Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Oh, patents! Oh, Clippy!

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann 

And now for the paperclip you loved to taunt! Microsoft’s Clippit, the beloved, annoying (Swartz, 2003) and incredibly distracting, animated paperclip, serving as a personal office assistant that you could query for all the help you needed when working with Microsoft Office.

Removed from the Microsoft suite of programs in 2007 under pressure from the crowd ….Clippit, affectionately called Clippy, was recently and briefly re-generated in cloud versions of Microsoft Word and Microsoft’s Mobile Office, and also re-cycled as main protagonist in the Microsoft tutorial game Ribbon Hero 2.
The brilliantly animated little paperclip wizard, designed by the Children’s book illustrator Kevan Atteberry (Atteberry 2014), really arises at the interfacing tip of an iceberg, consisting of expert search and querying systems, and many different Microsoft patents exploring these domains (McCracken, 2009).
Below, you will find a selection of the Microsoft patents driving the expert search and user querying systems behind Clippy, as well as the interface patent for an animated character since Clippit was the default animated option programmed to function as your office assistant:
US 6262730 B1 - Intelligent User Assistance Facility filed Nov. 20, 1998, disclosing an intelligent user assistance system, “using a reasoning model to determine the probability of a user's intentions, goals, or informational needs in the context of a software program.

US 6513031 B1 - System for improving search area selection filed, Dec. 23, 1998, disclosing “A method of aiding a user in searching a computer environment includes retrieving a search query from a user, accessing a user profile and selecting a search area based on the search query and the user profile.”

US 6460029 – System for improving search text, filed Dec 23, 1998, disclosing computer-executable instructions for retrieving a search query provided by a user and locating an ambiguity in the search query that affects the optimization of the search query. The instructions also provide for requesting additional information from the user to clarify the text of the search query.

US 6657643 B1 -  Modulating the Behavior of an Animated Character to Reflect Beliefs Inferred About a User’s Desire for Automated Services, filed May 17, 1999,  specifically associated with messaging and scheduling.


I have also enclosed the image of a Clippy gem...…  
Paperclips Unite!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Oh, patents! Collette paper-clips

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Ok, back to paperclips! 
Have you ever noticed how a regular smooth-wire paper clip sometimes just slips off the surface of the paper? Collette clips, named after the American inventor Clarence Charles Collette,  are designed with serrations,  precisely to resolve this issue, and to securely grip together  various sheets of paper.

The Collette clip, as disclosed in the May 17, 1921 patent US1378525, titled Paperclip was introduced as follows:

"My invention has for its object to produce a means for securing a plurality of sheets together, commonly known as a paper clip wherein are formed sharply pointed projections for penetrating and engaging the sheet material, such as paper, to prevent removal of the clip or the separation of one or more of the sheets from the dip. In my invention the projecting points are located on the opposite sides of a bent clip having its parts preferably located in the same plane, it being particularly adaptable to a clip which is of the form of a flattened oblong spiral well known in the stationary arts."

The Collette clip was also disclosed in the 1922 British Patent GB182567 titled Improvements to paperclips, this time  introduced in contrast to the original paperclip as:
“The invention relates to means for clipping together a plurality of sheets of paper or the like and has particular reference to clips of the kind which comprise a length 'of resilient metal wire bent to form two U-shaped portions one of which lies within and in the same plane as the other, one limb of the one U being connected to the remote limb of the other U.”
And in both patents, the invention also includes disclosure of  the means by which the serrations are produced, at strategic offset  positions, on opposite sides of the clip, using a sharp instrument.

Below, the abstract for Collette Clips from the original 1922 British patent GB182567, titled Improvements in paperclips is included. There is no abstract available for US1378525, titled Paperclip. The two Figure drawings are identical in both the GB182567 and US1378525 patents. 

 182,567. Collette, C. C. April 6, 1921. Clips, spring-wire.-A clip of the shape shown in Fig. 1 is provided on both sides with projections 8 raised above the normal surface of the wire, the projections on the opposite sides being preferably arranged alternately as shown in Fig. 2.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day 2014

Oh, patents! Paperclip machine

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

If you thought paper clips were easy… think again, or just take a peek at the drawing from patent US636272, titled Machine for making paper-clips, awarded Nov. 7, 1899, choc full of cams, pulleys, pinions, winders and plates!

