Maker Pro
Maker Pro

Someone owns the patent on putting SMT LED's on a flexible PCB? How can it be?

Is the USPTO just issuing insane patents as the normal order of
business?

Check this patent out

http://www.google.com/patents?id=sCAKAAAAEBAJ&dq=6371637

Claim #1 means the patent holder has rights to any flexible PCB with
multiple LED's on it where the brightness is 2000mCD per sq-cm.

The patent was applied for in 2000 and granted in 2002.

How would that not be obvious to someone skilled in the prior art? I
mean, flexible PCB substrates have been around for years. SMT LED's
have been too. So the simple act of putting the two together is
patent-able? What about the LED sign in times square? Surely it has
2000mcd/sq-cm. What about any automobile tail light that uses LEDs
on a flexible substrate? What about LCD backlights using FPC boards
with arrays of bright LED's?

I dont understand how the examiner would allow such a patent to be
issued. I would think there would have been numerous devices that
were being sold for plenty of years prior to the patent filing that
violated the first claim. Short of paying the contention fee to get
it re-examined, is there nothing that can be done? It just seems
insane to grant something like SMT LED's on a flexible PCB as
protected for 17 years when it's such an obvious thing.
 
D

David L. Jones

Jan 1, 1970
0
Is the USPTO just issuing insane patents as the normal order of
business?

Yep!
Plenty of examples have been posted in the past.
Check this patent out

http://www.google.com/patents?id=sCAKAAAAEBAJ&dq=6371637

Claim #1 means the patent holder has rights to any flexible PCB with
multiple LED's on it where the brightness is 2000mCD per sq-cm.

The patent was applied for in 2000 and granted in 2002.

How would that not be obvious to someone skilled in the prior art?

It is obvious. I've done it myself in a product.
I mean, flexible PCB substrates have been around for years. SMT LED's
have been too. So the simple act of putting the two together is
patent-able?

It's more than just putting the two together, if that was the case
then that would be the only claim.
Getting a patent granted does not mean it's innovative, has not been
done before, or would stand up to any type of challenge.
What about the LED sign in times square? Surely it has>2000mcd/sq-cm. What about any automobile tail light that uses LEDs

on a flexible substrate? What about LCD backlights using FPC boards
with arrays of bright LED's?

I dont understand how the examiner would allow such a patent to be
issued.

They aren't very bright...
I would think there would have been numerous devices that
were being sold for plenty of years prior to the patent filing that
violated the first claim. Short of paying the contention fee to get
it re-examined, is there nothing that can be done?

Yep, ignore it.
The only thing a patent gives you is the right to attempt to sue
someone if they copy it. That takes squillions of dollars, and unless
you copied every one of the claims in exact detail, they would be
wasting their money pursuing you.
It just seems
insane to grant something like SMT LED's on a flexible PCB as
protected for 17 years when it's such an obvious thing.

Insane is the right word, welcome to the world of patents.

Dave.
 
T

The Real Andy

Jan 1, 1970
0
Yep!
Plenty of examples have been posted in the past.


It is obvious. I've done it myself in a product.

Having been involved on the receiving end of a patent infringement let
me tell you that if it has not been published publicly then you are up
for an expensive fight, even if it is blatantly obvious and lacks
novelty.
 
W

Winfield

Jan 1, 1970
0
David said:
Yep! Plenty of examples have been posted in the past.





It is obvious. I've done it myself in a product.


It's more than just putting the two together, if that was the case
then that would be the only claim.
Getting a patent granted does not mean it's innovative, has not been
done before, or would stand up to any type of challenge.


They aren't very bright...


Yep, ignore it.
The only thing a patent gives you is the right to attempt to sue
someone if they copy it. That takes squillions of dollars, and unless
you copied every one of the claims in exact detail, they would be
wasting their money pursuing you.

Sadly, that's not so. If you violate the first claim all by itself,
but
not the modifying claims, you're still vulnerable. Here's the claim:

1. A flexible, low profile lighting system, comprising:

a flexible printed circuit board substrate, the substrate adapted
to
support and electrically interconnect surface mount electronic
components,
the printed circuit board substrate flexible through at least two axes
of
rotation;
a plurality of surface mount light emitting diodes; and
wherein the plurality of light emitting diodes are surface mounted
on
the flexible printed circuit board substrate, so as to define a
conformably
bendable lighting array configured for mounting upon surfaces with
compound
curvature substrate, the array outputting a uniform light intensity of
at
least 2000 millicandles per square centimeter.


