Sunday, July 26, 2009

Clocks, Watches, and Beepwear

We are on the hunt for the Dick Tracy watch slogging through the inventions in the mobile phone, new technology, wireless and now wristwatch world. Today we keep our neon clock company we bring you Clocks, Watches and Beepwear.

Attempts to search for information on inventions is fraught with frustration. The Dick Tracy watch is more fun but not any different than any other electronics information hunt. Figuring out what the right words are to describe this type of invention requires some serious thought. They you have to figure out what class PTO has stashed the relevant inventions (art) under, and then figuring out if what you find is really what you are looking for. This is clearly a convergence issue. This is why we HATE all forms of keyword and Boolean searching. It is one of the most frustrating and unfulfilling experiences in the hunt for good information. The world of patents has its own kind of intellectual hide and seek. Inventors who try to pick terms that give you the broadest possible coverage of your new invention. Use works that make your invention seem new so it won't be declared obvious. Then pick some verbs that cover a lot of ground so that as technology morphs they can say, "Yeah, my invention does that..."

The Dick Tracy watch provides some excellent info hide and seek adventures. Dick Tracey's original two way radio watch came about when Dick Tracy's creator, cartoonist Chester Gould, met Al Gross, an inventor and engineer who has many wireless devices to his credit. After a 1946 meeting, Dick Tracy started wearing his iconic two way radio watch. What a good excuse to read old comics, "I'm looking for prior art honey..."

What does one call the Dick Tracy watch when you are on a technology hunt? You look for the terms that show up in patents that describe wrist mounted apparatus that provide continuous data feeds of local and other geographically disbursed location time data -- aka the wristwatch potentially with two faces. What words do you add to include the fact that this one communicates? How about one with a display, was it digital, sure looks that way, and square too.

Here are a some of the good descriptions we came across:
  • Wrist instruments including timekeeping devices (Note: wrist instrument...sounds expensive)
  • Improved wristwatch radiotelephone - (We didn't find the original wristwatch radiotelephone to go with this improved invention.)
  • Personal digital apparatus..a wristwatch-type device with sensors (Note: could be a sports monitor)
  • Battery powered communication device (Note: could be anything - walky talky? But you gotta go down the path)
  • Personal digital assistant watch - (Note: good but no communications implied by this description)
  • A programmable portable information device (PDAs, cellphones, electronic roledex device?)
  • A portable timekeeping device (Note: Could be a cellphone or a battery powered clock that you tote around with you when you travel, or what about the clock in your car? What about a stop watch?)
  • A portable information device such as a multifunction electronic wristwatch
US Patent 3032651 is one of the earliest Wrist Carried Radio Set. This "wrist carried radio" was invented by two Swiss inventors and actually cites a Janauary 20, 1946 article from the Richmond Times Dispatch titled, "Dick Tracy Wrist Radio" as prior art. It also cites a 1954 article from the Washington Star entitled, "The Army's New Wrist Radio." It has some very elegant drawings. This application must have been written shortly after the press documented the meeting between Mr. Gross and Mr. Gould.

Timex and Motorola have a series of overlapping intellectual property which resulted in the Beepwear watch. The Beepwear pager watch was a hit at the Beepwear Pro was promoted as, "It's a pager,'s a watch,'s an organizer,....right on your wrist! "

Timex's US Patent 4847818 filed in 1988 by Timex is one of the earlier inventions. It has a remarkably simple title: Wristwatch Radiotelephone offering a different phone configuration than the standard Dick Tracy:
There are Timex patents with Microsoft as well, see 5922058.

Ericsson defines their invention as a personal information management system. (That's nice and broad) US Patent 6334046 describes a personal information management system that includes a personal information manager having a first transceiver and a first storage device for personal information and a communication system. Could be Dick Tracy in silhouette in their figures.

IBM has a patent for a PDA watch with features that take advantage of the flexibility of the human wrist to enhance data entry. It describes the field of invention as "relating in general to information processing apparatuses, and in particular to personal data assistants."

HP's 7055111 is for "Opportunistic Data Transfer From a Personal Digital Apparatus". In case you are wondering, Opportunistic Data Transfer appears to relate to the capability to download data to your personal digital assistant at a predetermined time. The Personal Digital Apparatus covers a lot of territory. The personal digital apparatus appears to be hooked to the arm according to the figures and preferred embodiment but they wander into the medical data arena - is that the same as the devices that keep track of your work out and upload the data to your personal computer (whatever that is these days?) This one has lots of Bluetooth compliant device language.

The LG "Dick Tracy watch" was shown at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show. Samsung has its own version that lets you check voice mail and check Outlook mail. I guess we'll have to see what RIM and Apple do next.

The best description of this class of devices so far is simply, "An attention grabbing gizmo."

That explains it.

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