TIME Innovation

White House Backs Off Patent Nominee After Tech Industry Backlash

The US Patent and Trademark Office is sh
The US Patent and Trademark Office is shown 14 March 2006 in Alexandria, Virgina. PAUL J.RICHARDS—AFP/Getty Images

Critics argued the nominee had a long record of opposition to patent reform

The White House has reportedly backed away from nominating a pharmaceutical executive to run the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office after critics alleged he was unlikely to take a firm enough stance against frivolous patent suits.

Tech website Gigaom reports that the White House has backed away from naming Johnson & Johnson’s chief patent attorney, Philip Johnson, as Director of the USPTO. The prospective appointment raised eyebrows in tech circles as critics pointed to his near decade-long record of opposition to patent reform, which many in the tech sector say is badly needed.

Johnson has represented Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform, an industry group which successfully lobbied against several legislative overhauls to the patent system. The group has frequently locked horns with technology companies, which have pressed lawmakers to crack down on frivolous patent infringement lawsuits.

Sen. Charles Schumer opposed Johnson’s nomination in an emailed statement to the Wall Street Journal, saying that Johnson was “unsympathetic” to the proliferation of patent lawsuits by so-called “patent trolls,” particularly within the tech industry.

The top position at the USPTO has remained vacant since its previous director, David Kappos, stepped down last year.


TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: July 10

1. Political corruption is a scourge and should be punished. Why not make these crooked politicians serve the public interest and help track down other lawbreakers?

By Walter Isaacson in TIME

2. With urban farming, Cleveland Crops energizes people with disabilities.

By Hannah Wallace in Civil Eats

3. Fertilizing the oceans: How feeding iron to plankton could help move the needle on global warming.

By David Biello in Aeon

4. The gas tax can’t solve America’s transportation funding problem. Oregon’s pay-per-mile program just might.

By Eric Jaffe in Citylab

5. Today’s 20-somethings have the lowest median income since 1970. To jumpstart that generation, we need to talk about wages.

By Derek Thompson in Quartz

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Innovation

IBM Risks $3 Billion to Stay Relevant in Chip Biz

The IBM logo is seen outside the company's offices in Petah Tikva
NIR ELIAS / Reuters

IBM says the money is designed to drive emerging research in carbon nano-electronics, silicon photonics, new memory technologies and quantum as well as cognitive computing.

IBM says it’ll drop $3 billion into a five-year bucket designed to help it shore up its research and early stage development programs. The idea, says IBM, is to generate new chip-related technologies that can power evolving cloud computing and “Big Data” systems.

The move comes as confidence in Moore’s Law — the more rule-of-thumb-than-law that says the number of transistors you can stick on a computer chip will double every two years, resulting in periodic increases in computing power — has been dwindling.

The money IBM’s spending will focus on several confidence-bolstering programs, the first of which targets “7 nanometer and beyond” silicon tech and the basic physics-related challenges governing size and production: the smaller silicon-based chips get, the harder they are to manufacture, and we’re currently approaching a physics-related size wall.

“The question is not if we will introduce 7 nanometer technology into manufacturing, but rather how, when, and at what cost?” IBM Research Senior VP John Kelly said in a press release, calling scaling to 7 nanometers or smaller “a terrific challenge.”

And that’s where IBM’s second research pole comes in, says the company, aimed at coming up with alternative ways to think about how chips are made in a post-silicon world. Think about Intel’s 22-nanometer 3-D tri-gate processors — still silicon-based, but employing a relatively radical design shift that allowed it to improve switching states dramatically and consume half the power of older 32-nanometer chips.

But as IBM notes, dropping to below 7 nanometers would require “a new kind of material to power the systems of the future.” Those alternatives? IBM lists carbon nanotubes (specialized cylindrical nano-structures), graphene (a pure form of carbon potentially superior to silicon), and III-V technologies (metal-oxide as opposed to silicon semiconductors), as well as neuromorphic computing, neurosynaptic computing and cognitive computing (systems that mimic the human brain or nervous system), silicon photonics (moving data with light), machine learning techniques (artificial intelligence) and of course, quantum computing.

IBM says its research teams will combine scientists and engineers from Albany and Yorktown, New York; Almaden, California and others in Europe. And to be clear, it says these aren’t brand new research areas — this is IBM channeling cash to existing programs that are already underway. In other words, it’s a confidence-bolstering move involving the B-word as much as anything.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day

1. Is the rise of Isis in Iraq and Syria a short term policy defeat for the U.S. or the end of our ability to influence world events?

By Owen Bennett-Jones in the London Review of Books

2. To provide indigenous communities with a surprising injection of health and social life, build a pool.

By Phillipa Nicole Barr and Melanie Garrick at the Guardian

3. “Testing in” to a bachelor’s degree could make new leaders out of qualified but uncredentialed workers.

