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I have an Invention ... Now What?
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   Re: Simple idea but would filing get complex?
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   Author  Topic: Re: Simple idea but would filing get complex?  (Read 1886 times)
JimIvey
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Re: Simple idea but would filing get complex?
« on: Mar 13th, 2005, 6:45pm »
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Novel and non-obvious combinations of old and well-known items are patentable.
 
You only have to describe how to make and use your invention, including any known preferences.  You don't have to explain the scientific principles which enable it to work.  As long as one of ordinary skill in the art (apparently, electrical engineering is the art in your question) can make and use the invention from your description, that's enough.
 
Regards.
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James D. Ivey
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JimIvey
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Re: Simple idea but would filing get complex?
« Reply #1 on: Mar 16th, 2005, 10:39am »
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You're allowed to leverage from what's already known to those of ordinary skill in the art.  While it's hard to say for sure without knowing the specifics (and we shouldn't get into specifics in a public forum anyway), you can probably get away with a simple box showing the timer and another simple box showing the programmable circuit (plain rectangular boxes with no details).  Then, identify the boxes by part no. and supplier and explain how you'd program the programmable circuit to implement your invention.
 
You don't even have to explain how to program the circuit if the circuit comes with programming instructions -- or if one of ordinary skill in the art would know how to program the circuit.  You'd only have to describe the program you implement in the circuit.
 
The bottom line is that you're not required to re-invent the wheel in every patent application.  You're allowed to rely on knowledge in the art as a platform from which to describe your improvement on the art.  But it's sometimes hard to determine exact where the art ends and where your invention begins, so go far enough to leave a bit of a margin for error.  Going too far is no problem (other than unnecessary work).  Going not far enough can be fatal to your patent.
 
Regards.
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James D. Ivey
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Re: Simple idea but would filing get complex?
« Reply #2 on: Mar 18th, 2005, 7:46am »
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One issue, among many, of a patent specification just provides block diagrams, flow charts, and simple descriptions such as you describe is that only very narrow claims would be supported.  If your specification (including the claims section) only discusses using key pad tone #1 to control a TV, #2 a computer, and #3 a vcr then your invention is probably just limited to that particular key pad / device combination.
 
That's one reason a patent practitioner should ask the inventor:  If you used the * symbol, would that work too?  If you used a pitch whistle, would that work?  Can you only control TVs, computers, and vcrs; or can you also control other devices?  If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then your simple specification would not allow you to broadly claim your invention.
 
 
Richard Tanzer
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Richard Tanzer
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JimIvey
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Re: Simple idea but would filing get complex?
« Reply #3 on: Mar 18th, 2005, 11:23am »
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Well, yes, of course.  Everything is obvious in hindsight.  
 
The intermittent wiper patent in question was filed some time in the 1950s, I believe.  And it wasn't just the fact that the wipers were intermittent but that the mechanical approach at the time was heavy, complex, and expensive -- many moving parts.  The famous inventor used electronics to bring the cost down to less than 10% of the "prior art" of the day, if I remember my inventor lore correctly.
 
So, in the 1950s, you couldn't simply order an electronic timer from Radio Shack, and especially not one that could be started and sensed by an electric wiper motor controller.  In other words, your hypothetical description would not have been enabling in the 1950s.
 
As for cellular phones, my history is a little sketchy on the topic, but I remember phones in limosines decades before the cellular phone.  The thing that makes a phone "cellular" isn't so much the phone itself but the network of base station "cells" and the use of hand-offs as you move away from one cell and into another and frequency hopping to find better signals and make room for others as they hop in and out of cells.  And all those things involve the base stations issuing commands to your phone while you're talking.  My guess is that the coordination of multiple base stations and the base station control of the operating paramaters of the "mobile units", i.e., phones, was non-obvious at the time.
 
My guess is that your hypothetical description of cellular phones would not have been novel in 1950 (or even earlier) -- except for making it the size of a tampon.  I don't think tampons existed then, so you'd have an enablement issue as well.  Speaking of enablement, I don't think you could have assembled the components you described into that size at that time -- at least not without the invention of the transistor.  The IC might be a requisite technology as well, but you didn't describe that either.
 
The bottom line is that the description has to be enabling at the time of filing of the application.  Your hypothetical examples are obvious now but probably weren't at the time patent applications were filed on those technologies.  
 
I hope that helps clarify things.
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James D. Ivey
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Re: Simple idea but would filing get complex?
« Reply #4 on: Mar 18th, 2005, 11:49am »
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By the early 1950s military field radios (think M*A*S*H) fit in a small backpack, much larger than a tampon.  Back then the person of ordinary skill in the art could not have made a portable phone the size of a tampon.
 
Catamenial tampons were first sold commercially in the US in the 1930s.  See http://www.pg.com/company/who_we_are/tampax_history.jhtml .
 
 
Richard Tanzer
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Richard Tanzer
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