Movies, that is 3D animations, are moving into the courtroom, and intended messages are made clearer than ever as a result. If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much more effective is a moving 3D image?
We’ve been viewing a static two-dimensional representation of a machine for the past two blogs. Have you been able to figure it out yet? Here it is again:
Would it help you to understand if I identified it as a piece of food manufacturing equipment equipped with a rake that aligns cookies on a conveyor belt? Would that verbal description allow you to “see” in your mind’s eye how it operates? Unless you had the right technical background, it’s unlikely.
Last week we introduced the verbiage person of ordinary skill in the art as a term widely used within patent litigation. This person is said to have the ability to interpret and understand patent drawings, and they typically possess a technical and/or scientific background.
But what if participants in a legal proceeding lack this background? Technical experts are often hired on as consultants to attorneys, and in some instances, judges, when clarification is required. These experts provide technical expertise and tutorials on the technology involved in complex cases, and it happens with regularity when the operation of a patented device is in question.
By employing 3D animations the expert can show how the device operates, rather than attempt to explain it using the technical language of their profession. The expert works closely with an animation artist to create the animation, providing the technical information that the animator will use to create the fully functional model. Animators do not typically have the technical background to accomplish this on their own and will require an ongoing dialog with the technical expert to create the animation.
And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Here is our static image brought to life through animation:
The animation commands the viewer’s attention and holds their interest, even if they have no background in engineering or science, and the device’s function is now made clear. It must be noted that in the patent drawing, part of the mechanism lies in front of a steel divider plate and part behind, but for purposes of clarity the entire mechanism has been shown to the front of the plate. Now there’s no doubt as to how the parts move together to even up the rows of cookies on the conveyor belt.
Next week we’ll talk about juries, perception, and the advantages of using courtroom animations when at trial.
Posts Tagged ‘engineering expert witness’
Last week I introduced this illustration as a typical patent drawing and asked if you could decipher the riddle of its functionality.
Patent drawings are static, two dimensional (2D) representations of proposed inventions which are meant to be manufactured in three dimensions (3D). As such they present a lot of complex information on a flat page.
If you don’t have a clue as to what this machine is, I guarantee you’re not alone. The average person wouldn’t. There’s a bunch of lines, shapes and numbers, but what do they signify? How are they meant to all come together and operate?
As a matter of fact, the average person isn’t meant to understand patent drawings. That’s because they’re not what patent courts have defined as a person of ordinary skill in the art, a peculiar term which basically means that the Average Joe or Josephine isn’t meant to be able to interpret them.
Rather, the interpretation of patent drawings is left to individuals with specialized skills and training, a particular educational background and/or work experience. These individuals are typically able to view a static 2D image and visualize how the illustrated device moves, how it operates. Those said to fall within the court’s definition as having ordinary skill in the art are in fact often engineers and scientists.
Since the average person does not have a background in engineering and science, it can be challenging for patent attorneys to present their cases in the courtroom, particularly when relying on 2D representations alone. That’s where animations come in.
Next time we’ll use the magic of animation to transform our cryptic 2D patent illustration into a functional 3D animation of a machine whose operation is easily understood by the average person.
I remember the first time I saw a blueprint. It was during high school shop class where we learned how to use power tools to make the wooden chairs, tables, and chests shown in blueprints. I was completely confused. The odd paper and blue print, coupled with the liberal use of unfamiliar symbols, dashes and dots, and what appeared to be a mind boggling amount of detail was enough to start me in a cold sweat.
For many people, patent drawings are a lot like that first blueprint I saw. As a static two-dimensional (2D) representation of an operational device which is often complex, they present an immense amount of information on a page. The average person would be hard pressed to interpret them, and in fact, as we’ll learn later, they aren’t supposed to be able to.
We’ve been talking about patent basics in this series of blogs, and we’ll continue that discussion in the following weeks with a concentration on patent drawings. In the meantime, here’s one to ponder. When you look at a patent drawing like the one below, what do you see? What do you think this thing is and what is it supposed to do? We’ll find out next week…
We’ve been discussing hurtles which must be jumped in order for an inventor’s creation to be considered for a patent. Federal statutes, namely 35 USC § 101, define the bases of patentability, including providing definitions on key terms, such as what constitutes a machine, an article of manufacture, and a composition of matter. Today we’ll wrap up our discussion on determining patent eligibility when we explore the final hurtle by defining process.
To get an understanding of what is meant by process, we must look to the lawsuit of Gottschalk v. Benson, a case involving patentability of a mathematical algorithm within a computer program. In this case the US Supreme Court held that a process is a series of steps or operations that transform substances or came about by way of a newly invented machine.
