Homework due 1/28/11
Using your patent from the homework due on Monday, obtain some (2 or 3 if they are of normal length) of the References Cited, preferably other patents. Using those references, would the patent you chose be patentable under the analysis of Hotchkiss or A&P? Would it satisfy the nonobviousness requirement of 35 USC 103 under Lyon? If the answer is different, which I suspect would be the normal case, what evolution of the standards of nonobviousness (referred to in the old cases as inventivness or something similar) lead to the change? As a rule of thumb, I would say the analysis for each case would take about page, with perhaps a common page or two description of what the references disclose.
- Patent 4480831: Exercise hoop having a counter 
- Date issued: Nov 6, 1984
- Patent 4723775: Hooped amusement device 
- Date issued: Feb 9, 1988
The patent I chose is the toy which became well known as “Skip-It.” The toy, invented and sold by Tiger Electronics, was rotated around a child’s ankle in a circular path and counted the successive number of rotations the toy made. The ability to rotate an extremity in a circular path to rotate an object (such as a Hula Hoop) created a fun test of dexterity. A game designed to test one’s ability to rotate such an object will not only provide amusement but also help to improve coordination and muscle stamina. Any game of this type would be improved greatly by not needing to count the repetitions oneself. The solution to this is to create a toy which can rotate around a child’s hand or foot and count the number of rotations completed. The toy which Tiger Electronics came up with was one which would rotate horizontally, in a circular path, around the wearer’s ankle. They came up with a design which would require the wearer to rotate the toy with one leg while jumping over the toy with the other leg upon each rotation. The additional requirement of the jump made the game exponentially more challenging. If one is able to continually play they could physically benefit from the active game. The toy consists of a ring which is worn on the player’s ankle, a ball with the counting mechanism enclosed in it, and a plastic rod which connects the two. The ball weights the toy at the end to enhance the ability to rotate the toy. Enclosed in the ball is the gear set which is used to count the rotations. As the drum revolves during play the intermeshing gears rotate relative to each other. On the outer surface of the drum is a rubber ring. This ring allows for the reduction of noise and contact with most household surfaces without damage. Additionally, then a player beings rotating their foot in a circular motion the drum will begin to rotate relative to the foot. The rubber ring, when contacting the floor, will cause the drum to rotate relative to the wearer’s foot. This rotation will then enact the intermeshing gears. After a predetermined number of drum rotations the gears will have rotated enough to turn the counter to the next successive number. This allows the toy to automatically count the number of rotations without any electronics. In order to be successful at the game a child will have to be able to rotate one foot while simultaneously hopping on the other foot. The game, therefore, will aid in the development of better coordination for children. The automatic counter in the toy adds to the fun and competition of the game.
Exercise Hoop Having a Counter
This device was a hollow hoop which contained a weight on the interior of it. The interior weight was able to rotate throughout the hoop when the hoop was rotated rhythmically. The hoop was capable of counting the weights number of rotations as well as determining its speed. The device, created by Muller-Deinhardt, was an improvement on a previous exercise device in which a hollow hoop had a small weight which circulated throughout the inside in order to allow the wearer to rotate the hoop around their body. The previous hoop, made popular as the Hula Hoop, required the wearer to rotate their hips rhythmically in order to perpetuate the motion of the hoop and keep it from falling off of their body. The use of this prior art aided one by providing a cardiovascular workout, improving physical strength and increasing muscle tone and coordination. The new invention allows the user to complete this exercise but have a quantitative measure of their progress. The new invention automatically counts the number of rotations and uses sensors to determine and display the speed of the weight inside the hoop. The additions allow the wearer to quantitatively measure their performance with the hoop and help to maintain interest in the activity. Adding these measurements provides motivation to continually improve and thus increase the duration and intensity of their workout. The invention has a weight within the hollow hoop that rotates throughout while the hoop is rhythmically rotated. There is a counter which records each pass of the weight to allow the wearing to quickly see the number of rotations completed. The counter can be a mechanical device, an electronic counter, or a photosensitive counter. The speed sensor is a set of sensors a predetermined distance apart which use a time signal to determine the speed the weight is traveling at. The patent is not specific on the method for either the counter or the sensor.
