Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Electric Mirror's New Patent for the Tech Savvy Traveler

There is just something about beautiful architecture and well thought out hotel design that adds to the travel experience. A hotel that is well done and has lots of pleasing surprises is just delightful. The dazzling lobbies, the beautiful attention to detail - from the door handles to the broadloom in the hallways to the way the light flows through the windows and then of course there's the technology. It's more than just having a nice parking space for your IPod or having easy to access WiFi, it's all the other cool stuff like the buttons in your room to let the housekeeping people you'd like to have your room made up without screaming to the hallway passers by, "HEY THIS ROOM IS EMPTY, COME STEAL MY STUFF." But the coolest new hotel toy is the in-mirror TV. You can watch the stock ticker rolling across the screen while blow drying or keep abreast of your favorite sporting event while showering or brushing your teeth. These new in-mirror TV's are the latest and coolest hospitality industry addition for "Tech Savvy Guests".

So when I received a recent email from Aaron Mischel of Electric Mirror in Everett, Washington that featured their Top Story "Electric Mirror Receives Key Patent for Lighted Mirror TVs", I was intrigued. It is the first time I have received marketing emails for a product that not only incorporated information about their products and their customers - the email featured lots of interesting links to their projects and their clients - it incorporated the announcement of the award of their patent complete with links to the patent, and an image of the first page and some of the drawings from the patent itself. Patent 7,805,260 was granted September 28th, 2010.

Claim 1 reads:

1. A mirror assembly mountable to a wall, the mirror assembly comprising: (a) a mirror platform having a front surface and a rear surface; (b) a chassis mountable to the mirror platform; (c) at least one electrical component disposed between the mirror platform and the chassis; (d) an electrical passageway formed within the chassis for allowing the electrical component to be placed into communication with a power source located remotely from the mirror assembly; and (e) a recess formed within the chassis for housing a connection between the power source and the electrical component such that the chassis can be mounted substantially flush against the wall when the electrical component is electrically connected to the power source.

This is a pretty tight claim.

Here is an elegantly designed product complete with the patent to protect it from an American company complete with a waterproof remote control and mirror defoggers. What more could a traveler ask for?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Six Degrees of Software & Software Patents

The Six Degrees of Software is the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon for nerds. It works like this - pick something that you do and see how far you can go before you run into something that uses software. The answer is, NOT FAR. And software is getting closer all the time.

Consider the toaster...heating element with a timer. Pretty simple. What about a heating element with a timer and an LED display connected to the wall outlet connected to the digital electric meter connected to your house connected to the grid which is connected to the electric company....

Consider the car wash...

The barber seems to be low tech until you make your appointment on line.

So, software patents are always an interesting and often heated topic of conversation. Pick your topic and then consider who owns the patents:

  • Convergence of the open source software world and patents
  • What's controlling your surgery - the surgeorn or the Da Vinci Robot or the software?
  • Business Methods patents - software as the brick and mortar of the new millenium or Still Life with Flow Chart?
  • How will anyone ever figure out what the essential patents are so the Smart Grid can be built?
  • Who owns the patents for electronic health records?
If you want to have some fun, Google (now a verb) Microsoft Burning the Ships. Burning the Ships is the story of Microsoft's efforts to play nice where its patents and the open source world collide. It's interesting that the patent attorney blogs find it a compelling tome while the software guys are incredulous about the new and friendly Microsoft.

In our quest to advance the discourse on software patents, business methods (software patents by another name), and open source we call your attention to an interesting blog written by Florian Mueller that focuses on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) and patents. Mr. Mueller's blog is not for the faint of heart - it's packed with information but if you want some interesting insight into the complexity of the issues. Check it out and then go back and consider the six degrees of software in your professional and personal life.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Business Methods Updates

Our Business Methods colleagues are at it again. They are providing insight into the recent changes to the e-shopping business methods patent class schedules published by USPTO. Mike Bowman is walking through the changes to help us all understand how things are evolving.

I'll be adding their posts here soon but in the meantime you can check them out at Business Methods Modus Operandi, our blog focused exclusively on business methods patents.