Thursday, July 31, 2014

Oh, patents! Frank O. Gehry designs

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

So you thought that the great American architect Frank O. Gehry only designed fluffy-looking buildings that appear to defy gravity, that transform cities, and whose outside walls, upon closer inspection, appear like twisted metal sculptures. Well...try again…There is much more Frank O. Gehry, who also designs hundreds of everyday objects and artifacts, such as furniture and jewelry – and especially seating!

A search for Frank Gehry patents returns 239 US design patents, in addition to the utility patents for sheet metal bending and rendering proper to the manufacturing processes of the everyday objects and to architecture.

Frank Gehry design patents for furniture include, for example:
USD341264S – Diamond chair (See fig. 2)
USD344191S – Dining chair (See fig. 1)
USD525041S – Chair
USD518657S1 – Chair
USD530936S – Chair for theatres, auditoriums and the like
USD533364S – Chair
USD334488 – Chair
USD422424 – Chair
USD334098 – Chair
USD333738 - Chair
USD341265S - Café chair
USD341263S - Club chair
USD513910S1 - Seat frame
USD663558 – Seat frame
USD530530 - Left twist stool
USD530529 - Right twist stool (See fig. at EOF)
USD528808 - Three sided stool
USD528816 – Sofa
USD529303 - Bench
USD346924 - Seat cushion
USD529303 - Bench
USD357185 - Lamp
USD523166 - Lamp
USD513677 - Coffee table
USD346293 – Coffee table
USD338579 – Café table
USD344856 - Ottoman
USD510251 – Handle
USD509422 – Handle
USD521355 - Handle

You will find enclosed design patent drawings and corresponding marketed products, as an illustration of some the Frank O. Gehry seating, and the breadth of this design palette -- exploring the intersections of form, function and materials, from corrugated cardboard to bended wood and metal, and injection molding!
Take a seat and enjoy!...


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Oh, patents! iTime

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Apple’s “iTime” patent made headlines on July 22, 2014, with a couple of surprises. The first is that this is an application that was filed already way back in 2012 as US 20120194976 A1, under the same title as the Patent awarded to Apple (but before it was assigned to Apple Inc.) so one wonders why there is so much delayed hype concerning the disclosures. And, the second surprise is that, oddly, there is very little comment on the watch’s primary function, which is to give you the time! Indeed, it seems that all the excitement generated by the watches’ connectivity, and additional circuitry board afforded by the strap, serves to completely obscure the watches’ usual and primary function, which would be keeping time!.  So, perhaps that this patent would be better described as the Apple iStrap patent, which converts a time keeping device into a connected and connectable device.

 Well… maybe that’s just the point! No one wants just the time anymore! And if you did, you could get it the old fashioned way, without Apple’s assistance!

 Maybe this is also the reason why you cannot find this patent anywhere when you search for “watch”!  Watch is already an outdated “keyword”, a descriptor that no longer corresponds to, or adequately describes, such a multi-functional device as the one disclosed. Apple’s patent, US8787006, is titled:  Wrist-worn electronic device and methods therefor.  And because the drawings indicate “iTime” on the display, even the term “iWatch” was ditched for this wrist-worn electronic device.

 There are two embodiments of the invention. In the first embodiment, the “iTime” central piece is built into the wristband, which serves as a circuitry board to augment its functionality and wireless connectivity to other devices.  In the second embodiment, the “iTime” central piece can be removed (like a mini iPod) from the wristband serving to augment its functionality, and used as an independent wireless device. So, one way or another, the time piece includes wireless circuitry to enable the multiplication of functions and the device’s wireless connectivity.

 This means, for example, that the electronic wrist device can be used as a portable media storage device [0021]. The electronic wrist device can also contain an antenna for GPS functions [0026], and it can be designed as a haptic device with touchscreen functions [0027-27]. The electronic wrist device could also be designed as an I/O device for an Iphone so that it could alert users with incoming call messages [0037]. Similarly the electronic wrist device could also display incoming messages from social media [0038].

