Deer in the Headlights

Taxpayer Funded Patents Granted on October 12, 2021

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USPTO granted 6,963 patents on Tuesday, October 12, 2021. One hundred forty-three of them cited having federal taxpayer funding.  

The FedInvent Patent Report is available here.  

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Here are the patents that caught our attention on Tuesday. 

Deer In the Headlights — Read This Patent (Twice)

On a recent road trip, the signs on the New Jersey Turnpike alerted drivers that it was deer in the highway season from dusk to dawn. Washington's Metro system has had an increasing number of incidents of deer being hit on the train tracks. Deer are involved in most animal-vehicle collisions associated with human injuries. (And cause expensive close encounters with the body shop after the collision.) Over 1 million deer-vehicle collisions occur each year on roads in the United States. Most deer-vehicle collisions occur at dusk and night during low-light conditions when only headlights of oncoming vehicles are visible. The rest of the car isn't cannot be seen, apparently not by the deer. When you have deer in the headlights, the outcome isn't always good.

On Tuesday, this popped up — 11142173, "System and Method for Collision Prevention." This is one of those patents you need to read twice to make sure you understand what's going on in the patent.  

Three wildlife biologists from USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) came up with an ingenious solution to the deer in the headlights problem. Light up the front of the vehicle. Onboard lighting to illuminate the front surface of the vehicle. The illumination results in a large portion of the vehicle being visible to deer and other wildlife on or near the road. By illuminating the front of the vehicle, drivers experience fewer potentially hazardous interactions with deer. The inventors believe that the deer are more likely to perceive the vehicle as an oncoming threat due to the greater surface area looming towards them. During their field testing, hazardous deer-vehicle interactions were reduced from 35.5% without frontal vehicle illumination to 9.7% with frontal vehicle illumination. Brilliant. The body/fender guys will not be amused.


Go for a Run — Charge Your Phone

There are lots of innovative ways to charge your smartwatch and other wearables.  The Army invented a wearable footwear system to generate electricity to charge your battery.  The patent is 11140940, "Generator Spinning in a Wearable System."

A person can wear hardware that converts physical motion into electrical energy. The electrical energy can recharge a battery, such as a battery of a personal electronic device (e.g., a cellular telephone or radio). Leg and foot motion from walking or running is used to produce energy to charge a battery. All it takes is a spring, a hardware transfer component, and a generator component. The spring captures the energy when it is compressed by each heel strike. It releases the energy when the spring is decompressed during the heel lift between steps. The hardware component transfers the energy to the generator which takes the transferred energy and produces electricity. Finally, the generator transfers the energy to a battery. The battery can be used for a personal electronic device such as a smartwatch wearable on the user's wrist.  But will it work in the rain?

The Innovation Agenda

Climate Change Patent Redux

On Thursday, October 7, 2021, the New York Times published an article about how different federal agencies are bracing for climate change. The article included the Department of Commerce and the Patent Office. USPTO said it expects a surge in applications for patents for "climate change adaptation-related technologies." Such a surge "would impact the department's ability to process such applications in a timely manner, having a direct impact on US competitiveness and economic growth. For inventions that promise to help with environmental challenges, the Department of Commerce said, patent applications may be able to jump ahead in line — or, as the plan phrased it, "advanced out of turn for examination when a petition to make special is filed.

Under the Obama Administration, the Patent Office ran the Green Technology Pilot Program. That program enabled 3,500 patent applications for inventions that would help mitigate the impact of climate change to move to the top of the examiner's dockets. The Green Technology Pilot Program accepted 3,520 applications. When the program closed on February 16, 2012, 836 patents had been granted under the program. FedInvent analyzed those 836 patents.

The top entities that received patents under the program were General Electric and Ford Global. Both companies were already US patent powerhouses. The General Electric Company (NYSE: GE) was awarded 167 patents under USPTO's Green Technology Pilot Program, 20% of the 836 patents. GE was the dominant player in the USPTO program, receiving the most patents of any assignee, more than twice the number of its next closest assignee (Ford Global Technologies), and almost as many patents as the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th assignees combined. The majority of GE's patents covered wind technology — 158 were wind-related (prime-mover dynamo plants, and other wind turbine inventions including a patent for a door for accessing the structure.) There were four solar patents, the rest are mechanical, lighting, and efficiency-related inventions. 

Ford Global Technologies, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ford Motor Company, manages all aspects of intellectual property for Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F). Ford Global Technology's Green Tech Program patents are focused on new technology for improving the efficiency of internal combustion engines. Hybrid and electric vehicles made up only 14% of the patents granted to Ford under the program. Ford also had two hydrogen-related patents.

