Sunday, June 22, 2014

Winners of the 2014 European Patent awards

Copyright © Françoise Herrrmann

The 2014 stellar line-up of winners of the European Patent Awards include the following 5 inventions:

-          The QR (Quick Response) Code, in the popular category, awarded to Masahiro Hara, Takayuki Nagaya et. al. (Japan). (See earlier posts about the QR code invention June 1, 2014 and June 5, 2014).

-          3D printing, in the non-European Patent Organization category ,awarded to Charles W. Hull (USA) (See earlier posts about various types of 3D printing: construction 3D October 31, 2013 and human tissue and organ 3D printing February 8, 2013, …).

-          Quick DNA testing, in the research category, awarded to Christopher Toumazou (UK).

-          An water purifying system based on the principle of osmosis with  aquaporin water transport molecules, reconstituted in a "coffee-filter" type filtration membrane, that does not require the expenditure of energy to make it work, in the small and medium enterprise category, awarded to Peter Holme Jensen, Claus Hélix-Nielsen and Danielle Keller (Denmark).

-          A new effective tuberculosis (TB) drug in the industry category awarded to Koen Andries (Belgium) and Gérome Guillemont et al. (France). (See  earlier post on the occasion of World TB day and the problems of multiple drug resistance on March 28, 2014).

And one life-time achievement award to Arthur Fischer (Germany) for the “fischer expansion plug” used in construction, and in recognition of his 1100 additional patent applications filed during a career as a very prolific inventor.

FYI... below you will find a short video presenting the distinguished panel of 8 jurors for the awards!


Next year, in June 2015, the European Patent Awards will be held in Paris!
In the interim, lots more patents, on the soles of your shoes… and elsewhere, everywhere!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

2014 EPO Award nominations! Self-cleaning cement

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

 Dreaming of cleaner city… with cleaner buildings… less pollution… The EPO award nomination disclosing self-cleaning cement may make a part of your dreams come true!
And for those living in the San Francisco Bay Area… there are patents in the New Bay Bridge’s sparkling white appearance!

Self-cleaning cement is an Italian invention based on the principles of photocatalysis, discovered in the 1970s. Photocatalysis is a light driven chemical reaction that decomposes and transforms a wide range of pollutants and contaminants into harmless or potentially beneficial matter, in particular via the chemical reaction of the sun and titanium dioxide (TiO2).  Other uses of the principles of photocatalysis using TiO2 are invoked in a wide variety of applications such as solar water purification (Salih, F, 2004); asphalt pavements for the mitigation of vehicle emissions (Hassan et. al, 2013), or micro particles in various applications intended for the oxidation of organic contaminants (Venugopal, Tezier and Tezier, 2009).
In this EPO nominated invention concerning “self-cleaning cement”, the principle of photocatalysis using TiO2 was transferred to cement (in the right proportions and after extensive experimentation in the 1990s, involving 85 patents). The cleansing and brightening effects of the reaction are mixed in with the cement which is then used for construction.
One of the first constructions using this titanium dioxide-enriched cement was the Dives in Misericordia Church in Rome, designed by American architect Richard Meier [Dives, Italicimenti]. After construction of the church, scientists discovered that the air next to the church was also cleaner, and that harmful substances in the air surrounding the church also oxidized faster. It follows then, that a photocatalytic city, that is, one where all the buildings are covered with photocatalytic titanium dioxide-enriched cement, paint or plaster, could potentially reduce the levels of harmful substances by means of the sunlight.
Adding a titanium-enriched surface to a building increases construction costs 15%, but it is also estimated that it decreases pollution by 20% in the immediate vicinity. The cement, plaint or plaster repels dirt and cleanses the air, using sunlight! This is also the reason why the New San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge might retain its sparkling white color, while creating a better work environment for maintenance crews, and perhaps for the Toll Plaza workers also (Hassan, 2009; Lence et. al, 2014).
The following three patents awarded to Luigi Cassar et. al and the Italian firm Italicimenti, are cited as part of the nomination of this invention:
  •  EP0946450 titled Hydraulic binder and cement compositions containing photocatalyst particles
  •   EP2242806 titled Titanium dioxide photocatalytic composites and derived products on a metakoalin support
  •   EP2282203 titled Method of measuring the photocatalytic activity of cementitious material
An mage of the Dives in Misericordia Church (Rome, Italy) built with titanium-dioxide-enriched and photocatalytic materials is included above, and to the right a detail of the sparkling San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge….
Now… stop dreaming… and start building a photocatalytic city!
 Hassan, M, Mohammad, L. N., Asadi, S., Dylla, H., and S. Cooperill (2013) Sustainable photocatalytic asphalt pavements for mitigation of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide vehicle emissions. Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering, vol. 23 (3), 365-371.
 Hassan, M. (2009) Life cycle assessment of titanium dioxide coatings. Proceedings of the Construction Research Congress – Building a Sustainable Future, Seattle, Washington, April 5-7, 2009,  – pp. 836-845.
 Lence, A., Hassan, M. Zaylor, A and R. Rupnow (2014) Best practices for maintenance of concrete bridge elements against mold and mildew growth. Proceedings of the Construction Research Congress - Construction in a Global Network, Atlanta, GA, May 19-21, 2014. pp. 1556-1565.
 Nader, M., and B. Mahoney (2013) The New San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Proceedings of the Structures Congress 2013- Bridging your passion with your profession, in Pittsburgh, PA, May 2-4, 2013.
 Salih, F. (2004) Water purification by a combination of sunlight, titanium dioxide and alum. Proceedings of the  World Water and Environmental Congress, 2004, Salt Lake City, UT, June 27- July 1, 2004, pp. 1-9.
 Venugopal, M., Tezier, J and W. Tezier (2009) Nanotechnology: Benefits, Barriers and Impact on Construction. Proceedings of the Construction Research Congress Building a Sustainable Future, Seattle, Washington, April 5-7, 2009,  pp.447-456.