 And of course no electronic device comes without time related functions, and the iTime, in this respect, is no exception…as it discloses all the possibilities of calendar functions and personal assistance, or stock alerts and weather notifications [0041]. The electronic wrist device also discloses the possibility of gesture-driven commands using sensors to control the wrist device [0055], for example declining an incoming call with a horizontal wrist movement or accepting it with a vertical wrist movement; or declining and accepting calls with various wrist shakes, a single shake for accepting, two shakes for declining. Plus  many more such functions, part mobile device, part computer, that could be designed, or added which would all fall within the scope of the electronic wrist device, integrated as a single piece of wearable hardware, or as two interconnected pieces of wearable hardware .

 Indeed, there is plenty to be excited about with this multi-function wearable wrist device that morphs in and out of traditional watch functions. And it looks like the future may hold yet another amazing Apple product, and competition in the emerging wearable computer market!  Wouldn’t you like to wear iTime?
The abstract for US8787006/ US 20120194976 A1 titled Wrist-worn electronic device and methods therefor is included below as well as one of the figure drawings. And we shall see what the actual product looks like, when (and if) it is in the Apple production line agenda. For my part I wouldn’t mind some details about the time-keeping function, and how accurate to the billionth of a second it might be, using a satellite that defies the curvature of space. You know… something really special about measuring time… since after all this is supposed to be worn as a “watch”, even if it is so much more.

Embodiments of electronic wristwatches are disclosed. According to one embodiment, an electronic wristband can provide additional electrical circuitry or devices that can be made available for use as or with an electronic device. In one embodiment, the electronic device can be a mobile electronic device that can be removably coupled to the electronic wristband which provides the additional circuitry or devices. Advantageously, the electronic device can utilize the additional electrical circuitry or devices provided within the electronic wristband to augment the capabilities of the electronic device. In another embodiment, the electronic device can be integrally formed with the electronic wristband which provides the additional circuitry or devices. Abstract US8787006/ US 20120194976 A1

 Goldman, D. (2014) Is this Apple’s new iWatch ? CNNMoney, July 22, 2014
Etherington, D. (2014) Apple gets and extensive iWatch patent., July 22, 2014.
La, L (2014) Apple iWatch: Rounding up every possible rumor surrounding Apple’s supposed smartwatch. CNET, July 18, 2014

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Intermission... with more Nike Air

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann
The StoryTeller with Nike Airs and other Barrio stories by Kleya Forté-Escamilla is one of my favorite short story books! This was a book on my daughter’s high school reading list, which I also devoured..... silently… since we had both conspired to agree that we could only mangle the beauty and joy of these books if we sat picking at them like vultures.  

Maxine Hong Kingston was also on the list, but I had something in common with Forté-Escamilla’s StoryTeller… I too wore Nike Airs! Plus I could hear her, and I was accustomed to Latino stories, part fiction part reality, or was it part reality, part another reality. I had read Fuentes, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Isabelle Allende, but Forté-Escamilla was different. She was from the border. She hummed, suggesting and opening up worlds. She spun stories in a single sentence; and novels in a single paragraph. And I loved her English, and Spanish, and Spanglish, all in one breath. With her stories, she tricked poverty, oppression and the Barrio. I loved the magic of her prose to change everything even though nothing ever changed.  

Here is the opening paragraph for the story about Lucia, the Storyteller with Nike airs… and then … if you are curious about this curandera, and her airs, you can order the book from Amazon.

“By the time Lucia walked out of the Barrio, took the Greyhound bus to Tuscon, changed buses in San Diego, changed again to the junky #10 bus to Santa Cruz, hung loose at the Metro with all the punks wearing purple and green hair, who looked more like los juveniles de sombra –the shadow kids – than they looked like themselves, took the Express to Watsonville, got off at the exit to highway 152, trudged through the dunes and arrived at a little wooden house sitting in the middle of a stinking brussels sprout field, the women were already crying.” (Forte-Escamilla, p. 53).



