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Homework 1: Choose Patent

The patent that I have chosen is one for a magentic levitation transportation system, commonly called a "MagLev". It patents the idea of suspending a vehicle above fixed tracks consisting of permanent magnets as well as ceramic magnets to control the attraction/repulsion, and therefore the height, of the vehicle with respect to the track.


Patent # 4,307,668 December 29, 1981 Roy D. Vinson

Homework 2: Compare this patent to 4,217,829, by Gotz Hiedelberg: "System and vehicle to be held magnetically"

Background: The patent by Vinson ("maglev") cites a patent by Hiedelberg ("vehicle") filed just six months earlier. The vehicle patent covers the idea of a magnetic vehicle whose distance from a track is controlled by magnetic attraction and an "additional force" to control that distance - examples were: wheels, electromagnets, repelling permanent magnets, air cushions, etc. The vehicle patent includes drawings of how such a vehicle and track setup may look and a figure showing how magnetic field strength can be related to the weight of the vehicle.

The patent by Vinson takes the concept of the vehicle patent and applies it to a transportation system with some changes to how exactly the motion and magnets work. He claims that he has improved the stability and cost of the maglev system, and expands his invention to include transportation systems.

In view of Hotchkiss, A&P: The trend of the cases of Hotchkiss and A&P were that invention requires something more than a rearrangement for economic advantage alone. Indeed it seems that although Vinson has made improvements to the stability and purpose of the vehicle system, he has merely replaced some materials (i.e. with superconducting magnets) and found a more economically viable purpose for magnetically levitated vehicles. Comparing the two patents, it is not evident that increasing the stability by replacing some magnets with other materials was at all inventive, but instead was an economical improvement to the existing system.

In view of Bausch and Lomb: The problem of stability in magnetic levitation systems was acknowledged in the patent as being worked on by the industry for some time. Since Vinson was the first inventor to overcome this obstacle, he filled a long-felt need to create a stable maglev system. Although the materials and system may only be marginally different, the non-obvious result of these improvements means that Vinson has earned a patent.