APRIL 2018

Innovation Review

Monthly information on a variety of economic, business, and technology related legal news as well as highlights and profiles of resources and events across New York state.


News from the Center


Wivi & TCLP Collaborate to Drive an ASL Interpreter App to Market

Communicating with businesspeople in the hearing community—by working with American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter services for important meetings “at the speed of business”—can be such a significant barrier for the Deaf that it disrupts workflow, hinders accessibility, hurts innovation, and frustrates everyone involved. However, RIT alumni Greyson Watkins and Spencer Montan as well as Brandon Marin, are looking to remove the barrier to entrepreneurial success. They are attempting to disrupt the current ASL interpreter service market with an app that they hope will become as ubiquitous and easy-to-use in the Deaf community as Uber is for city passengers wishing to hail a ride. And to help Wivi Technologies get their new application—called Wivi—to market, Technology Commercialization Law Program (TCLP) students, supervised by College of Law Adjunct Professor Dominick Danna, have spent the spring 2018 semester developing important patent, intellectual property (IP), market, and regulatory landscapes. Marin, Watkins, and Montan recently discussed how Wivi came about, the new app, and the critical assistance TCLP students have provided their team. For the complete interview, click here.


IP/Regulatory Law Watch

US Federal Circuit

Federal Circuit Overrules Jury Verdict in Favor of Google – By Shubha Ghosh

On March 27, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overruled a jury verdict that Google’s use of Oracle’s JAVA Application Programming Interface (API) was fair use under copyright law. The jury had determined that Google’s copying of the code was not copyright infringement, but the Federal Circuit found that Google’s copying of the API’s in its Android phone was a commercial use of copyrighted software that involved no creativity on Google’s part and interfered with Oracle’s market for licensing. Professor Ghosh wrote more on the case, including what it means for the software and smart phone industries, which you can read here.


IPO, ICO, and Patents

With the explosion of popularity in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Ripple, you may have heard the term “ICO” and wondered what it is. An ICO, or initial coin offering, is much like an IPO, (initial public offering) but instead of an opportunity to invest in a company, an ICO offers the opportunity to invest in a new cryptocurrency token. With over $3 billion raised so far on various tokens in thousands of different ICOs, it is also important to understand the risks presented and how the SEC is getting involved. To learn all of that and more, click here. With this rise in popularity also comes a rise in cryptocurrency patent applications. Bank of America currently holds the most cryptocurrency-related patents with 45, while other companies like IBM and Mastercard place in the top 10 with 34 and 21 patents respectively. For a full list of the top 10, click here.

Unexpected March Madness Success and The Value of Trademarks

The unexpected success of the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) basketball team, Retriever Nation, resulted in a hurried trademark application filing at the USPTO. UMBC filed for trademark registration in March 2018 after the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament began. The hurried filing is a good reminder that startups struggle with the timing of trademark registration as well. They come up with a name, obtain a domain name, register the name as part of a Secretary of State filing, and obtain a tax ID number, but put off any filing with the USPTO for trademark protection. In order to obtain a federal trademark registration, the company must demonstrate the mark is used in interstate commerce and provide evidence of the mark being used, such as marketing materials that link it with the product or service. At the beginning of business, a company can’t demonstrate this, and so some wait. An alternative is to file an “intent-to-use” application. This acts as a six month placeholder in instances where a company has a good faith intent to use the mark.


Around New York State

Genius NY

GENIUS NY Winners Announced

Fotokite, creators of a kite-like tethered drone system, took home the $1 million grand prize from Round II of the GENIUS NY accelerator. The GENIUS NY initiative is one of the world’s largest business competitions focused on unmanned systems and awarded nearly $3 million in total prizes to its six finalist teams. Participants in the competition are required to operate their business in Central New York for at least one year. “By committing to creating a comprehensive network for innovative UAS companies in Central New York, we continue to grow Central New York into a centralized hub for innovation to grow the region’s economy for years to come,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who announced the winning team. For more on each of the competition finalists, click here. GENIUS NY is just one of the ways that New York State is making major investments in the unmanned aircraft systems industry. Other initiatives include a partnership between the NUAIR Alliance and NASA. The Center for Advanced Systems is also a resource supporting development in this area.


WNY Incubator Network Receives Five-Year Extension

The WNY Incubator Network (WIN) has received a five-year, $250,000 annual funding extension from Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR). The extension for WIN, a collaborative effort of business incubators managed by the University at Buffalo, will also include the ability to issue state tax incentives to early-stage incubator ventures. WIN, which began operations in 2013, includes programs such as pitch prep, embedded consultants, deals & discounts, and tax incentives. What’s more, the network is actively involved in regional entrepreneurship programs such as Bright Buffalo Niagara, Startup Weekend, the Student 2 Biz competition and Student Sandbox. For more on the five-year extension, click here.



Southern Tier

Southern Tier Start-Up Summit

The Southern Tier Start-Up Summit will take place on May 4, 11 am-7 pm, at the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator. Sponsored by Upstate Capital, the event will feature entrepreneurs, business professionals, investors, and economic catalysts as they celebrate business successes and plans for the future. Promoted at the summit will be companies and clean energy programs as well as several events, speaker series, workshops, and networking opportunities. For more information and to RSVP, click here.



The Key4Women Forum, a series of events designed to educate and empower women across America, will take place on May 18 in Albany, NY. The event will provide advice, capital, and networking opportunities in an effort to support professional women and women-owned businesses. Leah Busque, founder of the on-demand marketplace company TaskRabbit, will speak at the forum. To learn more and to register, click here.


National Small Business Week Virtual Conference

The National Small Business Week Virtual Conference will take place Tuesday, May 1 – Thursday, May 3 between 12:30 pm ET – 6:30 pm ET each day. Participation in the online conference is free and includes practiced advice on current business strategies, the opportunity to meet other business owners, and chat with industry experts. The webinars featured include How Changing Consumer Behavior Impacts Your Business, The U.S. Economic Outlook and Its Impact on Small Businesses, Grow Your Business in 2018, and many more. For a full list of webinars and to register, click here.

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