A Smart Week

This Week's New Federally Funded Patents

Good Evening from FedInvent,

This Tuesday’s analysis of the federal innovation ecosphere revealed that the Defense Department (DOD) received more patents than the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  This does not happen very often.  DOD came in at 63 newly granted patents where it provided funding.  HHS has 50 newly granted patents.  FedInvent thought we would have to shift its focus away from the usual drug discoveries and healthcare inventions and on to material science, semiconductors, and jet engines. 

There are lots of smart things in this week’s mix — smart cities, smart homes, smart doorbells, smart cards, smartphones, smart locks, and smart sensors.  Tools are big too.  Tools for assembling rocket motors, wear liner installation tools. Stuck screw removal tools for aircraft carrier decks. A rapid drain tool design patent. And a refueling tool for satellites.  

This Tuesday’s patents had a lot of housings.  We were deciphering the housing housing the housing which houses the invention all day.  And we thought all that HHS, NIH organic chemistry was hard to figure out.  

FedInvent was designed to provide a more comprehensive look at the federal innovation ecosphere.  If you are an American, your taxes helped pay for the R&D and the discoveries that led to these inventions.  FedInvent tries to make it easier to understand the outcomes of federally funded R&D and to understand why these inventions are useful and what problems they are solving.  These patents and the Thursday patent applications give a unique perspective on the nexus of important R&D; the inventions that come from it, and the pathway to the marketplace because above all else the purpose of getting a patent is to protect your invention while you commercialize it.

Take Me To The Data

On to this Tuesday’s patents.


Green technology inventions come from unusual places.  This Tuesday, SOLCHROMA TECHNOLOGIES, INC. received 11086121, "Display techniques incorporating fluidic actuators and related systems and methods."  This is an invention for large-scale displays that produces a vivid, dynamic, and reflective display that does not require an internal light source and consumes only 1% of the energy of existing LED-based digital signage. Uses very little energy in direct sunlight.  Zero light pollution is emitted in the daytime or at night and eliminates the ‘Times Square’ or ‘Las Vegas’ look normally associated with LED displays, often at the heart of signage permitting issues.

Solchroma Technologies invented a proprietary system of actuators, configured as hydraulic pumps, that move colored ink from reservoirs behind a pixel surface into separate, viewable color filter chambers. Ambient light is selectively absorbed through layered CMY color filters and reflected back to the viewer, where greyscale is achieved by varying the amount of CMY ink in view.

The patent says, "Passive displays, also called reflective displays, can use external ambient light as a light source and therefore can be capable of utilizing less power compared to the internal bulbs or LEDs of emissive displays.  ...The primary use of power is in writing new information to a pixel of the display."

Up to 10% of US zoning codes are estimated to prohibit LED-based (light-emitting diode) signage.  It is expected that these areas may permit new reflective digital signage technology.  If this is the case it would expand the domestic market for large-scale outdoor signage to $5.6  billion.  This technology has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with powering signs.  It is expected to be an alternative to LED-based technology resulting in a 40x reduction in energy consumption relative to LED signs.  Replacing printed signage will also reduce billboard wrap waste. 



The Postal Service made its weekly appearance with a smaller scale invention solving another big problem, those annoying porch pirates.  This week USPS is adding to the smart home internet of things (I0T) universe.  Smart receptacles, smart locks, geofencing, wireless mobile delivery devices.  Also add smart doorbells, smart hubs, and automatically generated random access codes.  11087575 — "Systems and methods for item delivery integration with a smart home."  The Postal Service is racking up those business methods patents.  This one is a good read for all of you who thought the USPS was behind the times.

"Item delivery is increasing as more consumers purchase items online and have them delivered to their homes or businesses. Increased item delivery means that problems facing item delivery, including missed deliveries, re-scheduling of deliveries, signature requirements, and theft of items, are also rising. It is desirable to have a home or business item delivery solution which addresses these problems."  USPS is sick of all this porch pirate stuff too.


This week the Department of Veterans Affairs received 11083652, "Smart foot position sensor for power wheelchair users, and systems and methods of using same." It provides a way to use force-sensing resistors and infrared distance sensors to detect the pressure and location of a foot on the footplate of a power wheelchair.  The invention’s sensor subassemblies are sized for use on standard power wheelchair footplates, have real-time data streaming to a smartphone for user notification of improper or unsafe foot position. 

When the feet or lower limbs are incorrectly positioned on the wheelchair footplate, injuries can occur due to pressure points, foot-dragging, or colliding with obstacles. One study summarized wheelchair-related adverse reports to the FDA. The most common injuries are fractures, followed by lacerations, contusions, and abrasions. Another study found that 47.5% of users sustained tibia or fibula fractures requiring re-hospitalization including  6.7% due to catching a lower extremity on a doorframe during wheelchair operation. These hospitalizations resulted in long stays, medical complications, and often discharge to a nursing facility. Another study reported 54.7% of wheelchair users had at least one accident in the three-year survey timeframe.  Thirty-three percent (33%) of power wheelchair users reported accidental contact with obstacles.  This smart application has the potential to reduce these kinds of injuries.  


Then there’s this, 11087194, "Bio-polymer multi-factor authentication and identification system and related methods."  This is a smart card with a keypad on it so you can add another authentication pin to the identity protocol.  You get another pin to go in with your login credentials.  We’re not sure how we fell about yet another pin though.


The Army received 11086104, "Compact objective lens for near-infrared imaging." Infrared photography using a cell phone-like camera.  Re-engineering cellphone cameras for a new interesting purpose.  

The Army provides no context on this one.  The invention is nonobvious.  Its uses are obvious.  Night-vision applications are commonly used in the military, law enforcement, hunting, surveillance, security, navigations, and hidden-object detection applications.  The Army owns the night with the modified smartphone camera lens.


