Top 100 Inventions of 2021

Posted by:

January 8, 2022

It is common, and often insightful, to reflect on the past 12 months as we open the door to a new year. Although, no doubt, your yearly reflection list of 2021 is fraught with entries related to COVID-19 and vaccinations, Time.com focused on "The Best Inventions of 2021," listing 100 inventions that change the way we live.

Here are some of our favorites:

Self-Driving Delivery Vehicles by Nuro



U.S. Patent No. 10,583,803 for "Systems and Methods for Remote Operation of Robot Vehicles."

Partnering with Dominos pizza and other companies such as Chipotle, CVS, and FedEx, Nuro created an electric, autonomous vehicle that delivers goods to your home.

Spatial Audio Triphonic Speakers by Syng



PCT Patent App. No. WO2020/206177A1 for "Systems and Methods for Spatial Audio Rendering."

These Triphonic speakers deliver true spatial sound that adapt to the characteristics of the room and precisely project the sound in an immersive and unified manner to the exact dimensions of the space.

Hands-Free, Go FlyEase Sneaker by Nike



U.S. Patent App. No. 20200187590A1 for "Hinged Footwear Sole Structure for Foot Entry and Method of Manufacturing."

Nike's new Go FlyEase shoe incorporates a bi-stable hinge structure enabling the shoe to be stable or secure in both the fully open and the fully closed positions. The hinge structure allows this shoe to be slipped on and off with ease.


Invention Knows No Age

Posted by:

June 5, 2021

As a soon-to-be (and incredibly excited) father, it's natural to wonder when my child will invent the newest breakthrough gadget . . . right? Okay, maybe not, but it got me thinking about some everyday products that were, in fact, invented by children.

Here are some of my favorite ones:

Popsicles
Invented by: Frank Epperson
Age: 11

U.S. Patent No. 1,505,592
for "Frozen Confectionary"



Toy Truck
Invented by: Robert Patch
Age: 5

U.S. Patent No. 3,091,888
for a "Toy Truck"



Makin' Bacon
Invented by: Abigail M. Fleck
Age: 8

U.S. Patent No. 5,552,585
for "Microwave Cooking Vessel with Removable Food Supports"


The Hot Seat
Invented by: Alissa Chavez
Age: 14

U.S. Patent No. 9,000,906
for a "Vicinity Motion Detector-Based Occupant Detection and Notification System"


For even more child-invented products, see this article:
"20 Everyday Products You Never Knew Were Invented by Kids"


The Iconic and Innovative Weber Grill

Posted by:

May 29, 2021

Whether you prefer the convenience and control of a gas-powered grill, or the flavor that comes from a charcoal grill, many of us will fire up the barbeque this Memorial Day weekend.

But, did you know that the iconic Weber grill was invented by George Stephen, an employee of Weber Brothers Metal Works, which in the 1950's made metal buoys for the US Coast Guard? Unsatisfied with the traditional open-top, box-like grill design commonly used at the time, Stephen fabricated a dome-shaped lid out of the metal buoys made by his employer, punched some holes in it, added tripod legs and a handle. The first prototype was born. His new innovation was marketed as "George's barbecue Kettle," prodcued by Weber Brothers Metal Works, later changed to Weber-Stephens Products LLC.



The Weber grill has, of course, changed over the years, but many aspects of the original concept remain the same today. Below are some of the early Weber grill patents and some other articles on this history of the grill:




http://weberkettleclub.com/blog/2014/05/10/1952-georges-barbecue-kettle-the-original/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/story-weber-grill-begins-buoy-180960335/

https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/newsletter/inventors-eye/grilling-good-ideas


Should You Consider a Patent?

Posted by:

April 25, 2021

One of the big questions you may be asking, and which is common among many entrepreneurs, inventors and businesses, small or large, is: Should I pursue a patent on my product?

However, before you can really answer that question, you should probably consider whether you have a product that can be patented. To answer that question, you should consult with a patent attorney who can conduct a patentability search and subsequently provide you with some legal advice. In many cases, a patentability search will involve a detailed dive into various patent databases in an attempt to find any existing patents or published patent applications that may describe the same or similar product.