I agree, another bad patent for my "bad patents" folder.
 
On Wed, 25 Jul 2007 22:39:36 -0700, "David L. Jones"


Having been involved on the receiving end of a patent infringement let
me tell you that if it has not been published publicly then you are up
for an expensive fight, even if it is blatantly obvious and lacks
novelty.

This is my concern. Patents are cheap to apply for, provided you can
write up the application yourself. The PTO does not publish
applications in time and in a conspicuous manner for people to
challenge them, so lots of bad patents get issued.

But to challenge it after issue is very hard and very expensive. The
fee alone is around $2k if I remember right.

So lets say Joe Blow decides to come up with some sort of flexible LED
array and this patent holder says he will sue... well, if the alleged
infringer is a small company, is he going to fight it? Trying to
overturn the validity of a patent as your defense is possible but it's
not the easiest path and it progresses in conjunction with the
infringement suit - so if you dont get it overturned quickly enough,
then you are still in violation (see RIM/Blackberry). If the alleged
infringer is a big company, then plenty of lawyers will sue on
consignment, so the big co spends lots of $$$ and if they win, they
just get to make less $$, and if they lose they may lose big.

IMO it's a very serious problem.

I would be interested in hearing the outcome in the case mentioned
above. Can you elaborate?
 
Sadly, that's not so. If you violate the first claim all by itself,
but
not the modifying claims, you're still vulnerable. Here's the claim:

1. A flexible, low profile lighting system, comprising:

a flexible printed circuit board substrate, the substrate adapted
to
support and electrically interconnect surface mount electronic
components,
the printed circuit board substrate flexible through at least two axes
of
rotation;
a plurality of surface mount light emitting diodes; and
wherein the plurality of light emitting diodes are surface mounted
on
the flexible printed circuit board substrate, so as to define a
conformably
bendable lighting array configured for mounting upon surfaces with
compound
curvature substrate, the array outputting a uniform light intensity of
at
least 2000 millicandles per square centimeter.

I agree, another bad patent for my "bad patents" folder.

Yes you are absolutely right - all one needs to do is violate ANY of
the claims to be infringing. So if ANYONE makes a flexible PCB with
LED's on it with a brightness of 2000mCD/sq-cm they are violating this
patent.

That is an utterly insane thing to grant a patent on. It hampers
innovation and gives way waaay too much breadth to the patent holder.

Isnt there some kind of oversight of the PTO? The fact that it
explicitly states 200mcd or more leads me to believe that they knew
other devices of less-than 2000mcd already existed. So basically the
examiner thought that the applicant was doing something novel and un-
obvious just by doing whats been done, but at greater than 2000mcd?

Just crazy! What can be done? This patent affects a project I am
working on. Likely I would never be sued, but what if I were? Is
there no way to honestly fight it without waiting to get sued?
 
W

Winfield Hill

Jan 1, 1970
0
Yes you are absolutely right - all one needs to do is violate ANY of
the claims to be infringing. So if ANYONE makes a flexible PCB with
LED's on it with a brightness of 2000mCD/sq-cm they are violating this
patent.

That is an utterly insane thing to grant a patent on. It hampers
innovation and gives way waaay too much breadth to the patent holder.

Isnt there some kind of oversight of the PTO? The fact that it
explicitly states 200mcd or more leads me to believe that they knew
other devices of less-than 2000mcd already existed. So basically the
examiner thought that the applicant was doing something novel and un-
obvious just by doing whats been done, but at greater than 2000mcd?

Just crazy! What can be done? This patent affects a project I am
working on. Likely I would never be sued, but what if I were? Is
there no way to honestly fight it without waiting to get sued?


You might ask the patent holder if they'll license it.
Since it's a weak patent, the fee should be VERY low.
If not, they run the risk you'll try to overturn it.
They might have filed it to protect a product they
have, which you might not be threatening. I don't
think it hurts to talk.
 
D

DJ Delorie

Jan 1, 1970
0
David L. Jones said:
Plenty of examples have been posted in the past.

Really? Point out one example of 2000mc/cm2 on flex before 2000.

As a test, I squeezed as many 80mc 0603 leds as I could into 1 sq cm,
and it just barely topped 2000mc, so they're not patenting "leds on a
ribbon", they're patenting a ribbon of NOTHING BUT leds! I.e. they've
patented a flexible luminous blanket. With the LEDs of 2000, how hard
would it have been to even GET 2000mc/cm2 ?
 
