Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Very Cool Invention

It's 82 degrees and it's still hockey season.  Time for some hockey inventions.

The Zamboni ice resurfacing machines are one of the  the added attractions of going to a hockey game or to the ice rink. Watching this elegant machine drive across the ice placing a new sheer surface on the ice is one of the highlights, the fans even cheer the Zamboni driver when the machine makes its way out of its game time hiding place.

The Zamboni Company finds itself in the same situation as Xerox (a photocopier) and Kleenex (a tissue). The company  works very hard to keep its trademarked product name from being turned into a noun. When that happens the IP world calls it trademark dilution. The 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games have got the people at Zamboni Company on the job.

Apparently the battery operated ice resurfacing machines built by the Zamboni Company's Canadian competitor, Resurfice Corp. failed to perform at the level of quality for Olympic level elite competition. When there were delays in the events because of problems, the media reported it as being caused by the Zamboni rather than by saying it was caused by the ice resurfacing machines.'s article on the subject clarifies the situation as did articles in other media outlets. The article also reported on Charles Schulz's love of the Zamboni Machine which began in 1980. Snoopy has even been seen driving his own Zamboni Machine.

The National Hockey League even sells team machine pins and die cast models of their machines. The Washington Capitals, who sadly didn't make it to the Finals this year, don't have their own Zamboni pin on their online store web site.  This is a disappointment.

If you are a gamer, you can even drive the Zamboni in your NHL 2K9game which features the Zamboni Achievement challenge that challenges you to clear the ice before the time runs out.

Check out Mr. Zamboni's early patent, 2,763,939 issued in September of 1956.  The patent for a complex invention had only 10 columns of text and and eight (8!!!) claims.  The Zamboni site also has a great archive section complete with pictures on the history of this iconic machine.

The bottom line, from an intellectual property perspective, it's bad for business when your product name becomes a noun. You need to protect your trademark. But for the rest of us who love the Zamboni Machine, we don't want it getting a bad rap because of a competitor.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Better Bush-Hog

A Better Bush-Hog

Last time, I mentioned that the same water treatment technology was found applying to inventions related to both hydraulic fracturing for natural gas production and the production of fertilizer from manure.
Here is another intersection (∩, for you set theory mathematicians) of technologies and innovation spaces.
Patent Number 8,066,043, for a “Combination forest biomass and tree harvester, harvesting head assembly, and methods for harvesting” was issued on November 29, 2011 to James R. Leist (Colombus, MS) and assigned to Weyerhaeuser NR Company (Federal Way, WA). The invention is a woodworking one, using timber harvesting or processing that results in felling a tree, according to the original classification (144/336) on the patent.
Leist’s Claim 1:
“1. A combination forest biomass and tree harvester comprising:
a self-propelled vehicle base;
a moveable arm attached to the self propelled vehicle base;
and a harvesting head assembly connected to the moveable arm, the harvesting head assembly comprising: a frame member comprising a base portion and a main portion; a grabbing assembly attached to the main portion of the frame member, the grabbing assembly being configured for grabbing trees or forest biomass; and a cutting assembly attached to the base portion of the frame member, the cutting assembly comprising: a primary cutting mechanism positioned on a center axis, the primary cutting mechanism being configured to cut trees; and a secondary cutting mechanism positioned in an orbital configuration around the primary cutting mechanism, the secondary cutting mechanism being configured to mow forest biomass; wherein the center axis is substantially perpendicular to the base portion of the frame member.”
The purpose of the invention is to provide more efficient forest biomass harvesting (hence its placement in the patentECO Resource Extraction & Harvesting Index) to provide “biomass as an alternative energy source” (patentECO Energy Index).
Inventions of forest biomass (i.e., wood) as an alternative energy fuel source are found in 44/606, wood, sawdust or paper which is defined as subject matter in which the vegetation or refuse is a solid derived from the trunk or branches of trees for bushes, or from manufactured cellulosic sheet materials. The first patent with this classification attached (as a cross-reference) was number 9,015 issued in 1852 for the “Manufacture of Granular Fuel From Brush-Wood and Twigs.”
So here is a conundrum. Many environmentalists, preservationists, forest advocacy groups, and wilderness advocacy groups deplore forest product harvesting, yet implore the government to mandate renewable energy use by electric utilities. Biomass, and specifically forest biomass, is an eminently renewable resource. Through this patent, Weyerhaeuser has developed more efficient technology to provide a renewable energy source, that many deplore and desire at the same time.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Staircase to No Where

From the traffic capital of the United States, the Washington DC Metropolitan area, a town where you can't  ever schedule a meeting with out adding, "I'll be there around...", a new report has surfaced.  Apparently people who have over a 45 minute commute in traffic are more depressed, weigh more, and eat more, a lot of it while in the car.  The report also notes that people with long commutes don't get as much exercise.  Who wants to get back in the car and drive to the gym after 45 minutes of bumper to bumper 15 mile an hour traffic.

