Situation Innovation Equation

Newly Published Taxpayer Funded Patent Applications for September 23, 2021

Good Evening from FedInvent,

This Thursday, the federal innovation ecosphere contributed 162 newly published patent applications that benefitted from taxpayer funding.  If you are a data junky, the FedInvent Patent Report for September 23, 2021, is ready. 

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Reading Taxpayer-Funded Patent Applications

One of the things about reading a lot of taxpayer-funded patents and patent applications is the quest to answer the question, "Why did taxpayers pay for this?" We are always looking for the nexus between science and technology policy, economic development objectives, or statutory requirements that led the government to solicit and fund research. Research led to a new invention and to the arduous process of filing for and getting a patent. 

(Like everyone else, we remain curious about the shrimp running on the treadmill and why the USPS calls a doorstop a "Closure Member Stop" but we digress.)

Sometimes figuring out the science and technology agenda is a no-brainer. Cure cancer, find new ways to manufacture things, build faster, more fuel-efficient jets, make batteries to store solar power during the day, so there's power at night. Others are not so clear. For example, why is DOD spending so much money investigating social media and online communications and ways to figure out how to deliver verified content to users (20210297498)? 

Taxpayer funding of R&D is enormous. If the pending Infrastructure Bill and other legislation floating around ever get signed into law, the budget for federally funded R&D will grow astronomically. The National Science Foundation will be the new air traffic controller for directing new R&D initiatives.  The new funding NSF will hand out will be one of the largest federal science and technology slush funds ever. Figuring out where taxpayer money is going and what it is being invested in will become a more compelling question.  

Patents are not peer-reviewed scientific articles in an important journal where discoveries are shared widely, or at least widely among people who can still afford the subscription fees. Patents are about having the exclusive use, make, or license your invention as long as you spill the beans and tell others how to make it. Patents are about making money or at least trying to.  Commercializing inventions is a Bayh-Dole basic.  

When we read patents and patent applications, we are always looking for the situation/innovation pair.   Here are this week's patent application highlights and a few of this week's Situation | Innovation pairs.

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Portable Antennas

We'll start with an easy one. The Navy and the military want to use portable antennas to communicate. The Navy uses portable antennas on moving things. Vibrations adversely impact the performance of portable antennas and the antenna system. The antenna's support must also minimize electromagnetic interference to maintain consistent signal transmission where you put the portable antenna matters. Minimize vibration and electromagnet interference, or the portable antenna won't work. No antenna, no communication. 

The US Navy filed a patent application for an Antenna Pedestal (20210296757). The pedestal is for mounting a portable antenna on a platform. Portable antennas are used by military personnel for communication purposes. The pedestal will help maintain consistent signal transmission, must minimize electromagnetic interference while avoiding propagation of vibrations from a platform on which the support is mounted. Use 3D printed resin to create it. Secure it with epoxy.   

Situation — Vibrations are bad, Electromagnetic interference is bad. Portable antennas are good. The Navy needed a solution to optimize the antenna's performance.

Innovation — A better way to install a portable antenna on a moving surface. Curious questions, besides the Navy, what are the commercial applications for a pedestal for a portable antenna? The cruise ship industry? The intermodal container ship business? The fishing industry? Stay tuned.

Mobile Fertility Test Platform for Airman and their Physicians

Situation — Infertility affects 11% of US couples. However, recent studies show that infertility rates are three times higher for military couples at over 30%*. Couples claiming military service contribute to this higher rate per the Service Woman's Action Network (SWAN) 2018 report. However, only one Air Force medical center covers infertility treatments, leaving thousands of airmen and women needing fertility care. 

The Department of Defense funded a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant for MFB Fertility Inc. The application for the grant notes, "This system would provide immediate access to important fertility diagnostic information to Airman wherever they call home, and the mobile application would allow test results to be transmitted to their doctor's. The number one cause of infertility is hormone imbalances. A faster diagnosis will lead couples to seek medical help sooner. Earlier diagnosis will reduce lengthy IVF (in vitro fertilization) treatments and support low-cost and quicker treatments that can be done remotely. Increasing fertility coverage and resources also leads to better work-life balance within the Air Force, which will contribute to both higher recruitment and retention rates."

