What do Kevin Spacey, Abraham Lincoln, Jamie Lee Curtis and Michael Jackson all have in common? Besides being famous, they all have patents.
Kevin Spacey and his producing partner, film producer Dana Brunetti filed a patent application on March 14, 2013 as co-inventors titled “Systems and methods for implementing email delivery”. U.S. Patent No. 9,306,887 was awarded to them on April 5, 2016. Their invention relates to screening and managing non-authorized emails. Emails are analyzed by an email server which decides whether the email is approved to be sent to the intended recipient.
This is both Spacey’s and Brunetti’s first patent but even without this latest achievement, each man has a very impressive curriculum vitae.
Dana Brunetti grew up in Covington, Virginia, and before making it big in Hollywood, had careers in both the U.S. Coast Guard and on Wall Street with a start-up company called Omnipoint. Brunetti rose through the ranks at Omnipoint and grew it to 2,000 people. Enter Kevin Spacey. The two met at a friend’s dinner party in 1997 and Spacey told Brunetti that he needed an assistant. Not wanting a life-long career on Wall Street, Brunetti accepted the job offer. Brunetti worked with Spacey on three movies, including American Beauty, and after, felt it was time for him to leave. Spacey at the time had a small production company called Trigger Street and offered Brunetti the head position. Brunetti accepted and has been making award winning movies and series, like 21, The Social Network, Captain Phillips, 50 Shades of Grey and House of Cards, ever since.
Kevin Spacey was born in South Orange, New Jersey and has lived in the UK since 2003. Most people know him for being a screen and stage actor, but he is also a film director, producer, screenwriter and singer. His career began in the 1980’s and he won his first Academy Award for the crime thriller The Usual Suspects in 1996. Spacey has received over 50 accolades since then including Emmy, Grammy, Screen Actors Guild, Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, Tony, and Academy Awards.
Having such successful careers in Hollywood was the impetus of the idea behind their invention. As one can imagine, the twosome was inundated with unsolicited emails from people who mistakenly got their email addresses, and could easily contact them at any time. Frustrated by consistently having to change his email address when, for example, someone would not blind carbon copy his name in an email chain leaving his address exposed, Spacey wanted protection. Brunetti describes the invention as a “digital doorman with a velvet rope”, allowing only those emails that are recognized, on a “whitelist”, or have a specifically generated access code, like a PIN, as acceptable to be received by the recipient. Those that are not accepted are sent a message saying the sender was not approved. The filtered emails can then be further organized by different levels of importance determined by the receiver, like date received or sender’s name which define the order of the email queue.
The patent has 20 claims which go into detail of how the invention works. First, there is an email system, which is configured to do tasks like receive, obtain, store and retrieve emails using any suitable protocols, hardware and software. There is also an email filter, which analyzes incoming emails and determines whether the received emails are to be delivered to an inbox, to be sent to one or more folders, to be forwarded to one or more other email addresses, to be blocked and/or to be sent to a spam folder. This process can be achieved by analyzing the structure and/or content of the email message, including reviewing for and analyzing any of the IP Addresses associated with the email, the email address of the sender, or one or more alphanumeric codes located within the email address. A determination may then be made whether a particular email is associated or from an address that is authorized and/or “whitelisted”. For example, the email filter may access a “whitelist” directory associated with the recipient user and conclude whether a received email is authorized by reviewing one or more of the incoming email’s IP address, email address, alphanumeric codes, etc., and comparing it against the “whitelist” directory to see if it is associated with a “whitelisted” entry. Those addresses on the “whitelist” are allowed to have future messages delivered to the recipient user.
A “whitelist manager” would allow the user to select which senders were pre-approved by importing the recipient user’s personal whitelist directory, allowing the user to specify addresses and/or generating a code, like a PIN or password, which is given to a sender by the user to use when transmitting the message.
Those messages that are not whitelisted are regulated by the “queue manager” where they may either be blocked and/or numbered and placed in a queue based on when they were received by the email system (or by any other factor). Multiple options are available for the fate of the rejected emails after they have been numbered by the queue manager. One possibility is that they are later forwarded to a folder or the recipient user’s inbox at a designated time, like every Tuesday at 3pm, or by a FIFO (first in, first out) scheme. Another option is that a set number of emails, like the top 10% highest ranked emails may be forwarded at a predetermined time. Whatever forwarding method is used, the remaining messages are then adjusted along the queue.
However, this is not the end of the story. The sender may still be able to affect the position of their message in the queue. To know the position of the email in the queue, the whitelist manager may be configured to send a notification (by email, text, voicemail etc.) to the user which may look something like this:
“We received an email sent from your email address on October 1, 2016 at 10:39 AM. Since neither you nor your email address has been authorized for direct delivery to this email user, your email has been placed in a queue.
You are currently #345 in the queue. Your email will be delivered to intended recipient after the earlier queued emails have been delivered. If you are interested in advancing your order in the queue, please visit our website at www.[emailwebsite].com. Thank you.”
Then, the email system may provide an interface for the sender to provide something – monetary consideration, registration with the email system, personal information – in exchange for advancing the sent email in the queue. The level of consideration may determine how far the email is advanced in the queue. Further notifications may be used to let the sender know the new queue number or that the previously sent email was forwarded and delivered to the intended recipient.
Aside from being used by Hollywood moguls, this email delivery system has many other potential applications. Businesses, attorneys, managers and the like would be able to manage the volume of unsolicited emails they receive. Regular citizens can also take advantage of the systems benefits because the method also accounts for spam and virus infected communications, which may be automatically deleted or forwarded to a predetermined folder, effectively eliminating both.
While it does not appear that the duo has applied for any other patents, they continue to work together on other projects, including the hit series House of Cards on Netflix. Their production company Trigger Street also signed a deal in 2015 with Fox 21 for a project called The Resident based on a novel by Kate Anderson Brower. It will be a political drama exploring the relationships between White House residence staff and various first families covering several administrations. Brunetti and Spacey will be joined by Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly as co-executive producers. No matter what else is in their future, it is clear that these two are truly an impressive creative entity.
Celebrity Patent Fun Facts
Abraham Lincoln: U.S. Patent No. 6,469, “Buoying Vessels over Shoals” (1849). The invention lifts boats over shoals and obstructions in a river. He is the only president to receive a patent himself.
Jaime Lee Curtis: U.S. Patent No. 4,753,647, “Infant Garment” (1988). She created a disposable infant garment which takes the form of a diaper including, on its outer side, a sealed, but openable, moisture-proof pocket which contains one or more clean-up wipers.
Michael Jackson: U.S. Patent No. 5,255,452, “Method and means for creating anti-gravity illusion” (1993). Moon shoes, what else!
Thomas Edison had the most patents in history with 2,332 patents worldwide and 1,093 U.S. patents until 2003, when he was surpassed by Japanese inventor Shunpei Yamazaki. However, since 2008, the title of most prolific inventor belongs to Kia Silverbrook of Australia with almost 5,000 granted patents.
Albert Einstein worked at the Swiss Patent Office (Federal Institute of Intellectual Property) and was granted about 50 patents over his lifetime. One of note was his “Einstein refrigerator,” which has no moving parts, operates at a constant pressure and requires only a heat source to operate.