Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Inventor of Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed, 1916-2009

The inventor of the Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed, John Houghtaling, died last week at the age of 92. Houghtaling patented his invention in 1962 (US 3,035,572), and founded Magic Fingers, Inc. to commercialize it. His company installed millions of units in hotel and motel rooms across America in the 1960s and 70s.

Houghtaling wasn't the first inventor to conceive of a mechanical device to relieve weary or weak muscles. In 1869, Allen L. Wood of New York City, patented an "apparatus for treating diseases" (US 97,944) that consisted "of certain mechanisms, whereby circular or rotary motion... is made to perform several operations of rubbing, kneading, and giving vibratory and other action to muscles and various parts of the system." Wood's device (see below) looks more like a medieval torture rack designed to extract confessions than heal the sick.

Other similar devices are found in USPC Class 601, Surgery: Kinesitherapy, subclass 40+.

Friday, June 19, 2009

AusPat v1.3 Enhancements

IP Australia has announced the release of AusPat v1.3, the new web-based Australian patent database that replaced the PatSearch system in early 2008. AusPat v1.3 enhancements include (quoting from the release memo):
  1. "e-Journal functionality has been incorporated into AusPat with the introduction of a new search field (called “Publication”) allowing users to search by Publication Action and Journal* Range.
  2. The “Acceptance Published Date” search field has been removed. To search for applications by Acceptance Published Date use the new “Publication” search field.
  3. Search and display of limited publication history for PATADMIN applications.
  4. Ability to launch electronic Journal.*
  5. Link to add AusPat to Instant Search Box for users with IE 7."
* The Australian Official Journal of Patents

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Patented Mouse That Roared

This week's Nature magazine reports that two genetic research labs, Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine and the Central Institute for Experimental Animals in Kawasaki, Japan, are involved in dispute over a patent mouse. CIEA sued Jackson in December, 2008 for infringing its patent, US 7,145,055, issued in 2006.

Jackson Lab, a non-profit, doesn't patent its discoveries, except in a few limited cases. CIEA's patent portfolio consists of just a few patents.

Patents for transgenic mice are generally classified in Class 800, Multicellular Living Organisms. Approximately 625 patents for transgenic mice and several hundred more for genetically modified cows, pigs, fishes, birds and swine
have been issued since the late 1980s. The first patent, US 4,736,866, for a transgenic mouse, the so-called Harvard mouse, was issued in 1988.