How do seemingly trivial ideas get patents?
This week we have a great example: Patent # 8522366: Sock Structure and Method for Use. This patent was granted for a sock with a pocket attached to it.
At first glance, the objections seem clear. There is no reason to put a pocket on a sock. There is nothing new about pockets or socks. There is no great secret about how to put a pocket on a sock.
So how did this sock get a patent? For that answer we simply have to reverse the logic of the objections.
To get a patent, an invention needs to meet three requirements: Utility, Novelty and Not Obvious. Utility means that the invention is useful. Novelty means that it has not been done before. And "Not Obvious" means just that.
Meeting the Not Obvious requirement turns out to be pretty easy. The invention is a sock with a pocket attached. It isn't a patent for a sock, or a pocket, or even a process to attach the pocket to the sock. The patent is only for the sock and pocket combination. In terms of the Not Obvious requirement, if there is no reason to attach a pocket to a sock, then, almost by definition, it is not obvious why you should attach a pocket to a sock.
The argument for the Novelty requirement is even easier: if there is no reason to attach a pocket to a sock then the odds are pretty good that nobody ever attached a pocket to a sock. Therefore a sock with a pocket attached would be novel.
This leaves the Utility requirement. And it turns out that chemotherapy provides a reason to attach a pocket to a sock. About a third of the patients receiving chemotherapy are affected by a condition called "Hand-Foot Syndrome." The drugs used in chemo sometimes leak directly into the body instead of the blood stream and the body's reaction to this leakage is redness, pain, swelling and a sensation of heat in the hands and feet of the patient. The most effective treatment for Hand-Foot Syndrome is to put cold packs on the feet of the patient.
And our sock is designed to hold that cold pack in place.
Below is a summary of selected patents that have been recently issued in textile related classification codes:
Sock Structure and Method for Use: This is a sock that has designed in it a pocket to hold cold packs next to the wearer’s feet. The intended use is to reduce the pain of “hand-foot syndrome” which is a side effect of chemotherapy patients. Patent #: 8522366. Inventor: Austin. No assignee.
Torso Garment: A shirt intended for use in paintball games. The shirt has multiple “gripping areas” which are non-skid surfaces intended to hold the gunstock in place and improve stability and shooting accuracy. Patent #: 8510864. Inventor: Benini. No assignee.
Convertible Clothing Article with Containment Pouch: A hooded garment. The hood is designed with an internal lining that becomes a pouch capable of storing the garment for convenient carrying or packing when not in use. Patent#: 8510865. Inventors: Pyfer and Ryan. No assignee.
Clothing Systems: A dual use woman’s swimwear system that converts a two piece into a single piece unit. System can be configured with multiple midpieces to allow a pregnant woman to wear the suit as a one piece during pregnancy and then continue to use the suit as a one piece or a two piece after the child is born. Patent #: 8522362. Inventor: Stones and Raymond. Assignee: Stones.
Garment Pocket for Carrying an Object in a Concealed State: A two panel system that provides a way to discretely carry a concealed items. The space has a means to hold whatever is concealed securely in place. Patent #: 8522367. Inventors: French and French. Assignee: CCW Breakways, LLC.
Cervical Spine Protection Apparatus and Methods of Use: Intended to be worn as football pads. The structure consists of a helmet and a combination of elastic bands and more rigid bands and supports designed to allow normal motion while limiting movement during an impact to a safe range of motion. Patent #: 8528113. Inventors: Siegler, et al. Assignee: Drexel University.
Full Suspension Footwear: A suspension/spring mechanism that stores the energy of the landing of a runner’s foot and returns some portion of it on “toe off.” Patent #: 8528233. Inventor: Killion. Not Assigned.
Ventilated Air Liner for a Helmet: A series of padded cells that provide protection and for a tight fit. The cells are aligned in the helmet to allow air flow through the helmet increasing the comfort of the user. Patent #: 8544117. Inventors: Erb, et.al. Assignee: Kranos IP Corporation.
Shoe Charm Holder Device: A way to attach a decorative charm on a high heel shoe. Patent #: 8544196. Inventor: Leo. Not Assigned.
Running Shoe: A plate spring incorporated into the sole of a running shoe that recovers and returns impact energy of the shoe landing to the runner. Patent #: 8549773. Inventor: Nakatsuka. Not Assigned.
Protective Gear: A scarf intended to be worn to protect the head (for example from dust). The scarf has inner and outer panels to improve effectiveness and methods to securely attach the scarf to the wearer. Patent #: 8549662. Inventor: Chang. Assignee: Wrong Gear, 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 management, prototyping, and regulatory services to small and start-up businesses. He can be reached via email at James.Carson.Jr@gmail.com or by phone at (803) 792-2183.