So what are the odds that only the 23rd patent granted to a Punxsutawney inventor in the last 35 years just so happens to issue on Groundhog Day?
Coincidence? You decide.
Could it be that Mr. Manners is trying to upstage Phil on his big day?
Conspiracy theorists, chime in, please.
U.S. Patent No. 7,655,109
Floor covering lifting and removal hand tool
Inventor: Herbert C. Manners, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
Issued: February 2, 2010
U.S. Patent No. 7,654,265
Inventor: Attila Mady
Issued: February 2, 2010
1. A condom having a valved geometry, said condom comprising a first layer and a second layer of a material that is capable of providing a barrier to the passage of bodily fluids, microorganisms and viruses, with said first layer and second layer configured in an overlapping fashion to form a plicated membrane valve at a distal portion of the condom, with said first and second layers further configured such that they are tightly apposed to the glans penis, with said condom further including a reservoir for retaining ejaculate at a distal tip of the condom, and wherein said plicated membrane valve is configured such that the aforesaid first and second layers may separate and the membrane valve may open under pressure provided from the urethra to transmit ejaculate therefrom, permitting emission of semen from the reservoir to an area outside of the confines of the condom in the region corresponding to and physically approximated to the introitus of the urethra, to prevent build-up of fluid at the tip of said condom and to permit impregnation of the female partner engaged in sexual intercourse.
I won't post all the details here (you're welcome), but it is worth reading the specification for entertainment (example: this is probably the first patent to use the words "surgically affixed", "Crazy Glue", "condom" and "shaft" in the same sentence. Ouch.)
You have to admire the patience of the examiner, though. Consider this snippet from the first of four interview summaries:
Applicant notified examiner of his displeasure stemming from his experience during prosecution of a different pending utility application. Examiner alerted applicant that he was not the examiner of record in the other pending application. Applicant maintained that his experience thus far with the PTO may be due to his lack of representation by an attorney. Examiner informed applicant that it is his intention to assist applicant throughout prosecution. Applicant maintained that examiner's rejections based on the prior art...were spurious.Really?? An attorney might help? Ya' think? And recall that this is the inventor who actually did hire an attorney for a quick hit to respond to a messy 112 rejection in his previous patent...only to revoke the POA shortly thereafter.
We'll keep an eye out for more of Dr. Mady's patents in the future. Fun stuff.
To help in my 7-year old son's quest to collect all the state quarters, each day I ritually place a dollar bill in the vending machine for a diet coke and see what change I get. Call it my mid-morning excitement. Just as we were in the home stretch a couple months ago, needing only an Idaho, I looked at my change and saw "Puerto Rico". Apparently Congress sneaked a new law past me in late 2007 to release six new coins honoring D.C. and the five territories. [Trivia Q #1: can you name all five? No peeking.] And now I see there's another batch on the way honoring our National Parks.
I can personally attest that these quarter programs succeed at promoting learning in both kids and adults. For example, my children have now played all the educational games on the U.S. Mint website (I haven't shown them the similar games on the PTO site). And I've added two tasks to my bucket list: a) visit all the territories; and b) file a (legitimate) patent suit in the District Court for the U.S. Northern Mariana Islands, where LR 83.3 reminds you that shoes are required attire. (Guam has the same rule. I'm aware of only one patent case from Guam, Nanya Tech v. Fujitsu; it was transferred to N.D. Cal.) And you thought Marshall, Texas was an inconvenient forum… try booking a trip to Saipan. [Trivia Q #2: what's the only territory that does not have its own U.S. District Court?]. The quarter programs also raise a ridiculous amount of money (several billion dollars) for the government through seigniorage.
Of course, I turned to the patent questions. A few queries at uspto.gov yielded the following results (current as of 12/31/09):
If, however, the ownership established as controlling is contested on the record by another party who has submitted a conflicting 37 CFR 3.73(b) statement, then the application or other proceeding shall be forwarded by the Office official in charge of the application or other proceeding to the Office of Patent Legal Administration for resolution of the ownership question.
