News by Joe Birkner




Edison with the phonograph, June 16, 1888

 From time to time, NEWS & INFORMATION of particular interest to IANE members will be found on this page. This is provided voluntarily as a benefit of membership in IANE and is merely presented as information only. Disclaimed are any claims as to accuracy or 'goodness to fit' and of applicability in a particular case.  Use it at your own disgression and risk. Obtain legal advice and professional help before venturing too far in patent matters.  "Dont just sit there..INVENT!!"

NEW!! Do you need help with your invention?  Are you looking for an expert?  Maybe the person was sitting next to you at the last IANE Meeting, but you didn't know thier name or what they do.  Maybe their 'mug shot' will 'ring a bell'??  IANE member Shirley Woo, (, Profile Master has volunteered to prepare Profiles of IANE Members, "mug shots",  their inventing help needs, expertise and  items of general interest.   Our Member Profiles resources can help you get 'unstuck'.  A special web site link has been dedicated to IANE MEMBERS ONLY who may access this password protected site at  IANE MEMBERS ONLY WEB SITE .


"The UIA (United Inventor's Association) confers its EXCELLENCE AWARD on non-profit inventor organization web sites that explain the process of product development, provide extensive links to other  web sites and sources of information, and promote a positive image of inventors."
"It is my pleasure to inform you that your site has been selected for the Fourth Annual UIA Website Excellence Award. This is our way of recognizing your efforts to inform, educate and connect independent inventors. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed. On behalf of independent inventors everywhere, we thank you". 
Keep up the good work,
Bob Lougher, Executive Director, UIA
IANE  is pleased to receive the coveted UIA 2003 Excellence Award  for our web site and thank Bob Lougher, the entire staff of UIA and the independent inventors and visitors who have nominated us for the award.  We have a dedicated group of volunteer inventors who have helped make this web site what it is. We will continue to serve you well by providing useful information of interest to the invention community.  Thanks.  Joe Birkner  webmaster.
United States Patent & Trademark Office Issues 7 Millionth Patent
Patent Assigned to DuPont for Novel Fibers
WASHINGTON, D.C.– The Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today February 14, 2006 issued patent No. 7 million to DuPont senior researcher John P. O’Brien for “polysaccharide fibers” and a process for their production. The fibers have cotton-like properties, are biodegradable and are useful in textile applications.

It took 75 years to get from patent No.1 to patent 1 million. It has taken less than one tenth of that time to go from 6 million to 7 million patents. And now just a little more than six years later, patent No. 7 million issues. Patent No. 1 was issued in 1836. Earlier patents were not numbered, although the first U.S. patent was issued in 1790. Approximately 10,000 patents were issued between 1790 and 1836. The USPTO issued 151,079 utility patents in fiscal year 2005.

USPTO Web Site For Independent Inventors

The Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)'s Web site specifically meets the special needs and interests of independent inventors and entrepreneurs who comprise about 18% of filers of patents with the USPTO.  “How to” brochures, previously available only in paper, are now posted on USPTO Web pages expressly designed for independent inventors. Links to other useful USPTO Web pages, such as the Patent and Trademark Depository Library Program and Patent Cooperation Treaty, have been added, as have links to other government agencies, including the Small Business Administration and the Federal Trade Commission, each of which have programs and information useful to independent inventors. USPTO’s independent inventor Web site now also has a useful “tip of the month.” 
The Inventor Assistance Program Web site is located at:  INVENTOR'S ASSISTANCE 

 SUPREME COURT PATENT DECISION FAVORS INVENTORS in re. FESTO CORP. vs. Shoketsu Kinzoku Kogyo Kabushiki Co. Ltd.No.00-1543. Argued January 8, 2002 -- Decided  May 28, 2002

