Happy Father’s Day 2024

If you are still at a loss about what to get Dad, the U.S. patent collection is there for you.

U.S. Patent No. 4,044,932 discloses a Smoking Pipe Sling, which the patent claims is appropriate for “young children wishing to make a gift for their father for father’s day,”

U.S. Patent No. 5,154,506 discloses a Flashlight Armband that the patent claims is “a good gift for Father’s day,”

U.S. Patent No. 6,035,566 discloses a Desk Trophy that can be adapted for Fathers Day:

U.S. Patent No. 8,434,619 discloses an Apparatus For Presenting Botanical Arrangements which can have a Father’s Day theme:

U.S. Patent No. 9,439,463 discloses a Combination Pillow/blanket/poncho Travel Accessory that makes “a great gift” for Father’s Day:

Happy Father’s Day to all of the fathers out there.

Flag Day 2014

Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777, by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a presidential proclamation that designated June 14 as Flag Day. On August 3, 1949, National Flag Day was officially established by an Act of Congress, although Flag Day is not an official federal holiday. Title 36 of the United States Code, Subtitle I, Part A, CHAPTER 1, § 110 is the official statute on Flag Day; however, it is at the president’s discretion to officially proclaim the observance:

The Flag Code does more than create Flag Day, it sets forth rules for the proper care and display of the flag. In U.S. Patent No. 9,672,761 on a Flag and Banner Display System for Motor Vehicles and the Like, the inventor, Cory Allen, addressed a problem create by the Flag Code

His solution: mounting the flag to a vehicle with a zipper:

Which neatly illustrates the interrelated nature of invention, and the genius of the patent system. Mr. Allen’s solution to the Flag Day dilemma depended upon the earlier work of a Swedish electrical engineer, Gideon Sundback, inventor of the modern zipper:

Of course, Sundback was no doubt aided by Whitcomb Judson’s 1893 “Clasp Locker,” and Elias Howe, Jr.’s 1851 “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure.” And yes, this is the same Elias Howe who invented the sewing machine.

Happy Flag day and display your flags properly!

5 Star Background, 1 Star Patent

As we have said several times, the Background in a patent application is trap for unwary, and in general the less said the better.

U.S. Patent No. 8,356,419 has an interesting take on the Background, relying on consumer reviews of the prior art:

Whether in the applicant’s own words or in the adopted words of consumer reviews, criticisms of the prior art can have a limiting effect on claim scope, because why would the inventor want to claim something that he or she criticized or believe in adequate?

It is unlikely that a Background section has ever worked to the benefit of a patent applicant, but there are multiple examples of where the Background has disadvantaged the applicant, whether through “admitted prior art” or limitation of the claims through criticism of the prior art.

The lesson remains, the less said, the better.

Another Milestone: Patent No. “About” 12,000,000

June 4, 2024, marked another USPTO milestone. U.S. Patent No. 12,000,000 issued. It had been just 1120 days since the issuance of U.S. Patent No. 11,000,000 on May 11, 2021. This was the second-shortest period of time for one million patents to issue — the shortest between the 1057 days between patent numbers 10,000,000 and 11,000,000, and a long way from the 27419 days (75+ years) between patent number 1 and 1,000,000.

Of course,12,000,00 is not the exact number. Before U.S Patent No. 1 issued on July 13, 1836, the USPTO issued about 9,957 patents before it occurred to anyone to number them. We say “about” because a fire in the Patent Office destroyed records and the precise number of these X patents is not certain. Also, there are 70854 of patent numbers which for one reason or another, no patent issued. See, the list of these numbers here. There are also some patents with fractional numbers that bump the total (see our prior post about these patent oddities), including U.S. Patent No. 3,262,124 1/2:

Finally, we are only counting utility patents in the about 12,000,000, and not the approximately 1,030,182 design patents that have issued since 1843, or the approximately 35,860 plant patents that have issued since 1931, or reissue patents, or improvement patents — so called AI patents that issued between 1838 to 1861. Real Patent Number nerds will want to check out this list and the notes at the bottom

If recent history is a good guide, we should get to utility patent number “about” 13,000,000 sometime around Tuesday, June 29, 2027.