Friday, August 16, 2019

Oh, patents! OXO® Mixing bowl

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

The iconic OXO® Mixing bowl that will not slip and is easy to grip, was awarded the US utility patent US5419454, titled Mixing bowl.

The OXO® mixing bowl invention arises as an improvement in mixing bowls. In particular,  the invention addresses the issue of kitchen bowls skidding on a work surface when the contents are mixed, or in general when the bowl is tilted for mixing purposes. The handle design of the OXO® mixing bowls  also offers a solution that prevents users from having to insert their thumb or fingers inside the mixing bowl cavity for the purposes of holding or titling the bowls.

Thus, the patent discloses an inner and outer bowl shell, where the outer shell, positioned on the lower outer surface of the inner shell, is made out of relatively high friction material, preventing the bowl from slipping on a contact surface. The relatively high friction material is rubber-like. In particular, the rubber-like material is made of Santoprene. A special crescent-shaped handle, the top part of which forms a single piece with the inner shell,  is designed to facilitate lifting and grasping the bowl, while preventing thumb and fingers from being placed within the bowl. 

The handle is ergonomically designed with a top part that is convex, and a bottom part that is concave. The bottom recessed part is designed to receive fingers whereas the top convex part is designed to receive the user’s thumb. The easy-grasp handle thus facilitates single hand titling and lifting of the bowl, whereas the bi-lateral symmetrical design of the handle enables both left- or right-hand tilting and lifting. The OXO® mixing bowl is further designed with a pouring spout opposite the handle. Finally, the particular position of the handle additionally enables easy nesting of the bowls (see stack of OXO® bowls below).

The abstract of the OXO® mixing bowl invention is included below, together with the patent drawing Figure 1, and the image of a stack of marketed OXO® mixing bowls. Figure 1 shows the mixing bowl 10, with its inner shell 11 made of hard plastic, base 12, rim 17, and outer shell 20, made of rubber-like material on the lower portion of the outer surface 19 of the inner shell 11. The outer shell 20 extends to up to the peripheral shoulder 18 on the upper outer surface 16 of the inner shell 11.  The lower outer surface 19 of the inner shell is recessed to accommodate the outer rubber-like shell 20.

Figure 1 also shows the upper (top view) section 31 of the crescent-shaped handle 30, opposite the spout 29, the top section 31 of the handle 30  forming a single piece with the inner shell 11. The top section of the handle has two substantially convex portions 33 and 34, intersecting on an arcuate ridge 35. The convex portion 34 slopes down, away from the inside peripheral wall 15 of the inner bowl shell 11, whereas the convex portion 33 slopes down, towards the inside peripheral wall 15 of the inner bowl shell 11.

A mixing bowl has a unitary inner shell including a circular base and a peripheral side wall extending upwardly therefrom to an upper peripheral rim defIning the open mouth of the bowl, the side wall having a spout at one side thereof and, diametrically opposite thereto, a laterally outwardly extending two-part handle, including an upper part unitary with the inner shell of the bowl and a lower part fIxed thereto. The handle has a compound upper surface and a recessed lower surface to facilitate grasping. The base and the lower portion of the peripheral side wall have the outer surfaces thereof covered with an outer shell of frictional material. [Abstract US5419454]
OXO® website

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Oh, patents! OXO® Good Grips

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Are there any OXO® utensils in your kitchen? The OXO® tools with their easy-grip rubber handles were borne of the pain of arthritis, even if their use is also more comfortable for people without special needs. According to Wilson (2018), the first OXO® hit product, launched in 1990, a vegetable swivel peeler with easy-grip handle, entered the MOMA permanent design collection in 2004. Almost 30 years later, this invention is still gathering accolades, in particular, the Fast Company 2018 Timeless Design, Innovation by Design, Award.  

Beyond the essential necessity of restoring user comfort and capacity, the OXO® Good Grips product line was inspired by the rubber and fins on bike handlebars as a solution for adapting to any hand-held tool or utensil with a core shank.  Add to this winning design solution, the OXO® brand name that can be read forward, backward or upside down, not to mention what it also connotes when you are signing off messages to your close friends and family, and little else should surprise you.

The OXO® grip invention was first recited in the US utility patent US4974286, titled Universal handle for hand-held implement, granted on December 4, 1990. The patent was subsequently amended and corrected, in the reissue patent USRE34194E, granted on March 16, 1993. The patent discloses an invention in the domain of human factors and ergonomic engineering, in response to the specific needs of individuals who cannot firmly grasp handles, whether the handles are for kettles, ladles, potato peelers, bottle openers, spatulas, pot brushes, cheese knives, garden tools, hammers, screwdrivers or any other tool or utensil. Thus, the invention offers a solution termed universal since it is designed to make all handheld implements and tools graspable by individuals who otherwise cannot grip conventional handles.

