Sunday, May 8, 2011

From Fabrics to Bottles and Back to Fabrics

On May 8, 1951, the first Dacron® men’s suits were introduced by the Hart, Schaffner & Marx Co. in New York City. The fabric was actually 55% Dacron® and 45% worsted wool, made by Deering, Milliken & Co. This was the first time polyester was used as used in clothing. It is durable, washes well, resists soaps detergents and dry cleaning solvents and resists mechanical abrasion. 

Dacron® was, at the time, a registered trademark of DuPont and is based on a polymer called polyethylene terephthalate (PET). This polymer is used in fibers for textiles, films, those familiar soda bottles and as engineering plastics. The water and soda bottles made of PET comprise a huge fraction of the floating garbage fields in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. While these bottles eventually break up mechanically into a kind of “sand,” the polymer itself is not biodegradable. This PET “sand” is now washing up on beaches around the world.

But creative people are at work. At present, there are 2,721 issued U.S. patents that describe how PET bottles can be recycled and turned into fabric. Some of these patents were issued very recently. And the work has not stopped. There are now more than 2,000 pending patent applications that also cover how PET can be recycled into fabrics. While some of these technologies recycle the bottles directly, producing a stiff fabric useful in blue jeans, for example, others describe how the polymers can be broken down to lower molecular weight materials for softer, more supple fabrics. Still other patents describe breaking down the polyester all the way to its component monomers.

It is interesting how things can come full circle.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Accelerated Examination about to start

A new accelerated patent application examination program is beginning May 4, 2011. Applicants can obtain accelerated examination for eligible patent applications upon payment of an appropriate fee.

The basics:

- The application must be filed on or after May 4, 2011. If a patent applicant has a patent pending prior to this time, the applicant can still take advantage of the accelerated examination program by filing a continuation on or after May 4, 2011.

- U.S. national stage entry patent applications from PCT patent applications are not eligible for prioritized examination. However, a continuation patent application filed from such a U.S. national stage entry patent application may be eligible.

- The fee will be $4,130. No small entity fee reduction.

- A publication fee of $300 is also required, normally required when the patent is issued.

- The claims are limited to no more than 30 total claims, of which no more than four can be independent.

- The application must contain a signed Declaration and include all USPTO fees that are due when filing.

- The number of accelerated applications is limited to 10,000 patent applications for the current year. - Requests for non-publication are not allowed

- Extensions of time are not allowed.

The USPTO states it will provide a final disposition of a patent application through this program within 12 months of the accelerated examination request. “Final disposition” is defined as:
1) Mailing a Notice of Allowance
2) Mailing a final Office Action
3) Applicant filing a Notice of Appeal
4) Declaring an interference
5) Applicant filing a Request for Continued Examination (RCE)
6) Applicant abandoning the patent application.

Typical examination takes 3 years or longer depending on the technology area. The program provides significant acceleration of the examination process. Accelerated examination can be particularly valuable in technology areas that rapidly moving. Accelerated examination can also be valuable to start-ups that need to rapidly protect their technology. Extensions of time for responding to Office Actions during the examination process are still allowed but that will remove the application from the accelerated examination program.

Friday, April 8, 2011

U.S. Government Shutdown Looms: Effect on Patent Filing and Prosecution

We have received the following press release from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office:

USPTO Prepares for Possible Government Shutdown

In the event of a government shutdown on April 9, 2011, the United States Patent and Trademark Office will remain open and continue to operate as usual for a period of six business days – through Monday, April 18, 2011 -- because the USPTO has enough available reserves, not linked to the current fiscal year, to remain in operation until then. Should a shutdown occur and continue longer than the six-day period, we anticipate that limited staff will be able to continue to work to accept new electronic applications and maintain IT infrastructure, among other functions. More information will be posted on [the USPTO] website as it becomes available. Thank you.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mr. Shaw and the Flashing Cat's Eyes

You know those little reflectors in the middle of the road that show you where the lanes are?  Someone had to invent them.  And someone did.  On April 3, 1934, Mr. Percy Shaw applied for a British patent entitled "Improvements relating to Blocks for Road Surface."   

