Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bruce Ivins and RMR-1029

Bruce Ivins had four patents.

From the Washington Post, 10/27/08:

Weeks after the 2001 anthrax attacks, FBI scientists launched an unprecedented effort to harness technology to find the killer. The effort took six years to bear fruit and involved techniques that had not been invented when the attacks occurred. Here are some highlights:

Chasing Ames: The FBI quickly learned that the bioterrorist used a strain of anthrax known as Ames. It was commonly used in U.S. biodefense labs, but no one knew who else might possess the strain in countries around the world. After searching the globe, the bureau found only 18 labs that had Ames.

Debunking the "weaponization" myth: The anthrax letters mailed to U.S. Senate offices contained a wispy powder that some experts initially described as "weaponized" -- treated with chemicals or additives so it would spread easily and kill more people. It wasn't true. Scientists found no additives and no evidence of deliberate genetic manipulation. A small amount of silicon was found inside the outer shells of the microbes, but tests showed it was a natural phenomenon resulting from the way the bacteria were grown. Looking for human DNA: Scientists searched extensively for any human traces -- hair, fiber, DNA, fingerprints -- in the letters and in the anthrax powder itself. None were found.

Finding the mutants: Anthrax bacteria are notoriously slow to mutate, but FBI investigators hoped they would find even a single genetic abnormality in the attack strain that could later be matched to anthrax spores in the possession of the bioterrorist. Anthrax spores recovered from the letters contained five different kinds of mutated cells. The mutants were easily spotted because they looked different from normal anthrax when grown in a lab.

Designing tests: After finding the mutations, the FBI and its scientific partners developed special tests called assays to help them find the same mutations in other samples of anthrax.

Building a repository: The FBI began collecting and testing samples of Ames anthrax from around the world. Of more than 1,000 samples, eight contained the same genetic mutations as the microbes used in the anthrax attacks. Each of the eight samples could be traced to a single flask of anthrax bacteria created by Army scientist Bruce Ivins.

Deconstructing "Bruce's spores": Agents were able to trace the history of Ivins's flask of anthrax spores -- known as RMR-1029 -- identifying the "parent" strains as well as how the collection of spores was used after Ivins finished making it in 1997. They discovered that the flask, kept in a private storage area, was accessed only by Ivins himself. Even his lab assistants did not know which flask contained the spores.

Maintaining secrecy: Ivins had been a key suspect for the FBI for nearly two years before his death, yet the bureau, learning from past mistakes, fought to keep any hint of suspicion from becoming publicly known. When Ivins's house was searched last November, agents performed the search at night and covered up windows with cloth so neighbors wouldn't see.

An abrupt end: Ivins, knowing an indictment was imminent, ended his life in late July with a drug overdose.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Voting Machine

Thomas Edison is one of the most famous inventors ever; here are some of the patents to his name.

Edison's first patented invention was a vote recorder for use by legislative bodies such as Congress, which presaged our vote recorders of today which will be in wide use on November 4th.

In Edison's system, each legislator moved a switch to a yes or a no position, thus sending a signal to a central recorder that listed the names of the members in two columns of metal type headed "Yes" and "No." The recording clerk then put a sheet of chemically prepared paper over the columns of type and moved a metallic roller over the paper and type.

As the current passed through the paper, the chemicals decomposed, leaving the imprint of the name in a manner similar to that of chemical recording automatic telegraphs. Dials on either side of the machine tallied the total number of yeas and nays. Edison was issued U. S. Patent 90,646 on 1 June 1869. A fellow telegrapher by the name of Dewitt Roberts bought an interest in the invention for the sum or $100 and took it to Washington, D.C. to show a committee of Congress.

The chairman of the committee, noting the glacial speed with which the instrument could record votes, commented: "If there is any invention on earth that we don't want down here, that is it."

It was the slow pace of roll call voting in Congress and other legislatures that enabled members to filibuster legislation or convince others to change their votes. Thus, Edison's vote recorder was never used.