Friday, June 6, 2014

2014 EPO Patent Award nominations! Inflatable bike helmet

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Just visualize a balaclava-shaped airbag inflating all around your head and neck in case of a biking accident, and you will have touched just the surface of this invention candidate at the upcoming 2014 European Patent awards, to be held in Berlin on June 17.  In the disproportionately masculine world of patents, the inventors of patent EP 1947966 titled System and method for protecting a bodypart are two young Swedish female industrial designers: Terese Alstin and Anna Haupt.  

The inflatable bike helmet called the Hövding was developed in an effort to resolve both the stylistic and functional disadvantages of the  prior art in biking helmets, and consequently, the fact that only 5 to 20 % of European bikers ever wear helmets, essentially because they are considered both uncomfortable and/or unsightly. When surveyed, the inventors found that what bikers really want is a helmet that is mostly invisible (!)…

Functionally, prior art bike helmets do not offer protection for the jaw, back of the neck, ear and neck in case of collision with a sharp object. And mostly, all prior art helmets, made of “unrealistically hard material” (EPU – expanded polyurethane & EPS – expanded polystyrene) do not absorb the forces impact, which results in brain injury, even if the head is un-scathed.  Additionally, prior art helmets do not offer protection from the cold, and they are both bulky and cumbersome to haul around when not riding, or to secure any other place than on the biker’s head.

In response to this set of concerns, and the unquestionable advantages of wearing a helmet in terms of biking safety and the prevention of head injuries estimated at 60% for bikers who wear helmets, this invention is actually a helmet unlike what you would ever imagine.

Un-inflated (in the above picture) the helmet is indeed invisible appearing like a very fashionable scarf worn as a collar that zips around your neck. Inside the collar, however, there is a black box control unit equipped with sensors that scan your body motion 200 times per second.  The proprietary algorithm included in the black box detects body motion (acceleration, direction and movement) and compares it to data on normal biking movements. When the slightest discrepancy in normal biking movement arises, the helium gas generator is triggered, and the airbags inflate in 1/10 of a second, prior to impact.
In many cases, the documented and reported results of a crash with the Hövding amount to a life saved, as the black box is actually sent back to the company after a crash for analysis of the valuable impact data.

Below you will find the Abstract of EP 1947966 titled System and method for protecting a bodypart and one of the patent drawings:

“A system and a method for protecting the head of a user in case of an abnormal movement, such as a fall or a collision. The system comprises an apparel (1) , an airbag (2) , an inflator (3) , and a trigger. The airbag includes a first part (7) for surrounding the neck and back head portion of the user after inflation, and a second part (8) for forming a hood surrounding the skull of the user after inflation. The first part (7) and second part (8) are folded and arranged in the apparel (1) before inflation. The apparel is arranged around the neck of the user, like for example a collar or a scarf”.

 Beyond saving the lives of bikers, there are potential uses anticipated for skiing and extreme sports, and even for people suffering from epilepsy. So keep an eye out for when the Hövding hits the US market in 2016---this is a very stylish, and 3 x safer “invisible” helmet, which you might consider using, at least initially for when you are riding your bike. This is for the Biking Coalition too!

In the YouYube clip below, you will hear the story of the Hövding in the inventors own words:


Good Luck on June 17! And, in any event, congratulations on this 2014 nomination to the EPO awards!
Reference (since 2011 and for answers to all your additional questions: Can children wear the Hövding? Can you re-use it once it has deployed?.. etc.)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Oh, patents! Patentability of the QR code

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Woohoo….Now that you have noticed the position code, at three apices, forming a right angle of the square QR codes that rock our daily lives…Consider the contending patent EP 0672994, and the manner in which the QR code invention is presented. The title of  contending patent EP 0672994 -  Method and apparatus for reading an optically two-dimensional code  discloses a method and apparatus for reading QR codes rather than the QR Code itself. And you may legitimately wonder: Why? Since, after all, the big invention concerns storage of 350 times more data than the prior art barcodes, and most importantly how to swiftly retrieve this information stored in a two dimensional manner. The optical reader is after all secondary to what it is that the code is doing, its readability, and to what it gives access. 