A key aspect of the invention was not only that they reflected the light from oncoming cars but that their raised surfaces “yield when travelled over by a vehicle wheel and sink to the level of the road surface," so that they would not be damaged when run over by vehicle tires or, worse, a snow plow.  They were mounted on a resilient white rubber cushion in a metal holder below the road surface so that they could be pushed down and pop right back up again.

As the story goes, Mr. Shaw was driving down the curvy road from the Old Dolphin public house in the town of Clayton Heights to his home in Halifax.  As Mr. Shaw was rounding a curve, a cat on a fence along the edge of the road looked at the car – and its eyes reflected his headlights back to Shaw, allowing him turn and stay on the road.  That's how he got the idea.

According to British patent No. 436,290, Mr. Shaw’s first claim reads, “A block of the type specified for road surface marking wherein the base of the rubber filling is partially supported within the metal holder so that the filling will yield by displacement and deformation or by either, when travelled over by a vehicle wheel or stepped upon by a pedestrian and sink to the level of the road surface or thereabouts.”  

Based on his invention, Mr. Shaw started Reflecting Roadstuds Ltd. to manufacture and sell his reflectors.

Protect your invention.  We can help.  Call us at 1-508-836-4143.
Or see our web site at

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Dawn of Electronic Computing

On March 25, 1946, a project to build a computer called ENIAC was finished by John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The contract to build ENIAC was intiated by the US Army under the Codename "Project PX" and was classified "Top Secret."
It was not the first ever computer but ENIAC is re...garded as the first successful, general digital computer, a "Turing machine," capable of being programmed for any task.
ENIAC weighed over 27,000 kg (60,000 lb), and contained more than 18,000 vacuum tubes - "valves" that were used as switches, replacing the mechanical relays of previous computers. It took six technicians working full time to test and replace 2000 of the tubes each month.
In 1948, a major upgrade was made to allow data transfer to be done independently of calculation. This simplified programming and increased the speed considerably - so that an artillery shell trajectory could be calculated in about 30 seconds - half the actual flight time of the shell.
ENIAC was transferred to the Aberdeen Proving Ground, where it was in continuous operation until it was finally shut down at 11:45 p.m. on October 2, 1955.
So it goes.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The First Patent Law

On March 19, 1474 the world’s first patent law was enacted in Venice.  That law granted patent protection, the right to exclude others from making, selling or using an invention, for 10 years.   Like the patent laws that came after it, the law was introduced to attract inventors and investors to Venice who would create new economic activities there.  

What is remarkable about this law is that, even though it is brief, it contains most of the elements of modern patent laws.  And the genius of it was that it cost the government nothing.  Here is what it said:

“There are in this city and also there come temporarily… men from different places1 and most clever minds, capable of devising and inventing all manner of ingenious contrivances.  And should it be provided, that the works and contrivances invented by them, others having seen them should not take their honor, men of such kind would exert their minds, [and] invent and make things which would be of no small utility and benefit our State2

Therefore… each person who will make in this city any new and ingenious contrivance, not made heretofore in our dominion3, as soon as it is reduced to perfection4, so that it can be used and exercised5, shall give notice of the same6…  It being forbidden to any other in any territory and place of ours to make any other contrivance in the form and resemblance thereof 7, without the consent of the author up to ten years8.  And, however, should anybody make it, the aforesaid author and inventor will have the liberty to cite him before any office of this city9, by which office the aforesaid who shall infringe be forced to pay him the sum of one hundred ducats10 [about $7,000 in today's money] and the [infringing] contrivance be immediately destroyed11.  Our government shall be at liberty to take and use in his need any of said contrivances, provided that no others than the authors shall exercise them12.”*

And here are the elements contained in many modern patent laws:

1.     Rights not limited to residents.
2.     Societal benefit in exchange for the grant of exclusivity.
3.     Invention must be novel within the city.
4.     Reduction to practice.
5.     The invention must be enabled.
6.     Disclosure of the invention is a condition of exclusivity.
7.     Infringement includes equivalents.
8.     A fixed term of protection (10 years) is provided.
9.     Infringement action before administrative (not criminal) bodies is provided.
10.  Damage award for infringement is prescribed.
11.  Infringing goods must be confiscated and destroyed.
12.  Eminent domain of intellectual property is limited to supply by inventor.