A little more than a century later, the voting machine as we know it today achieved various patents, such as U.S. Patent 3790072:

An improved mechanical voting machine embodying means facilitating the making of a single selection from a plurality of available ballot choices; such choices being presented as indicia carried on the faces of a plurality of voter operated push button selectors. The machine features an election official operated "entrance" control; means for preventing the voter from causing the machine to record more than one vote, while requiring that such vote be cast before he leaves the machine; and means for printing the election results on required numbers of print out sheets.

Voting Machine from Palm Beach, Florida, circa the General Election of 2000

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Bottomline: "Enabling the automated, rules-based validation of invoice data"

Here's a press release from this week, about a technology patent issued this month:

Oct. 22, 2008:  Bottomline Technologies (NASDAQ: EPAY), a leading provider of collaborative payment, invoice and document automation solutions, today announced that the company has been granted a technology patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office for advanced capabilities enabling the automated, rules-based validation of invoice data. In receiving this patent, which supports functionality inherent in Bottomline’s Legal eXchange™ and Bottomline Business eXchange™ solutions, the company further strengthens its competitive differentiators within the legal spend management and accounts payable automation markets.

This patented technology helps to ensure vendor compliance with billing guidelines by automatically extracting and validating invoice data against a set of pre-determined business rules.
“Intellectual property rights are a strategic asset to our business and we actively pursue patents related to innovative product capabilities that truly set us apart in the market,” said Rob Eberle, President and CEO of Bottomline Technologies. “The technology represented in this patent allows our customers to exploit new, more effective approaches to spend management, which is one of the most significant benefits associated with electronic invoice processing.” Among the most widely deployed legal spend management solutions today, Legal eXchange enables corporate legal and insurance claims departments to significantly increase process efficiencies and achieve a more informed approach to managing legal expenses with capabilities for automated invoice receipt and review. The Bottomline Business eXchange helps corporations to accelerate the transition from paper to electronic invoicing by streamlining the flow of invoices between buyers and suppliers for greater control and visibility into the accounts payable process.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wind Turbine

Here's a invention from way back in 1990 that is increasingly relevant in a country seeking to go green, U.S. Patent #4989871, Wind Turbine:

An improved vertical axis wind turbine is disclosed. The wind turbine in accordance with one embodiment, does not include a support tower but instead includes a bearing support for mounting a torque tube rotatably connected to blades, the bearing support being secured to ground by a plurality of guy cables. The torque tube may comprise a plurality of tube sections including an intermediate bearing and additional guy cables for supporting the torque tube to the ground in a vertical orientation. In another embodiment of the present invention, control means are disclosed for independently controlling the pitch of respective wind turbine blades in response to relative wind direction.

Given the race to alternative to fossil fuels, Mr. Reiner's patent, already referenced 11x, will likely be of only more interest each year.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

IdleAire: Green Team

Knoxville, TN-based IdleAire is part of the green revolution; here are their patents.

The company is the outgrowth of a challenge originally issued to A.C. Wilson, a Tellico Plains, Tennessee, contractor, by his brother-in-law, a long haul truck driver fresh off a New Jersey run.

How could a driver park, shut off the engine (along with its noise, fumes and vibration) and still stay warm or cool while having access to the comforts of home?

It so happened that the challenge came during a vacation stay at an RV park. During the night, A.C. tackled the challenge, sketching the first design for an independent, external system that would deliver to a truck cab the same sorts of services inherent in an RV.

The next morning he presented his sketches to his brother-in-law. A.C. and his partners located an experienced management team who could form a company and take his idea to market.

Since June 2000, IdleAire has further refined Wilson's original design and made significant strides with truck fleets and travel plazas, as well as the federal and state environmental and highway safety entities.

This U.S. Patent Application 20060154591 is titled "Appartatus for controlling the environment of a parked vehicle":

An apparatus for controlling the inside of a parked vehicle particularly a parked truck includes a HVAC unit and electric switching apparatus supported in a parking area with cabling and hosing which connects to the parked vehicle via a head unit. The head unit includes a cover which opens to expose controls housed in said unit utilizing a central processor which in turn communicate for example via the Internet to a server providing for activation of the unit and payment for the services.