If the results of the patentability search are favorable, and your patent attorney believes it would be worthwile to pursue a patent, then the next step would be to consider filing a patent application. Of course, while a pending patent application can, in may instances, be beneficial to you or your company, the ultimate goal is to obtain a patent issuance in the end. For instance, in addition to potentially attracting a larger customer base, an issued or granted patent will provide you with the right to exclude others from making, using, selling or imporitng an infringing product into the United States for a number of years (i.e., 15 or 20 years depending on the type of patent obtained).

You can find some information on our patent search and applications services here and here.

Forbes.com also has an interesting article on this topic which can be accessed here: "The Compelling Case for Patents: Dominate Your Industry and Stand Out."


Disney Invents a Working Lightsaber

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April 13, 2021

Star Wars fans (and possibly non-Star Wars fans) rejoice as Disney unveils a working lightsaber at an April 8, 2021 presentation.

Well, what exactly does a "working" lightsaber really mean? Does it cut through metal doors and walls? No, but it does have an illuminated blade that extends and retracts with the simple push of a button.

So, how does it work? The details of the lightsaber are described in U.S. Patent No. 10,065,127 titled "Sword Device with Retractable, Internally Illuminated Blade," but essentially it has a string of flexible LEDs mounted onto a motorized spool inside a frame. Two outer spools of a translucent material (think of two translucent tape measures) lie flat when fully wound, but curve when extended. The two translucent spools surround the flexible LEDs forming a single beam of light when the lightsaber is extended.

Below are some figures from Disney's lightsaber patent.





You can also find more information (including animations on how the lightsaber works) here.


Pumpkin Patents

Posted by:

October 15, 2020

With the onset of fall, and Halloween around the corner, the abundance of pumpkin spiced items becomes increasingly apparent. It seems pumpkin spiced everything is in each café and bakery around. Although some of the most notable items, such as the Starbucks PSL, the fall lineup at Dunkin Donuts, and other notable pumpkin inspired foods and beverages primarily have trademarks and trade secrets in relation to their products, a few inventors have obtained patents for their pumpkin-themed food items. This includes a pumpkin donut (U.S. Patent No. D883,609) and a Pumpkin Drip Cake (U.S. Patent No. D885,006).

How are you getting creative with your fall-inspired inventions?


Etch A Sketch!

Posted by:

May 22, 2020

Nearly 61 years ago, on July 23, 1959, a patent application was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the iconic and wildly popular Etch A Sketch toy. The patent was later issued on September 25, 1962 as US Patent No. 3,055,113 titled Tracing Device.

The Etch A Sketch toy was invented in the mid 1950s by a French electrician who originally named the toy The Magic Screen. Lacking funds initially, the inventor obtained financial assistance from an investor to file patent applications in France and the United States in 1959. That same year, he presented the toy at an international toy fair in Nuremburg, Germany where it finally caught the attention of The Ohio Art Comapny.

The Ohio Art Company eventually licensed the toy and launched it in the United States under the Etch A Sketch name during the holiday season in 1960 where it became an almost immediate commercial success -- and still is to this day.

In 1988, The Ohio Art Company received a patent (U.S. Patent No. 4,764,763) for an electronic, and much less successful version of the Etch A Sketch, marketed as the Etch A Sketch Animator 2000.

In 1998, the original Etch A Sketch was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame.


Is the State of Section 101 in “Complete Disarray?”

Posted by:

September 20, 2019

That’s what Trading Technologies International, Inc. contends in its recent Petition for Certiorari to the Supreme Court. Well, Trading Technologies technically argues that the Federal Circuit’s jurisprudence on patent eligibility is in “complete disarray,” stating that “[w]hile one line of Federal Circuit decisions holds computer-implemented inventions to be ineligible if they do not make hardware-like improvements to computers’ basic functions, another line holds the opposite.”

