Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Single Year Patent Filings Over 1M in China

You may see this title reported, but some explanation is needed to put it all in perspective.

On November 18, SIPO received its 1,000,925 application, of which 323,266 are for inventions, 337,659 for utility models and 340,000 for designs, representing 32.3%, 33.7% and 34% respectively.

By comparison, the total number of patent applications in the US for 2009 was 482,871of which 456,106 were for utility, 25,866 were design and 959 were plant applications.

Rule 2 "Invention" in the Patent Law means any new technical solution relating to a product, a process or improvement thereof.
"Utility model" in the Patent Law means any new technical solution relating to the shape, the structure, or their combination, of a product, which is fit for practical use.
"Design" in the Patent Law means any new design of the shape, the pattern or their combination, or the combination of the color with shape or pattern, of a product, which creates an aesthetic feeling and is fit for industrial application. (Design also includes any integrated circuit design used on computer chips)

So the numbers are a bit misleading. However, make no mistake, the Chinese application rate is increasing at a rate of 24.1% from 2000-2008, with the US rate at 5.6%, EPO at 4.8%, Korea at 6.8% and Japan at NEGATIVE 0.8%.

Just thought ya might wanna know.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

If You Invent It - Claim It.

Mr. Italo Marchiony had a problem.  He was selling a wonderful confection – an Italian lemon ice – from a push cart (also called a hokey-pokey) on Wall Street in Manhattan, and it was among the most popular treats of its day.  The problem was the container – a small liquor glass which was to be returned to the push cart after the customer was finished so that it could be cleaned and reused.  But Mr. Marchiony's customers were usually in a hurry and did not bring their glasses back - or the glasses got broken, increasing his overhead considerably.

So he went to work and invented a wonderful new, leak proof, edible ice cream cone and a mold for making it; for which he was awarded U.S. Patent No. 746,971 on December 13, 1903.  The mold was in four sections, all hinged together so that the small cups could be taken out without breaking them.  By pouring in a waffle batter and heating the mold in a very hot oven, Mr. Marchiony could make a large supply of the edible cups very quickly.  They even had a small handle.  Customers loved them. 

Unfortunately, Mr. Marchiony only claimed the mold in his patent  - not the cones.  So when Mr. Ernest A. Hamwi began selling waffle type cones filled with ice cream at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, Mr. Marchiony was powerless to stop him.

Fortunately, the story ends well.  Mr. Marchiony’s treats were so popular that by the time of his retirement in 1938, he had a fleet of 45 push carts in New York, operated by men he had hired.  He made an excellent living from his invention right through the great depression – and gave people jobs in the process.

But the moral of our story is this:  if you invent the ice cream cone and a mold for making it, and you wish to protect your invention, be sure to claim the mold and the cone.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What would cable TV be without the cable?

Look behind your TV set and you’ll probably find one.  It all seems so simple now.  Take a wire, surround it by a dielectric, insulating shield, surround that by a conducting shield and surround the whole thing by a plastic insulator.  It was not so simple on December 8, 1931 when Messrs. Lloyd Espenschied of Kew Gardens New York and Herman A. Affel of Ridgewood New Jersey were awarded U.S. Patent No. 1,835,031 for a “Concentric Conducting System.”  Per their employment agreement, they assigned their patent to the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. 

Telephone calls were sent down a “twisted pair” cable.  Transmitting one call was reasonably easy.  All you needed was a long enough pair of wires and a signal that was amplified enough to overcome the electrical resistance of the long wire.  One wire in the twisted pair carried the signal while the other wire was grounded.

Sending 10 calls or 100 calls on a twisted pair was only slightly more difficult.  The signals for each of the calls were divided into short slices of time on one end.  Each slice was given a turn on the wire and all you needed was a “carrier” signal of sufficiently high frequency to time them so that they could be reassembled on the other end.  Here is the problem:  more calls require higher frequencies – and the longer the cable, the more the multiplexed signal would bleed off to ground.

What was needed was a low capacitance cable, in which the interaction between the carrier signal and ground could be minimized.  If you have that, you can send not only telephone calls but many TV signals – and of course, many internet signals at the same time.  That's where the coaxial cable comes in; without which, even this blog would not be possible.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Don't Try This at Home!

Really - don't try this at home.  

His wife told him repeatedly not to do it.  But one day in 1845, while his wise and good wife was away, Professor Christian Friedrich Schönbein of the University of Basel in Switzerland was doing chemistry experiments in his own kitchen.  During the course of his experiments, he spilled a mixture of nitric and sulfuric acids on his kitchen table and used wife's cotton apron - he was using it as a lab apron - to clean up the mess.  Realizing that his wife was on her way home, he finished cleaning up and hung the apron over a warm stove to dry.  Once dry, the apron ignited spontaneously and nearly burned down the house, which did not make Frau Schönbein very happy.

Professor Schönbein  discovered a new, safer (believe it or not) way to make nitrocellulose - what came to be known as "guncotton," a kind of smokeless gunpowder that gave off much less ash than black powder and released far more gas on ignition.  For his discovery, he was awarded U.S. Patent No. 4874 on December 5, 1846.  But the story doesn't end there.  It turns out that nitrocellulose can be dissolved in acetone and used for casting excellent polymer films.  As such, it was used as a varnish to coat furniture and billiard balls.  Add a little camphor to plasticize it and nitrocellulose is a great, although flammable, base for photographic movie films; for which it was used until 1951, when it was decided that a few too many movie theaters had been burned down.  Scientists also found nitrocellulose useful for detecting alpha particles and immobilizing proteins for studies in an atomic force microscope.