In particular, the patent recites a stocky handle with an elliptical crosssection, made of elastomeric material with good insulation and cushioning properties. The stocky handle further comprises a hollow internal cavity designed to “socket” the utensil’s core shank. The elastomeric material further comprises strategically-positioned depressable concave areas with which users can engage with forefinger and thumb, in view of strengthening their grip (see figure 7). The concave depressable areas are filled with an array of evenly spaced flexible fins. The elastomeric material of the handle is made out of, for example, neoprene or synthetic rubber. The wide contours of the handle generally conform to the palm of a hand forming a fist, especially if the user is unable to form a tight fist, due to arthritis or other disability.

The abstract of this invention is included below, together with Figures 2 and 7, extracted from the patent, and an image of the marketed OXO® dish or pot brush. 

Figure 2 depicts an embodiment of the universal handle 10 implemented on a pot brush. The pot brush comprises bristle clusters 11 anchored in a base with an extension arm 13. The extension arm 13 is connected to the head 14 of a core shank 15, socketed inside the universal handle 10. The upper end of the universal handle 10 further comprises opposing concave areas 18A and 18B, each with an anchored array of evenly spaced fins 19 that are very flexible. At the lower end of the universal handle 10, an opening 17 makes it possible to suspend the pot brush.

Figure 7 depicts the universal handle 10 nested in the palm of a user’s hand 20, whose fingers 21, 22 and 23 appear clenched around the handle. The user’s forefinger 24 and thumb 25 are respectively engaged with the concave areas 18A and 18B, each comprising evenly spaced fins 19,  at the upper end of the universal handle. The opening at the lower end of the handle 10, designed suspend the tool, is also visible. 

A universal handle for household and other hand-held implements, the handle being adapted to ergonomically render the implement to which it is applied useable by individuals who have difficulty in firmly grasping a conventional handle. The universal handle, which is fabricated of elastomeric material having good thermal insulation and cushioning properties, includes an internal cavity to socket the core shank of the implement. The handle has an elliptical cross-section, the opposing sides of the handle adjacent its upper end each having a concave depression, in each of which an array of spaced, flexible fins is anchored to define a depressible grip site. When the fingers of a user's hand are clenched about the handle, the internal region of the resultant fist conforms to the form of the handle to provide a good grip thereon, the thumb and forefinger pressing into the grip sites to enhance the user's grip on the handle. [Abstract USRE34194E]
Fast Company Innovation by Design Awards
OXO® (website)
USPTO MREP - 1401 Reissue [R-08.2017]

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Oh, patents! Rubbermaid® Freshworks™

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Keep your typically unrefrigerated produce, such as tomatoes or bananas, fresher, for longer periods of time, on the countertop. Rubbermaid® Freshworks™ containers are designed to regulate the flow of oxygen and CO2, in and out of the container, using a patented venting system in the lid, and by raising the produce from the bottom of the container, on a Crisptray, which promotes airflow and prevents spoilage. The lid filter is also designed to last a lifetime. In other words, it never has to be changed.

Time Magazine-selected as one of the best 50 inventions in 2018, Rubbermaid® Freshworks™ is an invention disclosed in the US patent application  US20190084756A1, titled  Container with gas and/or liquid permeable membrane, filed earlier this year.

The application discloses a container with an upper lid portion and a lower container portion. The lower portion is the receptacle portion for storage of fruits or vegetables. The lower portion comprises legs to elevate the container above the countertop or other surfaces, allowing airflow, and preventing any transfer of heat from the countertop or surface to the fruits or vegetables stored inside the container. The legs are also designed to facilitate stacking of the containers, one on top of the other, while providing airflow between stacked containers. The bottom interior surface of the container is dimpled, in such a way that any moisture arising from condensation is collected in the “valleys” between raised dimples, while the fruits and vegetables sit on the dimple “peaks”, instead of flat on the bottom of the container, on pooled condensation, accelerating spoilage.

The upper lid portion of the container comprises vapor and gas permeable membranes, respectively preventing excess humidity and the accumulation of gases inside the container, both of which cause spoilage of fruits and vegetables. The application further discloses various alternative aspects of the lid and receptacle portions, embodying this invention. 