All this brings me to Walter Harrison and Samuel Talbot, the inventors of the Exercise Escalator. The Exercise Escalator which appears to be the predecessor to the Stair Master, is an "in place" exerciser which resembles a reverse action escalator. Mr. Harrison and Mr Talbot's invention is covered by patent 3,497,215. It was filed in 1967.

The invention claims, "An escalator type apparatus for exercising a subject "in situ" in a simulated stair climbing activity, comprising a structure including a flight of steps movable in a closed loop, each step having a closed riser affixed thereto, and means operatively connected to said apparatus for measuring the effort of a subject in the act of simulated climbing of said movable steps." They invented the stair case to nowhere.

The Exercise Escalator is especially suited for multi-lead electrocardiography during the exercise of patients with coronary heart disease...presenting minimal danger to the weak and unsteady; one which exercises the muscles habitually used by nonathletic people..." I think the commuting crowd qualifies here.

So as you mount the stair master or what every stair climbing cardio device you find in your over crowded gym, that is if you get yourself there, think of Mr. Harrison and Mr. Talbot's invention and the their contribution to the exercise annual ritual.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Organic Fertilizers Through Electrochemistry

Organic Fertilizers Through Electrochemistry

Timothy Camisa, Colchester, VT, invented an improved system for processing a liquid manure and producing organic fertilizer. Issued Patent Number 7,563,302 on July 21, 2009, Camisa’s intellectual property is titled “Apparatus and method for manure reclamation” and is assigned to Vermont Organics Reclamation Inc (Williston, VT). Classified by USPTO as 71/21, the invention joins 298 others pertaining to guano, stable manure or other animal-produced fertilizers. The first of these with the same original classification was issued in 1862.
Camisa’s claim 1 states:
“A method for processing liquid manure comprising:
transferring said liquid manure into an input station;
separating a first manure component and a first overflow liquor from said liquid manure at a first processing station via a first mechanical separation equipment;
adding a flocculant material to said first overflow liquor at said first processing station;
separating a second manure component and a second overflow liquor from said first overflow liquor at a second processing station via a second mechanical separation equipment;
performing direct current electrocoagulation cleaning of said second overflow liquor at a third processing station and separating a third manure component and a third overflow liquor;
and performing clarifying cleaning of said third overflow liquor at an output station and separating a fourth manure component and water.”
Note the term “electrocoagulation” in the 5th clause of the claim following the preamble (according to the USPTO Manual of Patent Examination Practice, “ "Preamble language" is that language in a claim appearing before the transitional phase, e.g., before "comprising," "consisting essentially of," or "consisting of." “). This is the same process used in US Patent  7,731,854 highlighted in my earlier post on hydraulic fracturing and wastewater treatment. Thus, we have a linkage of wastewater treatment technology found patentECO Water and Agriculture Index inventions.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Art of Prior Art

We have come to love the art of excellent prior art. Finding really good prior art is one of those serendipitous search moments. Just doing a prior art search makes you smarter but when you find an elegant, amazing piece of prior art it's great. The best prior art quests tend to be part of invalidity efforts with big money, big principles, or both at stake. The one we discuss here is a big principle example.

A refresher on what USPTO says about prior art:

Under 35 U.S.C. 102(b) states: "A person shall be entitled to a patent unless -- (b) the invention was patented or disclosed in a printed publication in this or a foreign country or in public use or on sale in this country, more than one year prior to the date of application for patent in the United States."

Excellent prior art was found by the people at Public Patent (PubPat) Foundation at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law; a not-for-profit legal services organization whose mission is to protect freedom in the patent system. says that they represent the public's interest against undeserved patents and unsound patent policy. We are nonpartisan about their mission but impressed by their finely honed prior art skills.

