Sunday, March 29, 2009

VW Scirocco May Be Coming to the U.S.

VW was grated the following design patent on March 24, 2009:

This is clearly a patent for the Euro spec Sirocco - which VW says it does not plan to sell in the United States.  One wonders whether this patent means VW is rethinking that decision.  The full patent (including 10 images of the vehicle from all angles) can be found here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cannondale's New One-Piece Carbon Crank

Looks like Cannondale will be introducing a new one-piece hollow carbon composite crank system soon.  Based on this patent application, it looks like there will be a bolt on bottom housing that will eliminate the need for a bottom bracket system (i.e., no BB30).  Here's a picture from the patent application:

In other news, the patent application for Cannondale's folding Jackknife concept just published here.  Hopefully we'll be seeing the bike below on sale soon.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

European Patent App Hints Honda Adding Fog Lights to Motorcycles

The European patent application can be found here.  I guess Euro safety regulations are being taken to the next level.  See the images below.  The lights are highlighted in yellow and appear at the base of the front fork and below the axle on the swingarm.  Very classy.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Design and Utility Patent Distinctions

What is the difference between design and utility patents? A design patent protects the appearance of an article to be manufactured. It does not protect the functional or structural features of the article. If the functional or structural features are to be protected, then a utility patent should be sought. Another difference is the duration of the patent -- 14 years from date of issuance for a design patent and generally 20 years from the earliest filing date of the utility patent application. The tests for infringement also are different. For a design patent, the test is the whether an ordinary observer (familiar with the art) believes the accused design is the same as the patented design and for a utility patent, the test requires construing the asserted claims and then determining whether the accused product or method is covered either literally or equivalently by the asserted claims.

In the automotive field, patents have been granted for tread patterns. For example, Goodyear has received design and utility patents regarding tread patterns. U.S. Patent No. 5,603,785 is a utility patent entitled "Tire Including Two Aquachannels on One Side." See this. U.S. Patent No. D534,859 is a design patent (available here) for tire tread. It appears that this patent covers Goodyear's Fortera TripleTred tire, as demonstrated below by an image of the tire (available here) and a figure from the patent:

Goodyear promotes the Fortera TripleTred tire as having "Three Innovative Tread Zones For Superb Traction In Any Weather - Rain, Ice Or Dry" and shows three images of the tread pattern with highlighting to demonstrate each zone -- water zone, ice zone, and dry zone. See this. Below are the three images from Goodyear's website (from left to right: water zone, ice zone, dry zone) above a figure from U.S. Patent No. D534,859:

According to Goodyear, the "Water Zone helps evacuate water off of the tread and away from the tire;" the "Ice Zone helps provide enhanced gripping power on icy or snowy roads;" and the "Dry Zone offers confident maneuvering around curves on dry pavement." Id.

Assuming that the patent does cover the Fortera TripleTred tire and given the manner in which Goodyear shows and describes the zones on its website, is the tread pattern depicted in the patent ornamental?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fuel Injection Coming to Honda Scooters

With increasingly tightening emissions standards, it is just a matter of time before all carbureted vehicles are phased out. The question is, how much will those vehicles need to change in order to meet the new requirements – or will they cease to exist altogether.

Now we know that at least the Honda Metropolitan and Ruckus scooters will survive. It may have taken a lot of work but, based on this recently published patent application, it looks like Honda has figured out how to get a fuel injection unit integrated into a 49cc engine.

The full patent application can be viewed here.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ford Patent App Hints Next Gen Navi Systems Won't Talk to You if You're Angry

On March 5, 2009 the PTO published a patent application assigned to Ford Global Technologies entitled "Emotive Text To Speech System and Method. The app can be viewed here.

The concept of the invention seems to be a navigation system where you can just talk at the device and it figures out what you want. Some examples are:

"Are there any good restaurants in the area?" In response, the EAS 10 may query appropriate information sources 16n and, together with geographic location information from the vehicle systems 22, determine a list of highly rated restaurants near the current location of the vehicle 14."


"the occupant 14 may state "I feel like driving fast today." In response, the EAS 10 may ask "Would you like the drivetrain optimized for performance driving?"

This seems like a fairly normal progression of the navi systems currently on the market, but the "emotive" aspect of the system is a bit HAL like:

"For example, the sensors 18 may detect head movements, speech prosody, biometric information, etc. of the occupant 12 that, when processed by the computer 20, indicate that the occupant 12 is angry. In one example response, the EAS 10 may limit or discontinue dialog that it initiates with the occupant 12 while the occupant 12 is angry. In another example response, the avatar may be rendered in blue color tones with a concerned facial expression and ask in a calm voice "Is something bothering you?" If the occupant 12 responds by saying "Because of this traffic, I think I'm going to be late for work," the avatar may ask "Would you like me to find a faster route?" or "Is there someone you would like me to call?" If the occupant 12 responds by saying "No. This is the only way . . . ," the avatar may ask "Would you like to hear some classical music?" The occupant 12 may answer "No. But could you tell me about the upcoming elections?" In response, the EAS 10 may query the appropriate information sources 16n to gather the current news regarding the elections. During the query, if the communication link with the information sources 16n is strong, the avatar may appear happy. If, however, the communication link with the information sources 16n is weak, the avatar may appear sad, prompting the occupant to ask "Are you having difficulty getting news on the elections?" The avatar may answer "Yes, I'm having trouble establishing a remote communication link."

I don't know how many of us are ready to have that kind of conversation with our car (or at least have it talk back when we're venting).  A  photo from the patent application is below:

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Honda Patent App Reveals New Direct Injection Engine

A number of patent applications filed by Honda were published for public review on February 26, 2009. One of these applications was directed to a fuel injection control system. At first glance, the patent app seems like it covers just another ECU based FI system.

On closer inspection, however, one sees that the engine being used as the basis for the system is an in-line four (or six, or eight) with direct injection:

"the engine 3 is an in-line multi-cylinder gasoline engine having a multiplicity of pairs of cylinders 3a and pistons 3b (only one pair of which is shown) ... the engine 3 is configured as a direct injection engine. Further, the fuel injection valve 10 is electrically connected to the ECU 2 and the valve-opening time period and the valve-opening timing thereof are controlled by the ECU 2, whereby the fuel injection control is carried out, as will be described hereinafter."

Let's see if the engine in this patent application turns out to be based on an actual prototype Honda plans on bringing to market.  Here's a picture from the patent application:

Honda's patent application can be found here.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Fashion Industry Patents

I was driving a friend to the airport today who is starting her own clothing business. My friend, who though she had some novel ideas, was told by her dad (a patent attorney) that "you can't patent fashion."

I beg to differ. Back when I was working for a federal judge (over a decade ago) I saw my first fashion patent. It was a design patent that covered the famous "scrunchie":

Utility and design patents abound in the fashion arts (there are dozens of utility patents for socks alone). I hope my friend doesn't take her dad's advice, and seriously considers protecting her intellectual property. Building an IP portfolio is just as important for a small start-up clothing company as it is for 3M or IBM, and start-ups need any advantage they can get in this challenging economic environment.

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SWDELAW (pronounced "Swede Law") is the official blog of Stamoulis & Weinblatt LLC, a boutique intellectual property and Delaware corporate law firm, located in Wilmington Delaware.  We hope you enjoy our posts.


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