How long did it take to get a patent under the Green Technology Pilot Program? The mean pendency was 19.7 months. Median Pendency was 18.3 months. At that time, USPTO reported the total pendency of all patents across all Tech Centers as averaging 33.9 months. In the last nine years, USPTO has made significant improvements to the overall pendency times.  Given the increased patent prosecution speed and the even shorter times available on Track One applications, it’s not clear what a new program will add to the green tech landscape.

What's Happening At the Y?

It looks like USPTO is ramping up the number of patents that it assigns Y CPC symbols to. Y CPC classifications indicating inventions that may be beneficial in mitigating the impact of climate change. Some of these patents seem like climate change mitigation stretches.  

Patent (11143748), granted to University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Montana State University, and NASA Langley Research Center and funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), is a patent for a telescope. It's a shared telescope for LIDAR. The specification includes the word "climate" two times. The spec notes, "high-resolution, continuous measurements of water vapor remain a key observational gap for the mesoscale weather and climate process studies communities." It also states, "The ability to continuously measure water vapor distributions within the lower troposphere has been identified as a high priority measurement capability needed by both the weather forecasting and climate science communities.

If you want to start building up language to add to your "petition to make special" in the event, USPTO launches the green technology patent program redux. This patent is an excellent example of how to craft your language.

This week there are 12 patents with Y CPC symbols indicating that USPTO believes these inventions are beneficial in mitigating the impact of climate change. You can see the complete list in the Emerging Technology panel of the FedInvent Patent Report.

An Interesting Collaboration

On Monday, October 11, 2021, IBM (NYSE: IBM) and Raytheon Technologies (NYSE: RTX) announced that they will jointly develop advanced artificial intelligence, cryptographic and quantum solutions for the aerospace, defense, and intelligence industries, including the federal government, as part of a strategic collaboration agreement.

We've already seen lots of Bayh-Dole scofflaw behavior on the taxpayer-funded patents front by both Raytheon and IBM. Time will tell if we see any information on this latest collaboration.

The Usual Suspects — This Week's Bayh-Dole Scofflaws

IBM was among Tuesday's Bayh-Dole scofflaws with the latest from their Watson artificial intelligence team. 11144337, "Implementing interface for rapid ground truth binning." This one featured more mumbo-jumbo about how IBM was working for the GBS Government Agency issuing a prime contract for the defense agencies. 

Let's take a guess. The Global Broadcast Service (GBS) is a broadcast service for rapidly transferring information, which may be classified, for the US Department of Defense (DoD) and its deployed and garrisoned units worldwide. GBS is part of the Joint Military Satellite Communications program. That program is in the process of moving to the US Space Force. Interestingly, one of the prime contractors on GBS is Raytheon. So we'll add this patent to the FedInvent Bayh-Dole Scofflaw list and attribute it to DOD, Air Force/US Space Force.  

This IBM '337 patent, like patent 11132358, "Candidate Name Generation," patent granted September 28, 2021, was funded by the same mysterious "The United States of America Defense agencies." A singular lack of creativity in "hiding in plain sight" government interest statements.

Tuesday's other Bayh-Dole scofflaw is Northrup Grumman. Northrup Grumman was granted patent 11146227, "Open-loop tracking control module to control input range swing for radiation-hardened devices." Radiation-hardened devices, also called rad-hard electronics, are used in space flight, high altitude flight, at scientific research facilities, and in nuclear reactors. So we'll go with DOD Missile Defense for this one.

Patents By The Numbers 

On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, USPTO granted 6,963 new patents. One hundred forty-three (143) benefitted from taxpayer funding. Here are the highlights:

  • 138 patents have Government Interest Statements

  • 33 have an applicant or an assignee that was a government agency

  • There are 159 citation references to a federal agency on these patents.

  • The patents were the work of 458 inventors

  • The 436 American inventors came from 37 states and the District of Columbia

  • The 22 foreign inventors come from 7 countries

  • There are 78 patents where at least one assignee is a college or university, the HERD

Patent Count By Department

Patent Count Technology Center

The breakdown of where the 143 patents were examined.

The Health Complex

NIH Institutes Funding Citation Count This Week

Thanks for reading FedInvent. See you later this week for the FedInvent report on Thursday's taxpayer-funded patent applications and the latest news and prognostications on the federal innovation ecosphere. 


The FedInvent Team 

About FedInvent 

FedInvent tells the stories of inventors, investigators, and innovators. Wayfinder Digital's FedInvent Project follows the federal innovation ecosphere, taxpayer money, and the inventions it pays for.