In September of 2008, Pubpat asked USPTO to re-examine a patent for photomosaic images (6,137,498) The patent was filed in October 27, 1997 based on a provisional application dated January 2, 1997. The patent was granted in October 24, 2000. The reexamination appears to have triggered when the inventor, Robert Silvers of Cambridge, Mass. was sending cease and desist letters and asserting his patent against individuals, small businesses, and against the GIMP open source software program. On June 11th, 2009, PubPat received a copy of the USPTO Office Action invalidating 41 of the 63 claims including all of the independent claims. While the fight wasn't totally over, this was a major victory.
What was the primary piece of prior art cited in the USPTO Office Action? The cover of the "Being Double Digital, The Media Lab at 10" November 1995 issue of WIRED magazine. The cover featured a photomosaic portrait of Nicolas Negroponte. This piece of prior art was actually created by Mr. Silvers himself. A piece of art previously submitted to USPTO.
To add to the sublime nature of this particular piece of prior art is the fact that Mr. Silvers' bio cites the Media Lab under his educational credits. Mr. Silvers published a paper titled "Mosaics: Putting Pictures in their Place". The paper was submitted to the Program in Media Arts and Sciences, School of Architecture and Planning as part of the requirements for a Degree of Master of Science in Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) That paper, published in 1996. The document itself states "In 1994, he entered the Media Laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. The very institution that the WIRED magazine profiled in the November 1995 issue that was used to invalidate Mr. Silver's patent. It's interesting that Mr. Silver's own work is not cited on the patent document.
Mr. Silver passes the patent number test. Mr. Silvers' web site includes his patent number on the bottom of every page. Perhaps Mr. Silver will need to modify his website now.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Removing Carbon Dioxide From the Atmosphere

Removing Carbon Dioxide From the Atmosphere

A Google search of the phrase “carbon dioxide removal” returns 314,000 hits. The top hit is a Wikipedia article on that phrase whose first sentence is “Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) methods refers to a number of technologies which reduce the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”
Patent Number 8,088,197, “Removal of carbon dioxide from air” was issued on January 3, 2012 to an inventive team headed by Allen B. Wright (Tucson, AZ). The USPTO considers this invention to be classified as 95/51, and closely related to gas separation processes that use selective diffusion of carbon dioxide or monoxide permeating through a substantially solid barrier. The invention is assigned to Kilimanjaro Energy, Inc. of Waukesha, WI.
Wright’s team views their invention as allowing removal of CO2 from ambient air, making “it possible to use carbon-based fuels and deal with the associated greenhouse gas emissions after the fact. Since [carbon dioxide] is neither poisonous nor harmful in parts per million quantities but creates environmental problems simply by accumulating in the atmosphere, it is desirable to remove [carbon dioxide] from air in order to compensate for emissions elsewhere and at different times.”
Creates environmental problems simply by accumulating in the atmosphere? I refer you to 2.9 million Google hits on ‘photosynthesis’, 24.3 million hits on ‘respiration’, and 2.2 million hits on ‘carbon cycle.’
Wright et al.’s Claim 1 states:
“An apparatus for the capture of CO2 from ambient air, the apparatus comprising a store of ambient air, an anion exchange material in contact with a flow of said ambient air, and a collector that collects CO2 separated from said anion exchange material subsequent to the capture of said CO2 by said anion exchange material.”
Found in the patentECO Air Index, the patent reflects in many ways our times.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Advertising vs. Product Placement Patent Style

The multimedia patent world aligns with two of our favorite patent portfolios. The MPEG-LA suite of patents - where the titans of the multimedia revolution cross-licensed all of their patents and battle it out in the marketplace; and the Multimedia Patent Trust's holdings; a small but formidable collection of nine patents that includes six in the MPEG space and three in the speech space. Our favorite in the MPT collection is the Netravali patent 4,383,272 which has to do with updating pixels to distinguish moving areas of a picture. From a 50,000 foot view, only compressing the parts of the picture that change to save space. A lot of people think this is a seminal invention in the evolution of HDTV. The patent applications we look at here are made possible by the techiques defined by Mr. Netravali and his co-inventor John D. Robbins.