The answer to this question poses the issue of the patentability of software or machine readable code and the 50 year battle to obtain protection. Indeed, software lies at the intersection of two types of intellectual property laws, and at this intersection, protection in effect remains controversial. This is because software code is primarily written code, and in this mode of presentation falls within the provisions of Copyright Law. Consequently, following review by the National Commission on New Technologial Uses of Copyrighted Works (CONTU) created “to evaluate the adequacy of copyright law regarding computer based information systems and photocopying technology” (Stobbs, p. 27), Copyright Law was amended in 1976 to include software as “written instructions”.   

However, Copyright protection appears inadequate for protecting what software code does and its connection to artifacts. Copyright law protects the expression of ideas and not the ideas themselves. For example, a computer manual may be copyrighted but not the computer which falls under the jurisdiction of Patent Law. In contrast machine readable code, as instructions, is inseparable from what it does, and there are many different ways to achieve the same result (to instruct), all of which cannot be copyrighted to protect the invention, or what the code does.

If Copyright Law thus fails to adequately protect what software code does, then Patent law should be able to cover all of the software inventions in our lives, whether it is the code for word processing, xl sheets, air traffic systems, hotel reservation systems or expert querying systems that are able to match bacterial infections with the most effective antibiotic candidate, etc.. However, the provisions of Patent law exclude all forms of writing as a patentable.. be they poems, novels or computer program instructions, which under all other circumstances, enter the jurisdiction of Copyright Law.  Thus, software code, is also technically unpatentable according to the provisions of Patent Law, unless… there is a compromise in the interpretation of patent law.

Recognizing the need for software protection, especially once software became unbundled from large mainframe computers in the late 1960s, the compromise that was historically achieved in a court ruling began with the landmark 1981 Diamond v. Dierhr decision stating that the presence of software in an otherwise patentable invention could not make the invention unpatentable. In a roundabout way, this opened up the floodgates for code protection as long as it was part of some tangible device or support media.  And this is, in a nutshell, the reason why the QR Code was patented as method and apparatus for reading two-dimensional code vs. straight QR Code, which, in fact, is un-patentable and only copyrightable.


Woohoo.. download QRReader for Iphones and/or QR Reader for Android.
Woohoo… Scan the code to the right. It will take you to , where you can generate your own QR code!
Woohoo… Scan my blue QR code above and you will access my web pages!
Woohoo… have fun…!


Stobbs, G. A (2012). Software patents – Third Edition. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.  

Sunday, June 1, 2014

2014 EPO Patent Award nominations! The QR code

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

The ubiquitous optical QR code is a contender for the European Patent Office  2014 awards, to be held in Berlin on June 17, 2014! What’s QR code? QR (Quick Response) code is the second generation of barcodes!

So…there are barcodes and there are square QR (Quick response) codes! And QR codes are definitely raising the bar of barcodes! They process 350 times more information and decode information 20 times faster!

Your smart phone camera can also scan them, and they supply a world of information far and beyond the price that is scanned from a barcode, since you can use them to access websites. QR codes are two dimensional codes whereas all barcodes as one dimensional. The two dimensional QR code means that information is stored in rows and columns, whereas one dimensional barcodes means that information is stored according to the width of the bars and spaces between them, and there are only 20 number symbols in a barcode. However, decoding of the 350 times more information stored in the rows and columns of two dimensional codes was initially very time-consuming. So, now you will  surely notice that two dimensional QR codes also contain a unique positioning code pattern located on three corners and forming a right angle on the square code, containing information for locating and processing the information stored in the two dimensional code area -- 20 times faster.

QR codes were developed in 1994 within the context of production and logistics as a method designed to improve the tracking of automotive parts in Japan. The inventors, Masahiro Hara, Motoaki Watabe, Tadao Nojiri, Takayuki Nagaya and Yuji Uchiyama have since then devised an even more information-packed code called the iQR code, designed specifically for industrial applications.

Below you will find the abstract of the contending patent EP 0672994 titled Method and apparatus for reading an optically two-dimensional code and figure drawings from the patent:

A two-dimensional code 1 consists of three positioning symbols 2, a data region 3, timing cells 4 and an apex detecting cell 5. The shape of the whole code 1 is a square having the same number of vertical and lateral cells. A scanning line passing through the center of each positioning symbols 2 always gives a constant frequency component ratio dark : light : dark : light : dark = 1 : 1 : 3 : 1 : 1, irrespective of the scanning direction. For this reason, even if a rotational angle of the two-dimensional code is not certain, the specific frequency component ratio of each positioning symbol 2 can be easily detected by executing only one scanning operation in a predetermined direction. Hence, the coordinates of the center of each positioning symbols 2 can be easily found. Thus, the position of the two-dimensional code 1 is quickly identified. [Abstract EP 0672994]

The EPO has invited everyone to vote! The interesting set of  rules which  make your votes count as a contribution to The Child Vision Project are  explained in a previous post on May 11, 2014…. So… remember to cast a vote! You can vote as many times as you like! And each vote is worth .25 cts Euro!