That’s a lot of wire-bending machinery for the little paperclips that hold several sheets of paper together, and that were to forever replace pins, at the end of the 19th century!
Below are the remaining figure drawings of the paper-clip machine as disclosed in US636272

And incidentally, you will have to admit that patents and their drawings, are some of the most beautiful historical documents on record! No other documents, except perhaps blueprints, could better document all the details of the inventions that have rocked history. Ooooh, patents! 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Oh, patents! Davis Shuman angular trombone

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Looking for paper-clip patents, one thing lead to another….

The French word for paper-clip is “trombone”… by analogy, hitherto unbeknownst to me, with the shape of the trombone musical instrument.  So… surprise! Even if there appears no connection between paperclips and musical instruments, there are plenty. The EPO retuned the Davis Shuman ergonomically angular trombone patent when prompted for paperclip patents, “trombone” in French.

This should explain a little bit of the detour to paperclip patents…
Davis Shuman (1912-1966) was a pioneering American trombone soloist from the first half of the twentieth century, at a time when there was a very limited solo trombone repertoire. This well-known musician also held an engineering degree from NorthWestern University, which enabled him re-design the trombone and to file patents for his inventions.

The patent US2669152, titled Trombone, was filed February 17, 1950 and granted on February 16, 1954, to Davis Shuman, inventor and author of the patent. The invention introduces an angle relative to the mouthpiece and bell of the instrument. The purpose of this angle is twofold. First, the invention angle enables movement of the slide, without re-directing the bell of the instrument away from the audience. This is deemed important, because in cramped orchestra configurations, the trombonist, using a slide operating parallel to the mouthpiece and bell of the instrument, is obliged to shift the instrument to the side, to avoid touching musicians seated in front, and thus diverts sound, coming out of the bell, away from the audience. Secondly, the invention angle offers a more ergonomic way of moving the slide, that is, it affords a more natural movement resulting in more stability for the trombonist holding the instrument. 
In Davis Shuman’s terms:
I have found that these difficulties can be avoided by inclining the telescopic sections and the slide of the trombone at an angle to the axis of the bell and mouthpiece so that the slide can be moved at an angle to avoid striking a person in front of the trombonist without the necessity of directing the bell away from the audience. Inclining the slide also improves the balance of the instrument since, in normal playing position, the horizontal extension of the slide is not as great as in the conventional trombone and the arm movement is easier and more natural. [US2669152]
Below, appears Figure 1 of the patent US2669152 disclosing the Davis Shuman angular trombone, and an image of the brass instrument invention angle.








If you would like to hear Davis Shuman playing the trombone, then please click on this link to a YouTube recording:

Paperclips unite!

Monday, April 7, 2014

April 7, 2014 - UN World Health Day

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

The theme for UN World Health Day 2014 is Preventing vector-borne disease. Vector-borne diseases are transmitted through a vector that is an organism such as insects, mosquitoes, tics and flies. These organisms transmit pathogens and parasites from one infected person (or animal) to another, causing serious diseases in human populations [WHO (1)].

The most deadly vector-born disease is malaria, transmitted through mosquitos carrying the plasmodium parasite, causing an estimated 627,000 deaths in 2012.

The fastest growing vector borne disease is dengue, also transmitted through mosquitos carrying one of four dengue virus serotypes. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for dengue. The most severe form of this disease is hemorrhagic dengue fever, which causes severe bleeding as a lethal complication.  It is estimated that dengue puts about 40% of the world population at risk. [WHO (2)]

Other vector-borne diseases include, for example:

·         Chagas disease
Life-threatening condition transmitted through triatomine bugs, contaminated food, infected blood transfusion
·         Chikungunya
Viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes
·         Congo-Crimean haemorrhagic fever
Severe illness caused by a number of viruses
·         Dracunculiasis
Infection caused by drinking-water containing water fleas that have ingested Dracunculus larvae
·         Human African trypanosomiasis 
Glossina-borne parasitic infection, fatal without prompt diagnosis and treatment
·         Leishmaniasis
Infection is caused if bitten by female sandflies
·         Lymphatic filariasis
Infection occurs when filarial parasites are transmitted to humans through mosquitoes
·         Lyme disease
Disease caused by infected ticks
·         Onchocerciasis
Parasitic disease caused by the filarial worm onchocerca volvulus
·         Schistosomiasis
Parasitic disease caused by trematode flatworms of the genus
·         Yellow fever
Viral disease transmitted via aedes mosquitoes

Most of the vector-borne diseases listed above are also considered Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), that is, a group of diseases for which there are currently no available treatments, even though the figures associated with each of the diseases are staggering [NTDs, (1)].

