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Showing posts from October, 2017

Solutions to Unique Manufacturing Problems

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When it comes industrial manufacturing of physical goods, whether textiles, apparel, automobiles, or otherwise, these physical goods often come with their own set of unique manufacturing challenges. Solving these unique manufacturing challenges often involves solutions as unique as the problem itself, and such solutions may be patentable.
            For example, unique manufacturing challenges are found throughout the food and beverage industry. Food and beverage products vary greatly in their properties, and developing equipment to handle these food and beverage products often poses engineering challenges that are not found anywhere else.
            Such a unique manufacturing challenge with a unique solution may be found with U.S. Pat. No. 9622505, which discloses a system and method for producing maple syrup utilizing membrane filtration stages.
            At the time the application for U.S.  Pat. No. 9622505 was filed, several attempts had already been made in the maple syrup…

Simple May Still Be Patentable

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The best solutions to a problem are often the simplest, and these simple solutions may be patentable. For example, U.S. Patent 8,889,206 was granted just a few years ago for re-using wooden staves from used barrels to age whiskey.

            Specifically, the patent describes making a wood insert from a dismantled stave of a barrel that was previously used, conditioning an exterior surface of the dismantled stave, and profiling the conditioned stave to increase its aging surface area, where the profiling exposes portions of the stave that were not previously in contact with a product aged in the previously used barrel. The profiled stave may then be heat treated (e.g., toasted and/or charred) to create a wood insert for use during the aging of an alcoholic beverage, such as a non-bourbon whiskey.
            The bourbon industry creates a large waste stream of oak barrels, as only new charred oak barrels may be used to meet the legal requirements for a whiskey to be bourbon. These u…

Better with Age

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The amount of time that alcoholic beverages are aged in a barrel has historically been critical to ensuring that the resulting liquid sunshine is smooth and complex in flavor.
            However, waiting on an aged flavor profile to develop is not exactly ideal, and there has been substantial effort to figure out ways to speed up the aging process of alcoholic beverages. Research into alcoholic beverage aging processes has led to some interesting discoveries and innovations, and improvements are still being made today. One common theme in the development of aging processes for different alcoholic beverages has been that the particular beverage being aged plays an important factor regarding the aging parameters used for a given aging process.
            For example, a patent was recently granted to Lost Spirits Distillery, LLC (U.S. Application No. 14/594,944) for a method of rapid maturation of distilled spirits using light and heat processes. During prosecution of the application,…

Unplugging the Solid-Body Guitar

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Guitars are one of the most commonly used instruments in modern music, evolving from ancient stringed instruments.  The basic principle of how these instruments work has remained the same: as guitar strings vibrate, they produce sound.  An acoustic guitar amplifies the sound of the strings via a soundboard (the top surface of the acoustic guitar body) and a sound box (a hollow cavity within the acoustic guitar body).  The first electric guitar was patented in 1937 (US 2,089,171), which arguably transformed not only the guitar, but music as we know it.  Electric guitars use a pickup to convert the string vibrations into electrical signals, which can be amplified and projected over a speaker.  Because electricity is used to amplify the sound of the electric guitar (and not the guitar itself), modern electric guitars typically lack a soundboard and a sound box, allowing them to have a thin, solid body, which makes them more comfortable to play.
For many years, if you wanted to play a soli…

How to Draft an Effective Invention Disclosure Form

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So you and your engineering team have generated an idea or product that you think is going to revolutionize your industry.  Obviously the first step you take it to get your idea patented! Before you meet with your IP counsel, you will want to capture your idea—typically in what is referred to as an invention disclosure form (IDF).  In general, IDFs include an explanation of the problem you are trying to solve, details of your invention, including how your invention solves the problem you identified, and commercial or technical advantages of your invention.  The IDF will form the basis of the patent application that will eventually be filed for your invention.
Sounds simple, right?  Well, not so fast.  All too often, IDFs are vague, lack the necessary technical details needed for drafting a patent application, and may focus on the wrong aspects of the invention.  In such cases, your IP counsel may not be able to draft a patent application that fully captures all aspects of your invent…

Lost in Translation

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Patent terminology needs to be precise.  It is important that when filing a patent in a foreign country, for example, in the national phase of a PCT application, each word of the original specification is accurately translated, and the scope of the invention is maintained.  When translating the original specification (e.g. English) into another language (e.g. Chinese), a word-by-word translation is usually applied, especially when translating the claim language.  However, not each English word has its exact counterpart in Chinese. Sometimes, subtle difference in the definition may lead to Examiner rejections.
My least favorite English word for the month is “schedule”, as in “schedule a clutch operation”.  It is clear in English that when one schedules something, such as scheduling a meeting, you select a time for the meeting.  Thus, when one schedules a clutch operation, the timing of such operation is determined.  In the Chinese specification, a Chinese agent might translate “schedu…