From Bill Goodwine's Wiki
Jump to navigationJump to search

My Selected US Patent

Patent 4495813: Jogger Speedometer and Odometer

Date issued: January 29, 1985

When searching through the US Patent database, I came across this invention that called itself a jogger odometer. I enjoy jogging and running myself, and have seen and used an odometer while running, so I decided to check out the invention. The jogger odometer is basically a wheel that you push along the ground as you run, and an indicator measures from the motion of the wheel how far you have gone. I decided to use it as my patent because I think it's interesting to see what mechanical devices people used to use before the invention of more digital devices. The link to the invention's patent is here: [1]

Homework #1: January 28

The patent chosen for the assignment is Patent Number #4495813, for a Jogger Speedometer and Odometer. Two of the References Cited, both being for other patents, are for devices that look very similar to the chosen patent.

The earlier patent, #3251132, granted in May 1966, is for a “Measuring Apparatus.” The apparatus is a wheel made of hard rubber, which when engaged along the ground/floor “operates a counter to indicate distance traversed by the wheel.” Ten equally spaced marks on the wheel, each one tenth of a foot in length, are along the wheel, which a counter mechanically “snaps” as the wheel rolls, indicating that another tenth of a foot has been traversed. It is driven by a handle, which has written on the side conversions from tenths of a foot (the denominations the wheel takes measurements in) into inches. This handle is made of tubular aluminum and rubber. A counter, of “conventional construction,” is mounted on the wheel.

From a later date, November of 1971, there is a similar invention, Patent #3616541, called a “Measuring Wheel.” Like the Measuring Apparatus, it is a wheel driven by a handle intended for measuring long distances. There is also a counter to keep track of how far the wheel has traveled, just like that of the older patent. One new element of this invention is a brake that is operated by pivoting the handle. Also, the counter used to detect changes in angular position of the wheel is a “tongue” moving along a cam rather than a tab ticking off iterated arc lengths.

The patent itself in question, #4495813, was granted in January of 1985. Labeling itself as a “Jogger Speedometer and Odometer,” it is just like the Measuring Apparatus and Wheel in that it is a wheel that is driven along the ground by a handle held by a person. The shaft connecting the handle to the wheel, unlike the previous two inventions, is flexible, shaped in such a way as to eliminate undue torques on the user, and can adjust the speedometer and odometer simply by changing the angle at which it is used. In addition to a counter—the “odometer”—that measures distance traveled, the device, unlike the past two inventions, also includes a speedometer that indicates the rate of speed at which one is traveling. Both indicators are mechanically connected to the wheel being read. More superficially, there is also an elastic band at the end that the runner can strap around his or her hand for a more comfortable jogging experience.

According to the Hotchkiss and A&P cases, in order for an invention to be patentable, it must show “non-obviousness” or “inventiveness.” The Hotchkiss case describes a patentable item as something that is distinguishable from the old machine or device, and requires some sort of skill to come to; it can’t simply be something that a mechanic could come up with. The A&P case states likewise, saying that simply adding together a number of old, known parts is not enough to invent something; “the whole must exceed the sum of the parts.”

To meet the qualification of non-obviousness under Title 35 of the United States Code, Section 103 used in the Lyon v. Bausch case, an invention is patentable if “the differences between the subject matter sought to be patented and the prior art” are such that any changes made to the new invention would have been “obvious” to any person with ordinary skill in the area of interest of the new invention.

It is believed that the Jogger Speedometer and Odometer is patentable both according to the older cases and the US Code. True, one could argue under that certain elements of the device, such as mechanically connecting the wheel to the odometer or adding an elastic band to the handle, seem like things that any person of “ordinary skill” can achieve under 35 U.S.C 103, especially given the past two inventions it is based on; or that the wheel-and-shaft/handle configuration is barely distinguishable from the older patents under the Hotchkiss case; or that adding an odometer adds nothing remarkable or new to the invention under the A&P case.

However, there are more elements to the invention that someone of “ordinary skill” could not necessarily achieve. For instance, changing the shape of the shaft to that of a flexible one with an S-shape that closer matches the contour of a jogger’s body and avoids placing undue torques or stresses on the user is something that likely took a great deal of time, effort, and skill beyond that of a layperson. The invention thus complies with what the US Code has to say about non-obviousness.

In addition, making it such that changing the orientation of the handle/shaft adjusts the speedometer and odometer is a new element gives the device a new dimension not achieved with simply the individual parts of the invention, complying with the reasoning behind the A&P case. Finally, while the figures of the invention look almost indistinguishable from the previous two patents it is based on, the invention has certain elements—such as an added speedometer and a handle allowing adjustment of the indicators—not present in the past two inventions. Thus, it distinguishes itself under the standards of “inventiveness” laid out by Hotchkiss.

Of course, if one takes into account the concurring opinion of Justice Douglas in the A&P case, this invention may not be patentable on the grounds that it seems more a quirky (and silly-looking) gadget than a device that promotes the “Progress of Science and the useful Art.” However, as that is not the subject of this homework, it will be left alone.

Nonobviousness: LMiller's Page

Homework: Printed Publication

Homework: Honeywell v. Sundstrand brief; On behalf of Sundstrand