The IdleAire inventions are all about keeping truckers cool on hot days and warm on cold days, while burning far less fossil fuels.

Have a Patent/Know About a Patent you want us to spotlight in our blog? Email plaque [@] And check out All the Inventions of Mankind.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Air Bag Invention

U.S. Patent #7431327 was just issued, on October 7, 2008, to a large cast of inventors at a Japanese company called Takata-Petri:

Front-Passenger Airbag Module:
A front-passenger airbag module includes a gas generator, a diffuser, a self-supporting airbag, and an airbag housing. To reduce the development costs of a new airbag system, a component system that includes the airbag, the diffuser, the gas generator, and an arched airbag holder, which is arranged between the airbag housing and the gas generator and which is at least partially enclosed by the lower section of the self-supporting airbag.

Here's the problem this invention solves:

"Self-supporting airbag designs, which reduce development costs, are disclosed, for example, in DE 195 05 507 C2 (incorporated by reference herein), which introduces a tubular gas generator into the lower section of the airbag. The airbag of DE 195 05 507 C2 partially encloses the gas generator and is, therefore, held without any additional means of fastening; in the development of new airbag systems, the lack of additional means of fastening facilitates the development of the airbag fastening. Even in light of this advancement, however, the development costs remain undesirably high."

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Trunkanizer

Take a look at the IP behind The Trunkanizer, U.S. Patent #6817504 (11/16/2004):

Collapsible Trunk Organizer: A portable, collapsible trunk or cargo space organizer has: (a) an initially flat, rectangular main panel having a centerline between its ends, with a parallel fold line at a specified distance on each side of the centerline; these fold lines serving to define two movable, side sections and a middle section of this main panel, (b) a flat, rectangular middle panel whose top side corner edges have a specified radius of curvature, (c) flat, rectangular end panels whose width is approximately equal to the width of the main panel's middle section, and with the bottom edge of such end panels having a notch that is configured to cooperate with the middle panel's curved corner edges, (d) a strap of length approximately equal to the main panel's middle section, with each of the strap's ends attaching to one of the main panel's side edges and with its midpoint attaching to a point on the top edge of the middle panel, (e) means for coupling each of the top side corners of the end panels to one of the corners of the main panel's side edges, and (f) a means for hingedly coupling the middle panel's bottom edge proximate the centerline of the main panel.

Here's the video that explains this clever product:

The inventor behind The Trunkanizer has moved from helping folks organize the stuff in their trunk ... to keeping it from getting stolen. Baltimore, Maryland-based Colin Drane is the man behind the highly informative, map-rich websites and

Mr. Drane seeks to map the crime in every city and every county in the U.S.A.

Have a Patent/Know About a Patent you want us to spotlight in our blog? Email plaque [@] And check out All the Inventions of Mankind.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Father/Son Inventors

Take a close look at these Patent Plaques:

It's father and son. U.S. Patent #2836979, awarded June 3rd, 1958: Mixing Pipette.

And then U.S. Patent #5724151, awarded forty years and 2,887,172 patents later on March 3rd, 1998 to James Ryley's namesake: Waveguide sensing element for use in a sample medium and method of rear-firing electromagnetic radiation.

Ryley the son's patent is assigned to E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (Wilimingon, DE). And Ryley the father's patent is assigned to Owens Illinois Glass Co (Perrysburg, OH). Together, these inventors Ryley stand atop five patents.

Know even a longer generational string of inventors? Email us at plaque [@], and we'll aim to spotlight the full family tree of patent-awardees right here.

Have a Patent/Know About a Patent you want us to spotlight in our blog? Email plaque [@] And check out All the Inventions of Mankind.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bill & Greg: Neato!

Ever wonder how CDs get those little adhesive labels?

Consider U.S. Patent #5543001.