The first thing we did when we started looking at the patent applications was to define multimedia. One of the sources we were working with defined it as "a transmission that combines media of communication - text, and graphics and sound, etc." That seemed clear enough - if it has pictures, text, and makes noise it's multimedia. No requirement for movement.

One of the published patents we came across in the multimedia space was 10/112,519 - Method and System for Providing Intelligent Advertisement Placement in a Motion Picture. The application describes an invention for embedding advertisements into motion picture content using personalized data. The individual inventors describe a process for swapping out objects in the motion picture with advertising images based on personalize data. I get Diet Coke, you get Mountain Dew, if you're in Louisville, Kentucky or Jeffersonville, Indiana you get Big Red - America's #1 Red Soda.

Throughout the application the inventors use the phrase "motion picture". So, what's a motion picture? According to the web and the old school paper dictionary, a motion picture is a "movie," a form of entertainment that enacts a story by sound and a sequence of images giving the illusion of continuous movement. Another definition says a motion picture is a length of film with or without recorded sound bearing a sequence of images creating the illusion of movement. OK. So, a movie is a motion picture? It depends. Merriam-Webster says it's a series of pictures projected on a screen in rapid succession with objects shown in successive positions slightly changed to produce the optical effect of a continuous picture in which the objects move. This application was filed in March 2002 and is a continuation in part of an application filed in January 2000.

Fast forward to July of 2006 when patent application number11/486,683 - System for Creating Dynamically Personalized Media was filed. The inventors describe a multi-media object management system to manage the delivery of product placements in a multi-media program. They describe modifying the content in which the multi-media object locations that can be brokered are replaced with content defined by advertisers based on demographics or other user attributes. The patent teaches a multi-media object location comprising "a spatial and temporal site." (What??) The specification talks about selling the multi-media object locations to advertisers. I like the figures. Nice, easy to understand pictures. The application seems a little heavy with obscure vocabulary no doubt added to help insure the widest possible coverage if and when a patent is granted. (As of today it hadn't.)

Time for a little clarity. Is a multi-media object an advertising image or is it some precursor thing where you place an advertisig image? What about this spatial and temporal thing? Is this the space where the advertising image goes and an event that takes place over time kind of like the guy drinking the soda in the picture above? You have to ask yourself what words will the examiner use to do their own prior art search? What will the phrase multimedia object return? A multimedia object comes from the world of object oriented programming, MPEG, and the graphics world.

One application discusses product placement, the other discusses advertising. Isn't product placement advertising? Yep. Product placement is defined as an advertising technique used by companies to subtly promote their products; a form of advertising where branded goods or services are placed in context usually devoid of ads, such as movies, the story line of television shows or news programs. (We were good until the news programs part, notice all the anchors tweet from their iPads.)  Is product placement subtle?

This is a vocabulary conundrum. But you have to ask yourself, what is the impact of the word choices of the inventors? Will the choice of words in the claims and description of the invention make a difference? What happens when these applications hit USPTO? USPTO has to figure out what to do with the patent applications and which examiners are going to look at them. Should you expect that the content would drive them to the same class?

The motion picture advertising patent is classified in class 725/34. (In case you are wondering, the first boldfaced class on a published patent application is the Primary classification and drives which Group Art Unit at PTO is going to examine your patent application.) The multi-media object product placement patent shows class 705/14 as the the primary class.

Which means?

The two independent inventors who wrote about motion pictures and advertising had their patent classified in class 725/34 a class for interactive video distribution systems, PROGRAM, MESSAGE, OR COMMERCIAL INSERTION OR SUBSTITUTION: Subject matter comprising means or steps for inserting or substituting a video program or other information beyond the control of a viewer, television, for operator interfaces for video sequencing or editing specific to individual user or household: subject matter comprising means or steps for conveying user-specific data. JACKPOT!!

705/14 falls under Data processing: Financial, Business Practice, Management, or Cost/Price Determination - Distribution and redemption of coupon, or inventive or promotion programs. A business method.  The class definition says, "Note - A display or advertising system is included herein." A display or advertising system? Perplexing - is this a method, a business practice, a process - I guess we'll see.

Patent classification remains an illusive art and USPTO changes its mind along the way but sometimes plain language works best at getting your patent where you want it to go. The examiners are probably happy to have something that helps them find the invention in the blur of words. We have a motion picture where we replace images with advertising images selected based on characteristics of the viewer. Then we have a multi-media object consisting of a spatial or temporal site. The space and time continuum - isn't that what movies are? As another testament to the art of a well crafted patent application. The independent inventors in the motion picture advertising application started their claims by saying: "What is claimed is:" The multi-media object inventors started their claims with: "What is new and desired to be protected by Letters Patent of the United States is."