Based on the Court’s definition, a process can be many things, from a production line that transforms corn into corn chips within a food manufacturing plant to a mathematical algorithm running within software on the platform of a newly devised type of computer. However, the term usually pertains to a series of operations or steps, most frequently manufacturing in nature, where physical substances are transformed into useful products, that is, they possess the quality of utility, as discussed earlier in this blog series. A “physical substance” is anything of a physical nature existing on our planet.
Before I end this series I’d like to mention that under 35 USC § 101 an invention can be eligible for a patent if it makes a useful and beneficial improvement to an existing machine, article of manufacture, composition of matter, or process. That is to say, something may have already been patented which performs a specific function, but if that is improved upon in any significant way, it may receive a new patent.
For example, suppose an improved process for manufacturing food products was developed by adding additional steps to an existing patented process. If this improvement results in benefits such as lowered production costs, increased production rate, or reduced health risks to consumers, then this improved process may be eligible for a patent under 35 USC § 101.
Next time we’ll begin an exploration of the growing presence of 3D animations within the courtroom, specifically how they bring static 2D patent drawings to life.
Imagine having freshly baked pastries available to you all day long, every day, while at work. I’m not talking about someone bringing in a box of donuts to share, I’m talking about baked goods on a massive scale. This is what I experienced in one of my design engineering positions within the food industry. These baked goods constituted the articles of manufacture of the food plant, and they presented a constant temptation to me.
Just what constitutes an article of manufacture is another aspect of the second hurtle which must be passed to determine patent eligibility. It is addressed under federal statutes governing the same, 35 USC § 101, and is contained within the same area as the discussion of what constitutes a machine, a subject we took up previously in this series.
Why bother defining articles of manufacture? Well, while hearing the patent case of Diamond v. Chakrabarty regarding genetically engineered bacterium capable of eating crude oil, the US Supreme Court saw fit to define the term so as to resolve a conflict between the inventor and the patent office as to whether a living organism could be patented.
The net result was the Court declared that in order to be deemed a patentable article of manufacture the object must be produced from either raw or man-made materials by either hand labor or machinery and must take on “new forms, qualities, properties, or combinations” that would not naturally occur without human intervention. In other words, a creation process must take place and something which did not previously exist must be caused to exist.
The court’s definition of articles of manufacture encompasses an incredible array of products, much too vast to enumerate here. Suffice it to say that the defining characteristic is that if it should consist of two or more parts, there is no interaction between the parts, otherwise it could be categorized as a machine. In other words, the relationship between their parts is static, unmoving. An example would be a hammer. It’s made up of two parts, a steel head and wooden handle. These parts are firmly attached to one another, so they act as one.
Next time we’ll continue our discussion on the second hurtle presented by 35 USC § 101, where we’ll discuss what is meant by composition of matter.
During 6th grade science we had a chapter on Simple Machines, and my textbook listed a common lever as an example, the sort that can be used to make work easier. Its illustration showed a stick perched atop a triangular shaped stone, appearing very much like a teeter-totter in the playground. A man was pushing down on one end of the stick to move a large boulder with the other end. Staring at it I thought to myself, “That doesn’t look like a machine to me. Where are its gears?” That day I learned about more than just levers, I learned to expect the unexpected when it comes to machines.
Last time we learned that under patent law the machine referred to in federal statute 35 USC § 101 includes any physical device consisting of two or more parts which dynamically interact with each other. We looked at how a purely mechanical machine, such as a diesel engine, has moving parts that are mechanically linked to dynamically interact when the engine runs. Now, lets move on to less obvious examples of what constitutes a machine.
Would you expect a modern electronic memory stick to be a machine? Probably not. But, under patent law it is. It’s an electronic device, and as such it’s made up of multiple parts, including integrated circuit chips, resistors, diodes, and capacitors, all of which are soldered to a printed circuit board where they interact with one another. They do so electrically, through changing current flow, rather than through physical movement of parts as in our diesel engine.
A transformer is an example of another type of machine. An electrical machine. Its fixed parts, including wire coils and steel cores, interact dynamically both electrically and magnetically in order to change voltage and current flow.
Electromechanical, the most complex of all machine types, includes the kitchen appliances in your home. They consist of both fixed and moving parts, along with all the dynamic interactions of mechanical, electronic, and electrical machines.
Next time we’ll continue our discussion on the second hurtle presented by 35 USC § 101, where we’ll discuss what is meant by article of manufacture.
When I was growing up in the 1960s the Chicago Tribune featured a comic strip by Bill Holman called Smokey Stover. Smokey was a fireman who had all sorts of ridiculous, nutty, and even bazaar inventions, like his two-wheeled fire truck called the “Foomobile.” In the real world his inventions could never work, but that didn’t stop me from being a kid and enjoying Smokey’s goofy adventures.