Jason Bier and Josh Gutstein are Chicago lawyers. They are also entrepreneurs. Several years ago, when stayed collar dress shirts were once again gaining popularity in the men's fashion world, Bier and Gutstein found themselves facing a persistent problem: like socks, their stays (either one at a time or by pairs) would eventually disappear, usually due to inadvertently forgetting to remove them before laundry or dry cleaning.
So the two formed a new partnership in addition to their law firm, and invented the Stayclip, a keychain-like device which, when coupled with specially designed collar stays, keeps those stays organized and easily accessible. (And it works, too: I have purchased one for myself and given several as gifts -- though I'm not quite sure who the target market is for the $7,800 set of platinum stays, or the $595 designer shirts that expose the diamond studs and/or monograms.) Bier and Gutstein also sought patent protection on several aspects of their creation, both for design and utility.
One of those patents finally issued today as U.S. Patent No. 7,578,034 after a long battle in the PTO. The case is unremarkable but for an Examiner who insisted that this:
was an anticipatory reference for this:
first and second arcuate members releasably engageable to form a closed loop, at least one arcuate member being pivotable; and
a collar stay having a perforation, and an arcuate member extending through the perforation.
It was, strangely, a 102 rejection--not 103 for obviousness. So how did the Examiner say that the keyholder met the claimed limitation of "a collar stay having a perforation"? Because "a key is capable of functioning as a collar stay. For example, a long key having a small head portion such as taught by [other prior art] can be used as a collar stay."
This led to what may be the greatest piece of evidence ever submitted to the PTO: a Rule 132 declaration by Bier with this exhibit as support that "A key is not a collar stay," and that using a key as such would damage a shirt's collar.
The BPAI agreed last November:
We acknowledge the Examiner’s argument that a key 9 is considered a collar stay, since a key is capable of functioning as a collar stay. The first part of the Examiner’s statement is simply erroneous. A key is not a collar stay. And the Examiner is in error for “considering” it so. The second premise is that a key is capable of functioning as a collar stay. This statement is amenable to proof, but the Examiner, who bears the burden of establishing anticipation by a preponderance of the evidence, has offered no proof for this assertion. Inasmuch as this assertion has been challenged on the record by the Appellants, it is incumbent on the part of the Examiner to offer more than a bare assertion that this is so. Since the Examiner has merely repeated his argument in more detail at page 11, we must conclude that this finding is based on speculation.
For their troubles, the patentees were awarded over 1,100 days of patent term extension due to to PTO delays. Congratulations, Josh & Jason.
For the plumber in us all.
U.S. Patent No. 7,574,752 Garment with Integral faux thong extension and associated method Inventor: Patrick Walters, Long Beach, CA 9. A method for covering an exposed portion of a user buttock crevice,
said method comprising the steps of: Commentary: No Accelerated Examination needed here. Just a very helpful examiner (female, if that matters) with some 112 issues. Thirteen months later, voila. Interesting that it was filed with a non-publication request; I'd think the European or South American market might be strong for this invention. And the first eight claims are apparatus claims, as you might expect. Patent of the week? More like Patent of the Rear. (Commenters, you may now insert your own jokes...)