The patents at issue in this case (US7904374, US7212999 and US7533056) generally relate to the graphical user interfaces (GUIs) used by professional stock market traders – interfaces that allegedly improve the accuracy and speed of communicating offers and bids in a complex stock market environment. There is no allegation that the interfaces of these patents make “hardware-like improvements” to the computer – e.g., they do not cause the computer to operate faster or more efficiently. Rather, the inventions are focused on user interaction, thereby improving the "user-directed functionality."

The two questions presented are thus:

1. Whether computer-implemented inventions that provide useful user functionality but do not improve the basic functions of the computer itself are categorically ineligible for patent protection.

2. Whether the Court should overrule its precedents recognizing the “abstract idea” exception to patent eligibility under the Patent Act of 1952.

We will continue to monitor this case and provide updates as they become available.


Calculating the Term of a Patent Can Be Challenging

Posted by:

May 28, 2019

Questions concering the term or expiration date of a patent are common and can arise under a number of different circumstances. For instance, you may be wondering when your patent will expire, or in some cases, when someone else's patent will expire. Although these questions may be commonplace, they can also be complicated or challenging to answer.

As an example, the term of a patent is often not as easy as adding twenty years to the the filing date (in the case of a utility patent) or fifteen years to the issue date (in the case of a design patent). Rather, in additon to the type of the patent (i.e., utility patent, design patent or plant patent), there are a number of different factors that can impact the length of the patent or otherwise when the patent will expire, including, but not limited to, the filing date (e.g., whether the application that led to the patent was filed before, on or after June 8, 1995), whether the patent claims priority to a prior-filed U.S. or Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) patent application, whether there was a terminal disclaimer submitted with the patent application, whether the maintennce fees have been timely filed, or whether there are any applicable patent term adjustments as provided by 35 U.S.C. 154 or patent term extensions as provided by 35 U.S.C. 156.

Recognizing the difficultly involved in calculating the term of a patent, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office now provides a Patent Term Calculator, which can be used as a starting point or estimator. However, if you have any questions regarding the expiraton of a patent, whether owned by you, your company or another, please contact us for assistance.


Happy Halloween

Posted by:

October 27, 2018

Halloween is one of the more creative holidays, with interesting new costumes, decorations and novelty items being invented each year. Here is a short list of some Halloween patents that we found to be fun and interesting.

U.S. Patent No. 9,022,595
Illuminated Halloween Candy Container
May 5, 2015

Have you ever wanted a Halloween candy bucket that can illumate the night? How about a bucket that can play spooky sounds as you go door-to-door collecting candy? This patent combines all of these features with a plurality of LED's to emit light in various directions, as well as a digital media player to to play spooky recorded sounds.




U.S. Patent No. 6,776,687
Haunting Aid
August 17, 2004

Everyone needs a Haunting Aid on Halloween. This patent is for a ghostly creature with glowing eyes that stare or flash at terrified onlookers with LEDs embedded in empty eye sockets or below evil eye brows.










U.S. Patent No. 6,035,447
Halloween Mask with Flash Device
March 14, 2000

This spooky Halloween mask includes a flash device that, according to the patent, not only increases the attractive effect and sense of reality for the mask, but it also enhances safety by calling awareness and attention to the wearer.








U.S. Patent No. 7,866,276
Spiderweb Maker
January 11, 2011

Have you ever wanted to make your own spooky spider web on Halloween? Of course you have. Well, this patent discloses a spiderweb gun which discharges hot glue through the use of pressurized air. The pressurized air blows the hot glue into a stream that can be used to create a spooky spider web.


Consider a Patentabilty Search

Posted by:

October 25, 2018

The first step in the patent application process is almost always a patentability search. While searches are never exhaustive, they will often help the patent attorney, as well as the inventor(s), determine whether the invention, or in some cases a portion of the invention, may be patentable.