The abstract of this invention is included below, together with the exploded Figure 3 drawing of the invention lid. The exploded Figure 3 drawing shows top 50 and bottom 55 portions of the lid, together with a vapor-permeable membrane 75, regulating the humidity of the container, and a perforated sealing grid 70, designed to regulate the flow of gases within the container. The perforated sealing grid further comprises three raised standoff members 74, designed to facilitate the connection between the sealing grid 70 and the top portion 50 of the lid, which is also permeable. The figure drawing further depicts the shape and grid pattern layout of the sealing grid apertures 73. The recessed area 60 on the front of the top portion 50 of the lid is designed both to facilitate opening the lid, and to cooperate with the front handle 40 of the lower portion of the lid 55.

A food storage container is provided that may be used to increase shelf life of produce stored therein. The food storage container is preferably used to contain produce that is often not refrigerated, and thus subject to increased humidity levels when stored inside a sealed container. The container preferably includes each of a container portion and a lid member and a container portion, wherein the lid member may be attached and removed to the container portion. The lid member may include upper and lower lid members that are also selectively engageable with one another. A water vapor permeable membrane layer is preferably secured between the upper and lower lid members to help control humidity levels within the container portion. In some embodiments, a gas permeable membrane layer may be present between the upper and lower lid members for controlling gas flow into and out of the container portion as well. [Abstract US20190084756A1]

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Oh, patents! Sheertex indestructible pantyhose

Copyright© Françoise Herrmann

Ladies! If you have been dreaming of indestructible pantyhose, try Sheertex (originally called Sheerlu Genius)! They are made from the same fibers as bulletproof vests, guaranteed run-and pile-resistant. The only catch is that Sheertex will be resuming orders on September 1, 2019, after a new production cycle. The company completely sold out of its stock.

Katherine Homuth (Hague), the Founder and CEO of Sheertex, and inventor of the Sheerly Genius pantyhose is both thankful for the business, and quite astonished that such run, tear and pile resistant pantyhose were not invented any earlier.

Listed by Time Magazine as one of the 50 best inventions in 2018, the Sheertex pantyhose invention is disclosed in the patent application US20180368483A1 titled Rip resistant, non-pilling fine knit garments. A patent application which also presents an extensive list of definitions [0027-0047], so that the terms used to describe the invention do not invoke legal ambiguities or confusion with the more widely understood meanings of certain terms. For example, the term "non-additive", defined in paragraph [0044], in reference to coloring or dying processes, implies a process that does not change the total apparent or non-apparent Denier of the fiber. Similarly, the term "sheer" is defined in paragraph [0027], according to industry standards, as a knit with an appearance that is 30 Denier or less. The distinction between "apparent Denier" and Denier is also explicitly defined as "the total denier of visible fibers used in the knit" [0042], excluding the clear fibers, considered non-apparent within the context of the invention.

The Sheertex invention arises in a prior art situation where Denier, the measurement of the linear mass density of fibers per of 9000 meters of fiber is traditionally inversely correlated with the sheerness of a knitted garment (e.g.; hosiery). Sheerness is a measure of how much light can travel through a  garment. Thus, the higher the density of the fiber the less light can pass through. For hosiery, sheerness is also associated with low tensile strength or resistance to tearing (i.e.; the maximum amount of stress before a garment loses its elasticity). Thus, low Denier (between 1 and 30) is associated with sheerness (a high amount of light passing through the hosiery), resulting in a fragile garment considered disposable. Denier between 31 and 100 is semi-opaque hosiery with little light passing through, and above 100 Denier is no light passing through and completely opaque hosiery, resulting in relatively more resistant hosiery.

In response to the prior art, the Sheertex invention offers a product that is sheer, elastic and high tear-resistant, using an UHMWPE (Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene) fiber, in combination with a clear Spandex (i.e. elastic) fiber. The clear Spandex fiber makes it possible to produce 32 Denier hosiery with the appearance of 30 Denier. The combination of fibers also has increased moisture-wicking and anti-microbial properties, and it is possible to obtain hosiery of different colors using a non-additive process. 

Finally, the invention pantyhose also have “abrasion pads” knitted in areas of high friction such as heels and thighs to prevent the appearance of “bald spots”. Pantyhose bald spots are those areas where the knit thins out and loses elasticity, due to wear of the less resistant clear Spandex fiber, relative to the indestructible (bulletproof) UHMWPE fiber.

For pantyhose stuffed and dragged on asphalt behind a car to mimic a fall, wearing pantyhose, as part of a variety of Gizmodo-organized testing, performed independently of Sheertex, the Sheertex pantyhose were found destructible. However, in comparison to regular pantyhose which are destroyed on impact, Sheertex pantyhose were definitely found “a helluva lot” more resistant (Song, 2019).

Thus, ballistic-fiber Sheertex pantyhose finally fulfill the dreams of many women for pantyhose that are both sheer and highly resistant to tearing, wear, rip and run, even if it comes at the higher price of $99.

