Sunday, May 19, 2013

Oh, patents! Cat hammock!

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann  

Ok, cat lovers, this patent pending cat hammock is for you! This hammock attaches under a chair to the four legs, and droops just perfectly under the cat’s weight. No more mismatched cat furniture in your living room. This little hammock blends incaltompletely inconspicuously.

The inventor, Greg Hora, was inspired by his own cat, Vladimir, who crawled into the underside upholstery of a chair! The trick and one of the important aspects of the cat hammock that ensued was to find a way to attach the hammock, on the four legs of a chair, without it slipping under the weight of a cat up to 20 lbs!

And thus, the UNDERCHAIR PET REST patent application was filed April 18, 2012, for a unique type of cat hammock since it requires no frame, and can be attached to any four legs, of any chair, or small table. It further presents great advantages for small apartments where prior art cat hammocks attached to special frames took up a lot of floor space, or required special pegs attached to table legs for secure attachment.

The UNDERCHAIR PET REST is already marketed as the Cat Crib™. It comes in three different colors, cleans in the washing machine, and is guaranteed to make your cat happy!

altUS 20120291198 A1
A sheet disposed in a chair underside and attachable to the legs of the chair is disclosed. The sheet is configured for forming a downward droop from the weight of a pet and is designed to provide a comfortable resting place for a household cat and other pets as well as provide storage for various household items. The sheet may be attached to the chair by straps connected to and protruding from the perimeter of the sheet. Stiffening bars may be used to reinforce the sides of the sheet. Flaps attached to the sheet perimeter and attachable to the seat may be used to provide a dark and concealed environment for the pet to rest.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

EPO Oscars! Nominee - Prosthetic hand

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann
Artificial limbs evoke the horrors of amputation in wars, accidents and natural disasters… and as potential solutions, Captain Hook or the Bionic Man and Woman. The UPSTO awarded the first artificial limb patent for an artificial leg, -Patent No. 4834 - on November 4, 1846, to B.F. Palmer, himself an amputee. The artificial limb was made of hollow wood cones, articulated at the ankle and knee, with a corded pulley system, operating inside the steel knee joint. However, this was hardly the first artificial limb ever produced as there are stories told by the Greek historian Herodotus (in 484 BC) of Greek prisoners severing their limbs to escape, and then fashioning artificial feet, once healed (Brown 2000). And there are also countless archeological sites, dating from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, which have preserved ancient artificial limbs, fashioned of wood, leather, bronze or iron, for hands, legs and feet, even adjustable to fit a shrinking stump, and now exhibited in museums all over Europe (Brown 2000).

What is perhaps far less common and more recent, is the connection to children, and the focus on smaller hands. Indeed, this invention, nominated for a 2013 EPO award, precisely addresses the hurdles of designing high tech hand prostheses that are unconstrained by size, or the degree of amputation, in order to fit in all the electronic circuitry, and align the motors required to operate short enough digits for children, or just a few digits for partial amputees.

 European patent EP1962731, was awarded in 2008 to James David Gow, for PROSTHESES WITH MECHANICALLY OPERABLE DIGIT MEMBERS, precisely addressing the issue of miniaturized design for children. Using a worm gear inserted inside the digit to ensure transmission to a motor that is also part of the finger, the invention’s modular design also resolves the issue of partial amputations. The digits are each individually motorized. This digit technology then operates with skin sensors that pick up residual muscle movements, sent as signals to the hand digit motors, mediated by movement recognition and coordination software.

This patented prosthetic hand is produced by Touch Bionics, Ltd. as the i-limb, and it comes in many different configurations and sizes. Because of the modular design of the prosthesis that separates thumb and finger function, the functional range extends far beyond a single grip to include: 1. akey gripto pick up a small objet with thumb and index finger, to turn a key inside a lock or to adjust a camera focus lense; 2. apower gripfor holding a larger object such as tennis ball or holding an umbrella,; 3. anindex pointfor typing on a keyboard or other digital pad; and 4. athumb parkwhich folds in the thumb to assist with slipping through sleeves when putting on a shirt or sweater.

 In the absence of a hand for the most mundane tasks of pressing, turning, grabing, pulling, lifting and tying, in coordination with the other hand, and short of re-growing one, or bio-printing one (See  the Bioprint patent post on 2-08-2013, in this blog), this is state of  the art mechanical replacement technology, hailing from Scotland, in the UK. 


Brown, T. (2000) 
America’s first inventions: Popular patents from the airplane to the zipper.Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

EPO Oscars! Nominee - New Model for Machine Translation

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann
There is a new kid in town for machine translation! And it’s bin nominated for the 2013 EPO Oscars!
This model suggests that machine translation recognize phrases instead of words. And it comes as a novel attempt at resolving the now almost 75-year challenge of machine translation.

Evidently, there’s no rush… or obstacle on the path to the solution

We all know that context matters, and that “The baby is in the pen” makes perfect sense, and only nonsense in machine translation, where in 100 % of cases the machine translation for “pen” comes back as “stylo” (in French) instead of “parc” (still in French).

So the new solution is to parse whole phrases, for which it is claimed that there is more context-independence, compared to single words, which are so context-dependent for meaning.

Great computational solution, with no detours or bifurcations!

The patent applicant is the University of Southern California. It was awarded to the team of computational linguists: DANIEL MARCU, KEVIN KNIGHT, WILLIAM WONG and PHILIPP KOEHN.

This is also a DoD (Department of Defense) DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) project, and a model in use by Google Translate!

Indeed, we have all already had an opportunity to use it with the EPO automated translation engine for patent abstracts, and patent descriptions,haven't we?