ABSTRACT: A labeler for the placement of self-adhesive labels onto compact disks, having a positioning cone with a cylindrical extension, a flat surface with a diameter greater than that of the cylindrical extension, and a tapered end opposite the cylindrical extension, a positioning plate having a central positioning hole, and a surface upon which a self-adhesive label can be placed, and a base supporting the positioning plate, having a hollow space below the positioning plate. A method for affixing a label to a compact disk using the labeler is provided, including the steps of providing a positioning member having a guide, a stock corresponding in shape to the central aperture of the label and a disk locating member, the stock being between the guide and the disk locating member, and providing a positioning plate having an aperture and a surface, the positioning plate aperture being adapted for receiving the stock of the positioning member, the guide centering the positioning member in the positioning plate aperture during insertion, placing the label adjacent to the surface with the label aperture overlapping the positioning plate aperture, inserting the guide and the stock of the positioning member through the label aperture and through the positioning plate aperture, allowing the stock of the positioning member to position the label in fixed relation to the disk locating member, and compressing the disk, located by the disk locating member, and the surface, with the positioned label there between.

Two of the inspired inventors behind it are Bill Dufault and Greg Veilleux. We went ahead and made the patent plaques for them using the "Plaque It!" feature of FPO:

And Greg and Bill's product is commercialized, from Neato. Here's a product photo:

Have a Patent/Know About a Patent you want us to spotlight in our blog? Email plaque [@] And check out All the Inventions of Mankind.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Plaque It!

Plaque It! (FPO) now allows inventors and/or companies to create a Patent Plaque™ with a mouseclick, to promote their Intellectual Property on blogs, websites, personal pages on social network sites, corporate directories, etc. Here's the press release.

Sponsored by the Universal movie Flash of Genius, which came out October 3rd, 2008, a Patent Plaque easily can be provisioned from any patent page in the FPO database by clicking on the "Plaque It!" link.

Flash of Genius tells the tale of an inventor whose fight to receive recognition for his ingenuity would come at a heavy price. Determined engineer Robert Kearns (played by Greg Kinnear) refused to be silenced as he took on the auto industry in a battle that nobody thought he could win.

The first patent plaque was created on October 6th at 1:34 am EST, by Mark Gottlieb of Fairfax Station, Virginia. “I plaqued my invention ‘Remote Vehicle Starter for a Standard Transmission Vehicle’ in about 5 seconds, off one of the FPO patent pages that bears my name,” said Gottlieb. “I use FPO already for drilling into how things really work, and now I’m also using it to create plaque icons for all my patents, which I can send to friends and family, and post on my company website.”Gottlieb’s invention (U.S Patent #5656868) goes by the name Ready Remote®, and more than a million units have been sold by Vista, CA-based DesignTech.

The FPO database has 8,812,656 patents from 4,123,399 inventors, the most comprehensive knowledge compendium of everything under the sun made by man.

FreePatentsOnline (FPO) was founded in 2004 and is based in Ellicott City, Maryland.
FPO ( is the leading web property in terms of audience for patent search. Many millions of Netizens each month find out how things really work via FPO. And the company’s new property,, is serving power users who seek in-depth learnings from the world’s largest database of human achievement.

FreePatentsOnline™, Patent Plaque™ and Plaque It!™ are trademarks of Patents Online, LLC. Other product and company names mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

Have a Patent/Know About a Patent you want us to spotlight in our blog? Email plaque [@] And check out All the Inventions of Mankind.

Monday, October 6, 2008

TiVo Judgment Upheld

Take a look at TiVo's powerful patent portfolio here.

The Supreme Court today refused, without comment, to disturb a $74 million judgment against Dish Network Corp. for violating a patent held by TiVo Inc. involving digital video recorders.


In January-08, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit agreed with a lower court that digital video recorders distributed by Dish, formerly known as EchoStar Communications Corp., violated the software elements of Alviso, CA-based TiVo's patent. The ruling overturned the lower court's finding that Dish also infringed on the patent's hardware elements.

TiVo sued back in 2004, alleging that EchoStar, a satellite broadcaster, infringed on TiVo's patented technology that allows viewers to record one program while watching another.

EchoStar Communications changed its name to Dish in late 2007.

TiVo pioneered digital video recorders that allow viewers to pause, rewind and fast forward live television shows.