Smokey’s fire truck would never pass a patent test. Why? Because it wouldn’t get past the first requirement for patentability, that is, utility.
Last time we introduced the federal laws governing patents as found in Title 35, Section 101, of the United States Code (USC), 35 USC § 101 for short. It sets out requirements for patentability, and the first hurdle that an invention must jump is that it must possess the quality of utility. In other words, it must be useful.
This quality of utility prevents ridiculous and/or hypothetical devices, such as Smokey’s Foomobile, from receiving a patent. Because the Foomobile consists of an engine and two wheels mounted on a single axle, there’s nothing to keep it from falling over. The weight of its engine makes it front-heavy and unstable. The nutty vehicle will tip forward, and its front bumper will become wedged in the ground. The Foomobile is just not capable of passing the test of utility because it cannot be operated as intended – Smokey would never make it to the scene of the fire – and it’s unable to provide any identifiable benefit to its users.
Once the hurdle of proving an invention’s utility is passed, the next considerations for patent eligibility must be addressed. Is the invention a machine? A process? Just what defines a machine? Is it something with gears and a motor?
Next time we’ll see how within the context of patent eligibility, the word machine can apply to things which are not at all mechanical.
Last time I introduced the concept of intellectual property, or IP. We learned that IP in the eyes of the law is recognized as a creation of an individual inventor’s mind, worthy of commercial value. It goes to follow that those inventions that have been awarded patents are also a form of IP, because they represent the working ideation of the inventor’s mind. As such, the patent grants the inventor the sole legal right to profit from the invention to the exclusion of all others.
So all you need is an idea, and you can apply for a patent, right? Well, not really. There are in fact a number of tests that potentially patentable inventions must pass.
Federal laws governing patents have been in existence since 1790. They were put in place to give inventors the means to legally protect their exclusive rights to profit from their inventions in our new country. The first patent was awarded to inventor Samuel Hopkins on July 31st of that year, for a process he created to make potash, an ingredient used to make fertilizer.
Since that time, the patent laws have been continually revised and expanded to improve the patenting process, something that became necessary due to the explosion of patentable technological innovations after the Industrial Revolution started in the 19th Century.
In July of 1952, the basic structure of modern patent law was laid out by Title 35 of the United States Code (USC). Title 35 is a set of laws drafted by Congress that contains all federal statutes governing patents. Within Title 35 is found Section 101. It’s the part that addresses patent eligibility. This Section is commonly referred to within the trade by patent agents and attorneys as 35 USC § 101, shorthand for “Title 35 of the USC, Section 101.”
According to 35 USC § 101, in order to be patentable an invention must first be useful. In addition, it must be either a machine, an article of manufacture, a composition of matter, or a process, or it must improve upon an existing machine, article of manufacture, composition, or process. But what does this all really mean? We’ll find out next time.
While pursuing my engineering degree my professors provided me with a thorough understanding of mechanical and electrical design and instruction on how to build prototypes for testing. As far as technical skills were concerned, I was well equipped to turn my ideas into real inventions. Unfortunately, my engineering school, like most others, never went beyond these technical aspects of inventing. For example, we never discussed the business and legal aspects of manufacturing and selling an invention.
The fact is, most first time inventors have little or no understanding of how to go about obtaining a patent to prevent others from copying and profiting from their inventions. They also tend to take a haphazard approach to inventing, neglecting important issues such as whether a market for their invention exists, or whether they will face competition already in place. A lot of time and money can be spent developing an invention, only to discover that it had already been patented by someone else. They do all the up-front work, blissfully unaware of the repercussions of negative possibilities, like getting sued by any existing patent holder, suits which are among the most expensive to defend.
For most individuals the patent process is a hotbed of mysteries and misconceptions. Let’s start unraveling them by first gaining a basic understanding of what a patent is.
In short, a patent grants you a legal right, much like other legal rights you may be more familiar with. For example, if you own property, say a car or piece of real estate, you’re provided with a legal document known as a title. This title defines your legal right to own that property.
Similar to a title, a patent grants you the legal right to own intellectual property, or IP, as its inventor. IP is a term used in the business and legal arenas to refer to creations of the inventor’s mind. Once patented, these creations become the property of the inventor, and they have commercial value. This value is derived from the fact that the patent can be used to exclude others from producing the invention and profiting from it. The IP rights can also be sold or licensed to others for a profit.
IP can encompass subjects as diverse as machinery, articles of manufacture, compositions of matter, and many diverse processes, all of which we’ll look into during the course of this blog series.