AmiCOUR IP Group News and Opinions

AA Delay:
Stuck in Bankruptcy Court

On Fire?
Personal Audio LLC Accuses New Kindle Fire
 of Patent Infringement

Pass the Hat:
Air Carrier Holds Up Its Passengers for a Fill Up


Fountain of Youth:
Cell Senescence Patent Applications Are Old News


Welcome to the AmiCOUR IP Blog.  We invite your comments.  Past Issues.

November 29, 2011 - AMR Corporation, owner of the air carrier that motivated passenger rights advocates to help  pass tarmac delay laws, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. American Airlines was largely responsible for the movement, which drew national attention after the Northwest Airlines "runway Sunday" incident. A 1999 web site link to the government's air carrier passenger complaint intake page caused passenger complaints to soar and soon Congress to begin paying attention passenger issues. AA was recently fined for violating the new tarmac rules. During its growth phase, the airline had the Congressional advantage of the Wright Amendment, which limited destinations for its rival Southwest Airlines, operating from Love Field in Dallas. Jim Wright was the first Speaker of the House to resign as the result of an ethics scandal.

November 23, 2011 - Amazon's new $199 Kindle Fire was named in an East Texas complaint filed by Personal Audio LLC, alleging infringement of two patents related to audio playlist technology. The patents have been the subject of other complaints, including a suit against Apple.

November 18, 2011 - Austrian carrier Comtel Air may have set a new benchmark for bad service. Reminiscent of a college road trip, the carrier landed in Vienna en route from India to Britain, and then, to the disbelief of passengers, took up a collection to buy fuel. When the news broke that each passenger was blackmailed into coughing up another $205 to pay Comtel's fuel bill, passenger rights advocate Kate Hanni noted that even bus companies have never reported this type of problem, perhaps unfairly comparing bus companies to airlines. Some cruise lines have fine print permitting them to add a fuel surcharge if their cost rises above a defined level after the booking. Although sales agents judiciously explain the terms, there are few, if any, reports of actual claims. Many lines, including Disney, eventually eliminated the onerous language from their booking contracts. In 2007, domestic airlines attempted to apply a $5 fuel surcharge to tickets at the time of booking, about the same time some cruise lines adopted the idea.

November 3, 2011 - The Mayo Clinic made national news this week by releasing a dramatic photo of two laboratory mice where one had been subjected to a novel anti-aging treatment.  Clearly, the treated mouse appeared younger and healthier. The explanation cited research on senescent cells and a promising method for ridding the mice of these aged cell types, leaving healthy cells and young looking mice. Despite the legend, the search for real fountain of youth began began in earnest in the 1990's when better understanding of telomeres shed light on why cells age. At least one analogy suggests that the telomeres on each end of DNA strands are kind of like the ends of shoelaces, which eventually wear out, fray, and brake. When the throw-away telomere segments run out, so does the cell's ability to divide successfully, and then cellular death is imminent. The only natural way to get a new set of telomeres is procreation itself, which starts new life and doesn't do the rest of us much good.

Research efforts to protect the telomeres have covered nearly every base, it seems, when it comes to developing a new way to make us live longer. Indeed, the patent office is full of pending art attempting to claim waterfront property at the new, more scientific, fountain of youth. Apparently the elusive fountain was in Minnesota all along. The Mayo team seems to have a unique approach, at least when it comes to improving quality of life and avoiding those classic aging side effects we all dread. Their approach is to differentiate the senescent cells from the healthy ones and get rid of them. Senescent cells, it turns out, don't do much good for their adjacent neighbor cells. They release toxins and other harmful chemicals. That makes us old. So far, the Minnesota team found a way to get rid of senescent cells in a few lucky mice who may have taken the first swim in the real fountain of youth.  Minnesota is far away from the legendary Florida spring, but the the result is certainly dramatic. Juan Ponce DeLeón started this search in 1513, and, in the scheme of things, taking  almost 500 years to solve one if humanity's biggest riddles isn't so bad. It might even seem a short bit of time to our grandchildren.