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  • patenting a virtual device

    I'm a little confused about patents for a virtual puzzle. Take the Rubik's Cube as an example. Rubik's patent http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-P...&RS=PN/4378116 appears to claim only the mechanism(s) internal to the Cube. I don't see any claims that pertain solely to the overall goal and manipulation of the puzzle, without regard to how the movements are mechanically effected. This is presumably because Rubik did not invent this type of puzzle -- a Canadian named Nichols had earlier invented a 2x2 cube, held together with magnets.

    But suppose there had been no prior invention, and suppose further that Rubik didn't think of his puzzle idea until very recently. In this case, he might not even bother to invent an internal mechanism for the Cube. He could simply create the Cube as a virtual puzzle, to be played on the screen of a PC or iPhone.

    Now, of course, such virtual Cubes and other manipulation-type puzzles do exist. Since none of these require any mechanism they can be of any shape imaginable, with movements which might be impractical in any real puzzle.

    Is a virtual puzzle like this patentable?

    I'm guessing it is, sort of like patenting a game, like Monopoly.
    Last edited by aostling; 04-19-2009, 02:44 AM.
    Allan Ostling

    Phoenix, Arizona

  • #2
    Because it is on the screen does not make it virtual. It is quite real.

    I have a patent in the works that is somewhat virtual. I have begun the process to patent the storage of data in space. An example: I place a repeater device on the surface of the moon. I then send a stream of data to that device and it sends it back, and I return it. This continues indefinitely. There are 480,000 miles of space to store data in between here and the moon so it will take a while to fill up. I don't specify a location for the repeater or whether that repeater is passive or active as I'm only patenting the principles of storing data in space. I also cover storing data in solids, of course - sound waves from seismic research will be impacted. I've also petitioned for write-only data storage for data that is one-way (broadcast radio, television, sonar data, for example).

    I plan to charge a fair price to those who store, even temporarily, data in space using the principles of my patent. In the case of write-only data I will charge by the AU which I think is reasonable.

    A real device is not needed to demonstrate the principles for the purpose of patent, and I can present an entirely virtual solution for the principle elements of my product.

    I take PayPal and Visa for those of you using WiFi.

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    • #3
      The US patent system is completely out of sync with the rest of the world in respect of what is patentable. The US PTO allow such things as "look and feel" to be patented, Business Methods may be patented, a sequence of actions to take to accomplish a goal may be patented with a good example being the Amazon.con "one click" patent.

      None of these concepts are considered patentable in other countries. All are virtual in that they cannot be produced as a tangible product that is self defined.

      I almost forgot, an algorithm may be patented, a living organism may be patented, a computer program may be patented as if it were the material embodiment of a machine. None of these may be patented in other countries. It's a major sticking point in international business affairs.
      Last edited by Evan; 04-19-2009, 04:22 AM.
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      • #4
        Originally posted by dp
        I also cover storing data in solids...
        Sorry, at least 40 or 50 years too late

        http://www.science.uva.nl/museum/tyco.html

        Cheers
        Last edited by Barrington; 04-19-2009, 06:40 AM.

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        • #5
          The US patent system is completely out of sync with the rest of the world in respect of what is patentable.
          We're waiting for them to catch up.

          The US PTO allow such things as "look and feel" to be patented, Business Methods may be patented, a sequence of actions to take to accomplish a goal may be patented with a good example being the Amazon.con "one click" patent.
          Many of these things require millions of dollars and years of research to develop. I would think the look and feel of Windows or the Mac is protectable. They didn't happen by accident. A virtual invention is still an invention.

          Then there are the cases where the patent system is used frivolously, such as Amazon's one-click dealio which I consider more of a marketing ploy. Such abuses are atypical, however, but are used to discredit the entire system.


          Say... What's the last thing the Chinese invented?

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          • #6
            Not trying to hijack the thread, but talking about Rubiks cubes, check this one out.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waY_evu6D_Y It also doesn't use any of the internal mechanisms of a regular cube, so if that's all their patent is for, then its not covered under it.

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            • #7
              Allen,

              I hold several patents. Be sure to find a good patent lawyer that is very familiar with the technology area of which you are trying to patent. A good patent lawyer will be able to phrase the patent that will give you optimum protection. One improperly used word can invalidate your patent.This is not an area to save money. The down side of patenting is that a patent is only as good as YOUR ability to protect it. So if some big corporate entity likes your idea, they can take it with impunity. The government/ patent office will do nothing to help you.