 It is “a conversation in progress”, bringing together many players and institutions (public, private, philanthropic and civil society), to endeavor to include unprofitable drug development for these diseases on the agenda of large pharmaceutical companies, whether for the discovery of new drugs, or the reformulation of orphan drugs (drugs that are patented, and often already tested, but that were abandoned and never marketed).

 Indeed, for those confronted with these diseases, or their outbreaks, in the field, such as Doctors without borders/Médecins sans frontières and other NGOs, or civil society groups, there is a feeling of total helplessness without treatments, and indignation, by way of comparison, that cures and treatments for every possible complaint exist in the west (Balasegaram, 2014). Witnesses of the NTDs are well aware that pharmaceutical companies are business enterprises who claim they are compelled to recoup the cost of drug development. But these witnesses in the field, fighting NTDs, also deplore that some of the larger drug companies simply back out of drug development for NTDs, arguing that none of their clients in poverty-stricken or underdeveloped countries can afford the costs of treatment. (Balasagaram, 2014).

Consequently, this polarization of interests between the desperate need for NTD treatments, and the balance sheets of “Big Pharma” or large western pharmaceutical agendas, is increasingly seen as a fruitless dead-end. Smaller R&D agendas, such as those of OneWorldHealth, targeting NTD drug development, invoking partnerships between government agencies, philanthropic players and private enterprise, appear far more resourceful and successful in developing or retargeting drugs, and producing treatments at a fraction of the costs, thus engaging in purposeful and life-saving action (Hale, Woo & Lipton, 2005).

At the end of the day… various stakeholders also point out that the scales may eventually tip “more naturally”. On the one hand, the realization that in an interconnected world, the risk of these diseases looms in the west also will promote action in favor of prevention [WHO (3); Chneiwess, 2013]. And, on the other hand, the threat of drug resistance to common bacterial infections in the west will most certainly redirect pharmaceutical agendas towards the development of new types of antibiotics.      

In the interim – and it is a sad irony that no such interim or waiting period  exists for those impacted by the spread of parasites or vector-borne NTDs --, here are some of the staggering figures associated with 10 vector-borne NTDs:

·         4% of the drugs developed worldwide target NTDs, whereas these diseases account for 10% of the diseases worldwide

·         1 billion people worldwide are threatened by NTDS, and 30,000 people die each day from these diseases.  (Touraine, M., 2014 - Institut Pasteur webcast)


Even though change is slow, it is also heartening to see that today, the world is celebrating the prevention of vector-borne diseases that include many  NTDs, and thus that such diseases are no longer completely neglected, although much remains to be accomplished so that the statistics are no longer shameful.  Consistent efforts by such multilateral groups as United  to combat NTDs and what is referred to as the 2012 London Declaration, action has begun [NTDs,(2)].


Balasegaram, M. (Winter 2014). Drugs of the poor, drugs for the rich. Alert, vol. 15, No. 1.

Chneiweiss, H. (2013) Preface in Biotehcnologie: Quelle Limites? Quo vadis Homo sapiens ? by Bernard Fontaine. Paris : France : L’Harmattan.

Hale, V. Woo, K and H. Levens Lipton (July 2005.) Oxymoron no more: the potential for non-profit pharmaceutical companies to deliver on the promise of medicines for the developing world. Health Affairs, 24(4), pp. 1057-1063.

Institut Pasteur webcast

NTDs (1) – Neglected Tropical Diseases

NTDs (2) Uniting to combat NTDs - Report

Touraine, M. (April, 2014) Webcast presentation on the occasion of World Health Day 2014 at the institute Pasteur in Paris.

