What grace period do inventors have for testing their creations before applying for a patent? The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to tackle the question and is expected to make a decision next year. According to federal law, an inventor cannot get an enforceable patent on an invention that has been "on sale" in the United States for more than a year before application for a patent. But what does "on sale" mean? The law's text is not explicit. Lower courts have ruled that "on sale" can begin whenever an inventor seeks or receives a commercial offer for the invention. Supreme Court justices will attempt to clarify the meaning in the case of Pfaff vs. Wells Electronics. Inventor Wayne Pfaff of Dallas contends that Wells Electronics Inc. of South Bend, IN, infringed his patent on a socket to hold semiconductor chips during testing. The U.S.Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled against Pfaff, because he had applied for the patent a year and 11 days after receiving an order for 30,100 of the sockets.
During a teardown of the iPad Air and Microsoft Surface Pro 3 at the Medical Design & Manufacturing Show in Schaumburg, Ill., an engineer showed this "inflammatory" video about the dangers of maliciously mishandling lithium-ion batteries.
Science fiction author Isaac Asimov may have the best rules for effective brainstorming and creativity. His never-before-published essay, "On Creativity," recently made it to the Web pages of MIT Technology Review.
Much has been made over the potentially dangerous flammability of lithium-ion batteries after major companies like Boeing, Sony, and Tesla have grappled with well-publicized battery fires. Researchers at Stanford University may have come up with a solution to this problem with a smart sensor for lithium-ion batteries that provides a warning if the battery is about to overheat or catch fire.
In this new Design News feature, "How it Works," we’re starting off by examining the inner workings of the electronic cigarette. While e-cigarettes seemed like a gimmick just two or three years ago, they’re catching fire -- so to speak. Sales topped $1 billion last year and are set to hit $10 billion by 2017. Cigarette companies are fighting back by buying up e-cigarette manufacturers.
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