              I learned that the hard way when I lost the best job I ever had because American Cianamid decided that they wanted our multi-patented product. We never had a chance.
              Do yourself a favor and see if your TV carrier has America One News Network (AONN). 208 on Uverse. It is good old fashion news, unlike the networks, with no hype, bias or other BS.

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              • #8
                Many of these things require millions of dollars and years of research to develop. I would think the look and feel of Windows or the Mac is protectable. They didn't happen by accident. A virtual invention is still an invention.

                Then there are the cases where the patent system is used frivolously, such as Amazon's one-click dealio which I consider more of a marketing ploy. Such abuses are atypical, however, but are used to discredit the entire system.
                There are other ways provided in law to protect intellectual property which is what most of the items I mentioned qualify as. Look and feel falls under a design patent which is a different matter than a utility patent. Utility patents are meant to protect devices that have an actual embodiment as a material invention.

                Abuses of the patent system are typical, not atypical. There are a large number of companies that exist with their only business purpose to collect or file frivolous patents that depend on the fact that the USPTO doesn't do prior art searches. They use these often ridiculous patents to greenmail legitimate corporations since settling is usually cheaper than fighting.

                As for the specific example of Windows being protectable, it isn't. Xerox essentially placed it in the public domain when the latest from Microsoft was DOS2.0 and CPM was still popular.
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                • #9
                  Originally posted by dp
                  Because it is on the screen does not make it virtual. It is quite real.

                  I have a patent in the works that is somewhat virtual. I have begun the process to patent the storage of data in space. An example: I place a repeater device on the surface of the moon. I then send a stream of data to that device and it sends it back, and I return it. This continues indefinitely. There are 480,000 miles of space to store data in between here and the moon so it will take a while to fill up. I don't specify a location for the repeater or whether that repeater is passive or active as I'm only patenting the principles of storing data in space. I also cover storing data in solids, of course - sound waves from seismic research will be impacted. I've also petitioned for write-only data storage for data that is one-way (broadcast radio, television, sonar data, for example).
                  As mentioned, you are way too late, and the patent should not issue, based on extensions obvious to one skilled in the art.....

                  mercury column storage was used long ago, and should be the prototype for any delay-based storage systems. There was also shift register storage, magnetic "bubble" shift storage, acoustic storage in solids, even storage in signals sent through a long length of cable. The latter seems very close to your open reflection storage.

                  That does not mean that the cretins in the patent office, who are (by all the evidence) either subnormal or corrupt, will not issue. it just means it would not be intelligent for them to do so.


                  As for the US patent system vs others, most all the others allow anyone to STEAL your idea, and run to the patent office..... happily issuing the patent, and allowing the thief to then blackmail you for rights to your own idea and years of work, at any price they care to name. There are many historically preserved examples for this, beginning, I believe, with James Watt and the notorious crank patent.

                  The US system is the ONLY rational one, in that it give precedence to the actual inventor, and not to thieves....
                  Last edited by J Tiers; 04-19-2009, 12:14 PM.
                  1601

                  Keep eye on ball.
                  Hashim Khan

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by J Tiers
                    As mentioned, you are way too late, and the patent should not issue, based on extensions obvious to one skilled in the art.....

                    mercury column storage was used long ago, and should be the prototype for any delay-based storage systems.
                    Yep in the early 1950 (during the Korean war) the CPS 6B radar
                    used a Hg delay line in the MTI (moving target indicator) system.
                    Delay one scan and compare it with the next. From the way it
                    was used it couldn't have been a new idea even then.
                    ...lew...

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by J Tiers
                      As mentioned, you are way too late, and the patent should not issue, based on extensions obvious to one skilled in the art.....
                      Fish on! Somebody get a camera!

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Evan
                        Look and feel falls under a design patent which is a different matter than a utility patent.
                        I came to that conclusion, as the cheapest step to provide some minimal protection. I applied for a design patent on the puzzle shape in 1983. This was rejected on a technicality, something like not claiming to be a "small business," or not, I forget which. The puzzle craze was then over and I never reapplied.

