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SD groups make top patent receivers list

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted 300,678 patents in 2014, a figure that's a hefty 8 percent higher than 2013 and one that several San Diego companies and organizations played a role in.

Wireless telecom giant Qualcomm came in eighth on the list of top patent receivers for the year, according to an Intellectual Property Owners Association report, with the Navy and University of California system also making the top 300.

Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) notched 2,706 U.S. patents in calendar year 2014, a 24 percent bump from the previous year. Requests for comment on this particular report were not returned, though Andrew Newton, patent counsel at Qualcomm, spoke on the topic in a previous Daily Transcript interview, noting that the company is actually the second-highest patent filer worldwide for Patent Cooperation Treaty filings.

“Qualcomm’s technology covers a variety of areas,” Newton said. “Our bread and butter is cellular technology; CDMA is what put Qualcomm on the map. We have moved on from CDMA technology to LTE technology, and we are also a big player in the Internet of Things — the intercommunication between devices. …Anything that’s based around your smartphone or cellular technology, including Wi-Fi, we’re really making a strong play in Wi-Fi communications as well.”

The University of California claimed the 91st slot with 453 patents, an increase of 13.5 percent from 2013. William Decker, associate director of the Technology Transfer Office at the University of California San Diego, said the San Diego campus was responsible for about 20 percent of those inventions.

“During the same time period — calendar year 2014 — UC San Diego had approximately 100 United States patents issued, 20 percent of the total issued to the UC system,” Decker said.

The patents include a device to store and inject corneal grafts, an automated facial action coding system, layout decomposition for double patterning lithography and tandem fluorescent protein constructs.

The UC system was the highest ranking U.S. public entity, followed closely by the U.S. Navy at No. 109 with 364 patents. While the Navy’s total number of patents granted dropped 8.8 percent from 2013, San Diego-based Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific recorded a slight uptick from years past, a trend it expects will continue and accelerate.

“We received about 50 patents at SSC Pacific,” said Kyle Eppele, lead patent attorney at SSC Pacific. “That’s been what we’ve been receiving, approximately, for the last three or four years, but it’s a slight ramp up from 10 years ago. Five or six years ago we made an investment in the patent program. ... and made a concerted effort to grow the program. We’re expecting to reach the 60 to 70 range in the coming years.”

Eppele, one of six patent attorneys at SSC Pacific, making it the Navy’s largest such hub outside of the Pentagon, said the 50 patents range from bioluminescence, communication and satellite connectivity and antenna technology to robotics and cybersecurity.

“We have everything — that’s what makes this a patent Disneyland, almost,” he said.

Eppele said SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific tends to be the second-highest patent-grossing agency within the Navy, topped only by the Office of Naval Research’s lab in Washington, D.C.

SSC Pacific is typically granted patents on 90 percent of the technologies it files for at the end of the often three-year process. The patents granted in 2014 were likely applied for in 2011 or 2012.

Eppele, who worked in the private sector before transitioning to the Navy with 20 years at Rockwell and several other companies, said SPAWAR faces the same patent challenges as everyone else, and isn’t given special treatment as a government agency. Still, he said the work and mission of getting these technologies into the hands of the warfighter make the job more fulfilling than almost any other role.

“It’s a privilege to work here as a patent attorney, to work with people who are as gifted as our scientists are, on technologies that matter to America,” he said. “This is absolutely the kind of thing a lot of attorneys dream about getting to do — plus it’s in San Diego.”

Other San Diego companies that made the list are Raytheon with 382 patents at No. 103, and BAE Systems Information and Electronic Systems Integration with 167 patents at No. 205.

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