P

Paul Mathews

Jan 1, 1970
0
Yes you are absolutely right - all one needs to do is violate ANY of
the claims to be infringing. So if ANYONE makes a flexible PCB with
LED's on it with a brightness of 2000mCD/sq-cm they are violating this
patent.

That is an utterly insane thing to grant a patent on. It hampers
innovation and gives way waaay too much breadth to the patent holder.

Isnt there some kind of oversight of the PTO? The fact that it
explicitly states 200mcd or more leads me to believe that they knew
other devices of less-than 2000mcd already existed. So basically the
examiner thought that the applicant was doing something novel and un-
obvious just by doing whats been done, but at greater than 2000mcd?

Just crazy! What can be done? This patent affects a project I am
working on. Likely I would never be sued, but what if I were? Is
there no way to honestly fight it without waiting to get sued?- Hide quoted text -

- Show quoted text -

Note carefully the use of the terminology "compound curvature". Any
device not incorporating "compound curvature" is probably not
infringing, regardless of the eventual status of this particular
patent (i.e., invalidated if there is a God).
Paul Mathews
 
J

James Arthur

Jan 1, 1970
0
Yes you are absolutely right - all one needs to do is violate ANY of
the claims to be infringing.
So if ANYONE makes a flexible PCB with
LED's on it with a brightness of 2000mCD/sq-cm they are violating this
patent.

That's incorrect. To violate claim 1 you'd have to have:

a) A flexible, low profile lighting system

that is

b), constructed using
- a flexible pcb that is flexible through at least two axes of
rotation, AND
- one or more surface-mounted LEDs, AND
c) which results in a bendable lighting array configured for mounting
upon surfaces with
compound curvature substrate, AND
d) the array outputting a uniform light intensity of at least 2000
millicandles per square centimeter.

If you wanted to make an array that had lower intensity, non-uniform
light intensity, that was for something other than a low-profile
lighting system, or which couldn't be twisted in two axis, this would
not infringe, AFAICT.

Without reading anything else, it sounds to me like they've patented a
'light blanket' for wrapping around a ball or some such.

HTH,
James Arthur
 
C

Chris Jones

Jan 1, 1970
0
Yes you are absolutely right - all one needs to do is violate ANY of
the claims to be infringing. So if ANYONE makes a flexible PCB with
LED's on it with a brightness of 2000mCD/sq-cm they are violating this
patent.

That is an utterly insane thing to grant a patent on. It hampers
innovation and gives way waaay too much breadth to the patent holder.

Isnt there some kind of oversight of the PTO? The fact that it
explicitly states 200mcd or more leads me to believe that they knew
other devices of less-than 2000mcd already existed. So basically the
examiner thought that the applicant was doing something novel and un-
obvious just by doing whats been done, but at greater than 2000mcd?

Just crazy! What can be done? This patent affects a project I am
working on. Likely I would never be sued, but what if I were? Is
there no way to honestly fight it without waiting to get sued?


On the plus side, with this low standard of inventiveness, if you apply for
a patent for exactly the same thing, but where the brightness exceeds
4000mCd, there is every chance that you get it granted. This will not
allow you to make anything since any product covered by your patent would
also be covered by the previous patent and require a licence from them. On
the other hand, when the next generation of brighter LEDs comes out, the
other company has to restrict the brightness or they are screwed.

Chris
 
C

Chris Jones

Jan 1, 1970
0
Is the USPTO just issuing insane patents as the normal order of
business?

Check this patent out

http://www.google.com/patents?id=sCAKAAAAEBAJ&dq=6371637

Claim #1 means the patent holder has rights to any flexible PCB with
multiple LED's on it where the brightness is 2000mCD per sq-cm.

The patent was applied for in 2000 and granted in 2002.

How would that not be obvious to someone skilled in the prior art? I
mean, flexible PCB substrates have been around for years. SMT LED's
have been too. So the simple act of putting the two together is
patent-able? What about the LED sign in times square? Surely it has
on a flexible substrate? What about LCD backlights using FPC boards
with arrays of bright LED's?

I dont understand how the examiner would allow such a patent to be
issued. I would think there would have been numerous devices that
were being sold for plenty of years prior to the patent filing that
violated the first claim. Short of paying the contention fee to get
it re-examined, is there nothing that can be done? It just seems
insane to grant something like SMT LED's on a flexible PCB as
protected for 17 years when it's such an obvious thing.