Monday, May 6, 2013

Oh, patents! EPO nominee for the USB port

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Can you imagine the dinosaur era of computers without plug and play USB ports? Can you imagine counting pins on connectors, depending on your peripheral device, collecting the connectors with two little screws on each side of the bus and thick cables in a large box, and then figuring out whether such a port even existed on your computer and whether you could actually use that device concurrently with another device using the same connection port, that is, for example, whether you could print and retrieve a document from an external drive at the same time, or connect your modem (prior to modem cards) ? Well, maybe your grandparents remember…

The invention of the universal USB port enabling you to connect any peripheral to your computer, changed all of that! Just plug and play any device, and daisy-chain them if you like, up to 16 devices, or even 127!… Your computer really only needs just a single USB port! You still have to be careful about tripping over the wires, but at least the peripheral connection problem is of another era! It is now just as easy to use a peripheral as it is to use a wall socket, which is exactly the type of connection that inspired the invention team of electronic engineers from Intel Corporation. 
Your peripheral is on when plugged via USB port, and off when unplugged! And, the same port can be used for both asynchronous and isosynchronous peripherals, that is: your monitor, printer, router/modem, extra storage devices, telephone or tablet, scanner, speakers, microphone, video and keyboard/mouse/joystick devices. Easy!

Well, certainly on the surface, and from the user’s perspective. This invention belongs to the domain electronic engineering. Just take a peek at the title of the patent awarded to the team of inventors: 
Ok… M means Method and A means Apparatus! And this invention, patented in 1996, was nominated for the 2013 European Inventor Awards. 


Sunday, May 5, 2013

EPO Oscars! The European Inventor Awards

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Every year since 2006, the EPO organizes and juries the European Inventor Awards! This year, the awards ceremony will take place on May 28, in The Netherlands, the country which currently presides the European Union. On this date the EPO will select 5 winners, among 15 finalists, in 5 categories: Industry, Small & Medium-sized enterprises, Research, Non-European Patent Organization countries, and Life-time achievement.

You can attend the Awards ceremony in 2015, if you register on time. The deadline for registering for the 2014 Awards ceremony was May 3, 2013. … But that might be a bit expensive anyhow, so you can also watch a broadcast of the Awards Ceremony event, in the convenience of your home, at the EPO website.

In the interim, you can nominate inventors or inventions for the 2014 awards before Sept. 30, 2013, and join the 4000 EPO patent examiners, who are asked to send in nominations. You can also vote directly for your favorite inventor or inventions among the finalists, and be the Popular Vote, joining the EPO jury composed of distinguished experts in the fields of politics, business, media, science, academia and research – including Ernö Rubik, the inventor of the famous cube puzzle!

Now that you are initiated to the world of patents, this is a great place and time to exercise your Patent Apprentice rights! There are few national boundaries in the world of patents as you know, so voting in Europe is a nice extension of your rights to universal suffrage!

And if there were a Drop Box for suggestions perhaps that we could suggest a sixth category for Patents with humanitarian impact... and a seventh category for Young Inventors with the most promissing ideas that will revolutionize the world.... and an eighth category for the still under-represented feminine voices that will solve the world's most intractable problems....

Just dreaming… In the next few posts, you will discover some of the EPO Oscars past, and in competition for the 2013 Awards. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Oh, patents! Rubik's® cube

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann  

Rubik’s® cube is an eponym and a patent, originally filed in 1975! Ernö Rubik,a Hungarian professor of Architecture, is the inventor whose name eponymizes the three-dimensional puzzle, also dubbed by CNN: the cube that changed the world! It turns out that Rubik’s name also saved the cube, as it was trademarked. This gave the inventor and manufacturer team plenty of time for prototyping, which took six years, and plenty of time for filing in various countries.

Rubik’s® cube is a puzzle all about space, and geometry. There is one solution for aligning all the colors on each of the four faces of the cube in 43 quintillion possible combinations that can be arrived at in as many ways!... This keeps the puzzle fascinating, explains why it was the fastest selling puzzle ever invented, why 40 years later there are 350 million copies sold, with speedcubing events (solving the puzzle against the clock) driving sales every year!
Here is what Rubik thinks of his cube:
I believe probably the most characteristic part of the cube is the contradiction between simplicity and complexity. I love the simplicity of the cube because it's a very clear geometrical shape, and I love geometry because it's the study of how the whole universe is structured. I think probably that's part of the key to the success of the cube -- you are able to have a connection with this order and chaos. [CNN Interview - Oct.11, 2012]
And here is a glimpse, extracted from the patent Abstract, of the puzzle within the puzzle, that is, the inventor’s solution to connecting cubes that are still free to move and rotate, or to “releasably holding any one of the game pieces to any one of the at least four lateral faces” (yes, "releasably holding" ...!):

The invention provides a three-dimensional puzzle which consists of a box-like casing and a number of flat plate-like game pieces that are freely movable relative to each other within a closed system defined by the casing. The game pieces are, distinguishable from each other by markings such as symbols or color. The casing is a substantially closed, shape-rententive hollow body of the shape of a geometric solid bound by lateral faces. At least four such lateral faces are identical to each other in size and shape. The interior of the casing serves as a game space for the enclosed game pieces. The game pieces are of a shape that is substantially identical to that of the at least four lateral faces of the casing and are laid out in size so that they are permitted free movement within the game space. A retaining means for releasably holding any one of the game pieces to any one of the at least four lateral faces of the casing is provided for at least one of each of the at least four lateral faces of the casing and/or the game pieces. By performing a sequence of rearranging steps, the game pieces can be moved into many possible positions within the game space. The goal of the puzzle lies in rearranging the game pieces so that they show at least one pre-determined characteristic pattern. [Abstract US5184822]