Hooped Amusement Device
This invention is a device for amusement with two circles connected in a coplanar fashion. The two rings’ diameter’s range from 8 to 24 inches. They allow a user to wear one ring on their ankle and rotate in a circular fashion. This motion will result in the second circle completed an arc around the wearer’s ankle. This rotation will force the wearer to hop on the opposing foot during each rotation to allow for continual rotation of the device. In another form this invention has three rings, instead of two, to allow for a wider range of bodily motions and exercise patterns which may be employed to use the device. The device uses a series of plastic bumps to keep the ring from sitting directly on the floor. This slight variation allows the user to put the ring on their foot by simply putting it under the ring, thus eliminating the need to bend down and put it over their foot. This device aims to add a level of amusement to exercise which will keep the user interested and enjoying themselves. In this manner the user will get a full workout and adequately tone their muscles. This device aims to capitalize on the fact that amusement devices which allow the user to exercise (such as hula-hoops or jump ropes) allow the user to work out for an extended period of time because the entertainment function is the user’s primary use of it and exercise becomes secondary. This device tries to extend this pattern to a device which would allow the user to increase coordination and agility by focusing on use with the feet. The patent claims that there are few entertaining devices which aim to strengthen foot and ankle muscles. The device consists of two connected circles as well as bosses to elevate the rings. The bosses are smooth so as to prevent irritation and minimize injury when the bosses contact the user’s foot. The three ring variation also suggests a different diameter for one of the three rings to allow for more ways to use the device. The device is similar to a hula-hoop for the foot. It requires the wearer to rotate with one leg and use centrifugal force to maintain the circular motion of the device. Additionally, the user must hop the other foot during each rotation to allow the device to continue on its circular path.
When looking at the Skip-It patent when compared with 2 of its referenced patents it is clear it is a combination of other inventions. However, there are aspects to the design which would prove it to be a valid patent in light of the cases. In the case of the A&P Tea case it is clear that in order for a patent to be valid it must be more than a simple combination of old inventions. The case states that an invention must improve upon previous designs instead of just combine them. The Skip-It device is a combination of ideas but it also improves on these ideas. It incorporates the idea of a rotation counter in the hula hoop as well as the idea from the hooped amusement device. Hoewever, the rotation counter is of a different and new design. The device is also different from the hooped amusement device because it uses a drum at the end of a rod for weight as opposed to an unnecessary second ring. The device is different from previous ones and improves upon the devices it incorporates. This improvement makes the patent valid under the A&P case. As seen in the Lyons case a patent must also be nonobvious to a person skilled in the area. This is to say that a person of ordinary skill in the inventions field could not immediately obvious to create. In the Lyons case the court discusses that advancements in a field are grounds for a patent. This aspect to the design is harder proving, however, I believe the patent satisfies this requirement as well. While the gear system which results in the counting mechanism is a simple mechanism, it would not be obvious. The designers were innovative in designing a gear system which would use the rotations of a drum to determine the number of rotations the whole device makes. This system was a new and advanced way to use the hooped amusement device. Despite the mechanism’s simplicity, I would say that it was nonobvious based on the creativity and knowledge needed to design it. It would not be immediately obvious to someone that the way to count rotations of the hooped amusement device would be to change the design to a drum and count the drums rotations using a series of gears. The Skip-It improves on the hooped amusement device, which advances the field of rotating ankle exercises.
The Skip-It device satisfied the nonobvious requirement for patent application. The game of rotating a device around one’s ankle and hopping over it during each device alone would not be nonobvious. However, someone skilled would not immediately determine the method to have the device automatically count the rotations. The method of turning gears paired with the rubber ring to count rotations is unique and inventive. It would not be immediately obvious that one could use the rotations of a drum to incite gear rotation inside of it to turn a counter after a predetermined number of drum rotations. Because this is not immediately clear it satisfies the nonobvious requirement.
My chosen patent satisfies the criteria for nonobviousness, novelty and utility. Because of this it is clear that it remains valid as a patent. The patent, while using similar ideas from the other patents discussed, clearly improves upon previous design. Additionally, it required design of the internal gear system to count the rotations. It has a clear purpose as both a toy and form of exercise. The invention improves on both previous advances from both a business and scientific standpoint and stimulates growth in science and technology. The patent would satisfy the combination criteria of the Hotchkiss case because it improves the design with the combination. Additionally, the new gear device for counting rotations would satisfy the nonobvious criteria under the Lyons case. Despite the changes in patent law over the years, my opinion is that this patent would hold up in court today as valid due to the previously stated reasons.