By Matt Krupnick in the Hechinger Report

4. Unbanked or credit-invisible African Americans are locked out of employment opportunities, home ownership and more.

By Edward Wyckoff Williams in The Root

5. A tech industry rush to recruit interns as young as high school age begs the question: Is there a labor shortage, or isn’t there?

By Sarah Frier in Bloomberg News

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Innovation

WATCH: This Ring-Shaped Device Reads Text to the Blind

Hot off the presses of a 3-D printer, a prototype that could open the world of letters to the blind


Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a ring-shaped device that slips around a user’s pointer finger, scans any text above the fingertip, and reads it aloud in a robotic voice that could help open the world of letters to the visually impaired.

The FingerReader is still just a prototype, hot off the presses of a 3D-printer. It comes with an embedded camera that pinpoints words, a clipped robotic voice that reads them aloud as the finger moves across the page, and motion sensors that can detect when the finger strays off of the text or hits the end of the line.

Researchers hope the proof of concept will attract investors and smooth the pathway to commercialization, which they say could help roughly 2.8% of the population that currently lives with visual impairment.

TIME Startups

Now There Are Instant Coffee Pods for Beer

Getty Images

Coffee machines, move over. A different kind of buzz is coming to town

It sounds like a beer lover’s fantasy: all around the country, everyone could have beer dispensers on their kitchen counters next to their coffee machines, spouting cold bitter brews into eager glasses throughout the day.

But this is for real. SYNEK—a St. Louis startup that just launched its Kickstarter campaign last month—is creating a draft system that serves beer fresh from the tap even if you’re miles from the nearest bar.

The startup is signing on local breweries who put their beer in SYNEK bags, which have a long shelf life and can be transported relatively easily. The bags are then put into a dispenser that looks a little like a toaster-oven-sized coffee machine and plugs into the wall. Consumers can then serve beer wherever there is a dispenser.

Steve Young, SYNEK’s 28-year-old founder, says that his company will make it cheaper to ship beer to consumers without worrying about the headaches of bottling, and increase profit margins for craft breweries.

The machine pressurizes using carbon dioxide, and allows users to adjust SYNEK’s temperature. Beers by brewers including Harpoon Brewery, Schmaltz Beer Company and dozens of others are available through SYNEK already.

Young seeking $250,000 through Kickstarter by the end of July. Backers who pledge $299 get the dispenser along with 5 to 10 bags.

TIME Innovation

How Well Do You Know The iPhone?

On the 7th birthday of the smartphone that changed phones forever, see how knowledgeable you are about Apple's revolutionary device

TIME Innovation

7 Years of the iPhone: An Interactive Timeline

It's been seven years since the very first iPhone was sold on June 29, 2007, and now, the smartphone is ubiquitous: Here are the highlights from iPhone's seven sensational years

TIME Dating

Geniuses in Love: Mensa and Match.com Partner For a New Dating Site

Heart in a petrie dish
Getty Images

Mensa, the society for people with high IQ, and Match.com are teaming up to create a new dating site for highly intelligent people, reports Match.com.

According to Match, smart is attractive: More than 80% of singles claim a partner’s equal or higher intelligence is a “must have” or “very important.”

“Why do we want a smart partner? Because intelligence is correlated with many benefits, including: higher income; sense of humor; creativity; social skills; coordination; and problem solving. These are sexy,” said Match’s Chief Scientific Advisor Dr. Helen Fisher in an online statement.

The new site only allows users that match Mensa’s requirement of an IQ in above the 98% of the general population. According to Mensa, there are plenty of brainy fish in the sea: an estimated 6 million Americans are eligible to become a part of the organization which now has 57,000 members.

Super smart singles are encouraged to put their best mind forward; through July 6th, Match is inviting them to take the Mensa Home Test for $1 to see if they qualify for this genius opportunity.

TIME Innovation

A Look Inside the Home That Made “Life Easier” for a Marine Veteran Who Lost All His Limbs

From moving cabinets to remotely activated light switches, the home is designed to support a life of independence


Retired Marine Sergeant John Peck lost all of his limbs when he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan in 2010.

After he was once pronounced dead, spent three months in coma, and went through years in recovery, he came to live in a home built by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. Peck worked with the foundation to design a home tailored to his individual needs. With high-tech features such as moving cabinets, tablet-controlled lighting and an automated shower, his house is an example of how smart homes can enable those who are disabled to be more self-sufficient.

“The house can’t really solve your problems, it can help make your life easier,” Peck said.

In the video above, Peck gives TIME a tour of his home – and shares his passion for cooking.

The former marine, who dreamed of becoming a chef ever since he was 12-years-old, is now re-learning how to cook, thanks to a prosthetic arm, an accessible cooktop and a relentless determination.

“The first time I cooked a meal in this house, it took a while. I made leek and potato soup,” Peck said. “It was definitely interesting to be able to make stuff and not need help.”

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 46,199 other followers