England followed with the Statute of Monopolies in 1623 under King James I, which declared that patents could only be granted for “projects of new invention.”  

In 1789, Article I, section 8 of the United States Constitution explicitly authorized patent laws in the United States “to promote the progress of science and the useful arts.”

Do you have an invention?  We can help patent it for you.  See our web site at  

*Adapted from "Patents for Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology" by Philip W. Grubb, pp. 10-11, Oxford University Press, (1999).

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Can You Patent "Something For Nothing?"

Section 101 of the U.S. Patent Act seems simple enough. You can patent a “new and useful” process, machine, article of manufacture or improvements of these things. But the invention has to be “new” and it has to be “useful.” Now, for the invention to be new, two other parts of the statute apply. In 35 USC §102, we have all of the requirements for novelty. And in 35 USC §103, the requirement for non obviousness is promulgated. We’ll discuss those at a later time.

But it might be fun to discuss what it means to be “useful.” How about a machine that gives us more energy output than we put in? How about a perpetual motion machine?

Now, something that can't possibly work, such as a perpetual motion machine, is arguably not very useful. So, in theory, one should not be able to obtain a patent on such a device. But right now, there are at least 8 issued U.S. patents, apparently still in force, that describe what appear to be perpetual motion machines.

For example, in U.S. Patent 7,379,286 "Quantum vacuum energy extraction", issued on May 27, 2008, we read “When atoms enter into suitable micro Casimir cavities a decrease in the orbital energies of electrons in atoms will thus occur. Such energy will be captured in the claimed devices. Upon emergence form [sic] such micro Casimir cavities the atoms will be re-energized by the ambient electromagnetic quantum vacuum.” It certainly looks like we’re getting energy for free. But how are the atoms “re-energized by the ambient electromagnetic quantum vacuum?” Where does that energy come from? The patent states that the “process is also consistent with the conservation of energy in that all usable energy does come at the expense of the energy content of the electromagnetic quantum vacuum." Good!

Now, there is a lot of fancy talk about “zero-point-energy,” “Casimir cavities” and “a supply of fluid characterized by its ability to… take in electromagnetic radiation from the ambient surroundings.” What “fluid” would not do that? Anyway, even though we have no idea what all that means, there is something about it that doesn’t seem quite right. This is an issued patent that describes a device that is supposed to give us energy for nothing.  And all we have to do is to harvest that energy from the "electromagnetic quantum vacuum."  The examiner allowed this patent on first action without even considering that this device might not work as claimed.

You might be able to spot some perpetual motion patents. Look for phrases like “zero-point energy,” or in the claims for “alternator and electric motor work in combination,” or “spring driven apparatus which, in essence, feeds upon itself,” or “all of the flux from a permanent magnet” (all???) in combination with “enable useful work,” or, a favorite, “A chamber with a partition which lets gas molecules flow one way and not the other.” Or maybe you can find your own.

Have fun!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Build Me a Stradivarius

Here's an article about printing anything - including 3-dimensional objects with, for example, an ink-jet printer.  Fascinating.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

USPTO opens satellite office in Detroit

Interesting move by the USPTO to establish new jobs and help with the patent process. Detroit is also and interesting choice. However, in the on-line statement the following is said: “The current backlog of patent applications delays the commercialization of American innovation and the creation of new jobs and economic growth.” . Hmmm...According to the statistics, of the top 10 companies that received patents in the US in 2010, fully 56.1% of the patents were issued to Japanese or Korean companies. Draw your own conclusions but I'm not sure "American Innovation" is as properly served as Locke would want us to think.

USPTO to Open First Satellite Office
in Detroit

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke
and USPTO Director David Kappos
announced in December plans for the
USPTO to open its first satellite
office in Detroit, Mich., in 2011.
The new office is expected to create
more than 100 new jobs in its first
year and provide a boost to the
region’s innovation economy.
The office will represent the first
phase of the USPTO’s Nationwide
Workforce Program, an effort to hire
more patent examiners and seek out
additional resources and technical
expertise in locations across the
country. More information can be
found in the press release