Innovation — A System for Evaluating Urine for the Presence or Absence of Pregnanedio Glucuronide and other Hormones and Analytes (20210293809). It's not a pregnancy test.  It's a fertility and ovulation testing device. The invention uses a lateral flow assay. Lateral flow tests, aka lateral flow assays, are rapid tests that detect the presence of a target substance in a liquid sample without the need for specialized and costly equipment. It can be used with a fertility tracking system that includes capturing a picture of the rapid test results and linking the results to a smartphone or mobile device with application software, a user interface, and a calendar to track results.

MFB Fertility has commercially available its product available at WalMart, Amazon, and other places.  


DOJ Needs Better, Cheaper, Faster Mass Spectrometry

Situation — The Department of Justice and does a lot of forensic toxicology. Mass spectrometry is a technique used by toxicologists to analyze substances for suspected illicit drugs and confirm presumptive drug tests' findings. Mass spectrometry is the gold standard for performing trace analysis in complex mixtures. It's the gold standard, but the current technology does not meet the need for rapid, effective, and simple drug screening methodologies in forensic toxicology.  

The Department of Justice and Indiana University embarked on a project to create a novel way to perform drug detection using mass spectrometry carried out directly from a blood sample deposited on paper. It requires no sample preparation and can detect drugs and drug metabolites at forensically relevant levels directly from biofluid matrices. The other objectives of the project were to address speed, simplicity, lower cost, and the low blood sample volume consumed.

Innovation —  A cartridge-based method for performing mass spectrometry (20210296106).  The invention addresses DOJ’s needs for easier, cheaper, and less complex forensic toxicology testing.  The patent application highlights other benefits of the invention:

Paper-spray mass spectrometry could have a significant impact as a rapid and simple method to assess patient compliance in methadone clinics, pain management clinics, in psychiatric patients.  The invention supports faster and simpler methods for analyzing organic contaminants such as pharmaceuticals, abused drugs, pesticides, and personal care products in environmental samples. 

The patent application defines a more efficient system that is easier and simpler to use. Law enforcement can use the new mass spectrometry cartridge system for more types of testing with faster turnaround times and a streamlined workflow. Now we'll see what the patent examiner thinks.

COVID-19 Related Inventions This Week

Situation — COVID. 

Innovation #1 —  AbCellera Biologics Inc. and a team of 24 inventors are included on patent application 20210292393 for Anti-Coronavirus Antibodies and Methods of Use.  The team of inventors is a cross-section of extraordinary scientists and viral immunologists from NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), AbCellera, Eli Lilly.  The invention is for antibodies that bind SARS-CoV spike protein, SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, and methods of using same for treating or preventing conditions associated with SARS or COVID-19 and for detecting SARS-CoV or SARS-CoV-2.  AbCellera and Ely Lilly are co-developing antibody products for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19.  You can read the latest here.

Innovation #2 — There has to be a better way to sanitize all this stuff. Enter Zeteo Tech, a biodefense and medical device company. Zeteo Tech developed a revolutionary new class of fieldable biological mass spectrometers. Its instruments identify airborne microbes, proteins, and lipids and can be used to screen for infectious disease and other bio-threats. Thursday's patent application isn't for technology to identify bio-threats. It's for an invention to get rid of them. They invented a mobile decontamination system and microwave-assisted decontamination method for decontaminating a variety of contaminated surfaces  (20210290806). The Department of Homeland Security funded their work.

Zeteo’s invention addresses a host of decontamination needs in commercial aviation, military aviation, hospital rooms, surgery suites, vehicles and equipment for first responders, the hospitality industry.  They explained the problem this way:

The commercial aviation industry suffered billions in lost revenue during the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic. The only approved method for decontaminating commercial aircraft involves wiping down every surface in the plane by hand using liquid disinfectants (e.g., diluted bleach) by personnel suited up in protective suits with respirators. It is a painstakingly slow process and is impractical if a large number of aircraft requires decontamination. Other market segments such as the travel and hospitality market have similar needs to treat contamination of cruise ships, buses, trains, and other shared environments. Decontamination of military aircraft using hot and humid air has been tested. Reports indicate that the destruction of spores using high temperature and humidity levels required treatment on the order of 3-4 days. This approach also damages critical systems within the aircraft. During pandemic or biological attack situations, there are major risks of contamination of aircraft or Aerial Point of Debarkation (APOD) sites. Conventional oxidative decontaminants have the potential to embrittle aircraft aluminum or damage sensitive equipment in APODs.