As I understand it, they don't really bother with the inventiveness
requirement any more, and unless they find a pretty much word-for-word
identical description in a fairly narrow range of documents that they
search (mostly other patents), they'll give it to you. You can word the
application with deliberately unusual language so as to reduce the
likelihood that they will find a word-for-word match in the cursory search
for prior art.

As I understand it, in the UK one can apply for a patent free of change, and
I see this as perhaps the best defence that could be mounted, except that
the standard of examination might be slightly better in Europe. If a group
of patent-haters could set up some kind of open licence and then patent a
whole bunch of trivial things in a sort of distributed denial of service
attack, and then threaten big companies who infringe that you will lend the
relevant patent to their competitors unless they donate a patent of equal
or greater value to your pool, then you could build up a library of patents
that are free for the use of anyone who doesn't hold any patents that are
outside this patent pool. Whether it could be made to work is another
matter.

Chris
 
S

Steve Sousa

Jan 1, 1970
0
Chris Jones said:
As I understand it, in the UK one can apply for a patent free of
change, and
I see this as perhaps the best defence that could be mounted, except
that
the standard of examination might be slightly better in Europe.

I doubt it. The European Patent Office job ads are targeted and ask
explicitly for newly-graduates, that voids the whole point of
skilled-in-the-art and knowledgeable of prior-art requirements in one
go.

Best Regards

Steve Sousa
 
T

The Real Andy

Jan 1, 1970
0
This is my concern. Patents are cheap to apply for, provided you can
write up the application yourself. The PTO does not publish
applications in time and in a conspicuous manner for people to
challenge them, so lots of bad patents get issued.

But to challenge it after issue is very hard and very expensive. The
fee alone is around $2k if I remember right.

So lets say Joe Blow decides to come up with some sort of flexible LED
array and this patent holder says he will sue... well, if the alleged
infringer is a small company, is he going to fight it? Trying to
overturn the validity of a patent as your defense is possible but it's
not the easiest path and it progresses in conjunction with the
infringement suit - so if you dont get it overturned quickly enough,
then you are still in violation (see RIM/Blackberry). If the alleged
infringer is a big company, then plenty of lawyers will sue on
consignment, so the big co spends lots of $$$ and if they win, they
just get to make less $$, and if they lose they may lose big.

IMO it's a very serious problem.

I would be interested in hearing the outcome in the case mentioned
above. Can you elaborate?

IT was a software infringement. The company that was sued settled out
of court.. Do a google for Jupiters V Neurizon. I hear a lot of law
schools are using that case for education now.
 
D

David L. Jones

Jan 1, 1970
0
This is my concern. Patents are cheap to apply for, provided you can
write up the application yourself. The PTO does not publish
applications in time and in a conspicuous manner for people to
challenge them, so lots of bad patents get issued.

But to challenge it after issue is very hard and very expensive. The
fee alone is around $2k if I remember right.

So lets say Joe Blow decides to come up with some sort of flexible LED
array and this patent holder says he will sue... well, if the alleged
infringer is a small company, is he going to fight it?

A lot of the time they won't have the money and will simply be
bluffing.

If you really are that concerned, get some real patent advice about
*your* design and if it even comes close to the published patent. Much
better to spend your money on that than trying to get the patent
overturned. There are countless products out there with SMD led's on a
flex circuit, and the patent in question is very specific. They are
*not* trying to patent "an SMD on a flex circuit", rather it is fairly
clear they are patenting their very specific application of it. That's
what the vast majority of patents are for, it is for a very specific
implementation of something. There are very few patents out there that
cover a very generic field.

Don't be frightened by a patent, if everyone else did the same no one
would be in business making anything.

Dave.
 
D

David L. Jones

Jan 1, 1970
0
Yes you are absolutely right - all one needs to do is violate ANY of
the claims to be infringing. So if ANYONE makes a flexible PCB with
LED's on it with a brightness of 2000mCD/sq-cm they are violating this
patent.

That is an utterly insane thing to grant a patent on. It hampers
innovation and gives way waaay too much breadth to the patent holder.

Isnt there some kind of oversight of the PTO? The fact that it
explicitly states 200mcd or more leads me to believe that they knew
other devices of less-than 2000mcd already existed. So basically the
examiner thought that the applicant was doing something novel and un-
obvious just by doing whats been done, but at greater than 2000mcd?

So make sure your design doesn't violate *any* of the claims.

