So much came to light this week that I can only offer a sampling from each topic.
You’d expect the July 4th holiday week to be a bit slow on the technology announcement side. That wasn’t the case this year for the world of semiconductor intellectual property (IP). Here are a few of the stories that caught my eye:
1. Simple Process Turns T- Shirt into a Super-capacitor: The clever researchers at the University of South Carolina (USC), led by mechanical engineering professor Xiaodong Li, have developed an easy way to turn a cotton t-shirt into a super-capacitor. Such a device (shirt?) makes the textile itself into a battery for mobile electronics.
A shirt can act as the battery. We already know how to create low-power nano-technology processor and memory devices from organic materials. Perhaps wearable electronics will now go mainstream. Such consumer products would open up a whole new market for semiconductor IP – especially since the main drivers remain low cost, high volume and short time-to-market.
2. Many EDA-IP tool companies are banking on the idea that the methodologies and techniques created in the semiconductor industry can be applied to other markets, such as medical. I’ve covered some examples of this approach in the past. But here’s a more direct example!
IBM researchers have produced Staphylococcus-killing polymers that leave healthy cells alone. Staph bacteria are especially troublesome since it is not killed by ordinary antibiotics. IBM chemists have drawn from, “years of expertise in semiconductor technology and material discovery to crack the code for safely destroying the bacteria.”
3. An Ocean Tomo market study confirms that the U.S. has transitioned to an innovation based economy founded upon intellectual property (IP). The report states that eighty percent (80%) of company value is comprised of intangible assets.
A related study – using an Ocean Tomo index – list the top inventor in the semiconductor community as Charles W.C.Lin, chairman and founder of Bridge Semiconductor. One of Lin’s many patents deals with a method for making a semiconductor chip assembly with a press-fit ground plan.
At first glance, it appears that a better path for inventors is through the corporate, rather than university, patent process. To see what I mean, contrast Lin’s standing with one of the discoverers of Graphene (see earlier blog).
4. Another study shows that patent trolls cost the economy $29 billion yearly!
A while back, I wrote how patent enforcers (trolls) argue that they, “help ensure that inventors get paid for their creations, whether through the direct application of their inventions, by lawsuits to collect unpaid royalties or by licensing agreements.”
This report demonstrates the opposite, namely, that patent trolls don’t help inventors. The report examined financial results from 12 publicly traded NPE firms, and found that, “the payments they make to inventors whose patents they acquire are far smaller than the costs they have on defendant companies.”
I encourage everyone to read this excellent, if not rather depressing, write-up. Money that could have been used for innovation is being redistributed to patent trolls and other “unknowns” at a staggering cost.