Forté-Escamilla, K. (1994). The Storyteller with Nike Airs and other Barrio stories. San Francisco, CA: Aunt Lute Press

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Oh, patents! Cole Haan Air

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

This one was a cinch…. When I looked for shoe size on the inside seam of a Cole Haan Air driving shoe, I also found:  “Made in India US patent 5713141” …! Tadah! It saved me time searching through thousands of Nike patents for the one used for extra cushioning in the Cole Haan Air collection, or finding an exploded view of the Cole Haan Air sole to figure out exactly what was imported from Nike Air. Although ultimately, I chanced upon the coolest xray picture of a Cole Haan Air dress shoe, which really shows how the cushioning technology is inserted into the sole of a high heel “professional” shoe for women. [See image to the right]
From 1998 to 2012, Cole Haan, a Chicago company founded in 1928,  actually belonged to Nike Inc. which explains the merging of Nike sports sole technology with Cole Haan dress code shoes for both men and women, although perhaps not the stroke of genius in the inventive step (with no pun intended…)!

The collection of Cole Haan shoes manufactured in partnership with Nike Air technology includes both visible and invisible Nike Air technology, inserted in the midsole of the shoe.  That is, the upper shoe is a Cole Haan leather design, and the midsole of the shoe is Nike Air patented, to give the shoe extra cushioning and comfort. For example, the Cole Haan Air collection includes upper shoe designs for pumps, driving shoes, professional shoes and even boots, for both men and women, which are connected to a Nike Air patented midsole providing a permanently gas-filled cushioning device, in the heel or foot portion, or both. 

 The inclusion of this midsole technology, functioning as a shock absorption device, makes a huge difference in comfort. And this is also easy to understand since we know, thanks to Nike sports research labs, that feet receive up to 10 times the body weight in impact, specifically, 2 to 3 times the impact for running, and 6 to 10 times the impact for basketball [US 35713141].

US5713141 titled Cushioning device with improved flexible barrier membrane discloses a shock absorbing device that improves on the previous gas or liquid filled bladders, in that it is made more flexible. This is a non-trivial matter since much research is required to determine which gases are used, at what pressure and how to insert the gases permanently, which also depends on the types of materials used to encase the gases so that the cushioning effect endures (i.e; to prevent tensile relaxation or stretching of the materials). 

The Nike Air Sole™ resulting from this research is a sole without pumps or valves that invokes multiple patents for each of its components, and each of the problems it has resolved, such as flex fatigue, heat sealability, elasticity, degradation, cost effectiveness, durability, recyclability, and waste. US 5713141 addresses both the choice of gas (nitrogen or a comparably friendly gas) and the materials used to respond to desired characteristic such as flexibility, low costs and durability.  

  Below, you will find included the abstract for US 5713141 titled Cushioning device with improved flexible barrier membrane, and a patent image of the air filled cushioning bladder. 
Products in the form of cushioning devices made from flexible membranes employing at least one layer including thermoplastic urethane and at least one layer of a copolymer of ethylene and vinyl alcohol are inflatable to a relatively high pressure. The cushioning devices maintain the internal inflatant pressure for extended periods of time by employing a phenomenon referred to in the industry as diffusion pumping. Ideally, the cushioning devices of the present invention can be permanently inflated with gases such as nitrogen or air. Abstract US 5713141 
US 5713141 is the patent for the patented cushioning device inserted in my own Cole Haan Air drivers…, also included below! 


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Oh, patents! Non-adhesive chewing gum

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

 Got  dental work? Dentures? Fillings? Bridges? Partials? Retainers? Implants? Crowns?  Still want to chew gum? No worries… there is a patented chewing gum that won’t stick to  prostheses or any of your dental work…!

