To celebrate the 4th of July IPWatchdog wants to take a look back at some of this year’s most intriguing patent applications and issued patents related to fireworks. Brilliant, vibrant displays of reds, whites and blues streaking across the sky are a typical mark of this patriotic celebration of America’s declaration of independence from Great Britain. Although safety is an important issue to consider, people in many states are able to purchase their own fireworks and present displays of all shapes and sizes.
Today, we commemorate some advancements within the firework industry. Two patent applications we feature below have some interesting implications to the future of fireworks. One application would protect a kit that allows inexperienced consumers to easily set a fireworks display which is choreographed to music. Another application would provide more information to potential customers who want to view a firework in action before buying one.
A number of patents issued recently by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office serve to improve safety and manufacturing efficiency for fireworks. One patent provides a new combustion chamber design for the use of propellant materials that create less smoke, while another patent provides launcher reinforcements to protect spectators if a firework is installed improperly. A final patent we feature here protects a system of manufacturing firework cylinders to prevent inconsistencies in design that occur often with current manufacture processes.
The University of California (UC) system is extremely inventive and one of the top patenting Universities in the United States, which is why recently we decided to include them in our Companies We Follow series. See University of California Improves Diagnosis, Treatment of Arthritis. In that article Steve Brachmann explained that UC has seen patent applications publish for a number of interesting technologies, including new diagnostics and treatments for arthritis, as well as methods of making red-blood cell particles, methods of tissue generation and nanowire mesh for solar fuel generators.
Also profiled was an interesting patent application — United States Patent Application 20130127708— titled Cell-phone based wireless and mobile brain-machine interface, which was published on May 27, 2013. In reading the aforementioned article about UC patenting I decided this patent application needed separate treatment because the patent application explains that the innovation could be used to “detect abnormalities and transfer the information through cell-phone network…” Sounds almost like the plot for a science fiction movie! But discussion of uses, movie plots and potential ability to monitor brain activity puts the cart before the horse. Let’s take a step back and look at the technology.
There really is no one-size-fits-all approach to inventing that can be claimed to be a road-map to success that will work in all cases. Notwithstanding, there are certainly a number of things that can and should be done early in the inventing process if an inventor is going to pursue inventing as more than a hobby. I continually preach to inventors the need to follow what I call a “business responsible” approach, which is really just my way of counseling inventors to remember that the goal is to not only invent but to hopefully make some money. Truthfully, the goal is to make more money than what has been invested, which is how the United States Congress defined “success” in the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999. The odds of being successful with one of your inventions increase dramatically if you engage in some simple steps to ensure you are not investing time and money on an invention that has little promise.
Finding reliable numbers on the overall “success rate” of patented inventions is difficult. Most have probably heard that about 2% of patents are commercially viable. I have heard estimates as high as 6%, and much lower than 2%. What makes this tricky is that for companies a single patent is usually a part of a larger patent portfolio, with some of the portfolio being acquired to protect core inventions that will make a lot of money, others being acquired for defensive purposes, and still others being acquired as some kind of morale boost type reward for hard working scientists and engineers who have indeed invented something. Further confounding certainty is the fact that some patents are acquired for licensing purposes, some are licensed in bulk as a part of a portfolio and some are never licensed because they relate to core innovations. Still further, it is possible, if not frequently the case, that multiple patents are acquired to cover core innovations, which means one successful product or service could account for tens, or even hundreds of “successful patents.”
One of the most common questions I receive, dating back to the very beginning of IPWatchdog.com, is whether recipes can be protected by any form of intellectual property. Typically the question presents specifically by a reader asking whether a recipe can be patented, or how once can patent a recipe.
In most cases the typical recipe for a “killer Margarita” or “the best barbeque sauce ever” will not be patentable because they won’t be unique enough, typically failing on the non-obviousness requirement. Of course, the only way to know for sure is to understand how the Patent Office reaches its conclusions relating to what can and cannot be patented. It is certainly possible to obtain a patent on a recipe or food item if there is a unique aspect, perhaps if there is something counter-intuitive or a problem (such as self live or freshness) is being addressed. The trick will be identifying a uniqueness that is not something one would typically think to try.
Monster.com®, the leading job matching engine and flagship brand of Monster Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE: MWW), is now allowing its millions of job seekers to have the opportunity to update their behavioral targeting settings, thus ensuring even more relevant matches. In a move that recognizes users want more transparency and control over how their information is used, Monster is introducing new Career Ad Network ads that contain an Interest Based Ad hyperlink that will prompt seekers to refine their cookie that will be stored on their own computers. According to Monster this will allow for more relevant results. Seekers can also opt out of behavioral targeting by Career Ad Network altogether.
The Career Ad Network uses patent pending behavioral targeting technology to reach candidates where they spend time online and present them with relevant job ads. A search of United States Patent and Trademark Office databases did not reveal any published application that appears to coincide with behavioral targeting technology assigned to Monster. In fact, a search for patents and patent applications owned by Monster Worldwide revealed only two issued patents. U.S. Patent No. 7,836,060, titled “Multi-way nested searching,” and U.S. Patent No. 7,870,117, titled “Constructing a search query to execute a contextual personalized search of a knowledge base.”
On the same day – October 22, 2009 – that an Apple patent application relating to embedded advertisements in an operating system published, the Redmond Giant, Microsoft Corporation, had US Patent Application 20090265604 publish, which seeks to protect a method for displaying a graphical representation of the vitality of a social network. This patent application was filed on April 21, 2008, and is one of many related to social networking that Microsoft has pending presently. A search of Patent Office recordings using FreePatentsOnline.com shows there are 19 issued US patents to Microsoft containing the term “social network” or “social networking” and 279 pending US patent applications filed by Microsoft containing one or the other of those terms. This has become an all to familiar business plan for Microsoft, namely scrambling to catch up with whatever the current hot trend is. Of particular note, Microsoft has in recent years been late to the party with respect to portable MP3 players, only introducing the Zune once the iPod had established industry dominance. Microsoft has also been late to the search engine business, feverishly attempting to catch up to Google; they have come to the video gaming market only to be behind Sony PlayStation; and they have famously struggled with operating system failures, requiring a completely new OS to be unveiled just days ago in order to address the embarrassing failure of Vista.
Steve Jobs, with hair. His official photo from his Apple Bio page.
Earlier today a pending non-provisional utility patent application assigned to Apple Computer published. This application, US Patent Application 20090265214, is titled Advertisement in Operating System, and covers exactly what the title implies; namely an operating system that is capable of displaying a variety of advertisements to users. You are likely to have heard of the first listed inventor, Steven Jobs, the CEO and co-founder of Apple Computer, Inc. While it is difficult to know the purpose and strategy behind a patent application, the attorneys at Fish & Richardson in Minneapolis, Minnesota, who drafted and filed the patent application certainly did a very good job describing just about every conceivable feature and alternative that could coincide with the displaying of advertisements to users of an operating system. It almost sounds funny to call the displaying of advertisements within an operating system “a feature,” particularly given the annoying, ubiquitous and ever more intrusive nature of advertising these days. In any event, the patent application is well written, albeit it written in pre-Bilski style at least with respect to the claims. If Apple does want to pursue this all the way to a patent I suspect there will be plenty of opportunity to do so, and there will certainly be allowable claims that fall within this disclosure.