Patent Trivia

On this date in 1790, the very first U.S. patent was granted to Samuel Hopkins on a process for manufacturing potash. Potash can be any material containing potassium. However, potash is most commonly potassium carbonate derived from wood ashes. The term arises from the process of extracting lye from wood ashes in iron pots. Potash can be used in glass making:

Glass made with potash becomes rigid more quickly and becomes harder and more brilliant than soda glass.

Segway Inventor to speak at Inventors Conference

The USPTO has announced that

Dean Kamen, one of the world’s best known and most successful inventors, will be the keynote speaker at the opening session of the USPTO’s annual Independent Inventors Conference in Concord, N.H. on Friday, August 20.

Dean Kamen is Chairman of Segway LLC, an inventor and a physicist. “His inventions include a portable dialysis machine and the Segway™ Human Transporter.”

Registration is available online.

Wheelchair Transfer Device


Harry and Kathleen Cerne of Pittburg Kansas have recently been awarded a patent for their wheelchair transfer device. The device is designed to be secured to the wheelchair at more than one location in order to minimize the risk of slippage during use. In addition, the transfer device is operable with many different types of wheelchairs and is fairly inexpensive to construct. (U.S. Patent 6,748,612)

Bocce Weekend Update

In 1966 J.M. Boulanger patented the rolling-ball game shown above. (U.S. Patent 3,231,278). Boulanger’s game is very similar to Bocce. According to the rules:

Bocce originated in Italy and is one of the oldest of all lawn bowling games. It is now gaining popularity in the United States since it can be played by people of all ages and on a great variety of surfaces. Bocce is played between two players or two teams of up to four players on a team. Bocce is played with 8 large balls, 4 of one color, 4 of another color and one small target ball called the “Jack,” or “Pallino.” Players seek to place their Bocce Balls nearer to the target jack than their opponent or displace the opponent’s Bocce Ball and so improve the position of their Bocce Ball in relation to the Jack, (Pallino). Bocce can be played in a variety of ways using various rules. LINK.

Disc Golf Patents

In 1977 Ed Headrick patented this basket-target for disc (Frisbee) golf. (U.S. Patent 4,039,189) (PDF). After the patent had expired, Headrick’s company (DGA) sued Champion Disc for trade dress infringement. The district court threw out the case, finding that the patented design was functional and thus could not retain trade dress protection. The holding was affirmed by Disc Golf Assoc., Inc. v. Champion Discs, Inc., 158 F.3d 1002 (9th Cir. 1998).

In addition to this patent, “Steady” Ed invented the modern Frisbee and the game of disc golf! Before he died in 2002, he made this remark.

“I felt the Frisbee had some kind of a spirit involved. It’s not just like playing catch with a ball. It’s the beautiful flight.”

Find courses in your area. (Unfortunately for me, there are no courses in the city of Chicago).

Transcript of on line PTO help session

The USPTO has begun to hold regular on line “chat” sessions where independent inventors can ask questions. Sample Q&A:

Independent Inventor: In a utility patent, are you only granted protection for your claims?

USPTO Expert: Claims define your legal protection.

Independent Inventor: Is there such a thing as a Business Method Patent?

USPTO Expert: It is a utility patent. Utility patent applications may be filed for business methods. For additional information go here

Independent Inventor: Can applicants call in a speak with the examiner directly?

USPTO Expert: Yes, this is called an “interview” and is generally conducted after the first Office action has been mailed. Please see MPEP 713 for a detailed explanation of interview practice look here.

(Session Transcript) matchmaker patent

What’s love but a coupling satisfaction predictor? Eharmony recently received a patent on its matchmaking methodology. (U.S. Patent No. 6,735,568).

Claim 1 of the patent deacribes a method with four steps:

(i) generating, from empirical data, a number of factors … relevant to relationship satisfaction;
(ii) approximating the satisfaction that a user … has in the relationships that the user forms with others;
(iii) identifying … candidates for a relationship with the user by [using] the approximated satisfaction and one or more of the factors; and
(iv) approximating the satisfaction that the user will have in a relationship with a particular candidate.

(Related AP Story by Rachel Konrad).

Arnold O. Beckman

Arnold O. Beckman, inventor of the pH meter, died recently at age 104.

Beckman, a resident of Corona Del Mar, Calif., was born the son of a blacksmith on April 10, 1900 in Cullom, Ill., and became the friend of world leaders. Of all his scientific innovations, Beckman was perhaps best known for inventing the pH meter, an instrument that changed an industry and served as the foundation for the company that still bears his name. (Link)

Wood Panel Clamp Inventor

Lawrence Devers from Pittsburg, Kansas (my hometown) has recently patented a new hand-operated wood panel clamping tool. (U.S. Patent No. 6,726,192).

Wood panels for cabinet doors are typically constructed from a number of boards that are glued together edge-to-edge to form the complete panel. The panel may then be sanded or planed flat and milled out or routered to produce a design on the front face of the panel. Small cabinet-making shops typically lack a good way of forcing the boards into flat alignment with one another and holding them in such alignment while the panel is being squeezed from the sides by pipe clamps or the like until adhesive between edges of the boards sets up. Typically, cabinetmakers may have to use mallets to pound the boards into place while they adjust and readjust the pipe clamps at various locations along the length of the boards. It can be a slow, tedious, inexact, and sometimes frustrating procedure.

Devers’ invention may work to solve this problem.