25 May 2012

Football goal-line technology: Hawk-Eye and GoalRef® trials

It’s down to the final two companies to test their goal-line innovations to see if a goal has been scored: England’s Hawk-Eye, and Denmark’s GoalRef® (although the technology is German).

There have been frequent complaints about phantom goals that weren’t, and equally about those that were scored and were disallowed. Critics have said that if so many other sports can use technology to measure scores, football should be able to do the same.

It is up to the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to permit changes to the rules of the game. Each UK country has one vote on it, and FIFA, the Féderation internationale de Football Association, has four votes. Six yes votes are required to permit changes.

FIFA itself is supervising the tests of goal-line technology. In July 2011 nine systems were tested, with the requirements including that the result be communicated within one second by a visual signal and vibration. The FIFA website contains the goal-line technology (GLT) specifications.

Two of these systems survived to the second phase: Hawk-Eye, which will be tested at the England friendly against Belgium at Wembley on the 2 June, while GoalRef® will be trialled in Denmark’s football league. GoalRef ApS, a Danish company, has an attractive Community trade mark, shown below.

GoalRef trade mark

The two systems work in completely different ways.

GoalRef® uses a microchip embedded in the ball. When it crosses the goal line, it interrupts a magnetic field and signals a goal. The technology was developed by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute, with its patent applications still pending. These include US application Oval ball, especially rugby ball or football, illustrated below.

GoalRef patent drawing

I was under the impression that footballs were round rather than oval, but it is clearly for the technology.

The Hawk-Eye system is based on the World application (later abandoned) Video processor systems for ball tracking in ball games, published in 2001. Multiple cameras track the ball from different angles and send data to a computer which processed where it is. The main drawing shown is based on cricket, a sport which (with lawn tennis) often uses it.

Hawk-Eye goalline patent drawing

One of the unsuccessful triallists was Germany’s Cairos Technologies AG, who also use magnetism to identify if the ball has crossed the goal-line. They have many World patent applications relevant to measuring data when playing football.

There is also Goalminder, a system using high speed cameras in the goal posts and the cross bars to provide visual evidence within 5 seconds (this is too slow for the criteria). This was thought of by two disgruntled Bolton Wanderers fans, David Parden and Harry Barnes, when a disallowed goal sent Bolton down at the end of the season. Parden is named as one of the three inventors in World patent application Support apparatus for a goalpost surveillance system.

Here is a list of many patent documents for measuring data when playing football.

An IFAB meeting on the 2 July will decide on whether or not to adopt one of the two systems.

23 May 2012

The invention of the television remote control

The BBC has an obituary of Eugene Polley, who has died at the age of 96, who it calls the inventor of the TV remote control.

His Flash-Matic invention is I believe the Control system patent, filed in 1955. Its main image is given below.

Polley TV remote control patent image

I must admit that I had thought the key patent was Robert Adler's patent, also called Control system, and also for Zenith Radio. It was filed in 1957. The main drawing is below.

Adler TV remote control patenr image

Unlike the Polley invention, which involved photocells, the Adler invention sent ultrasonic signals to turn the TV on or off, change channels, or turn the volume up or down.

In 1985 was filed the Universal remote control unit by NAP Consumer Electronics, which was apparently a big advance in the concept. It used infrared LEDs.

What was definitely not a useful idea was the Extensible television controls, filed in 1955 by the great industrial designer Raymond Loewy, who on this occasion had one of his less practicable ideas.

16 May 2012

Disney's Touché touch-sensing invention

Disney has come up with a revolutionary touch-sensing invention,Touché, as explained in a Yahoo article.

Different types of touch would mean that a doorknob would know how to lock itself by the way it had been touched, or a sofa would alter the room's lighting or the volume on the TV depending on how you sat in it. It seems to me that if you aren't aware of this, things could suddenly happen, not always to your satisfaction, and you would have to learn a lot about how each device worked.

Dr Poupyrev is apparently key to the project, and I have found three patent applications by him for Disney, all filed on the same day (8 April 2010). They were also all published on the same day (13 October 2011). 

The one that most closely resembles the invention is Generating virtual stimulation devices and illusory sensations using tactile display technology, which is only a US application (all foreign patent rights seem to have been given up). It appears to me to be somewhat different from the Touché as it talks of illusions (Disney is the applicant, after all). Below is the main drawing.

Disney tactile display patent image
The document's summary says "Systems and methods provide for controlling the characteristics of stimulation devices arranged in a grid topology to generate virtual stimulation devices and illusory sensations. Embodiments provide for the generation of illusory sensations including, but not limited to, continuous linear movement and shapes such as curves, squares, and circles. According to embodiments, a tactile display apparatus is provided that facilitates user interaction with the tactile display. The tactile display apparatus includes an interface embedded with stimulation devices and a control device that controls the operation of the stimulation devices to generate illusory sensations."

Also published were System and method for sensing human activity by monitoring impedance, which was also published as a PCT "World" document requesting protection across many countries, and Motionbeam interaction techniques for handheld projectors, which I thought very intriguing. The idea is that you can wave your hand across the beam to change what happens on the screen. The main drawing is given below.

Disney motion beam interaction patent image

I suspect that the publication of Ivan Poupyrev's patent application is awaited. It takes 18 months for patent applications to be published from the date of filing, and those who have filed can if they wish talk about the invention. He has his own page on the Web and many of his writings are available via Google Scholar.

Also in his name is a granted US patent for Sony, Apparatus and method for touch screen interaction based on tactile feedback and pressure measurement, and US patent application Electrovibration for touch surfaces, which I strongly suspect is also for Disney. It is an oddity of the US patent system that it is not required at the published application stage to state the name of the applicant, only at grant (all other countries as far as I am aware do so). At least one co-inventor, Ali Israr, worked with Poupyrev on other patent applications. It was published in November 2011.

