An RF Cafe visitor e-mailed me with this note about the new(er) LED Christmas lights.
US 6,461,019 B1 Oct. 8, 2002
US 6,830,358 B2 Dec. 14, 2004
Here’s an engineering topic that’s appropriate for the holiday season. From your previous
posts I know you are acutely aware of the multitude of abuses in the patent system. These abuses range from the
so-called “submarine patents” to patenting insignificant improvements on existing patents to patenting the obvious.
This story is about the latter. I think just about everyone who is technically minded has wondered why someone
doesn’t market a Christmas light set based on LED’s rather than incandescent bulbs which have a propensity to
burn out regularly.
Well, someone has finally done it. I received a set just the other day and I must say
they have done a fine job. It cost about 3x the price of regular bulbs, but heck, they should never burn out so
it’s worth it. I was casually looking at the box and noticed that there were a couple of patents listed. My engineering
curiosity got the better of me so I looked them up to see what new technology was being patented. Remember how,
in Electrical Circuits 101, they used to show how to place several bulbs in series so that they could be operated
on a higher voltage? Well, it seems this company believes they are the ones to have invented the series/parallel
I have included the 2 patents because maybe I’m missing something. I’d love to know
what you think of all this. I wonder how Edison would respond to this since I believe he used to wire strings
of bulbs together to operate them on a higher voltage. It’s a wonder this “invention” ever got by the Patent Examiner.
This is probably the best case I’ve ever seen of patenting the obvious. But heck, if I missed the point of the
patent, then I stand corrected.