 In case you’re wondering, an Aerial Port of Debarkation is an official transportation term for the geographic point at which cargo or personnel are discharged. This may be a seaport or aerial port of debarkation; for unit requirements, it may or may not coincide with the destination.

Innovation #3 —  Microsensor Labs invented wearable devices for opportunity-based hygiene monitoring and reminding and keeping track of personal protective equipment routines (20210295673). Hand washing (20 seconds), hand sanitizing, and a wearable wristband that keeps track of it all. A mobile device is included to remind, report, and, if necessary, nag. The National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging (NIA), and National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) funded this research through Small Business Innovative Research grants.

The Innovation Agenda

Track One Goes from 12,000 to 15,000

In other news, USPTO announced it is raising the annual limit on accepted requests for Track One prioritized examination from 12,000 to 15,000.  Track One allows applicants to receive a final disposition on their patent applications within approximately 12 months and grants applications special status with fewer requirements than the current accelerated examination program.  

As of September 24, 2021, USPTO has 647,415 patent applications in its unexamined patent application inventory.  This makes Track One a good choice when speed is of the essence. Here are the latest pendency numbers.  

Track One looks like a good choice if you can pay the extra fees.

Bayh-Dole Scofflaws

We have an unusual pair of Bayh-Dole scofflaws this week.  The FedInvent prognosticators figured both of them out.

The first is 20210289746 — "Systems and Methods, and Apparatuses for Implementing Real-Time Beef Cattle Monitoring Using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Based Technologies."  This is an invention for the cow metaverse.  RF ear tags and a network of antennas to enable real-time beef cattle monitoring and tracking of feeding behavior.  Not all inventions that say NSF come from the US National Science Foundation.   This patent is the result of a collaboration of American and Mexican researchers.  The patent is assigned to Arizona State University.  It was funded by  Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (Conacyt), the Mexican Council for Science and Technology.  This is the Mexican Government’s National Science Foundation.

The second, 20210293591 — Flow Imaging and Monitoring for Synchronized Management of Wide Area Drainage, looks like a victim of the USPTO truncation police.  The assignee got cut off.  Similar applications from the same team inventors and Urbanalta Corp. were funded by and assigned to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This invention is a product of the EPA Confluence program.  Confluence is the water technology innovation cluster covering southwest Ohio, northern Kentucky, and southeast Indiana. Its purpose is to develop and commercialize innovative water technologies that solve environmental challenges and spur sustainable economic development in the region.  Urbanalta is cited in a 2014 EPA blog post as one of the startups funded by Confluence.  It appears that both the Confluence project and Urbanalta are gone.

Patents By the Numbers

On Thursday, September 23, 2021, USPTO published 8,533 patents applications. One hundred sixty-two (162) of the patents benefitted from taxpayer funding. Within the 162 patents, 155 patents contain government interest statements, and 28 patents have federal government agencies as an assignee or applicant. In addition, these patents have 182 references to funding agencies.

Patent Count by Department

This Tuesday’s FedInvent patents are the work of 555 inventors.  The 524 American inventors come from 41 states and the District of Columbia.  There are 31 foreign inventors from eight countries.   

The HERD, high education R&D from colleges and universities, are the assignees on 102 of Thursday’s patent applications. This count includes several inventions with inventors affiliated with universities.

There were no new emerging climate change inventions, inventions with Y CPC classifications, on Thursday even though there were inventions for improved battery technology, improved techniques for wastewater management.

That’s this week’s FedInvent patent applications update.

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Thanks for reading FedInvent.  Have a great weekend. See you on Wednesday for the FedInvent report on Tuesday’s patent drop and our latest 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.