It does show a problem in searching for material: you can't rely on the applicant name being present in US patent applications (if foreign documents are filed then the name will presumably be picked up).

11 May 2012

PCT patent statistics for 2011

WIPO has published a press release on PCT patent statistics for 2011, together with an annex giving data.

PCT is what many call the World patent. Nearly all large companies, and many medium-sized ones, use the PCT system, and it is a good indicator of willingness to patent. A published PCT document only means that the company asked for protection, and it is up to regional or national patent authorities to decide if they will grant a patent.

Total filings were up 10% in 2011 over 2010, to about 181,900. The biggest increases among the major countries were China, up by 33%; Japan, 21%; and Canada, Korea and the USA, all up by about 8%. Among European countries, the fastest growers were Switzerland, up 7%, and France and Germany, both up 5%. The UK was down 1%.

Among smaller filers, Russia was up 20%, Brazil 17% and India 11%. These of course with China form the BRIC countries of high potential future growth. Such increases may seem extraordinary in a time of heavy recession, and the problems of Japan after the tsunami in March 2011.

Actual figures are that the USA was first, with 48,596 filings (26% of the total), followed by Japan with 21%, Germany with 10%, China with 9% and then Korea with 5%.

China’s ZTE Corporation was the leading company, with 2,826 filings. 42 of the top 100 companies are from the Far East, and six of the top ten. The top US company was Qualcomm, in sixth place. No British company was in the top 100.

There is a table of the top university applicants, where only three of the top ten are from the Far East (the rest being American), showing how innovation is so heavily driven by companies and not academia in the Far East. The top UK university was Cambridge, in 71st place.

There is also a table showing the numbers in 35 broad technical fields. Twelve showed double digit changes, all up. The three biggest rises were in electrical machinery, apparatus, energy, up 23%, followed by engines, pumps, turbines, up 16%, and environmental technology, up 14%.

WIPO has also published a detailed 2012 PCT Yearly Review. Pages 39-41 were particularly interesting to me, as they present data on international collaboration. For example, 75% of the inventors in Swiss PCT filings were foreigners and not Swiss nationals (it was 25% for both the UK and the USA). Pages 45-46 give data on how specialised countries are, correcting for their size, so that for example China and Finland lead in the ICT sector by the percentage of patent filings in that field.

I posted last year on the 2010 figures.

10 May 2012

Patent landscape reports: analysing business sectors

WIPO has a very useful list on its site of patent landscape reports

These are analyses of trends and patterns by country, company and so on of particular sectors. They are arranged in the broad categories Public Health/ Life Sciences, Climate Change/ Energy, and Food and Agriculture.

Many are available to see as free PDF links, but a few at least only lead to a free abstract and the report must be purchased. I would encourage anyone who has published such a report, or at least knows of one, to mention it to WIPO, as I am sure that there are a lot more than the 50 or so listed. I am not sure if comparable academic papers qualify as well -- personally I don't see why not. And surely there are other sectors such as engineering to cover ?

I myself suggested to them a 2011 report compiled for the UK IPO on medical devices and telehealth by CambridgeIP. I found it in a little-known but very useful (and free) Zanran database, which looks for data such as pie graphs and bar charts in Web documents. It is best used when there are a couple of well-defined terms as opposed to an area where there are lots of synonyms.

In this case, Zanran provided 92 hits for a search for patents + nanotechnology limited to the last 24 months. There were 17 hits for "patent landscape", again the last 24 months only.

The site is a great favourite of mine for trying to reduce the number of hits otherwise found on Google to a managable (and largely relevant) amount, and it's easy to scan the results by letting the cursor move down the images of the documents.

04 May 2012

Guide to intellectual property in the fashion industry

London's Centre for Fashion and Enterprise has put four guides to aspects of intellectual property and the fashion industry up on the Web.

They all have the title Intellectual property and the fashion industry and are on trade marks; design rights; copyright; and licensing. They date from March 2012.

These are practical guides to carrying out business in the industry, with real case studies to illustrate strategies -- hence mention of Jimmy Choo and Vivienne Westwood, for example. They look very useful. My only small quibble is that the mention of "design rights" could be confusing as "registered designs" and "design rights" are two separate rights that can be used to protect the appearance of things, while the brochure covers both.

The Business & IP Centre here has a Fashion Industry Guide listing valuable sources, mainly in reports held on paper or in subscription databases, which can be used by its readers.

01 May 2012

Shoe hangers as registered designs

Even the simplest thing needs to be designed and made. I was reminded of that when I bought a pair of slippers which were attached to each other and to a hook above by a "shoe rack". The main drawing from the registered design is shown below.

Phineas shoe hanger
On it read

Phimeas products.com


Community Reg. Des.


This told me that it was a Community or EU-wide design as administered by OHIM in Alicante, Spain. What Americans call Design Patents, for the look, are called registered designs in the UK.

The OHIM designs database lists 59 hits for Phineas Products, mostly devices for suspending shoes from hooks, with some coat hangers. 39 hits are on the UK designs database. There are none in the US system.

Phineas Products is based in Bristol, England but has 3 other offices across the world. They have taken the trouble to provide a page explaining why it is a good idea to hang shoes -- mainly, it is an efficient use of space and their use makes it easy for shoppers to see the product. 

The site even has a video (narrated by an American voice) explaining why this particular model, PP122, is effective. Here it is below.


Overkill ? I don't think so. The company is obviously expert in their niche product area and have targeted their audience: not the ordinary consumer, but the shopowner or manager selling shoes.