In through the outfield blog

19 posts from June 2011

30 June 2011

Out of this world: invisibility cloaks

Following the theme of our free Out of this world science fiction exhibition, what about invisibility cloaks, as in the Harry Potter books, or Star Trek.

The University of Pennsylvania has applied for a Cloaked sensor patent application, which "renders a sensor essentially undetectable in a predetermined spectrum without degrading the detection capability of the sensor."

Even more intriguing is one by Ray Alden of Raleigh, North Carolina. His Three dimensional cloaking process and apparatus was applied for in 2001 and was granted protection in the USA as US7206131 -- but with a very different title. The main drawing is shown below -- read through the patent documents to understand how the eye is meant to be fooled.

Three dimensional cloaking patent drawing 

Then there's Lucent Technologies' Cloaking device detection system, to detect objects that are using stealth technology.

And speaking of stealth, there is an interesting page on the Urban Ghosts site about patented stealth aircraft.

Of course, we have to wait for patent specifications to be published (18 months from the date of application) to see what they have to tell us. In February 2011 the University of Birmingham showed how using crystals can make paperclips vanish, as reported in an article in the Guardian.  Maybe there will be a patent application, but in the meantime mentions of academic papers on the subject can be found in Google Scholar.

29 June 2011

Patent classifications for green technologies

Identifying patented inventions in a certain technical field can be very challenging if title words are relied on. An alternative approach is to use the International Patent Classification (IPC) printed on the patent specifications.

UN agency WIPO has now created an IPC Green Inventory to help when the interest is in green technologies. Clicking on the + signs open up subdivisions. Clicking on a class in the left hand column of the table then provides details of subdivisions within that class.

Hence it can be used simply to identify the right classifications to use in databases such as Espacenet. Alternatively, it can be used to find patent applications published in the PCT or "World" patent system, which is favoured by nearly all major, and many medium-sized, companies, as found on the Patentscope® database. A PCT does not give the applicant a granted patent, but does simplify and cheapen the process for getting patents granted for an invention across many countries. WIPO administers the PCT scheme.

Clicking on the class in the right hand column opens a table which tells you which are the leading companies publishing through the PCT route. Summaries of the applications appear below. An example is "Charging batteries", H02J 7/35, where the PCT specifications are listed here.

It is a pity that main drawings are not included, but the database is nevertheless a useful resource for anyone looking for information on green technology. These sites are all free, of course.

22 June 2011

Will falling forward get me to the top of Kilimanjaro?

KilimanjaroWith just a few days to go before my big trip (hopefully) to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, I have been told about a revolutionary new way of walking.

Apparently all I have to do is ‘fall forward’. and I will be at the top without even realising it. This ‘new’ technique is called Chi Walking (with a Chi Running offshoot).

What I find interesting about this idea, is how even the most basic of human activities can be re-invented and turned into  a commercial product or service.

As one of the videos explains, when we are children we run by leaning forward, but by the time we are adults we have unlearned the natural way to move. you can now buy a range of books, ‘five-finger’ shoes, or join classes to re-learn from the experts how to walk or run properly.

I am aware than many runners do get injuries from their activities, especially road running, but my scepticism is still high on whether this whole thing is some kind of Snake oil charm. Try watching this video of Master Stephen Hwa’s Tai Chi Walk Lesson, and see what you think.

However, I am prepared to try pretty much anything reasonable that might aid my path to top of the highest mountain in Africa, so will try it for a while.

Although my climb was not planned to raise money for charity (more to prove I’m not quite over the hill yet), quite a few people have asked if they can sponsor me. justgiving_logo_detailSo I have created a JustGiving page with a choice of charities to donate to if you would like to contribute.

What is Chi?

Master George Xu, our T’ai Chi teacher, asks us to focus on our dantien, our center and to allow all movement to  come from that place. The energy moves from the center into the body and into the  limbs to create movement. Why? Because Chi is stronger than muscles, and movement that comes from Chi is more deeply powerful.

More powerful than muscles? In the West, muscles are almost akin to a god the way we worship them and what they represent. Covers of magazines and TV commercials extol rock hard abs and buns of steel. What is stronger than rock and steel?

In T’ai Chi we quickly learn that muscles are no match for the power of Chi. Like the flow of water that created the Grand Canyon the power of Chi takes you much further and faster than vulnerable muscles whose duration is very short lived.

Your dantien is the best home for your Chi and the best place for you to focus your energy so that you can come from a balanced, whole place in yourself. Your dantien is just below your navel and a few inches in toward your spine. In Chi Running, Chi Walking and Chi Living we encourage all movement, all action, all choices to come from this center, that deep place in yourself that is home to your greatest potential and power.

Nanotechnology inventions and patents

The International Patent Classification (IPC) has introduced a new class for specific uses of nanotechnology structures. This will be a great help in tracing such inventions as published patent specifications.

The Wikipedia article on nanotechnology defines it as the "study of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale" -- they are so tiny that odd and interesting effects often appear.

Previously any patent documents relating to nanotechnology were placed in Y01N. This was an ECLA class, not IPC, the differences being that ECLAs are not printed on published patent specifications and that they only index the USA, the PCT "World" patent system, the European Patent Convention system, and some European countries. Use of ECLA has been extended to patents back to the nineteenth century is some cases (it varies, but goes back at least to 1920). It often takes months or longer to add the ECLA classes to newly published patent specifications.

