Near Miss Patents: Looking back at almost milestone innovations

By Steve Brachmann
April 15, 2015

Milestone concept.As many of our regular readers will be aware, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently issued its 9,000,000th (nine-millionth) patent. U.S. Patent No. 9000000, entitled Windshield Washer Conditioner, was issued to WiperFill Holdings, LLC of Jupiter, FL, on Tuesday, April 7th. It protects a system that collects and treats rainwater for replenishing a vehicle’s windshield wiper fluid. As Gene Quinn pointed out in a recent article here on IPWatchdog, it took less than 3 years and 8 months to reach this milestone after the last million was reached when U.S. Patent No. 8000000, titled Visual Prosthesis, issued on August 16th, 2011.

People tend to focus on these nice, round numbers when looking at significant points in history. Here, however, we want to have a little fun with numbers (like we had in our recent piece about Pi Day) and stick up for the little guy in this conversation, the “coulda been a contenders” or your near-misses, however you choose to view them. So today, we thought we’d take a look back at some of the mile markers that we’ve passed on the road of innovation and feature some technologies largely lost to the annals of time, simply because their issue number was off by one.


Near-Misses for Nine-Million on April 7th, 2015 

As we already mentioned, U.S. Patent No. 9000000 was issued on April 7th to protect a windshield wiper fluid replenishment system that collects and recycles rainwater. Oddly, this is a pretty fitting milestone patent during a year in which we’re noticing a great deal of activity in automotive innovations.

Also of interest was the fact that the two patents sandwiching the 9,000,000th U.S. patent were two pharmaceutical products, an area of innovation that we’ve also been focusing on heavily in recent days. U.S. Patent No. 9000001, entitled Organic Compounds, was issued Intra-Cellular Therapies of New York City and claims novel compounds to be used as pharmaceutical medications for patients with neurological disorders by inhibiting phosphodiesterase-1 (PDE1). The inhibition of PDE1 can regulate the transmission of dopamine in a way that is beneficial for patients with Parkinson’s disease or depression. Novel treatments for cancer were also very Btk inhibitorsnearly the most recent million patent milestone as our readers can see in U.S. Patent No. 8999999, which is titled Use of Inhibitors of Bruton’s Tyrosine Kinase (Btk). The patent, issued to Pharmacyclics, Inc. of Sunnyvale, CA, protects a method for treating relapsed or refractory chronic or small lymphocytic leukemia in an individual by administering one oral dose of a Bruton’s tyrosine kinase inhibitor, the dose amount ranging from about 280 milligrams to about 840 milligrams. This innovative treatment can mobilize a plurality of cells from a blood-borne cancer and determine a second regimen of cancer treatment to administer to the patient based upon cellular analysis.



The Almost Eight-Millions Issued on August 16th, 2011

It seems to have been a pretty quiet day on the news front on the day that the eight-millionth patent was issued by the USPTO back in 2011. Perhaps the most major news story around that time was the tragic collapse of a stage at the Indiana State Fair that injured dozens and killed a total of seven people a few days earlier. August 16th, 2011, was also the day that students in Joplin, MO, returned to school months after a massive tornado ripped through the city and destroyed nearly 8,000 homes and other buildings.

amplified transmissionU.S. Patent No. 8000000 protects a technology that sounds pretty befitting of a milestone patent, a visual prosthesis designed to stimulate retinal tissues electrically so as to produce sight in the blind. Directly preceding this patent was an intriguing development in fiber optics communication networks explained within U.S. Patent No. 7999999, titled Article Comprising a Multichannel Optical Amplified Transmission System with Functional Upgrade Capabilities and Universal Modules. Issued to Unopsys, LLC of Flemington, NJ, it claims a network node for transmitting signals from an input fiber span operating over a particular bandwidth; the invention also involves a universal inline functional module for operation with nonzero average gain over a bandwidth. The invention enables an alternative method for designing an optically amplified system requiring fewer unique modules and amplifiers by simplifying the use of erbium-doped fiber amplifiers (EDFAs). U.S. Patent No. 8000001, entitled Method of Forming Polymeric Microassay Support, was assigned to Swedish medical product manufacturer Amic AB. It protects a method of forming a polymeric microarray support for an optical assay arrangement that includes an optical means for the detection of light emitted from the support. The resulting microarray support includes a number of microfeatures such as grooves or metallic reflective layers that improve the signal-to-noise ratio, achieving an improved performance for optical assays.


Valentine’s Day 2006 Brings Heartache to HP, Research in Motion

Now, we don’t really think that either Hewlett-Packard or Research in Motion Limited were heartbroken on Valentine’s Day 2006, but we did find it interesting that this particular holiday saw the issuance of U.S. Patent No. 7000000, titled Polysaccharide Fibers. Assigned to DuPont of Wilmington, DE, it protected a “cotton-like” substance that has desirable biodegradability and low cost for textile applications.

