Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Happy Birthday, Etch A Sketch!

Etch A Sketch, the iconic drawing toy of the 1960s and 1970s, is celebrating its 60th birthday this year. It was invented in the mid 1950s by Andre Cassagnes, an electrician in France. Lacking funds to patent his invention, Mr Cassagnes sought help from an investor named Paul Chaze. Chaze agreed to pay the patent application fees and act as Cassagnes' agent. He eventually persuaded the Ohio Art Company to license the toy, which it launched during the 1960 holiday season.

Curiously, when Chaze sent his business partner Arthur Grandjean to apply for a patent, somehow Grandjean's name ended up on the application as the inventor. Grandjean applied for a French patent in May 1959, which was followed two months later by a U.S. application. The U.S. patent, 3,055,113, issued on May 31, 1962. Other patents followed in Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg.

Although Etch A Sketch became a hugely popular toy the patent makes only a minor reference to its amusement applications. In fact, the title of the patent is "Tracing Device". The patent is classified under Class 33, geometrical instruments.

The Ohio Art Company continued to develop the Etch A Sketch in response to changing tastes and technology. In 1988, it received a patent, 4,764,763, for an electronic version of the toy marketed as the Etch A Sketch Animator 2000. It was not a success. The original design is as popular as ever and is sold in classic, mini, pocket and travel sizes.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Patent Models Index

The Smithsonian has published new guide and index to patent models owned by the National Museum of American History. The two volume work is available for free online and can also be purchased in hard copy from the Smithsonian Institution Press. Volume 1 provides listings by patent number and title of the invention. Volume 2 contains listings by inventor name and residence. A great resource for fans and collectors of 19th century patent models.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

U.S. Patent Counts, Q2 2010

There was a huge jump in the number of issued U.S. patents in Q2. The USPTO issued 64,037 patents from April through June, 15.4 percent more than in Q1 and 31.7 percent more than the same period in 2009. The number of published applications also increased 9.5 percent, reversing a downward trend first noted in Q4 2009. If this output continues through the rest of the year the USPTO will publish a record-breaking 550,000 documents.

Table 1. Quarterly Patent Counts*

2010 ..... Patents (B) .....PGPubs (A)..... Total (A + B)
Q1 ..... 55,488 ..... 77,520 ..... 133,008
Q2 ..... 64,037 ..... 84,919 ..... 143,069

*Based on preliminary weekly data from the USPTO website. Totals may change after the fact due to withdrawn patents and published applications.

Table 2. Number Ranges for 2010, Jan. 1 - June 30

Utility patents ..... 7,640,598 - 7,748,052
Reissues ..... RE41,067 - RE41,411
PGPubs ..... 2010/0000001 - 2010/0162457
Designs ..... D607,176 - D618,875
Plants ...... PP20,622 - PP21,134
SIRs ..... H2,234 - H2,242