a. providing a leg wear having a
waist line formed along a top-most edge thereof, said leg wear
including a lower torso buttocks
covering garment provided with a crotch and leg portions respectively;
b. providing and disposing a faux underwear garment along an interior
surface of said leg wear such that a bottom-most end of said faux
underwear garment is attached to said leg wear
at a location below said waist line of said leg wear while a top-most
end of said faux underwear garment is exposed above said waist line of
said leg wear, said faux underwear garment being selected from a group
including a faux g-string and a faux thong
c. providing and engaging a first cord with said top-most
end of said faux underwear garment such that a posterior section of
said first cord remains abutted to said top-most end of said faux
underwear garment, said first cord contiguously
extending adjacent to an entire circumference of said waist line of
said leg wear;
d. adapting said leg wear to partially cover a user
buttock in such a manner that said waist line of said leg wear is
selectively situated below the exposed end of the
user buttock crevice during use thereof; and
e. automatically adapting
said faux underwear garment between stretched and equilibrium positions
when said waist line of said leg wear drops below and rises above the
exposed end of the user buttock crevice
respectively such that said faux underwear garment remains continuously
positioned over the exposed end of the user buttock crevice while said
waist line of said leg wear is selectively adapted below the exposed
end of the user buttock crevice
respectively; wherein said posterior section of said first cord remains
abutted to said top-most end of said faux underwear garment as said
faux underwear garment is adapted between the stretched and equilibrium
U.S. Patent No. 7,574,752 Garment with Integral faux thong extension and associated method
Inventor: Patrick Walters, Long Beach, CA
9. A method for covering an exposed portion of a user buttock crevice, said method comprising the steps of:
Commentary: No Accelerated Examination needed here. Just a very helpful examiner (female, if that matters) with some 112 issues. Thirteen months later, voila. Interesting that it was filed with a non-publication request; I'd think the European or South American market might be strong for this invention. And the first eight claims are apparatus claims, as you might expect.
Patent of the week? More like Patent of the Rear. (Commenters, you may now insert your own jokes...)
My 21-month old son loves to sing the song "Cows" from Sandra Boynton's Philadelphia Chickens album. Okay, so he doesn't know all the words. But he certainly knows the one-word chorus, "Cows". And over the last couple weeks, that word has become consistently more loud, pounding, deafening, pervasive, annoying..., to the point where I can't tell if it is on the CD player or just in my head. Over. And over. And over...
So when Landon IP's Blaise Mouttet [cow-] tipped me off to this week's patent, I knew it had to be written up.
Such remarkable cows...
U.S. Patent No.
Method of and an installation for milking an animal having at least two teats
Commentary: Where to start?
One of the patents that came up in my search for last week’s baseball post has quite an interesting story, it turns out…
The only patent that mentions the Washington Nationals is U.S. Patent No. D562,530, “Mascot Suit”:
Look familiar to anyone? It didn’t to me, either.
The Nationals are mentioned because there is an article about their mascot, Screech, which the Examiner found to be a pertinent reference. Frankly, I don’t see the resemblance. There’s also sister design patent, D562,531 (strangely not on GooglePatents), for which Screech apparently wasn’t pertinent.
But that assignee certainly sounded odd, if not vaguely
familiar: Trans-Marine Management Corp. of Tampa. They don’t appear to have a
web page, but it’s easy to see that the company has very politically active
employees, has a Cessna registered in its name, and—a ha!—is (or was) owned by
George Steinbrenner. Yep, the
address is even One Steinbrenner Drive.
In fact, it was Trans-Marine that once signed
Tommy John to a
20-year contract as a bonus to his Yankees deal. (Rumor has it that George Costanza was also moonlighting
there while serving as the Assistant to the Traveling Secretary.)
But why would The Boss want a mascot? After all, everybody knows the Yankees are just one of four MLB teams that don’t have a mascot, as beautifully illustrated the other day by the folks at GOOD.
It couldn’t be a Yankees mascot, could it? And if the traditional, no-names-on-jerseys Yankees were going to have a mascot, would it really be this?
Just a little more Googling and there it is: a reference and picture of this “Yankees mascot” at a recent charity event. In pinstripes. Oh my.
The story gets better. The inventor, Felix Lopez, is Senior VP of the Yankees. And he’s Steinbrenner’s son-in-law. In other words, the 26-time World Series champions, who will pay hundreds of millions of dollars for top talent on the field, won’t hire the best graphics designers in the land to come up with an endearing entertainer to keep fans happy in their overpriced seats as they watch their team struggle to make the playoffs. For that, they turn to family.
Yeah, this mascot is kind of cute. But he’s no San Diego Chicken or Phillie Phanatic. For what the Yanks paid, I'd think they'd have done better getting Dancin’ Homer to do the Baby Elephant Walk on the jumbotron.
I've only started playing my game for the day, and I've determined an early winner:
U.S. Patent No.