 US 4241091, titled Calorie-free non adhesive chewing gums and method  awarded to Life Savers Inc., resolved this issue a while back in 1980, with “a substantially calorie-free, carbohydrate-free, non-cariogenic chewing gum composition, which has a surprisingly large cud* volume for its size, and which will not adhere to natural or artificial teeth, or prosthetic devices”. This is achieved using a plant based “slip agent” in the composition, such as “alpha-cellulose, texturized vegetable protein, fish protein concentrate, citrus peel, citrus pulp, fruit pulp or mixtures thereof”, which imparts non-adhesive properties to the chewing gum.

This non-adhesive solution for chewing gum on dental work and dentures, however, remains an ineffective environmental one as the cud stays water insoluble and made of polymeric hydrocarbons which bond to asphalt and rubber shoes, making it both very expensive and difficult to remove in large pedestrian areas. (Refer to an earlier July 7, 2014 post on Chewing gum for a list of patents that address the chewing gum environmental issue).

Below you will find the abstract for US 4241091, titled Calorie-free non adhesive chewing gums and method, and above an image of Freedent gum, with the properties described in the patent.

A substantially calorie-free, non-carbohydrate, non-cariogenic, non-adhesive chewing gum is provided which does not adhere to dentures and includes gum base, substantially calorie-free sweetener, flavor, water, thickener, filler, softener and a slip agent for imparting non-adhesive properties to the gum, the slip agent being alpha-cellulose, texturized vegetable protein, fish protein concentrate, citrus peel, citrus pulp, fruit pulp or mixtures thereof. A method for imparting non-adhesive properties to chewing gum is also provided. The resulting chewing gum has significantly higher cud volume than heretofore known chewing gum of equivalent weight.

* Cud = what remains of the water insoluble portion of the gum. Cud volume matters especially for bubble gum since it is not possible to blow bubbles with small cuds.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Oh, patents! Sugarless chewing gum

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

 Unless chewing gum is sugarless it is going to contribute to tooth decay. Thus, there are many patents disclosing chewing gum and bubble gum compositions without sugar or with sweet sugarless substitute substances such as sorbitol, maltitol, xylitol, erythritol, lactitol or hydrogenated isomultulose.  However, these substances are expensive and sometimes rare, and particularly difficult to produce as crunchy coatings of the gum core.
Thus, the WIPO patent WO2005006873 titled Method of forming a sugarless coating on chewing gum aims to remedy this situation by disclosing a sugarless composition where the sweet coating contains a sugarless substitute, in combination with 40 to 80 % filler, hence reducing the costs of producing a gum with a sugarless coating while maintaining every other aspect of quality in terms of taste and crunchy mouth feel. The patent further discloses how the coating is actually made up of a plurality of layers of the syrup and a dusting mix.

The added bonus of a sweetner such as xylitol to the gum base is that it is endorsed by no less than 6 dental associations as a substance that can prevent tooth decay and recalcify tooth enamel! [CDC Communications, 2006]. Indeed, zylitol inhibits the bacteria Streptococcus mutans, a significant contributor to tooth decay [Milgrom, et al. , 2006]

 So cheers for sugarless gum!

 Below, you will find the abstract for WO2005006873 titled Method of forming a sugarless coating on chewing gum, and above an image Epic Peppermint gum with xylitol, and in chewing gum tablet form with a crunchy sugarless coating.  
A method of forming a sugarless coating on chewing gum cores comprises: providing chewing gum cores; providing a coating syrup comprising one or more sugarless sweeteners; providing a dusting mix comprising about 20% to about 60% of a bulk sweetener selected from the group consisting of maltitol, hydrogenated isomaltulose, lactitol, sorbitol and mixtures thereof and about 40 % to about 80% filler; and applying a plurality of layers of the coating syrup and a plurality of layers of the dusting mix to the chewing gum cores to form a sugarless coating on the gum cores. Abstract WO2005006873 
CDC (2006) Communications guide for State Oral Health Programs. Oral Health America.
Milgrom, P., Ly, K.A., Roberts, M.C.; Rothen, M.; Mueller, G. and D.K. Yamaguchi (2006) Streptococci Mutans dose response to zylitol chewing gum. Journal of Dental Research, February 2006 vol. 85 no. 2 177-181


