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America’s Favorite Toy

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office, www.uspto.gov

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office, www.uspto.gov

58 years ago yesterday, January 28, 1958, the world of children’s toys was changed forever when the first patent was filed in Denmark by Godfredt Kirk Christiansen for the LEGO Brick, initially called in the application the “Toy Building Block”.  These interlocking plastic bricks would soon take the globe by storm, and open up the imagination of the millions of kids, and adults, who were suddenly able to build almost any structure imaginable.  While the application for what would come to be known as the LEGO Brick cited a previous Danish patent for the same design, what set this particular patent apart was the addition of hollow tubes on the bottom of each brick, which allowed for the studs on top to interlock and connect snugly with each other, thus enabling the possibility for potentially endless stacking and building.

While the original patent has since expired, allowing others to use the design patented by Christiansen, the Lego brand itself still remains strong.  According to the Lego website, on average, every person on earth owns 86 LEGO Bricks, and the number of LEGO Bricks sold in 2012 would stretch around the Earth more than 18 times if they were laid end to end.  Interestingly enough, Christiansen’s father clearly had a vision for his company when selecting the name: the name “Lego” comes from the combination of two Danish words: leg godt, which translates to “play well,” while some translate the Latin lego to mean “I put together.”

            So let’s take some time to remember our experiences with LEGO Bricks, and the seemingly unlimited possibilities they unleashed in our imaginations.  After all, if you wanted to get to the Moon, all you would need is a column of 40 billion Bricks…give or take.

*The featured image is an illustration “colorful building blocks isolated on white” by koya979 obtained through Fotolia. 

Off to the Races – The Race to the Patent Office, That Is.

This seemed like an appropriate topic to kick off Derby Week in advance of this Saturday’s big event!

On your mark, get set, go…it’s a “race to the patent office.” The American Invents Act (AIA), signed in September of 2011, historically changed the system for filing U.S. patents. On March 16, 2013, the U.S. system changed from a “First-to-Invent” system to a “First-Inventor-to-File” system. The change in law was an effort by Congress to harmonize the United States system with the rest of the countries of the world, which have similar “first-to-file” patent laws. All U.S. patent applications containing one or more claims filed on or after March 16, 2013 will be effected.

Under the new law, inventors may be penalized for waiting to long to file applications because they can no longer rely on antedating prior art references with an earlier filing date. In addition, Interference proceedings, which occurred when two inventors claimed ownership of this same idea, are now eliminated and replaced with derivation proceedings.

Patent applications are now subject to a much wider scope of prior art. For example, “public use” or “on sale” activities were previously only prior art when they occurred inside of the U.S. Now under the AIA, the geographic limitations have been removed. Thus, these activities occurring anywhere in the world may constitute prior art.

Despite this broadening of available prior art, the AIA does call for some exceptions. Notably, a one-year grace period for filing a patent application after a public disclosure still exists; as long as the public disclosure was made by the inventor or someone who obtained the disclosed subject matter (directly or indirectly) from the inventor.

In the lead, are inventors and entities that proactively take steps to file applications promptly.

See: http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnvillasenor/2013/03/11/march-16-2013-america-transitions-to-a-first-inventor-to-file-patent-system/

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