More effective methods of partitioning data libraries in storage area networks (SANs) is the focus of U.S. Patent No. 6999999, entitled System and Method for Securing Fiber Channel Drive Access in a Partitioned Data Library. This HP patent claimed a SAN-associated data library partitioning system with a plurality of storage slot elements and a plurality of data transfer elements which are each assigned to a partition and transfer data to and from the storage media. This innovation addressed issues associated with conventional data library partitioning methods which prevented customers of certain storage service providers (SSPs) from being able bookmark beaconto run backup software within the SSP environment. Research in Motion’s near-milestone technology is reflected by U.S. Patent No. 7000001, which is titled Bookmark Beacon System and Method. The electronic messaging system that it protected included a computer network, a wireless network enabling a wireless device to connect to the computer network and a bookmark beacon that transmits a bookmark data packet to the wireless device. The bookmark beacon transmits data such as an IP address or a uniform resource locator (URL) to enable device-to-device communication without the use of a Bluetooth interface or other wireless-enabled equipment which would add to the device’s manufacturing cost.


Close Calls for Six Million Still Got to Party Like It Was 1999

December 7th, 1999 was the date of issue for U.S. Patent No. 6000000, titled Extendible Method and Apparatus for Synchronizing Multiple Files on Two Different Computer Systems. The patent, assigned to 3Com Corporation of Santa Clara, CA, protected a system of synchronizing data between a personal computer system and a handheld computer system, the synchronizing system capable of sharing data between a variety of applications at the push of a button. This date in technology history is also somewhat momentous because of the lawsuit filed by the Recording Industry Association of America against Napster for allowing free access to copyrighted music.

communication controlJust missing the boat on the lower end of this milestone was U.S. Patent No. 5999999, issued jointly to three Hitachi subsidiaries under the title Communication Control Device and a Communication System Using the Same. The patent, like the 3Com patent above, is directed at a data communication system designed to transfer a plurality of data items to and from external devices. This particular data communication system is configured so that data is transferred with less circuitry required, reducing the overall size of the system. A computing structure which is optimized for handling requests related to three-dimensional image display is at the center of U.S. Patent No. 6000001, entitled Multiple Priority Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) Request Queue and issued to Micron Electronics of Nampa, ID. The patent claimed a computer-implemented method of providing a queue structure for storing both high-priority and low-priority memory access requests. The system is optimized for use with handling requests for accelerated graphics port operations for 3D graphic displays generated by peripheral computing equipment.



Five Million Patents Eclipsed on March 19th, 1991

The USPTO passed the five million patents mark on March 19th of 1991 with the issue of U.S. Patent No. 5000000, titled Ethanol Production by Escherichia Coli Strains Co-Expressing Zymomonas PDC and ADH Genes. Issued to the University of Florida, based in Gainesville, it protected a genetically modified strain of E. coli which was useful for the production of ethanol. Although this is an important date in the history of American innovation, it may be remembered best by most of our readers for a series of news items related to sports. On this day, the Kansas City Royals released Bo Jackson after his career-ending hip injury. The city of Phoenix also lost its bid to host the 1993 NFL Super Bowl on this date after the state declined to make Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a paid state holiday. Hockey fans may be interested to note that this is also the day that St. Lous Blues forward Brett Hull became the third NHL player ever to score 80 goals in one season.

exhaust gas controlGoing back to the day’s near-milestone patents, we were intrigued to note that both related in some way to motor technologies. An exhaust control device for motorcycles designed to improve both performance and cornering ability is described by U.S. Patent No. 4999999, issued under the title Exhaust Gas Control Device for Motorcycles. Issued to Yamaha of Shingai, Japan, it protected an exhaust control device for an internal combustion engine with a plurality of exhaust pipes extending from exhaust ports and designed to be positioned beneath the engine transmission assembly of a motorcycle, offering a compact configuration. Motorcycle performance is also improved through the addition of an exhaust control valve for controlling the reflection of exhaust pulses back to the exhaust port. Improvements to hydraulic motors are found outlined within U.S. Patent No. 5000001, titled Dual Load-Sensing Passage Adjustable Relief Valves for Hydraulic Motor Control. This patent was issued to Danfoss, A/s of Nordborg, Denmark. It disclosed a control apparatus for controlling fluid flow between a pump, a container and a two-way motor. The control apparatus included a control valve which is slidable between multiple positions and multiple over-pressure valves, allowing for adjustments to hydraulic motor operation for a greater range of application.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a freelance journalist located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He writes about technology and innovation. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun,,, Motley Fool and Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients and is available for research projects and freelance work.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of Read more.

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