Friday, July 11, 2014

Oh, patents! Bubble gum…

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

So... there is chewing gum… and bubble gum… And bubble gum is especially sticky if it is to offer bubble forming capacity! The patent US4357355 titled Non-stick bubble gum base composition discloses a composition that is specially designed to both enhance the bubble- forming capacity and reduce the adhesive properties of the gum base.  Prior art apparently offered to remove the substances promoting stickiness such as elastomers, waxes or resins; or alternatively, to add a “slip agent” preventing adhesion, whereas this patent offers to do likewise without substantially changing the gum base formulations!

US4357355  was awarded to the 19th century Warner Lambert Co., in 1982, a company that was subsequently  acquired by Pfizer, and which had previously (circa 1962) acquired The American Chicle Company, manufacturer of Dentyne®, Chiclets® and Trident® gum. [Pfizer History]

Below appears the abstract for US4357355 titled Non-stick bubble gum base composition, where you might be surprised by the list of ingredients of this non-toxic vinyl polymer, which constitutes bubblegum!
And noblesse oblige…the image of a bubblegum bubble is also included!
Abstract US4357355 - A non-adhesive bubble gum base composition includes a high molecular weight vinyl polymer such as polyvinyl acetate or polyvinyl alcohol, together with an emulsifier, in combination with ingredients such as an elastomer, an oleaginous plasticizer, an elastomer solvent, mineral adjuvants, fatty acids, and others. The emulsifier is preferably present in an amount with respect to the non-toxic vinyl polymer ranging from about 5 to 75% by weight. A method for the preparation of the bubble gum base composition is also disclosed which comprises preparing a homogeneous premixture of the non-toxic vinyl polymer and the emulsifier prior to combining non-toxic vinyl polymer with the remainder of the ingredients of the base composition. The base compositions prepared in accordance with the present invention are less sticky, and show improved film forming and bubble blowing capabilities.

Pfizer history

Monday, July 7, 2014

Oh, patents! Chewing gum…

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

So, you thought that chewing gum was…just chewing gum!

Well, you are right about the chewing but you may be surprised in regards the gum – a highly patented food acceptable tri-block polymeric composition and an artefact of historic proportions!

 Indeed, chewing gun has been used for millennia, albeit harvested more naturally as sap from the bark of various trees (just like  latex harvested from rubber trees). For example, chewing gum was harvested as birch bark tar in Finland during the Neolithic age, 3000 years ago; in Mexico by the Aztecs, 2000 years ago, in the form of chicle or tziktli in Nahuatl, harvested from the bark of the sapodilla tree; in Ancient Greece, as mastic extracted from the mastic tree; from Spruce trees and used by American Indians, and later commercialized by the New England settlers in 1848 as The State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum (Wikipedia, Chewing gum and chicle).

The first chewing gum patents were filed at the end of the 19th century:
US 98304(1869) - Improved chewing gum (also used as “dentifrice” aka toothpaste)
US107693 (1870) - Improvement in chewing gum (as a healthful substitute for addiction to chewing or smoking tobacco. This improvement is purported a tobacco antidote)
US193045 (1877) - Improvement in confectionary composition

 During the course of history chewing gum has acquired many different purposes, some of which are still valid to date. Breath freshener, cavity control, tobacco substitute, toothpaste substitute, teeth whitener and aid for digestion, are just a few of these enduring purposes. And since the end of the 19th century many chewing gum patents have been filed. The EPO returned 8497 hits for a search on chewing gum!

