It's been over two weeks since my last post -- a long hiatus for 12:01. The lag is partly attributable to workplace demands and converging deadlines. While blogging is fun and often related to my work, it doesn't extinguish client fires. And, of course, it's not billable. Such is the life of the lawyer-blogger.
But another factor in my delay is the passing of several Jewish holidays in recent weeks. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur get plenty of press. Less so, the holiday ending this weekend: Sukkot (aka "Feast of Tabernacles"). And, of importance to this blog, Sukkot is the holiday for Jewish patent attorneys.
Why? Because Jewish law (halacha) requires that one build a temporary dwelling -- a sukkah -- for the holiday of Sukkot. And it's not just "custom" to build some general kind of hut: there are particular requirements of what constitutes a legal sukkah: height, roof materials, walls, etc. An entire chapter of a Babylonian Talmud tractate is devoted to the subject.
While there are definite rules for a kosher sukkah, there is also a tremendous amount of creative space in which to satisfy those rules. Thus, Sukkot gives the opportunity to design and build -- and that means the opportunity to innovate. For example, my sukkah is recessed in a garden level patio, with a frame made of 2 inch PVC pipe (inspired by Tinkertoys), and each year I try to make one improvement, Jepson style. I've also heard of more than one geodesic dome sukkah. And of course, there are a variety of pre-fab sukkah kits.
I've noted past examples of religiously oriented patents. But most of those patents are tangential to the performance of a ritual, and thus do not claim aspects central to the ritual act itself (e.g., the Rakat counter, the Christmas tree stand (issued this week), or the novelty Shofar alarm clock). But when the required ritual is actually to BUILD a structure... well, for me it's like being commanded to play with Legos.
There are at least seven issued patents on inventions contemplating embodiments clearly relating to a sukkah:
7,017,311 Panel for modular construction
6,024,153 Retractable Sukkah awning
5,884,647 Folding structure
4,677,797 Knockdown housing structure
4,676,039 Quick assembly and knockdown building structure
4,584,801 Temporary building structure
Two others are intriguing because on their face they appear to be directed to self-erecting tents: 5,645,096 and 5,407,291. But these patents mark the instructions and website for a "popup" sukkah. Takes a matter of seconds to assemble. Cool.
As with any patent for religious rituals, you have to question just how big the market really is, and if it is worthwhile to pursue patent protection. But for bragging rights in the synagogue, it's tough to beat "My sukkah is patented -- is yours?"