There is something to be said for clarity and simplicity of language but don't expect it to show up on patents anytime soon.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Innovation in Agriculture

Innovation in Agriculture

I referred recently to farmers as the first conservationists. This does not mean, however, that farming practices do not have negative environmental consequences. For that matter, depending on your perspective, all actions have negative environmental consequences. For example, the USEPA would have you believe that the carbon dioxide you exhale as a by-product of the cellular respiration that keeps you alive should be regulated as a pollutant.
Here in the Chesapeake Bay watershed (64,000 square miles), agriculture covers 23 percent of the land area (14,720 square miles). Government and academic scientists estimate that in 2009, agriculture was the largest source of nitrogen loading (45 percent or 110.6 million pounds per year) to the Bay. It was also the largest source of phosphorus loading (44 percent or 7.2 million pounds per year), as well as sediment (65 percent or 5.3 billion pounds per year). Many programs are in place at the federal, state, and local government levels to provide cost-sharing for agricultural practices to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment runoff. The Chesapeake Bay watershed is now subject to a Total Maximum Daily Load, a water regulatory program of the USEPA.
Many bureaucrats and environmental advocacy groups would prefer that the public believe that the only way to correct environmental degradation is implementation of top-down governmental regulatory programs. This view intentionally ignores the power of innovation and free market economics.
Fortunately, there are inventors like Ronald D. Salestrom of Tucson, AZ. Salestrom has provided an “Agricultural water retention and flow enhancement mixture”; his intellectual property is protected by Patent Number 5,868,087, issued on February 9, 1999. The US Patent and Trademark Office classifies his invention as 111/132. This classification, found in a class covering planting inventions, pertains to broadcasting (think of your Scott’s rotary fertilizer spreader), specifically dispensing material ahead of a powered tiller.
Salestrom summarizes his invention in claim 1:
“1. A technique for treating agricultural land to increase water retention capabilities of the soil comprising a broadcaster and involving the steps of: 
a) distributing a substantially even spread of water absorbent polymer particles by said broadcaster over a soil surface; 
b) blending the water absorbent polymer particles into an upper level of said soil; and, 
  1. applying a linear polymer to said soil surface during irrigation of said soil surface.”
Inventor Salestrom envisions that his technique of applying selected chemicals will increase agricultural water retention and minimize erosion. The technique applies water absorbent polymers into the top layer of a field, creating a water barrier within the soil. Subsequently, a linear polymer such as polyacrylamide is applied to the soil's surface to minimize erosion during irrigation and precipitation. The water absorbent polymers assist in the thorough application of the linear polymer as the linear polymer is maintained at the surface area and prevented from leaching away. The combination of these techniques will serve to reduce nutrient and sediment losses from agricultural fields.
Has Salestrom’s invention (or others in the patentECO Agricultural Index) been added to the list of best management practices (BMPs) recommended by Chesapeake Bay governments?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

On Economically Significant Patents

Nothing's Easy
Here's a repost from Arleen Zank's blog Search the Way You Think.   

Comments to USPTO on their latest inquiry from Congress are in order.

You can read the comments on TechDirt here.

On April 20th, about a week ago, USPTO issued a request for comments via the Federal Register seeking input on the latest bright idea from Congress. The short version is that Congress (and the technology lobbyists) want to explore placing a secrecy order on   "economically significant" patents to protect the economic national security of the United States.

The Federal Register contains the request,  nice background information on how secrecy orders work and the impact on the patent system int he event such a program were put in place.  Here are some of the highlights.  The request:
"Pursuant to a request from Congress, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is seeking comments as to whether the United States should identify and bar from publication and issuance certain patent applications as detrimental to the nation's economic security. The USPTO is also seeking comments on the desirability of changes to the existing procedures for reviewing applications that might be detrimental to national security."
Let's start with the basics.  A patent is basically a social compact where an inventor gets exclusive rights to their invention for a limited period of time in exchange for publishing information about how to make their invention and how it works.  Patent 101.  Barring publication is one thing.  Barring issuance is a REALLY BAD IDEA.

