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WTF patents

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by Walter Harley, Jan 12, 2006.

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  1. I'm frustrated by patents that seem oblivious to prior art. Consider US
    patent application 20050218880 (, "Apparatus for
    powering an electronic musical instrument".

    I cannot figure out what this guy thinks he is patenting, that is not
    already prior art (consider in particular the "phantom power" scheme for
    microphones, and the fact that Alembic basses in the 1970s used external
    power sources). The only part of this that *might* be novel is the idea of
    having an on-board rechargeable energy source, and recharging it by plugging
    a power adapter into the signal jack.

    But IANAL.

    Anyone else got an opinion as to whether this patent (application) is
    actually defensible?

    And, is there any way for a member of the general public (me) to weigh in
    with prior art on a patent application, before it's granted?

    FWIW, the application was filed March 31 2005, and the device was publicly
    demonstrated by the "inventor" at the NAMM show in January 2005. I thought
    public disclosure before a patent application invalidated it?? Maybe I'm
    confused about that.
  2. Robert Baer

    Robert Baer Guest

    Hell, that is nothing.
    In my searches for prior art related to my patents, i saw a number of
    "patents" that were obvious to those *not* skilled in the art!
    And if one wants to get really nasty, what about almost all of the
    electronic circuit patents centered around transistors that were nothing
    more that slightly modified tube circuits...
  3. Tim Wescott

    Tim Wescott Guest

    I think the patent process is out of hand.

    To a great extent the patent office seems to err on the side of
    accepting the patent -- this possibly makes sense in that they would get
    more complaints about being picky than about being accepting.
    Apparently the original revision of patent law was "accept anything, let
    the courts decide". Ultimately, it still means nothing until you've run
    it through a court of law.

    The easy acceptance of patents means that big companies can shut down
    smaller ones even if the patents in question aren't valid. But it also
    means that little a**holes can file nuisance lawsuits, so maybe it
    balances out. I really don't know if the current environment is really
    suppressing innovation, or if it's turbo charging it by forcing people
    to be _really_ clever.

    In the US you have a year after public disclosure to file. January to
    March is nothing. In Europe and other places you have to file before
    you disclose.
  4. Paul Burke

    Paul Burke Guest

    Sadly I'm not allowed to reveal much, but I do know that one American
    company has patented putting an Ethernet cable down one particular
    configuration of tubes and joints. And uses this patent aggressively
    against competitors.

    Paul Burke
  5. Look at is this way:

    The US patent system is a wellfare scheme designed by lawyers for lawyers -
    then it is rather obvious what is going on.

    Unfortunatly, the odds are that the EU will adopt it like the did with DMCA.
    It *does* around here (Europe) - "publication" also covers black-box
    The whole mess is going to collapse eventually. But first it has to get
  6. Paul Burke wrote...
    This is public information, let's name names, please.
  7. Basically yes, making it public before the
    application invalidates it.
    Having been granted a patent means the application
    fulfilled some formal requirements. The content
    is not regarded. A patent is only valid until
    it is defeated.

  8. In the US there is a grace period of one year in which to file after
    public disclosure, but merely announcing the existence of the
    invention or demonstrating it does not necessarily constitute "public
    disclosure"-- you pretty much have to spill the beans on *how* it
    works, not just what it does. Offering it for sale has the same effect
    as public disclosure in the US. In Europe disclosure is a bar to
    patent. standard disclaimers: AFAIUI. IANAPL.
    Or until it times out.

    Best regards,
    Spehro Pefhany
  9. Clark

    Clark Guest

    Another thing is the Patents do not have to work, and in many cases some
    could never work.
  10. IIRC, allegedly perpetual motion machines are an exception to that
    rule, by official policy anyway, for the USPTO.

    Best regards,
    Spehro Pefhany
  11. Which is a shame, because certainly if we could use ingenuity in any area,
    that's the one ;-)
  12. No, a patent must be "workable", and include a "preferred
    embodiment (one you believe is the best at the time of filing).
    Though the meaning of "workable" is often stretched.
    When physical laws are violated the USPTO requires a bit more
    "proof" of workability. In the case of anything smelling of
    perpetual motion, they want a working model. ;-)
  13. Considering that the USPTO is a *profit* center for the US
    government, one would expect a high acceptance rate.
    It doesn't take a court to use patents as threats. The cost of
    litigation is often higher than the worth (or cost of license).
    There are proposals to make the process better. AIUI there is a
    push to have peer input into patents and prior art before issue:

    The disclosure bar in the US is one year from "commercial gain".
    It doesn't have to even be "disclosed" for the clock to start
    ticking. If the device (or whatever) is used in a product that is
    offered for sale, the clock starts, even though you haven't told
    anyone the device exists.
  14. Guest

    No Clark, that's not right. Utility patents -- the most common
    patents -- must have *utility*. That is, they must perform some useful
    function, however obscure that function might be.

    Showing that something cannot or does not work, and cannot be made to
    work with "reasonable" experimentation by someone "skilled in the art"
    is grounds for invalidating a patent.

    James Arthur -- IANAL
  15. If it doesn't work, why would you need to invalidate the patent?
  16. The claims are in force until the patent is invalidated. The
    holder of the patent is assumed to be correct until the courts find
  17. Guest

    Walter, the claims specify what the guy's *trying* to patent, though
    this doesn't mean he'll get those claims granted.

    U.S. applications are now published specifically as a way of
    soliciting public comment. I'm not sure how you do it, but this is
    your opportunity to provide the Patent Office with examples of what you
    feel are examples of relevant prior art.
    AFAICT from very quickly skimming it, this is phantom power as for
    microphones, but applied to the instruments themselves. Another
    variation is a little external box that supplies the battery,
    presumably so the instrument can be interfaced to a non-phantom

    Me neither.
    Dunno. Have musical instruments themselves used phantom power
    techniques? That's your bailiwick, not mine. And if hasn't been done,
    wouldn't it be obvious to apply the microphone-powering techniques to
    the instruments? And if it's so obvious, why hasn't it been done, if
    it hasn't? Those are the arguments to consider.
    No, as others have corrected said, applications must be filed no
    later than a year after public demonstration, disclosure, or offering
    for sale. The demonstration you cite does not preclude or conflict
    with filing.

    Secondly, the effective filing date was April 1, 2004, the date the
    guy filed a Provisional Patent Application, as recited in [0001] of the
    specification section.

  18. Guest

    Yes, exactly. Patents are sometimes granted, then their defects
    discovered later. The patent, then, is technically invalid, but not
    until so proven, formally, with proper proceedings.

    One such proceeding is for a member of the public to request a
    "re-examination" of the offending patent in light of whatever new
    information he wishes to have considered, along with said citizen
    fronting a hefty fee, as the contesting party is expected to foot the

  19. Ian Bell

    Ian Bell Guest

    If you read it carefully you will see he is patenting the specific case
    where with one connector plugged in you get the battery working the
    electronics and producing and output signal and where with different
    connector plugged in you get power routed to the battery to charge it.

    That is a very specific and hence narrowly applicable patent made worse by
    the fact it applies only to musical instruments.

    Quite a neat idea. Has possibly been done before but it definitely is NOT
    the same as phantom power.

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