Method of playing card games comprising saying the alphabet with words, saying words with words, and saying the alphabet with words while saying words with words
Filed: October 1, 2008
Inventor: Timothy Joiner
1. A method of playing a card game by a plurality of players; comprising
(a) providing a deck of 52 playing cards; each card having an identical identifying design on the back side, wherein 31 of the 52 cards are letter cards having one specific letter from the alphabet marked on the face side such that the five vowels A, E, I, O, and U are marked on two of the cards and each of the other letters of the alphabet is marked on one card, and 21 cards are wild cards, such that 3 cards are marked as a single letter wild card; 15 cards are marked as single letter or multiple letter wild cards and 3 cards are marked as 2 times the same letter or more wild cards;
(b) shuffling and stacking the deck face down into one pile for use by a plurality of players;
(c) a player beginning their turn by removing the top card from the stack of face down cards, flipping it over face up and setting it down in a face up pile;
(d) when the face up card is one of the 31 letter cards the player must enunciate a word that pronounces the letter on the face up card as it is pronounced as an alphabet letter such that the player says an alphabet letter while saying a word;
(e) when the face up card is one of the 21 wild cards the player must enunciate a word the pronounces a letter as an alphabet letter per a specific requirement of the wild card;
(f) awarding points to the player upon successful enunciation of a word as follows: one point for the 31 lettered cards, one point for the 3 single letter wild cards; one point for each letter pronounced as an alphabet letter for the 15 single or multiple letter wild cards; two points for the first time plus one point for each additional time the same letter is pronounced as an alphabet letter for the 3 wild cards marked as 2 times the same letter or more;
(g) repeating steps (c)-(f) for each player in turn until all the cards in the face down pile have been played; and
(h) adding the total points of each player to determine a winner.
Commentary: See the spec for play examples. In theory, I have no problem with this claim from a Bilski perspective. (But see Homer J., "In theory, communism works. In theory....") There's no question the method is tied to the cards. And the cards are clearly "particular", i.e., they aren't "general purpose" cards, if that even matters. On the other hand, I can take a Sharpie to my old deck of Bicycles to mark them up as recited in step a). Perhaps throwing in that step would make this a clean transformation prong case. Maybe I'll try that tonight and play this with my kids -- modifying the game, of course, so as not to infringe. On the other hand, are the cards really necessary to play this? Why not have one player yell out a letter to challenge an opponent? Wouldn't that make using the cards insignificant post-solution activity? In theory...
The serious question, of course, is--if there was not a 101 problem before--does a 101 problem arise by encoding this game in software so that the "card" is virtual and flashes on the screen of a home computer (which also keeps track of score)? Your choices:
Congratulations to Cynthia Flanagan, a patent agent at Syracuse’s Burr & Brown firm! As an entry for last week's contest, Cynthia submitted U.S. Patent No. 6,477,533, “Systems and methods of maintaining client relationships”, assigned to Travel Services International, Inc. Apparently forty-one people contributed to the conception of these methods of assigning travel agents to cruise customers.
More impressive than this patent's large number of contributors, however, was Cynthia’s methodology for finding it. Since the PTO search engine is a bit primitive, Cynthia got creative. She noted that a large percentage of inventors are listed with middle initials, and that those middle initials are searchable as distinct words within the “Inventor” field. Try searching “in/z” today and you’ll get 4,177 patents with inventors "___ Z. ___".
So, if you are looking for a patent with lots of inventors, try a lot of middle initials, say in/(a and b and c and d). That gives a fair number of candidates to then look at manually. It's not scientific -- you need to include the right combo of initials, and there may be a patent out there with a hundred inventors who don't have middle names -- but it's a great heuristic approach.
Using Cynthia’s technique, I was able to find fairly quickly
a pair of patents with even more inventors. 51 to be exact. And these patents belong to Microsoft for its .NET platform application program interface. They are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,013,469 and
7,017,162. Can you imagine the inventor disclosure
meetings? And if these ever are
litigated, whose deposition is taken? Wow.
But since I’m not eligible for the contest, a gift certificate for Baskin-Robbins is on its way out to Cynthia. Thanks to everyone who entered!