-Patent, including 11 of the 18 references submitted by Peer-to-Patent and used by the USPTO to reject patent applications, was non-patent literature, a form of prior art which has historically been underutilized by examiners.

Third, reviewers and examiners, the constituents who actually make this process work, responded positively in surveys completed at the end of the second year. A strong majority of reviewers think there is value to public participation in patent examination, and that a third-party submission prior art program like Peer-to-Patent should be incorporated into regular USPTO practice. Similarly, more than half the examiners reported that prior art submitted by Peer-to-Patent was helpful or very helpful, with more than a quarter of participating examiners using prior art submitted by Peer-to-Patent in their rejections. In addition, seven out of 10 examiners thought that the Peer-to-Patent process would be helpful if implemented in regular office practice. Examiners also noted that Peer-to-Patent produced prior art that was either inaccessible or not very likely to have been found by them.

The USPTO has, for the moment, discontinued the Peer-to-Patent pilot for budgetary reasons because USPTO revenues have declined with the weak economy. We are encouraged, however, by the strong support for Peer-to-Patent shown by President Obama’s administration in announcing its Open Government Initiative, in which Peer-to-Patent has been held up as a successful model of more open government, and in which Peer-to-Patent’s founder, Beth Noveck, is playing a leadership role. We hope that the budgetary issues will be resolved soon so that this pilot can continue to grow and teach us more about public collaboration in the patent examination process.


Inventors' corner: U.S. Patent #7,529,693 - Method and system for designing a catalog with optimized product placement

Online shopping has rapidly become the preferred means of acquiring goods and services for many consumers. Recognizing this trend, retailers are constantly looking for new ways to increase online sales and revenues by offering products tailored to an individual's needs.

IBM inventors, Jayanta Basak and Rajendra Sureka, earned a patent for an invention that can enhance a consumer's online shopping experience by dynamically presenting or placing product information within an online catalog that matches their personal preferences. The invention also can help retailers optimize the design and presentation of their products by automatically adjusting online product placement to maximize sales.


New Paradigms in Using Computers: NPUC 2009 Webcast

TODAY: Catch the external webcast of NPUC 2009 (New Paradigms in Using Computers) from IBM’s Almaden Research Center, today, July 9th, starting at 9:00 a.m. Pacific, on the GBS New Intelligence Video Studio.

Additional Resources:

NPUC Hashtag: #NPUC09

You can also watch it here at noon ET on July 9 (U.S. date):

Guest blogger: Charles Lickel on IBM's cryptographic breakthrough

Guest blogger: Charles Lickel, vice president of software, IBM Research

It's been an exciting number of weeks here on IBM's cryptographic research team, as the cryptography community finds out more about the breakthrough made by Craig Gentry, who joined our team in April while finishing up a Ph. D. from Stanford.

Sometimes it's the relative "newcomers" to the field who bring the freshest perspective to the longstanding challenges we grapple with. They don't have the same assumptions and biases that veterans might have. This seems to be the case here, where Craig took a different approach to achieving complete homomorphic encryption. That's just a fancy way of describing how one might perform nearly unlimited calculations on scrambled, protected information without actually seeing the data.

It's been compared to working in the dark and wearing gloves to delicately manuever toxic or sterile substances in a hermetically sealed plexiglass box.

It's not that you can't analyze encrypted data -- you can -- but you wouldn't get very far, as the data gets progressively more muddled every time you perform a mathematical operation. And even if you could work meaningfully with the data, we assumed that you would also be limited to either multiplication or addition operations, not both. However, during his internships at IBM, and while at Stanford (with the help of some Manhattan coffeeshop-inspired daydreaming), he came up with a way for encrypted information to kind of clean up after itself, on the fly. It can do this after each mathematical operation, when the data is at risk of becoming hopelessly scrambled.

Now, why would you even want to analyze encrytped information? That seems impossible, doesn't it?

