Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What is Protected in a Patent?

Usually, people talk about positive rights: the right to take action.  Two examples of this right are the freedom to speak and to practice any religion.  Patents are different:  they are negative rights, which is the right to inaction or to compel others to take no action.  A patent allows you to prevent others from taking action.

Negative rights have to be specific.  The right holder has to be able to say:  "don’t do X."  In patents, these statements are made through claims.  While a patent can have several claims, each claim is evaluated separately.  A patent is infringed if any one claim is infringed.

As an example, I will refer to the first claim in Patent 8528120, Flame Resistant Fabric Made from a Fiber Blend.  In this patent, the first claim states:

A garment with flame resistant properties comprising:
a fabric shaped to cover at least a portion of a wearer's body, the fabric comprising a woven fabric made from a plurality of yarns, the yarns being made from a plurality of fibers, the plurality of fibers including inherently flame resistant fibers and cellulose fibers that have been treated with a flame resistant composition, the woven fabric having a herringbone weave.

This patent is infringed if somebody makes, sells, or uses:

a garment; that,
is made from fabric woven in a herringbone pattern;
has flame resistant properties;
is made from multiple yarns; where,
each yarn is made from any combination of flame resistant fibers and cellulose fibers treated for flame resistance; and,
is shaped to cover a portion of a body.

Claims are specific statements. All of these conditions must be true before this claim is infringed.  A competing company could make this garment from knitted fabric without infringing on this claim.  A competing company also could make a fire blanket from the described woven fabric without infringing on this claim. 

Also notice that claims don't describe inventions.  That is done elsewhere in a patent.  Claims describe the boundary of an invention.  If you read the patent, you will find that it describes in great detail the fire resistant and celluose fibers that should be used, the relative weight of the fibers, how to dye and print the fabric, various weave patterns, and how to improve abrasion resistance and comfort.  But these are only the details. 

The actual invention is a fire resistant garment.  That is what was protected.

Below is a summary of selected patents that have been recently issued in textile related classification codes:

Fire Resistant Fabric Made From a Fiber Blend:  A fire resistant fabric made of yarns consisting of inherently flame resistant materials and cellulose fiber treated with a flame resistant composition.  Patent # 8528120.  Inventors:  Underwood and Cantin.  Assignee:  International Textile Group, Inc.

Protective Garment Including a Mesh Liner Layer:  A layered firefighters suit that adds a mesh layer to the layers that are typically present (fire protection, insulation and moisture barrier layers).  By using the mesh material, the bulk and weight of the insulating material is reduced making the suit more comfortable and less cumbersome.  Patent #: 8516615.  Inventors:  DiGiovanni and Rousse.  Assignee: Honeywell International, Inc.

High Heeled Bifunctional Pointe Shoe:  A high heeled dance shoe modified to allow a dancer to go from on heel to an “on-pointe” or other ballet position.  The intention of the shoe is to give a professional dancer (like ballroom) the look required for modern performances while allowing the dancer to incorporate ballet moves into the routine.  Patent #:  8516717.  Inventor:  Bonilla-Espada.  Assignee:  Bonilla-Espanada.

Articles of Footwear:  A shoe with a groove cut in the sole.  This groove allows the sole to bend in such a way that the toes will be bent up relative to the ball of the foot.  Patent #:  8516721.  Inventor:  Mahoney.  Assignee:  Saucony IP Holdings, LLC.

Shoe Tongue Centralizer:  This is a post that runs a partial distance along the length of the tongue that is held in place by a band that is mounted at the top of the laces across the width of the tongue.  Patent #  8516722.  Inventor:  Walker.  No assignee.

Method of Making an Abrasive Cleaning Glove:  Method to directly manufacture (knit) a glove with an inlaid neilsbed piece providing abrasive properties to allow the glove to be used for cleaning.  Patent #:  8516858.  Inventor:  Costello and Costello.  No assignee.

Loom and a Method of Controlling the Temperature of a Lubricant in Such a Loom:  A (presumably high speed) loom with a second, separate, lubrication system for the shed forming mechanism.  Since the shed system generates the highest power and friction, this separate system improves the effectiveness of the lubrication of the loom and the cooling of the lubricants themselves.  Patent #: 8517060.  Inventors:  Champion and Communal.  Assignee:  Staubli Faverges. 

Lift Support Garment:  Pants incorporating front, back and side straps along with an inner lining that allow care givers to safely lift elderly and disabled persons.  Patent #: 8522364.  Inventor: O’Brien.  No assignee.

Garment with Drawstring Closure:  A two panel system for securing swim shorts with a drawstring.  The invention appears to be targeted towards surfers but is broadly applicable for any sportswear where security of fit and closure is critical.  Patent #:  8522365.  Inventor:  Geary.  Assignee:  Volcom, Inc.

Protective Garment with a Vapor Skirt:  This is a hazardous duty garment (e.g. firefighter’s coat) that can be fitted with a protective layer (skirt) to prevent hazardous vapors from leaking into the suit and injuring the wearer.  Patent #:  8522368.  Inventor:  McIntosh,  Assignee:  Lion Apparel, Inc.

Jim Carson is a principal of RB Consulting, Inc. and a registered patent agent.  He has over 30 years of experience across multiple industries including the biotechnology, textile, computer, telecommunications, and energy sectors.  RB Consulting, Inc. specializes in providing regulatory, management and prototyping services to small and start-up businesses.  He can be reached via email at or by phone at (803) 792-2183.


No comments:

Post a Comment