In a patent system where it's already taking an average of three years to get your patent application prosecuted and where USPTO can't find enough electrical engineers or computer scientists (or chemical and mechanical engineers) to deal with the explosion of applications we are now going to ask the examiners (or some other economic types) to screen the patents for matters pertaining to their economic significance.
"Congress has asked whether the currently performed screening of patent applications for national security concerns should be extended to protect economically significant patents from discovery by foreign entities."
What is a foreign entity?  Is the overseas operations of a US company that operates as a division of a US company a foreign entity. (Just imagine the definition page that would go along with this set of new regulations.)

And here comes the definition of economic security:
"In this context, the Subcommittee describes "economic security'' as ensuring that the United States receives the first benefits of innovations conceived within this country, so as to promote domestic development, future innovation and continued economic expansion."
Consider Apple for a minute.  They are among the leaders in patented technology.  In the early days when they were cranking out the patents that would eventually lead to their "i" take over of the consumer electronics world - iPod, iPhone, iPad, iMac, with more to come, no one would have guessed that a touch screen invention where you swipe your finger across the screen to unlock your device would have been economically significant.  That was because we were all using Blackberries.

So now we are going to ask patent examiners, who quite frankly have enough to do and probably aren't the best ones to be in the business of determining market movements, to determine the economic value of a patent.  Or we are going to create a whole new universe of innovation police who are going to figure out what is and isn't economically significant.  USPTO hasn't been able to do this on well defined areas of the economy - consider the Green Technology Pilot Program where the Office set forth a bunch of classes that were their definition of "green technology" only to have to change the criteria when the innovators showed that there are many more ways to create clean tech that were outside of the boundaries of a certain group of classifications.

What's even more entertaining is that secrecy orders are handled by the Department of Defense (DOD).  DOD has its hands full dealing with cyber security and a couple of wars at the moment.  They barely have time to determine which patents have real national defense implications.  I doubt that the US Army would have thought that remote control toy car technology used to make improvised explosive devices was significant until, well, it was.  How would they have known which technologies would wind up in the latest IEDs?

The secrecy order stuff has much bigger ramifications.  First, who is going to administer all this?  Second, if patents are protected by secrecy orders, they have the potential to lose their priority date when the applicant files overseas.  And then there's the really disturbing aspect - not issuing the patent.  Does the assignee and the inventor need to ask the government to issue the patent?  Will the Government decide when to issue the patent?  This whole process feels like it will do nothing but slow down the process and dramatically extend the innovate to market continuum, something the feds are trying to accelerate when they are funding Federal Research grants.

Which has a bigger impact on our economic security - protecting an application based on some arbitrary determination at the time of the filing of the application that a patent is economically significant; or losing the priority date when the US inventor (this is also something hard to define) goes to file a foreign patent application.

Also consider the metrics.  About two thirds of the patent applications don't get granted.  The invention isn't novel or non-obvious, the inventor can't answer the examiner's questions in a timely manner, or the inventor just calls it quits and abandons the application.  So we're going to add a process to make an "economic security" decision about a patent application - when?

Based on the language in the request, it seems that the decision would be made by a third party because the inventor/assignee has the right to request that an application isn't published already.  Imaging that can of worms.  Inventor sends an application to USPTO and some agency, government bureaucrat, or overloaded patent examiner decides a patent economic secrecy order is required.  Inventor doesn't want it, government does, all hell breaks lose.  The only guys making any money at this point are the patent lawyers.  (oops...sounds like an opportunity.)

The soapbox is out.  I'm about to opine as the patent lawyers like to say...

This is once again an over reach by the Feds seeking to protect us from a boogie man that doesn't exist.  If the INVENTOR or his/her firm think that their invention has significant economic value they have two choices - maintain it as a trade secret; or request that the application not be published.  Check the box - fill out the forms - it's not that hard.

Do we really need the US Government picking winners and losers.  Frankly their track record isn't really that good.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mean Green Really Fast Hybrid Machine

The Volvo Mean Green sets a new world speed record AND beat the Ferrari.  Checkout the videos of the speed record effort and the Ferrari race.  Hybrids are coming a long way.

There is much awesome clean technology here.  But the speed is the most compelling.  Enjoy.