As for Schönbein, his wife did not throw him out.  He also was the first to discover ozone while he was experimenting with the electrolysis of water and also invented what came to be known as the fuel cell, used by astronauts to generate electricity and make water during space travel.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Herman Hollerith was working at the US Census Bureau in 1884 when he filed his first patent entitled “Art of Compiling Statistics”, US 395,782.   It was a method is using punch cards to electronically tabulate the census data.  The census process, which generally took 8 years to complete, was finish in 1 year using Hollerith’s method.  He founded the Tabulating Machine Recording Co. to build these machines for the Census Bureau. In 1911 three other companies merged with him to form the Computing Tabulating Recording Co which in 1924 became the International Business Machine, or IBM. IBM is the assignee of more patents than any other US company.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Three Patents, Three Inventors

On November 23, 1897, there were three patents issued that improved transportation and enhanced our ability to communicate our ideas.

Pencils are a wonderful invention.  They are cheap, readily available, enabling - and almost worthless without a way to sharpen them.  By 1897, there had been many patents for pencil sharpeners - and all of them improved over using a jack-knife to whittle down the point.  But Mr. John Lee Love, a serial inventor from Fall River, Massachusetts had a better idea. He invented a very simple, portable pencil sharpener that many artists use to this day.  The pencil was put into the opening of the sharpener and rotated circumferentially by hand.  One advantage is that the shavings stayed inside the sharpener.  The invention had two gears and a blade to sharpen the Pencil as shown in the drawing.  Mr. Love was awarded U.S. Patent No. 594,114 for his invention.

In 1897, no one had yet figured out a safe, easy way to couple railroad cars together - and to decouple them when necessary - that is, until another serial inventor, Mr. Andrew Jackson Beard of Eastlake Alabama came along.  Mr. Beard invented the "Jenny Coupler," that allowed two railroad cars to hook together by simply bumping into each other.  In Mr. Beard's invention, a pair of "horizontal jaws engage each other to connect the cars," thus saving countless lives and limbs. Mr. Beard's invention is the very coupler used on railroad cars all over the world today. He was awarded U.S. Patent No. 594,059 for his invention but he never practiced it.  Instead, he sold the rights to his patent for $50,000, a tidy sum in those days.

If you want to build an electric trolley car, you might want to become familiar with U.S. Patent No. 594,286, awarded to Mr. Elbert R. Robinson, another serial inventor from Chicago IL.  Trolley cars are heavy.  So the electric motors that drive them draw a lot of electric current.  The problem was that the conventional wheels had too much electrical resistance.  Mr. Robinson solved the problem by casting a composite wheel from two different metals such as iron and brass wherein the brass was in a groove that made electrical contact with the track.  This invention permitted an entirely new way of constructing trolley wheels and enabled the wheels to draw current from an electrically charged track without heating up unnecessarily.  While Mr. Robinson's invention is no longer in use, it can be said that he made significant advances, not only to the art of building trolley cars but to materials science and metallurgy.

These three inventors were from different parts of the country and worked in different fields of endeavor but they had one thing in common.  All three were African Americans.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Laser in Mr. Gould's Notebook

On November 9, 1957, Mr. Gordon Gould, of New York, New York, started writing down a description of an optical device he called a “laser” in his notebook.  It was a Saturday night and he couldn’t sleep. The following Wednesday, he found a Notary Public at a local store near his apartment and had his idea witnessed and notarized. 

His description was entitled "Some rough calculations on the feasibility of a LASER: Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.”  It was a complete description of his invention in which he combined the concept of optical pumping of atomic excited states with the use of a resonant optical cavity called a Fabry-Pérot interferometer, a kind of fipple flute for light.  It was this combination that permitted emission of the intense, coherent, focused beam of light that would revolutionize communications, medicine, entertainment and almost every other aspect of our lives.

Here is the problem:  Mr. Gould did not file for a patent until 1959.  Meanwhile,  Bell Labs scientists, Charles Townes and Arthur Schawlow, did apply for a patent on their similar but independently conceived discovery of how to make a laser - made three months after Mr. Gould's notebook entry. When Gould eventually did file in 1959, it took until 1977 to establish priority and gain the highly profitable royalties to which he was entitled. 

The story has many twists and turns, including a federal security order preventing Mr. Gould from even working on his invention because of his supposed leftist political leanings.  Meanwhile, the well connected scientists, Townes and Schawlow, received a Nobel Prize for inventing the laser and a similar device for microwaves, called a “maser.”  What turned the case in Mr. Gould’s favor was that he had written a complete description of how to make his invention in his notebook on that sleepless Saturday night, whereas the documentation for the laser provided by Townes and Schawlow did not include enabling instructions for building a laser.

Eventually, Gould was awarded U.S. Patents 4,053,845 and 4,704,583 and 46 other patents for his inventions – because he kept a good notebook.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mr. Frost's Bug Zapper

On this day in history, November 8, 1910, Mr. William H. Frost of Spokane, Washington was issued U.S. Patent No. 974,785 for his invention of an "electric insect destroyer." As shown, the invention had a number of  parallel electrically energized wires of different polarity, set up so that a flying insect passing between the wires would cause a spark to  jump the wires and zap the insect. Shown at left are wires and tensioners to keep the parallel segments taut. Also shown on the interior of the array of wires is a light bulb to attract the insects.  The charge on the wires was supplied using an induction coil and a battery. The patent specification described a flat frame and a cylindrical arrangement.