Among the types of patents retuned, there are: Chewing gum compositions which switched from natural plant-based polymers harvested from trees to synthetic polymers during the early 60s; methods of manufacturing chewing gum; various forms of packaging and conditioning of chewing gum in sticks and tablets; the flavoring and fragrances of chewing gum, and methods for controlling the release of fragrances and flavors. The following short list includes examples of these types of chewing patents:

Chewing gum compositions
US2010215799 - Chewing gum composition
US6986907 B2 - Chewing gum base and chewing gum compositions
US2014161739 - Hydrophylic gum base
US2013052301 Chewing gum compositions 

Chewing gum manufacturing patents
US6322828 - Process for manufacturing a pharmaceutical chewing gum
US5773053 - Chewing gum base manufacturing process using plurality of softening agents inlets
US5976581 - Continuous chewing gum manufacturing process using rework gum
US6030647 - Continuous chewing gum manufacturing process for gum with controlled flavor release
US5486366  - Continuous chewing gum manufacturing process using a mixing restriction element

Chewing gum flavor and fragrance patents
US2224637 (1940) - Chocolate flavored chewing gum
US5156865  - Method of adding licorice to chewing gum
US2014171517 – 4-mercapto-5methyl-4heptanone and its use in flavor and fragrance compositions
US3818107 - Chewing gum with sustained flavor release compositions
US2596852 - Permanently favored chewing gum base
US7022352 - Encapsulated flavors and chewing gum using same
US3826847 A - Process for preparation of flavor durable chewing gum

Chewing gum packaging patents
WO2014089045 (Wrigley) - Unitary flexible packaging
US 6001297 - Chewing gum wrapped in a single wrapper that is properly sealed
US5510124  - Method for packaging single unit of chewing gum and chewing gum so packaged
EP0994812 - Packaged chewing gum and methods of packaging chewing gum
US5376388  - Use of edible film to improve the packaging of chewing gum
US5309697 - Chewing gum packaging machine

Plus one modern, and highly persistent problem connected to chewing gum, considering the 3 million tons of chewing gum produced each year, concerns the removal of “cuds” from asphalt! The term “cud” refers to the water-insoluble portion of the gum, remaining after it has been chewed. Gum cuds stick to pavements for an average of 5 years unless removed, and the costs of removing cuds are, for example, estimated at 6 million Euros in a city like London (in the UK) [Planetscope]. Various patented solutions to this environmental problem appear such as “biodegradable and environmental gum” or chewing gum compositions that are less adhesive. The following is a list of gum removal patents:

Chewing gum removal patents
US2011319309 -  Compositions and methods for the removal of chewing gum residues from substrates
US2014065242 - Biodegradable chewing gum comprising at least one high molecular weight biodegradable  polymer
US2013108732 - Biodegradable chewing gum
US2010074987 - Environmental chewing gum

Images of early commercialized 19th century chewing gum and more modern forms are included as well as the below abstract and Figure 1 tri-bloc polymer structures for US2013052301, titled Chewing gum compositions, awarded to Wrigley, addressing the issue of removal from pavements:  

Abstract - US2013052301 Chewing gum compositions (Wrigley)

A chewing gum base which is cud-forming and chewable at mouth temperature contains a food acceptable tri-block copolymer having the form A-B-A or A-B-C and comprising a soft mid-block which constitutes at least 30 wt. % of the total polymer and hard end-blocks each having a glass transition temperature below 70 DEG C. The tri-block copolymer is optionally plasticized with a compatible di-block copolymer to function as an elastomer system in the gum base.
If you are wondering how chewing gum really took off in the industrialized world, from a commercial standpoint, at the turn of the 20th century? Here is what is on record, in a nutshell: Two packs of Wrigley gum were included for free with every purchase of one can of Baking Soda, manufactured by Wrigley, until gum sales exceeded Baking Soda sales and Wrigley concentrated only on chewing gum. US soldiers then exported chewing gum to Europe during World War II. Wrigley's Juicy Fruit and Spearmint chewing gum were first produced in 1893!  [Wrigley]

Wikipedia – Article on Chewing gum
Wikipedia  - Article on Chicle
Wikipedia - Article on Wrigley Company
Wrigley Company
Planetescope : La consommation mondiale du chewing gum