Included below, the abstract of the Sheertex pantyhose invention, together with the patent application Figure 1 drawing. The Figure 1 drawing shows an exemplary embodiment of the invention tights 10, front and back, including abrasion pads on heels 60 and thighs 62.
The present invention relates to knits that can be used to make rip - resistant sheer hosiery or similar garments, using a specific combination of UHMWPE fiber and stretch fiber, such as spandex. The knit has rip - resistant and anti - microbial properties. Details are provided to avoid problems with pilling and the appearance of bald spots during use. A variation of the knit is useful for activewear. [Abstract US20180368483A1]
Song V. (2-26-2019) We destroyed the 'Unbreakable' pantyhose, but they still beat every other kind

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Oh, patents! KnoNap

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

KnoNap short for “the napkin that knows” is a napkin designed to detect the presence of 26 drugs in a class of 40 psychoactive drugs called benzodiazepines, including Valium, Rohypnol and Zanax. Such drugs have sedative, hypnotic (sleep-inducing), anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), anticonvulsant, and muscle relaxant properties, which combined with alcohol have potentially fatal effects. Such class of drugs are also known as the drugs of choice used for “date rape” and more generally “drug-facilitated assault”.   

The KnoNap looks just like a real cocktail napkin, on which the user places just a small drop of his or her drink. When the drink is spiked, the napkin will immediately detect the presence of a drug by changing color on a small spot, in the close vicinity of the drop.

The KnoNap invention is disclosed in the PCT WIPO patent application WO2018222750A1 titled Integrated devices for rapid detection of benzodiazepines or other drugs in solution. The invention arises out one of the inventor’s own unfortunate experience with date rape abroad. 

Honored in 2018 as one of the Toyota Mothers of Invention, Danya Sherman took action following her plight. She developed the KnoNap, founded the KnoNap company, tirelessly canvassing campuses and other venues to advocate for victims, and to educate and empower others with this method of self-defense against drug-assisted assault. The KnoNap was developed as a portable test kit that is easy to use and interpret, discreet and reliable. Designed within a napkin, the test kit is also purposefully gender-neutral so that both men and women might use it, in a variety of social settings.

The patent discloses the chemical reactions and reagents of the rapid drug-assaying system which comprises an absorbent sample pad for the drop of the drink and a reaction chamber in fluid communication with the sample pad. The reaction chamber comprises an acidic layer, an ion exchange resin layer, an absorbent reaction pad, and a viewing pad infused with a colorimetric reagent. The assaying system might be placed at one or several corners of the napkin or in any other multiple zones.

The abstract of this invention is included below, together with the Figure 1 drawing of the patent. Figure 1 depicts the KnoNap 100 with its top 101 and bottom 104 tissue paper layers, the test zone 102 and an impermeable layer 103. In some embodiments, an extra test zone 102 is included between the bottom layer 104 and the impermeable layer 103. 
Integrated devices for rapid detection of benzodiazepines or other drugs in solution are provided. In various embodiments, a test device comprises a reaction chamber having an input port and an output port, the reaction chamber having translucent walls — having a thickness; a hydrophihc sample pad disposed at the input port; an acidic layer disposed within the reaction chamber and in fluid communication with the sample pad; an ion exchange resin layer disposed within the reaction chamber and in fluid communication with the acidic layer; a hydrophihc reaction pad disposed within the reaction chamber and in fluid communication with the ion exchange resin layer, the hydrophilic reaction pad being infused with a hydrolyzing and/or reducing reagent; a viewing pad disposed at the output port and in fluid communication with the reaction pad, the viewing pad extending along the thickness of the reaction chamber walls, the viewing pad being infused with at least one colorimetric reagent. [Abstract WO2018222750A1]

In the drive to prevent drug-assisted assault, marketing of the KnoNap napkins is targeting individual consumers, and all social settings, including bars and restaurants, as well as college campuses.  

Pun intended KnoNap prevents forced  “napping”.

Toyota MOI (Mother of Invention) Danya Sherman
Ritschel, C.  (01-29-2018) KnoNap: Napkin capable of detecting drugs in drinks invented by Washington DC student

Monday, July 29, 2019

Oh, patents! Impossible Burger® vs. Beyond Burger®

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

 You decide!