Well . . . not necessarily. Let's say a business wanted a computer vendor to host information about its customers, and perform complex mining on that data to discern sales trends. (Vendors are touting this service as "cloud" computing.) The host may be the most trustworthy vendor around, but a client would always be concerned that the proprietary data would somehow leak out or be seen by the wrong set of eyeballs. Craig's privacy encryption allows the vendor to perform very sophisticated analysis on the data they host without ever "seeing" the underlying information.

Or, here's another example: enabling the authorities to screen airplane passengers without compromising personal privacy. Or, let's say you wanted to submit queries to search engines in a way that keeps your identity confidential. The same goes for electronic medical records, which might need to be shared among, and analyzed by, doctors, public health officials and pharmacies, but without revealing specific biographical or personal information.

Of course, we still, need to smooth out a few rough edges, but peers and pioneers of modern cryptography agree that Craig's method is an exciting breakthrough. We're very proud of him as he has gone on to brief a variety of academics and conferences all over the world. One should begin to see the technology applied to actual products in the private sector a few years down the road.

As for Craig's forthcoming Ph. D? I'm not an academic advisor, but I'd say he's earned it :-).


IBM receives three IEEE awards

IBM Research took top honors at the recent 2009 IEEE Honors Ceremony in Los Angeles by being presented with three prestigious awards. IBM’s triple crown of IEEE awards includes:

  • Robert Dennard, inventor of the single transistor Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM), was awarded the IEEE Medal of Honor;
  • The T.J. Watson Research Center was awarded the 2009 IEEE Corporate Innovation Recognition Award for its long term commitment to pioneering research, innovation development and commercialization of speech recognition; and
  • IBM emeritus Dr. Peter Franaszek was a recipient of the IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal for his contributions to channel coding for magnetic and optical storage.

“Winning three major awards in a year from IEEE is a tremendous honor, and is both a significant accomplishment and acknowledgement of IBM’s extraordinary leadership in pushing the boundaries of science and technology,” said John E. Kelly III, senior vice president and director of IBM Research. “The satisfaction from these awards can be shared by all IBM researchers as part of the world’s leading research organization, as well as IBMers everywhere for delivering innovation that matters to our clients and the world.”

The IEEE Awards program has paid tribute to technical professionals since 1917, awarding them for exceptional achievements and outstanding contributions that have made a lasting impact on technology, society and the engineering profession.

Dennard Honored with IEEE Medal of Honor

“I’m a humble person, and I realize in engineering that things are a team effort. On a project like DRAM, everyone contributes,” said award recipient Bob Dennard. “The award is a great honor for me, but it’s an even greater honor for DRAM and the creation it is.”

Dennard was first granted a patent for the DRAM in 1968. Soon after, DRAM became commercially available and is now used in all computer component and system manufacturing. DRAM consists of an array of memory cells integrated on a silicon chip in which each cell consists of a metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) transistor and capacitor in the same MOS technology. Information is stored as a charge on the capacitor and the transistor is used to control reading and writing.

IBM Speech Recognition Leadership

“The IBM Speech Research team is honored and proud for receiving this award,” said David Nahamoo, IBM Fellow and Speech CTO. “The speech recognition project at IBM Research has been a long crusade that has been led and influenced by great many researchers for half a century. Our success is not only due to so many great innovators who have worked here during these years, but also a testimony on the wisdom and culture of IBM Research in providing an environment that promotes long term research and innovation.”

The IBM T.J. Watson Research Center has pioneered much of the basics of speech recognition technology and continues to be influential in setting the directions in which the technology moves today. Statistical modeling for the technology became in the 1970s, but can be seen in various aspects of everyday life today, from vehicle, cell phone and audio system voice commands to voice-automated phone menus.

IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal presented to Franaszek

Peter Franaszek, who recently retired from IBM, was recognized by IEEE for pioneering contributions to the theory and practice of run-length constrained channel coding for magnetic and optical storage. Widely used in digital recording and communications systems, the tool puts limitations on the sequence of data streams to allow clock and fast data synchronization. Franaszek was the first to develop practical methods for the limited codes, which ensure that the boundary lengths between bits of data are neither too short nor too long so that data can always be accurately found.