Now B82Y has joined the usual A to H sequence in the IPC so that any patent office can use them when issuing patent documents.

Class B82Y at present contains 10 subclasses, and is for "Specific uses or applications of nano-structures; measurement or analysis of nano-structures; manufacture or treatment of nano-structures".

Clicking on the little hollow box next to a class number and then on Copy transfers that class to a search mask on the free Espacenet database. Other filters such as by keyword or company name can be added, otherwise clicking on Search will run that class looking for it when used as an ECLA. Moving the class to the IPC box is best when searching for new material, as it looks for it as used when published (it's a bit more complicated than that, actually).

Over 100,000 turn up if B82Y is treated as an ECLA, but only 963 at the time of writing if it is treated as an IPC. Except for two these 963 were all published from January 2011 onwards, when the new class was in theory introduced, making this a valuable way to check for new innovations in nanotechnology by companies or academia.

For example, the University of California is responsible for 17 of those 963. A slightly crude analysis can be made by country by asking for the two letter country code in the priority date field (where it was first applied for as a patent). The US accounts for 509 or 52%, while perhaps surprisingly China (CN) is second (15%) and Japan (JP) is third with 8%. Britain (GB), Germany (DE) and France (FR) together amount to only 9.5%.

Additionally, there is B82B which only has a few classes and I suspect is likely to have more classes in the future. It is for "Nano-structures formed by manipulation of individual atoms, molecules, or limited collections of atoms or molecules as discrete units; manufacture or treatment thereof".

21 June 2011

50 Excellent Lectures for the Small Business Owner

Many thanks to Rose King from for pointing me to their list of 50 Excellent Lectures for the Small Business Owner.

I have copied their introduction and first five ‘lectures’ below:

bschool logoWhether you have an MBA or are starting your own business before finishing your undergraduate work, there’s more to learn about business than what you get out of classes and textbooks. Supplement your traditional coursework — and even your own experience — by listening to these innovative, insightful and gutsy business leaderswho’ve got a lot to teach you about venture capital, collaboration, the new culture of leadership, and more.


These lectures tackle topics in entrepreneurship, from appealing to the consumer to making great pitches.

  1. Entrepreneurs: Four entrepreneurs share their journeys to open a new business, and the talks inspire passion and excitement.
  2. Entrepreneurship and Society: This talk from UCTV is led by Tom Kemp, President and CEO of Centrify Corporation. He talks about what new ventures need in order to effectively appeal to the modern-day consumer.
  3. Women Entrepreneurs: Consider the differences between men and women as business leaders and owners.
  4. Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship: President Obama gives a talk to an international audience on entrepreneurship and realizing the American dream.
  5. Entrepreneurs: Then and Now: Guy Kawasaki compares the foundation of entrepreneurial strategy during the late 1990s and what’s popular and effective now.

20 June 2011

Innoventique, magazine for innovation

Innoventique is the name of a free, quarterly magazine, with its aim being "how to make money from innovation".

It is the successor to Inventique, and is available on the Innoventique: from innovation to marketplace website. It focuses on the UK scene, and I found it an interesting read, with a mixture of factual items and features. Back issues are available as well.

The website belongs to Innoventique Communications, a not-for-profit-company, with Frank Landamore of the Wessex Round Table of Inventors as its editor. The Round Table is based in Southampton, Hampshire, and is one of the many regional or local groups that encourage, inform and generally help inventors or small companies.

Also helpful is nearby Portsmouth Public Library, who run one of the UK's Patlib centres assisting those interested in researching and protecting their innovations.

16 June 2011

Hello Kitty – Goodbye Cathy

HelloKitty-vs-CathyI have to admit that children’s characters are not something I have spent much of my time thinking about since my kids left primary school some years ago. Despite this, the distinctive Hello Kitty brand has successfully impinged itself on my consciousness.

Such strong and simple designs obviously have a wide appeal. However, the lesson is that you need to ensure that yours are truly unique to avoid potentially damaging copyright wrangles.

A recent story from the Evening Standard about Cathy from the Hello Kitty range illustrates this problem (Hello Kitty waves goodbye to friend Cathy).

There have been months of legal bickering between the Dutch firm Mercis who own Miffy, the well known Dutch character created by Dick Bruna, and Sanrio, the Japanese owners of the Hello Kitty brand.

In the resulting settlement Sanrio promised to drop the character Cathy. And both will donate £135,000 to the victims of the earthquake in Japan, rather than spend more money on legal fees.

A better mousetrap blog and book

Back in February I posted about My favourite patent and invention blogs. I've just discovered a new one: A Better Mousetrap.

The blog is packed with interesting material, voiced frustration at the problems involved in getting a new product to market, and not a little humour. In their own words, "We use our blog mainly to vent spleen and tilt at windmills." I'll certainly come back regularly to read new postings.

A Better Mousetrap is also the name of a book by Graham Barker and Peter Bissell which is available from the site. It explains in great detail what is involved in, again, getting a new product to market. I remember how pleased I was on seeing the first edition, quite a few years ago -- later editions were a lot bigger in content.

They also offer a consultancy service. Based in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, they "help inventors with affordable invention evaluation and advice services". Their about page gives more information.