                        The embodiment is a geometric shape never seen before, so this may be the easiest approach.
                        Allan Ostling

                        Phoenix, Arizona

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                        • #13
                          Say... What's the last thing the Chinese invented
                          Chinese Inventions:
                          (compiled by me from various sources)

                          The Clock,
                          The wheelbarrow
                          the crossbow
                          The animal harness
                          The printing press
                          Ink
                          Playing cards
                          The Compass
                          Kites
                          Porcelain
                          Steel
                          The Abacus
                          Fireworks
                          Rockets
                          Cast iron
                          Black chrome plating
                          The Rudder
                          Moveable Type
                          The Tuned Bell
                          Row Cropping
                          Zero
                          The Crank Handle
                          Gimbals
                          Parachute
                          Hot Air Balloon
                          Tuned Drums
                          Drilling for Natural Gas
                          The Belt Drive
                          Calipers
                          Suspension Bridge
                          The Projector
                          The Seismograph
                          The Battened Sail
                          The Seed Drill
                          Algebra
                          Fishing Reel
                          Umbrella
                          Dials with Pointer
                          Paddle Wheel Boat
                          The Arch Bridge
                          Matches
                          Chess
                          Canal Locks
                          Glow in the Dark Paint
                          The Land Mine
                          The Toothbrush


                          Since about 1800 Chinese research and development has been suppressed by foreign occupiers or invaders. This culminated with the formation of the Chinese Communist party in 1921 and the civil war of 1946 which resulted in Mao Tse Tung becoming the head of the Chinese government and a defacto dictator. As most dictators do, he quashed all creative thinking, often by execution.

                          China is now recovering from that period.
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                          • #14
                            Right. Charitably speaking, the Chinese have not invented anything in 200 years. So I'll stick with our way as it encourages invention.

                            And the Indians invented the zero. Now how's that for a virtual invention!

                            PS - The Indians invented chess, too. Them's some crafty people!

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                            • #15
                              Right. Charitably speaking, the Chinese have not invented anything in 200 years. So I'll stick with our way as it encourages invention.
                              I am sure that isn't accurate. It's hard to find out as China insulated itself from the world for a long time. Right now there is enormous innovation going on in China. China has also put in place laws to protect Intellectual Property and is beginning to enforce them, sometimes harshly.

                              From Special Action Group of Intellectual Property Rights Protection in Zhejiang Province

                              Report on the Intellectual Property Rights Protection in Zhejiang Province in 2005
                              2006-4-26


                              In 2005, in whole province, the patent application quantity was 43,221 and the authorization quantity was 19,056, which increased 70.9% and 25% respectively comparing to the previous year. The patent application quantity and the authorization quantity were ranked as number two in the country. Among which, the application quantity of the patents of invention was 6,776, which was 89.4% more than that of the previous year. The authorization quantity of the patent of invention was 1,110, which was 41.4% more than that of the previous year. The national IPR city trial work kept on doing in four cities of Hangzhou, Ningbo, Wenzhou and Jinhua. Yongkang was approved to be a national IPR promoting trade trial base. Provincial Intellectual Property Rights Bureau and Provincial Economy & Trade Committee have cognized newly 56 provincial patent demo enterprises. The accumulated number of provincial demo enterprises in the province was 191. On 12 January 2005, National Intellectual Property Rights Bureau Hangzhou Patent Agent started to engage officially in patent activities. The number of patent application accepted that year was more than 28,000 which reached 2 thirds of the patent application quantity in the province. Up to the end of 2005, in the province, there were 30 patent agencies and 16 offices. Among which, there were 4 foreign affair agencies and 168 full-time patent agents.

                              In 2005, the IPR (patent) administrative departments of different levels in the province kept on carrying out special IPR protection activities. One thousand and forty-three person times of tipstaff have been called out. Two hundred and nine batches of commodities have been checked. Nineteen cases of faked patent have been checked. One hundred and ten cases of patent infringement have been checked. The value of the cases was RMB 780,000. In the whole year, 133 patent dissension cases have been handled and 114 cases have been closed. The rate of closing is 865. The patent administrative law execution agreement between two provinces and one city has been signed with Jiangsu province and Shanghai city. The deportation system of patent case amongst 25 cities of Yangtze Delta has been set up.

                              http://www.zhejiang.gov.cn/gb/node2/...13ai39536.html
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