Green Roofs - Old Technology

Green Roofs, Old Technology

A USEPA report entitled “Reducing Urban Heat Islands: Compendium of Strategies” describes the causes and impacts of summertime urban heat islands and promotes strategies for lowering temperatures in U.S. communities. The focus of the strategies is implementing much more-widespread green roofing. A green roof is a vegetation layer grown on a rooftop. Green roof benefits include reduced building energy use, removal of air pollutants by the vegetation, and enhanced stormwater management and water quality control, among others. The report estimates that, for four US urban areas (Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Houston, Chicago), rooftops account for 20-25 percent of the land area. The US Department of Agriculture 2007 National Resources Inventory estimates that there are 111 million acres of developed land in the contiguous 48 states. Applying a conservative (and admittedly, possibly too high) estimate of 20 percent as roof area, and converting to square miles, there may be as much as 34,688 square miles of rooftop in the Lower 48. That’s only slightly more area than the state of Maine (which I personally would not like to see roofed over). This back-of-the-envelope calculation does not account for rooftops in rural areas.
The point is there is tremendous potential for application of green roofing technology.
Thirty US patents use the phrase “green roof$” in the title or abstract (the ‘$’ is a wildcard that includes ‘-s’ and ‘-ing’). Several of these are mining technology, however. 
One of the more recent of these patents is number 7,870,691, “Green roof tile system and methods of use.” Inventors David A. Williams (Austin, TX) and Jonathan W. Kinder (Fort Worth, TX) were issued this patent on January 18, 2011. Classified as 47/65.9, their system is within the broad class of plant husbandry, and found with technologies providing a receptacle for plant growing medium — a walled container in which the container is designed to support a sheet of plants as in a bench or roof top garden. This invention is found within the patentECO Industry Index.
Williams’ and Kinder’s first claim states:
“A green roof tiling system comprising: a tile sheet comprising at least three tiles intended to be disposed above a growing medium layer disposed on a roof; a plurality of detachable bridges connecting adjacent tiles in the tile sheet; a substantially impermeable material included in at least some of the tiles; and a plurality of plant growth channels between adjacent tiles, wherein the plant growth channels include a pathway for water runoff.”
Returning to the USEPA report for a moment, it included the following in a call-out box: “In addition to green roofs, building owners can install green walls, sometimes referred to as living walls or vertical gardens. These walls can involve placing trellises or cables in front of exterior walls and allowing vines to grow up them, or can be more elaborate, with plants actually incorporated into the wall.” The USEPA is somewhat behind the times in recommending this new “living walls” technology. We close with an illustration of the sod home of John and Marget Bakken, Milton, N.D., circa 1895. This photograph was the basis for the U.S. Homestead Act, 1862-1962 commemorative stamp.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How Many Environmentally/Ecologically Friendly Inventions - Agriculture Edition

How Many Environmentally/Ecologically Friendly Inventions?
Part 6 — Agriculture

Inventions in the Agriculture Index allow the US to continue to feed itself and a large fraction of the world.
I firmly believe that farmers were the first conservationists, and continue to be most directly tied to practices which conserve soil and water, as their livelihood depends upon it. Do you like to eat? Thank a farmer.
The four Agriculture Index patents in our survey cover four USPC classes:
  • plant husbandry
  • harvesters
  • plant protecting and regulating compositions
  • organic compounds
The United States leads the world in corn production. Oklahoma State University estimates that in 2009, 124,361 square miles of the US were devoted to corn production (this area is larger than every state with the exception of Alaska, Texas, California, and Montana). Thus, any improvement in planting, fertilizing, or harvesting practices or equipment has great potential to yield positive environmental benefits.
Enter Patent Number 7,373,767 issued and assigned to Marion Calmer (Alpha, IL) on May 20, 2008. Calmer’s patent, titled “Corn head row unit,” is placed by the USPTO in 56/95, which is a corn stalk type cutting harvester using spiral gatherers. The design of the harvester provides “a smooth uninterrupted improved flow of corn stalk material through the ear separation chamber and is the first row unit designed to be environmentally friendly by ensuring that the majority of the corn plant remains connected to its original root system which prevents it from rapidly decomposing, blowing or washing away.”
We hope this series has provided you a small glimpse into the types of recent patents that inventors have explicitly considered to be environmentally or ecologically friendly. They represent a tiny fraction of the innovations found within the patentECO Indexes.