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Watches and clocks: patent-eligible or not? | 179 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Watches and clocks: patent-eligible or not?
Authored by: PolR on Monday, March 18 2013 @ 02:59 AM EDT
When you say identificant, do you mean an interpretant? We don't use the word
identificant anywhere.

A display with the symbols shown is a sign-vehicle. The referent is a specific
point in time. If the display shows 1:00PM, the referent is the point in time
during the day which is one hour past noon. The interpretant is the thought a
human mind would have when reading the symbols on the display. This thought is
associating the symbols 1:00PM with the point in time one hour past noon.

Whether a claim on a clock is patent-eligible depends on what is claimed. The
choice of the limitations will change the answer.

The patent will contain words referring to time.

Some of these words will refer to actual flow of time as it relates to the
clock. These words are unrelated to the meaning of symbols. They refer to the
role of time in the mechanism of the clock.

Other words will refer to the meaning of the bits that represent time. And still
other words will refer to the meaning of the symbols on the display. In both
cases these words could be either interpretants or referents depending on
whether the time is part of the invention or just being referred to.

For instance, if the symbols are meant to be used by humans the references to
time are clearly interpretants. But if the symbols are bits meant to trigger an
action at the specific point in time then the meaning of the bits is a referent
because the point in time where the action occurs is an element of the
invention. So it really depends on what is claimed.

Interpretants have no patentable weight, much like the printed matter has no
patentable weight in a claim on a printing press. The patent-eligibility depends
on whether there is something new and nonobvious outside of the interpretants.
So John Harrison's chronometers would have been patent-eligible in his time
because there was something new and nonobvious outside of the interpretants.

At the other extreme there would be a time-keeping algorithm running on an old
programmable computer on standard off the shelf hardware. Then if the hardware
clock is old, the computer is old and you give no patentable weight to the
interpretants in the algorithm there may be nothing new and nonobvious left in
the claim to justify the patent.

As you can see, this is not a black and white approach.

But this is about a clock. The essence of a clock is to display the right
symbols at the right time and the bits happens to mean time. I guess it will be
easy for a patent attorney to get a patent on the clock as long as the time
keeping part is new and nonobvious.

[ Reply to This | Parent | # ]

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