Capritto, A. (05-30-2019) Impossible meat vs.Beyond Meat burger: Taste, ingredients and availability compared. CNET May 30, 2019
Duggan, T. (05-16-2019) Critics question ethics behind Impossible Burger’s rapid fast-food expansion SF Chronicle
Lamb, C. (03-01-2018) We Tried The Impossible Burger, And It Was… The Spoon
Taylor, K & S. Gall (06-15-2019) How the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger actually compare when it comes to calories, sodium, and more. Business Insider
Thompson, K. (06-20-2019) What’s the Difference Between Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat? Thrillist

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Oh, patents! Jooki®

Copyright Françoise Herrmann

Too little or too old to manipulate mobile phone or tablet playlists? Strong desire to play and listen to music or favorite songs? Muuselabs Ltd., a Belgian startup has invented a screenless and connected smart music player with linked playlists that even toddlers can play. This music player, marketed exclusively for little kids, is called Jooki®, short for “jukebox”.  A WIFI and Bluetooth connected jukebox speaker for small kids, invented by former Google, Huawei, and Barco, “tender-hearted geek daddies” with plenty of hands-on-at-home experience, in collaboration with a combined total of six very small beta-version testing children. 

Toddlers choose a toy character linked to playlists, and just position it on the speaker player. It is as simple as that. Parents do the leg work by creating the playlists and connecting them to the anchoring toy characters and player. The fact that Jooki® is designed without a screen pleases many parents, as screens are perceived as devices that isolate. Jooki® is also specially designed to give parents a break from responding to ever-pressing requests for playing favorite songs and music from an adult tablet or mobile phone, while offering complete control on the content. The player speaker includes a headset jack, rechargeable battery lasting 8 hours, an SD card slot, and an app for programming the playlists, and setting up the WIFI connection. Jooki® is robust and interactive, allowing even the smallest child to play favorite songs and music wirelessly, inside or outdoors, simply placing toy characters linked to playlists onto a player that dubs as a high-quality sound speaker.

The below YouTube video shows children at play with Jooki®, the jukebox for kids.

The Jooki® invention is recited in the PCT WIPO patent application WO2015078923 (A1) titled Interactive Media System. The invention arises out of the observation that MP3 players and other conventional media players require skills unsuitable for small children and perhaps no longer suitable for the elderly or disabled. Skills such as reading tiny screen information and fine motor coordination for scrolling and selecting information using pushbuttons and click wheels. Thus, the Jooki® invention is an improvement on prior media players. It is designed without a screen, and easy to manipulate playlist-linked characters, in the shape of-easy-to-grasp objects that the user can simply place onto the music player. 

While the scope of the invention extends to various user populations, the marketed Jooki® targets young children. Similarly, while the scope of the invention extends to books, music, images and video, the marketed Jooki® is an audio jukebox – without excluding future more diversified manufacturing.

The patent describes the various components of the invention and their operation. The components comprise such items as the anchors, sensors and the player speaker; the computer chip suitable for media decoding, playing and for controlling the media player, also for decrypting unique anchor identifiers received by the device sensor using an anchor association database with a look-up table that associates a unique anchor identifier with media files or sets of file; the media storage device for storing media files; the audio amplifier, speaker, microphone, and the user controls for on/off, volume and forward/backward functions; as well as the media management software executed by the player, enabling storage of playlists onto the device.

The abstract of the invention is included below together with the patent Figure 5 drawing, showing the Jooki® Interactive Media System 100 with two linked figurative anchors, depicting a cello 105A and a drum 105B. The linked anchors are placed on the player, where a sensor 120 is designed to detect the unique anchor identifier linked to a particular playlist, enabling to play the music files. An image of the marketed Jooki® player with its lined-up play toy anchors is also included next to the patent figure drawing. For this invention, the below juxtaposition of images highlights differences between prototype design and the final marketed product. 
The present disclosure provides an interactive media system. The system includes a set of anchors. Each anchor in the set of anchors is associated with an interactive audio/video composition. Each anchor includes an anchor identifier device includes an anchor identifier. The system also includes an anchor sensor configured to: detect the anchor identifier device of one anchor; read the anchor identifier device of the detected anchor to obtain the unique anchor identifier from the detected anchor identifier device; and transmit the unique anchor identifier. The system also includes a media player configured to: receive the unique anchor identifier from the sensor;  identify a media file that is associated with the unique anchor identifier, the media file being part of a playlist that forms the interactive audio/video composition; obtain the media file; and play the media file.  [Abstract WO2015078923 (A1)]

Bottom line… Jooki® was voted best ever music player for kids! It received the Best Family Tech Award at CES 2017; the Most Innovative Product Award at Distree Connect 3rd Edition, in Paris, in April 2017, after convincing judges in less than 60 seconds; and one of 8 awards at the Copenhagen Most Creative Business Competition, in 2016.

Muuselabs Ltd.
Jooki® rocks