copyright 2002
By Joseph R. Birkner, Registered Patent Agent
After a 13 year long battle, regarding, essentially what was considered to be equivalent, the ruling in the case of Festo Corp. vs. Shoketsu Kinzoku Kogyo Kabushiki Co. Ltd. partially restores an inventor's right to use the "doctrine of equivalents," a concept that  allows broad interpretation of patents, to defend against infringement.  This would only apply if the  inventor can prove that he or she could not have foreseen the development of a  competing technology. Without a crystal ball, the inventor, with proof, may have a good chance at arguing this point provided the inventor did not know about a company's developments.  This underscores the reason for  having a good patent search professionally conducted to possibly uncover the latest technology which may avoid such issues. 
    On May 28, 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court returned a level of  protection to small inventors and to patent holders against  would-be copycats in a case that handed a partial victory, for now, to FESTO CORP.  But the ruling puts a new burden of proof on original  patent holders to continue to defend their claims as has always been the case, now, however, it may be more favorable to do so, in view of the latest decision.  The details and legal ramifications of FESTO are quite detailed and lots of discussion regarding its impact will be forthcoming.  Briefly, FESTO, a robotic products maker,  involved earlier in 1988, in a suit against SMC Corp. for patent  infringement because SMC had made a product that so closely mimicked its own that their parts were interchangeable and indistinguishable.   A decision in the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals (CAFC), at that time, ruled in favor of SMC, because FESTO amended their patent claims and which the CAFC said was no longer equivalent (to SMC's invention).  Now, after much soul searching and debate, the Supreme Court vacated the CAFC decision, overturning it, which impacts other cases including  Kabushiki and thereby in re-affirming the so-called doctrine of equivalents. The Supreme Court set new guidelines that the amended claims must meet to receive doctrine of  equivalent protection and squashed the  lower court's attempt to effectively rewrite patent law.  This is why it is very crucial that a patent practioner skilled in current patent law matters prosecute an inventor's application.  It is not for the do-it-yourselfer.  Had this decision not been overturned, it would have not been as favorable for inventors, because in very simple terms, for example, if an element such as  a fastener in the patent application for connecting two parts together is called a screw, a rivet may not be equivalent under the CAFC, which is ridiculous.  Fortunately, the Supreme Court intervened in a manner beneficial to inventors, especially, independent inventors.  Had they not done so, would have, in my opinion, been a grave misjustice, and would have ursurped the purpose of patent protection by severely and unwisely limiting the scope of coverage which would have poured ice water on creativity.   I'd be happy to discuss the ramifications of this ruling with IANE members.
USPTO recognizes Walt Disney and his advancement in animation Walter E. Disney, of Los Angeles, received patent #2,201,689 for the art of animation on May 21, 1940, the 62nd anniversary of his patent. It was for a multi-plane camera that allowed for a more realistic three-dimensional image as well as depth and richness to the animation. Disney's invention enabled him to move from the standard animated short films he made famous, such as "Steamboat Willie" featuring Mickey Mouse® (trademark registration #0247156) in 1928, to the feature-length animation seen in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs®," released in 1937 and his first film to use the multi-plane camera. Walt Disney was inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame in 2000.
Patent for Ironing Board issued April 26, 1892
African American woman invents predecessor to modern ironing board
Sarah Boone, of New Haven, CT, received patent #473,653 for the ironing board on April 26, 1892. Boone's ironing board was made of a narrow wooden board, with collapsible legs and a padded cover and was specifically designed for the fitted clothing worn during that time period, particularly the sleeves and bodices of ladies' garments. Prior to her inventions, people resorted to simply using a table or being creative in laying a plank of wood across two chairs or small tables.
Patent for Safety Pin Issued April 10, 1849   A New Yorker invents a handy device.
   Walter Hunt, of New York, NY, received patent #6,281 for the safety pin on April 10, 1849. Hunt's pin was made from one piece of wire, which was coiled into a spring at one end and a separate clasp and point at the other end, allowing the  point of the wire to be forced by the spring into the clasp. Walter Hunt was extremely creative, and in 1834 he built  America's first sewing machine, which also used the first eye-pointed needle. He abandoned his efforts because he  thought it would put hand sewers out of work. Nearly 20 years later, Elias Howe reinvented and patented an eye-pointed  needle sewing machine.   
(Source: Mass High Tech April 1-7, 2002 page 13)
Contact: Tracy Cronin, Program Manager at Technical support Working Group (TSWG), a government agency that works closely with the departments of State, Defense, Energy and Justice.  To learn exactly how to submit an invention to the government Visit web site:  TSWG
Others include the US Army Soldier Center in Natick, MA  NATICK LABS
And, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) which provide conduits that companies can use to tap into federal funds  DARPA 

The US Dept. of Energy's "Inventions and Innovation Program" provides financial assistance for establishing technical performance and conducting early development of innovative ideas and inventions that can lead to significant energy savings impact.  Financial assistance is given at two levels - Category 1 for up to $40,000 for conceptual ideas and Category 2 for up to $200,000 for the minimum requirement of a completed engineering analysis and/or a bench scale model.  The grants are restricted to US applicants with special consideration given to individual inventors and small businesses.  For more information, visit DOE  Web site:  

Useful Links and Information For Inventors and Entrepreneurs
Provided by The U.S. Dept. of Energy


Disclaimer: This web site is provided for information purposes and is not legal advice.  Anyone seeking legal advice should contact a lawyer,  patent agent or patent attorney.  Jurisdiction is in Massachusetts, USA.
Copyright 2002-2012 Inventors' Association of New England P.O. Box 335 Lexington, MA 02420-0004