WHO (1) - World Health Day 2014

WHO (2) - About vector borne diseases  

WHO (3) Europeans at risk of vector borne diseases too.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Oh, patents! Blue Lizard® sunscreen Z-cote®

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann


The US manufactured, Australian Blue Lizard® sunscreen with a patented Smart Bottle

  that turns blue in the presence of UV radiation, also uses a patented zinc oxide Z-cote® formula. According to the inventors, Zinc oxide is the most effective, stable and safe, broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection agent. The Z-cote® formulation of zinc oxide, disclosed in the WIPO patent application WO2013173336, titled Easily formulated Zinc oxide, is a patented process that micronizes zinc oxide into nanoparticles with a mean particle distribution (D50) ranging between 300 nm to 600 nm (with no particles smaller <100 nm), and further coats the particles to make them hydrophobic (resistant to water). This coated nanoparticle zinc oxide powder has the advantage of dispersing evenly (without clustering) in the rest of the formula, and on the skin, thus providing users with an even zinc oxide application, which both protects from harmful UVA and UVB radiation, and remains resistant to water. 


Thus the patented  Z-cote® process means that you can retain sun protection in the water, and use the sunscreen for sports activity, where sweating will not make the formula run into your eyes or off your skin. Indeed, Blue Lizard® claims that their Sports formula and Very water resistant Regular formula afford 240 minutes of protection is whirlpool water, which amounts to three times more than the US standards for water resistant sunscreen (set to 80 minutes).


Cool sunscreen… for runners, triathletes, bikers, tennis players… plus more… outdoor folks,  now that summer is around the corner!


 The abstract of patent application WO2013173336, titled Easily formulated Zinc oxide, appears below with an image above of the marketed Sports and Very water resistant Regular formulas for Blue Lizard® Sunscreen.

The present disclosure relates to polymeric siloxane coated zinc oxide powders having a mean particle size number distribution (D50) ranging from about 300 nm to about 600 nm and their use in sunscreen compositions. The relatively high surface area (in relation to particles of <100 nm) avoids agglomeration resulting in ease of formulation and high dispersal of the particles which tends toward less light scatter and hence better transparency in formulations. Furthemore, the combination of the particular particle size number distribution (D50) of zinc oxide ranging as above with bis(resorcinyl)triazine UV absorbers shows unexpected increased UV-A absorbance (320 to 400 nm) in comparison to the zinc oxide and bis resorcinyl triazine UV absorbers on their own at the same concentration.


For your tiny and bigger tots, Blue Lizard® also has a special Baby formula! So you and your family can all stay protected with a sunscreen that is choc-full of patents.

Oh, patents! Blue Lizard® Smart Bottle™

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Yeah, yeah yeah, sunscreen, schmuncream…

 Ok… how about if you had a way of seeing how much UV radiation there is around you, both indoors and outdoors? Would that convince you to apply sunscreen for protection against this damaging radiation?


This is exactly what you will see and find out when you use the USA manufactured, Australian Blue Lizard® sunscreen which comes packaged in a patented Smart Bottle® that turns bright blue in the presence of UV radiation!


And to top this really cool bottle technology, the sunscreen contents comply with Australia’s sun protection standards which are the highest and most stringent in the world.


The patent US6405867, titled Package for suncream, assigned to Crown Laboratories Inc., discloses the Blue Lizard® Smart Bottle™ technology, consisting of photochromic material means to display the presence of UV radiation. The photochromic material means react to the presence of UV radiation by changing color according to the intensity of the UV radiation. In one embodiment of the invention, these photochromic means are specifically located on the bottle to combine with a label that indicates, according to the color of the photochromic material, when it is recommended to apply sunscreen. In another embodiment of the invention, the photochromic means are blended in with the HDPE (high density polyethylene) material of the bottle, and the whole bottle changes color to various shades of blue depending on the amount of UV radiation that is present. Thus, the invention of this bottle with special patented photochromic material is designed to alert users when they are in the presence of UV radiation, so that they will know when to apply sunscreen.


Below you will find the patent abstract of this invention, and one of the patent figure drawings and above an image of one of the marketed products. 

Abstract US6405867:  A bottle includes a base and a continuous sidewall extending upwardly from the periphery of the base to a neck. The neck defines an opening which is selectively blocked by a lid. Base and sidewall define a cavity for containing a suncream or the like which a person selectively applies to their skin to reduce the harmful effects of the sun's rays. The package also contains display means for providing a person with the indication of the intensity of UV radiation, or another ambient condition, incident upon the package.



This product intends to make sun safety easy and a lot of fun with a cool UV sensing bottle that turns blue!

And Crown Labs are really very serious about sun safety. They even teach it in kindergarten at elementary schools in Hawaii!