Importantly, the United States Patent & Trademark Office ("USPTO") will not grant a patent on an invention that is already known or otherwise already in the public domain. Thus, the goal of most patentability searches is to find any patents, patent applications, and sometimes other publications, that are similar to the proposed invention. Based on the search results, an informed decision can be made as to whether to proceed to the next step of applying for a patent.

Here is an interesting artile from entrepreneur.com about the importance of a patentability search: "Inventors: Do a Patent Search Sooner Rather Than Later.


UPDATE: Apple and Samsung Patent Wars

Posted by:

May 25, 2018

Yesterday, after nearly a week of deliberations, a jury returned a verdict in favor of Apple requiring Samsung to pay $539 million for copying three U.S. design patents. This is an increase of $140 million from the previous amount, and shows the risk Samsung took by continuing to fight.

While Samsung has not indicated whether another appeal will follow, they have stated that the "decision flies in the face of a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in favor of Samsung on the scope of design patent damages" and they "will consider all options."

Below are some interesting articles on the topic:


Apple and Samsung Continue the Patent Wars in a California Federal Court

Posted by:

May 15, 2018

Apple and Samsung meet, yet again, in a California Federal Court. This time to determine how much Samsung owes Apple for infringing three of Apple's U.S. design patents.

This case began in 2011 when Apple filed multiple lawsuits around the world accusing Samsung of infringing various patents. By August of 2011, Apple and Samsung were litigating 19 ongoing cases in 9 different countries in a dispute commonly referred to as the smartphone "patent wars."

One of the U.S. cases is still pending and currently underway in San Jose, California. While Samsung has already been found to infringe Apple's patents, the remaining issue to decide is how to calculate the damages owed.

In 2012, a jury awarded Apple $1.05 billion (with a "b") in damages, although that amount was ultimately reduced to $548 million in December 2015. A large portion of that amount -- $399 million of it -- was attributable to the total profits made by Samsung under the additional remedy avaialble for infringement of a U.S. design patent.

The following design patents are involved in this case:

The damages were initially calculated based on Samsung's sales of the entire smartphone, even though only minor (in Samsung's view) portions of the smartphone were found to infringe the design patents (i.e., the front face, raised rim, and colorful icons).

In October 2016, the Supreme Court decided that, in the case of a multi-component product, the relevant "article of manufacture" for purposes of damages calculation for infringement of a design patent under 35 U.S.C. 289, can, in some cases, be a component of the product, rather than the entire product. The case was then remanded for further proceedings consistent with this holding.

The question now presented in this case is whether the $399 million owed under the original calculation can be reduced to the value of the offending individual parts of the smartphone, rather than the entire smartphone.

Whatever the outcome, it will surely impact damages in future design patent infringement cases.


Presidents' Day and the Foundation of the U.S. Patent System

Posted by:

February 19, 2018

Today we celebrate Presidents' Day, also known as George Washington's birthday, which is a federal holiday held in honor of all of the U.S. presidents. Although Washington was born on February 22, 1732, Presidents' Day is celebrated on the third Monday in February, which can occur anywhere between February 15th and February 21st.

Included on George Washington's long list of celebrated accomplishments is the founding of the U.S. patent system. On April 10, 1790, almost immediately into his first presidential term (which was between 1789 and 1793) and about one year after the U.S. Constitution was ratified, President George Washington signed a bill -- the Patent Act of 1790 -- that paved the way for today's patent system in the United States. This bill marked the first time in American history that granted an inventor the "sole and exclusive right and liberty of making, constructing, using, and vending to others to be used" of his invention. The Patent Act of 1790 defined the subject matter of a U.S. patent as "any useful art, manufacture, engine, machine, or device, or any improvement thereon not before known or used."

Although the Patent Act of 1790 has since been amended several times, the underlying goal of promoting the progress of science and the useful arts remains intact.

The very first U.S. Patent, issued on July 31, 1790 to Samuel Hopkins for the improvement in "the making of Pot ash and Petal ash by a new Apparatus and Process" can be accessed here.

References:
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Press Release #02-26
"George Washington Founds the U.S. Patent System," Historyofinformation.com