After 17 months of pandemic mask wearing, those who wear glasses have a new understanding of the importance of eliminating eyewear fog. Enter the Army’s 11085879 — "Fog tester." An apparatus configured to fog test eyewear. A new tool to help the Army assess the anti-fog aspects of the eyewear used by our military.   

This includes testing any eyewear configured to be worn by a user that is susceptible to fogging — glasses, protective eyewear, goggles, spectacles, face masks, and face shields. Any types of protection or protective devices that are configured to provide eye and facial protection from projectiles and fragments, sand, dust, debris, and solar glare. Maybe they can provide some recommendations on the best masks to avoid eye fogging too. 


And the best drawing of the week.  NASA wants to refill its satellites to get more usable time out of them.  11084710, "Refueling tool and quick disconnect." NASA invented, "A refueling tool may be used in combination with a quick-disconnect apparatus to refuel legacy satellites, such as the Client satellite, referred to above as non-cooperative satellites. Legacy satellites represent the bulk of satellites that have been launched and are presently in orbit. Most legacy satellites were manufactured to have a definite useful life without refueling. Embodiments described herein have developed apparatuses and methods to interface with and refuel these legacy satellites and extend their useful lives.

"A potential, and likely, end-of-life event for a satellite is the depletion of propellant. Historically, satellites whose hardware and software components are still functioning properly will be decommissioned or de-orbited because the lack of onboard propellant does not permit proper spacecraft attitude and navigational control."  Several thousand satellites orbiting the Earth and like all machines, there are times when they may need a tune-up to keep them operating longer.


Tuskegee University in Alabama received 11084907, "Nanocellulosic compositions" for work done as part of the National Science Foundation’s $20 million Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology program. Nanocellulosic compositions patent teaches a new method of manufacturing biodegradable plastics.

Plastic is widely used in many industrial and technological applications due to its durability, ease of processing, chemical inertness, and low cost of production. The durability and chemical inertness of disposable plastics items make them valuable during their useful lifetime.  The low rate of decomposition of plastic is a serious problem for the environment, both on land and in marine-based ecosystems.


This week ten newly granted patents have inventive elements that may be useful in mitigating the impact of climate change.  Three related to technology for adapting to climate change.  Four are related to the reduction of GHG emissions resulting from energy generation, transmission, and distribution.  The remaining four are for climate change mitigation technology in transportation.  

One of the transportation-related climate change patents is 11085910, "Ultra-compact system for characterization of physical, chemical and ignition properties of fuels."  This invention is a miniaturized, hand-holdable fuel laboratory system.  It provides an improved way to test the viability of new fuels.  The patent notes that the development and production of new fuels are typically done in a laboratory setting, making it difficult and costly to produce large quantities of fuel. This tool lets engineers test the new fuel in smaller batches. 

You can view all ten climate change mitigation patents identified by USPTO on the FedInvent Patents Weekly Report.


It was a slow week for new inventions from the intelligence community. 

This week Intel received 11086816, "Processors, methods, and systems for debugging a configurable spatial accelerator."  The work was funded by a classified government agency.  The money trail goes back to the National Security Agency (NSA) via DOD.


Our perennial favorite, Raytheon Technologies Corporation, received 11085322, "Borescope plug system."  Another patent for jet propulsion-related inventions. No information on who funded the invention.  It will be really hard to figure out who is buying high precision military jets and funding new R&D.


There are five patents for new additive manufacturing inventions.

The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc. received a patent for Biomarkers for diagnosing post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Lawrence Livermore National Security, the administrator of the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Lab, received a patent for an extreme ultraviolet lithography invention.  Extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) lithography is an essential technology for building next-generation of semiconductor manufacturing technology.  

There is also a patent for an environmentally-friendly fireworks disposal unit and method.

Finally, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Brigham and  Women's Hospital, Inc., and Tokitae LLC received a patent for Enteric elastomer, more ingestible technology for applications in the gastrointestinal system.  Tokitae appears to be part of Intellectual Ventures (IV).  One of the inventors is Lowell Lincoln Wood Jr.  Dr. Wood holds more patents than Thomas Edison.

Explore the rest of this week’s patents in this week’s FedInvent Patent Report.

Take Me To the Report


On Tuesday, August 10, 2021, FedInvent identified 163 newly granted taxpayer-funded patents. These patents have 188 references to federal agencies and departments that provided funding to the inventors. One hundred forty-five (145) of these patents contained government interest statements. Forty-eight (48) patents have the federal government as the assignee or the applicant. Thirty-two (32) of the patents have federal government assignees.  Some are assigned to the government. 

These 163 patents are the work of 528 inventors. Four hundred ninety-six (496) of the inventors are American. The American inventors are from 35 states and the District of Columbia. There are 32 foreign inventors.  Four of these inventors are from Argentina.  Nine are from South Korea. Two are from China PRC.  One is from Hong Kong.



Department of Health and Human Services was a funding source for 50 patents. Forty-five of these identified NIH as the source of funding.  The NIH institutes were cited 67 times.  The Military Health Complex funding, health-related R&D funded by the DOD, and Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) contributed to the work done on 12 patents this week.  Like the civilian health agencies, there is overlap between different health-related agencies at DOD.  There is also joint funding from DOD and HHS on some of the patents.  You can see the funding details on the weekly FedInvent Patent Report.


This week FFRDCs received 14 patents.

That’s it for this Tuesday.  

We’ll be back on Friday with our analysis of Thursday’s newly published patent applications.

Thanks for reading FedInvent.  

The FedInvent Team

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About FedInvent — Wayfinder Digital's FedInvent Project follows the federal innovation ecosphere from Federal R&D to taxpayer-funded patents to the US economy and beyond.  We follow the taxpayer money and the inventions.