August 2 2017
Because it’s summertime, I thought we should take a break from “serious” intellectual property articles. So, instead, here are some patented inventions that you might see this summer.
A baseball with a speedometer seems like a great idea. Although I don’t know anyone who has one, I’ve seen them in toy catalogs. What could be more American? We love baseball (at least many of us do) and we love competition, and this allows you to prove how fast you can throw the ball! The patent is entitled “Baseball Having Inherent Speed-Measuring Capabilities.” The patent covers the baseball itself, which contains a computer chip, as well as a method of determining the speed the ball is thrown.
A spray misting system for cooling people is a very useful thing. These systems are very popular; in the last few weeks, I have seen them at a restaurant and at the State Fair. They’re really effective. One patent is entitled “Water Mist Cooling System.” Apparently, there are several similar systems on the market, but most have a lot of problems, such as low water pressure due to reliance on tap water, and clogging due to small nozzle openings and high levels of dissolved solids in the water. The invention is basically a hose with a series of nozzles, but it also has a pump and a regulator. The pump solves the low water pressure problem and the regulator flushes the system to reduce clogging.
Corn on the cob holders – a cute idea, but no one actually seems to use them. They come in all sorts of designs, from those with plain handles to those with decorative handles (little corn cobs, soccer balls, etc.). Most of the patents I found were design patents and all were entitled “Corn Cob Holder.” The designs varied in their handles (flat, cylindrical, or curved inward) and in the number of prongs (one, two, or four). Even though these seem useful, most people seem to prefer to eat corn with their fingers.
The frisbee is a classic summertime invention. The oldest patent I found was issued in 1967 and was called “Flying Saucer.” Since then, there have been many patents covering improvements to what is now called a “flying disc.” There are two types: regular saucer-shaped discs and ring-shaped ones. The aerodynamics of the two types are completely different. I found one patent that described a “yo-yo returning disc” that uses a string and axle to create “yo-yo motion,” causing the disc to return to the user, like a boomerang. The advantage of this invention is that a person can play frisbee all alone. I’m not sure why anyone would want to do this, but if you did, this invention would make it much easier.
The barbecue fork with thermometer is a common subject for design patents. These devices allow you to stab your food item as it’s being grilled to determine whether it’s done. As a vegetarian, I don’t need this device, but I’m told it is very useful. The patented designs vary in the location of the thermometer (an in-line thermometer in the handle of the fork or a round device sitting on top of the handle), and in the length of the fork portion. The forks with the longer fork portion would seem to be better – so that you don’t burn your arm.
There are lots of patents for soccer shin guards. The old shin guards were pretty simplistic, consisting of a single piece of stiff material. The new ones have a separate foot portion that attaches with velcro at the ankle to the shin portion. The patented shin guards all try to solve the same problem: they must be flexible enough to fit a variety of shins and yet also be stiff enough to provide protection. Protection is critical, because the shin bone (the tibia) is a very vulnerable bone – it is long, thin, triangular, and not covered by muscle or fat. One patent described a moisture-curable resin shin guard that can be molded to the user’s shin without heat, using only water, to form a rigid, tight-fitting guard. This sounds like an effective way of getting a good fit.
The swim noodle is my favorite summer invention. I have a bunch of them, and I wish I’d patented it. The noodle is a long, open-celled, foam tube that is used as a pool floatation toy. They come in many colors and shapes. You can do just about anything with the noodle, depending on how many you have and how you arrange them. You can use them to float sitting up, lying down, or something in between. You can use them to do water exercises and to reach other pool toys floating in the pool. Kids (and adults!) use them to whack each other or blow water out. I couldn’t find a patent for the basic noodle, but I did find one for a noodle chair. However, I think the noodle is best used in its purest form, by itself.
Now, enjoy the rest of our summer!