If the problem happens to be the 2000mcd limit, then make yours output
1000mcd each and use two of them, etc. Plenty of ways to skin the
proverbial cat.

Dave.
 
D

David L. Jones

Jan 1, 1970
0
Really? Point out one example of 2000mc/cm2 on flex before 2000.

Sorry, my comment was referring to dumb patents, not this LED example.

Dave.
 
B

Benj

Jan 1, 1970
0
David said:
A lot of the time they won't have the money and will simply be
bluffing.

But if it's just some lawyers, that "bluff" can be VERY expensive. The
lawyers who doubtless were at least in part behind this patent, can
file crap by the TON for relatively low filing fees just on the HOPE
that you'll crumble and pay up from the pressure. They know unless you
are GM or something, fighting them will cost you a fortune. It's the
VERY idea behind the bogus lawsuits by cities on gun manufacturers
attempting to put them all out of business. Only that scam has the
advantage of paying the lawyers using public money.
If you really are that concerned, get some real patent advice about
*your* design and if it even comes close to the published patent. Much
better to spend your money on that than trying to get the patent
overturned. There are countless products out there with SMD led's on a
flex circuit, and the patent in question is very specific. They are
*not* trying to patent "an SMD on a flex circuit", rather it is fairly
clear they are patenting their very specific application of it. That's
what the vast majority of patents are for, it is for a very specific
implementation of something. There are very few patents out there that
cover a very generic field.

It may well be for a specific application, but the way it's worded is
rather generic. In fact it's SO generic it's invalid. This device, has
LONG been used on the Side of Alembic guitar necks to mark the fret
positions. They are available for sale right now. I'll bet you could
Easily find examples as prior art in a ton of other products out
there. But that isn't the point is it? If you are a lawyer with a
bunch of time on your hands, your costs are nearly free and you can
use that fact to intimidate people fighting your scam. Somehow the
courts always seem accept just about ANY wild scam as possibly valid
until it comes right down to the end. Remember the Million Dollar
pants? The bottom line is it's a huge pressure machine.
Don't be frightened by a patent, if everyone else did the same no one
would be in business making anything.

Hey, who is? I got to hand it to the Chinese, though. They regularly
scan American patent files for cool stuff that the patents have run
out on and nobody makes any more. No lawyer hassle. But it's not the
patent you need to be afraid of, it's the lawyers! Of course the
Lawyer didn't win the pants thing either, but what did he have to
loose except some free time he wasn't using anyway?
 
F

Frithiof Andreas Jensen

Jan 1, 1970
0
If you really are that concerned, get some real patent advice about
*your* design and if it even comes close to the published patent.

That's indeed what the patent system is for: Social Security for a glut of
lawyers (who's net contribution to society is negative - especially when
they get into politics).
Don't be frightened by a patent, if everyone else did the same no one
would be in business making anything.

Err .... 80% of "business" *is* making *nothing* ;-)

The Chinese don't give a rats arse about "immaterial rights" and Beijing is
doing a whole lot better than Detroit these days, No?
 
P

Paul Burke

Jan 1, 1970
0
Frithiof said:
That's indeed what the patent system is for: Social Security for a glut of
lawyers (who's net contribution to society is negative - especially when
they get into politics).

Has thios been mentioned? (from James Randi's site):

"Last week I expressed amazement about yet another patent issued by the
US Patent Office, number 6,368,227 on 9 April, for a way of swinging on
a child's swing. I received a number of calls and e-mail messages on
this item, some from patent attorneys. It turns out that the patent was
given to a five-year-old kid, Steven Olson of St. Paul, Minnesota, for a
"method of swinging on a swing." Steve's father Peter is a patent
attorney. As if Mr. Olson Sr. were working tongue-in-cheek (we've no
idea where Junior's tongue was located) his application asserted that "A
new method of swinging on a swing would therefore represent an advance
of great significance and value." Hmm. Perhaps. He also said that
"Children can get bored by swinging back and forth, or by twisting the
swing to make it spin." Another hmm.

In an interview with New Scientist Magazine, Peter Olson said, "I had
told him that if he [Olson Junior] invented something he could file a
patent." Any patent has to pass the "prior art" test, in which the
applicant must prove that his invention is new and has not been done
before. Thus, the US Patent Office initially rejected the application
for prior art, citing two earlier patents on swings, but Peter Olson
appealed, noting that neither was a method for swinging sideways, and
the patent was then issued."
 
Top