The lower court had ordered Dish to shut down the 3 million digital video recorders used by its customers because they use TiVo's technology, but that order was put on hold pending appeal.

Dish Network has said that the ruling would not affect its customers because the company had developed and distributed new DVR software that "does not infringe the Tivo patent at issue in the Federal Circuit's ruling."

The case is EchoStar Communications v. TiVo, 08-179.

Have a Patent/Know About a Patent you want us to spotlight in our blog? Email plaque [@] And check out All the Inventions of Mankind.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Trailer: Flash of Genius

Here it is, the trailer for the movie launching today:

Flash of Genius.

Have a Patent/Know About a Patent you want us to spotlight in our blog? Email plaque [@] And check out All the Inventions of Mankind.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

All Bob Kearns had was the truth

Flash of Genius lands at your local movie theater tomorrow, bringing the story of this patent from inventor Bob Kearns to life.

The details from IMDB follow, and here's a photo slideshow:
Marc Abraham
Writers (WGA):
Philip Railsback (written by)
John Seabrook (article)
Release Date:
3 October 2008 (USA) more
Drama more
Corporations have time, money, and power on their side. All Bob Kearns had was the truth.
Robert Kearns takes on the Detroit automakers who he claims stole his idea for the intermittent windshield wiper. full summary | add synopsis

Starring Greg Kinnear as Bob Kearns, and Lauren Graham as his wife Phyllis.

Have a Patent/Know About a Patent you want us to spotlight in our blog? Email plaque [@] And check out All the Inventions of Mankind.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Intermittent Wipers: Nonobvious?

U.S. Patent #3351836 was published on 11/7/1967, and titled Windshield wiper control system with intermittent operation.

Robert Kearns, PhD, the independent businessman behind this innovation from 12/1/1964 (patent filing date), sought to license his invention to Ford Motor Company. Ford ignored Kearns’ offer and chose instead simply to infringe on his patent. After Kearns filed suit, Ford stalled the litigation, allegedly in an attempt to outspend Kearns. By the time Kearns ultimately obtained his second favorable judgment, he had spent some $10 million in legal fees.

Ford's countervailing legal argument was that an invention is supposed to meet certain standards of originality and novelty. One of these is that it not be "obvious," per the 1952 Doctrine of Nonobviousness.

Ford said that the patent was invalid because Kearns' intermittent windshield wiper system had no new concepts. Dr. Kearns argued back that there was a new combination of parts which made it unique.

Resistor-Capacitor relaxation oscillators of the type used in the Kearns patent had existed for decades before Kearns filed for his patent. They appear in textbooks on basic electronics (e.g., powering a blinking neon light). Parallel windshield wiper technology was being developed at the auto manufacturers and actually was released by Chrysler in 1955.

Ford engineer Ted Daykin had been working on windshield wipers in 1957, and was told to design an electric wiper motor since the standard wiper was driven by engine vacuum from the intake manifold.

Daykin was one of the very engineers who witnessed Dr. Kearns' demonstration of his invention at Ford in 1963. Daykin asserted that he and his colleagues were working on a set of windshield wiper projects at the time, including a timing device. One of his colleagues designed a bimetallic timer for the wipers which didn't work very well and took too much time to heat up.

Daykin also said that the prior art leading up to Dr. Kearns had been the work of "hundreds of engineers."

In retort, Dr. Kearns, using an example from the English combination of words in Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, stated that the particular inventive assortment of words or parts made it unique. The Flash of Genius legal patent concept and test as set into U.S. patent law in 1941 might have come into play in the patentability of the intermittent wipers, but the law had been rescinded in 1952 for "non-obviousness" after ten years of being active.

Kearns died of brain cancer complicated by Alzheimer's disease in 2005.

On Friday, October 3rd, his David-versus-Goliath story will be at a theater near you, as the movie Flash of Genius is released, starring Greg Kinnear.

It's based on the John Seabrook story of the same name that appeared in The New Yorker, and is now available in book form.

Have a Patent/Know About a Patent you want us to spotlight in our blog? Email plaque [@] And check out All the Inventions of Mankind.