Homework 1/28/11

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References Cited

The patent for my selected motorcycle helmet with patent number 4519099 cited eleven other patents as a basis for its completion. Two of the most recently patented four citations were especially curious when considering the non-obviousness requirements of patentability. One patent, number 4081865[1], was a protective helmet and ventilating system. Another was a helmet with airflow and perspiration control, patent number 4434514[2]. The visor patent cited, number 1610745[3], was issued in 1926 and therefore is of completely free use to the public; however the other two were issued within 10 years of my motorcycles helmet’s patent and are therefore restricted.

The protective helmet and ventilating system provides a ventilating system for cooling the inside of the helmet. It also controls airflow through the helmet. Suction and other pressure relationships are controlled by a valve mechanism attached to the exterior of the helmet. A multi layer system is utilized to create a cushioning effect. Ventilation is achieved by having ridges inside of the helmet directly in contact with the rider’s head. This provides a snug fit necessary for safety while also offering breatheability and comfort. This also provides additional pathways for the cooling air to ventilate the helmet.

The helmet with airflow and perspiration control is made up of a hard molded plastic outer shell and flexible inner shell with openings to stream air through it as well as a brow perspiration pad. The openings in the outer shell are also open in the inner shell. These openings are made long and narrow from the front of the helmet to the back. The slits are narrow to ensure the helmet remains structurally sound. The slits clearly offer flow through the helmet to cool the user, and offer some aerodynamic effect.

The visor patent is that of a common cap with a visor that can be extended merely by pulling it out. This ability offers the option of shielding one’s eyes from the sun one minute to having a cap with no apparent bill at all. Flexible strips hold the extended visor in place, so it is not very stable, but potentially useful.

These three patents were very necessary for the patent of my selected motorcycle helmet, but a few elements seem a little to similar to those in my patent for mine to advance technology as required in the Hotchkiss or A&P cases. The requirements got better defined in the patent act of 1952, and there may be patent issues when comparing to the Lyon case as well.

Hotchkiss/A&P

Under the Hotchkiss and A&P rulings the motorcycle helmet I selected would have been stripped of its patented status. The law at the time stated that there couldn’t be “an absence of that degree of skill and ingenuity which constitute essential elements of every invention.” The bike helmet patent expanded on the idea of pressure relationships being controlled by a valve mechanism by placing the input under the visor, thus reducing drag of air for a much sleeker design. This required no more skill than the ordinary worker has in that field. Although the idea was original, useful, and better than the sum of its parts it is not patentable.

The motorcycle helmet also copied the protective helmet and ventilating system’s airflow idea through the helmet although they expanded it to add ventilation under the eye shield along the sides of the head. This idea was probably not original and promoted some progress although not much. This side ventilation doesn’t require any extra skill and is thus not patentable.

The multi layer system of the same previously mentioned patent was also simplified to fewer layers, which did require skill, and advanced the making of helmets. It would have been patentable if made without these other unpatentable features.

The airflow and perspiration control patent’s airflow was copied in terms of holes for airflow and where they were positioned. The holes in the new patent were somewhat original, but they were similarly shaped to ensure helmet strength. The holes were switched from long strips from front to back, to long strips from side-to-side however the locations were very similar. Therefore that piece is not patentable.

The visor patent is old enough that it no longer has any monopoly rights to the idea and thus it is acceptable for extendible visor to be utilized in this manor. There was no specification in terms of materials used in the motorcycle helmet I am tracking as my own so there are no material problems such as a product that is made better and cheaper, or a new manufacturing process. Both of which would not be worthy of a patent under rulings similar to the Hotchkiss case in 1850.


Lyon

Between the A&P trial and the Lyon trial there was the Patent Act of 1952. This act was made to clarify some ambiguous wording in the requirements to attain a patent. It added in an obviousness requirement saying that it was no longer a requirement to require more skill than the ordinary person in that art, but now it must be a change that would not be obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the art. This allowed patents to be attained more easily because easy to do things that were not obvious were getting patented. As stated in the Lyon case study, “had the case come up for decision within twenty, or perhaps, twenty-five, years before the Act of 1952…it is almost certain that the claims would have been held invalid. The courts of Appeal have very generally found in the recent opinions of the Supreme Court a disposition to insist upon a stricter test of invention than it used to apply.” Under this new viewing of patents the motorcycle helmet I am investigating would have, for the most part, been granted a patent with only a few issues.

The valve mechanism used to ensure the visor didn’t cause a significant inconvenience to the consumer, was unique, was not an obvious combination of materials, and advanced the field of helmets. It provided such good aerodynamics that it allowed the manufacturers to offer a visor that extended and created more drag. The multi-laver cushioning system was simplified to fewer layers, which definitely advanced science, and although it was an obvious concept to simplify I am sure it was not easily simplified.

The two parts that do not change with the better-defined rule is probably the expanded ventilating system is probably still unpatentable for the same reasons listed above and the holes for airflow are still far to similar to those shown in the airflow and perspiration control patent. Overall with a few adjustments the new motorcycle helmet would be eligible for exclusive rights. Most of this can be accredited to the change in process requiring no more skill than an ordinary worker in the specified field to not obvious to a person of ordinary skill in the specified field.