Hospital Tech Declines To Patent His Invention, As Saving Lives Is 'More Important Than Money'

from the not-everyone-rushes-to-patent dept

These days, it often feels like anyone who does anything even remotely innovative feels the need to rush down to the patent office, because that's what you always hear. There's so much talk about why everyone "needs" to patent stuff, that everyone starts to believe it. So it's somewhat refreshing to find someone who created something that really does appear to be useful, and has said that he has no interest in patenting it. The guy is a hospital psych tech -- and came up with his invention a few years ago, after a fellow psych tech in the hospital was strangled to death by a mentally ill patient, who did so by grabbing the lanyard all staff members are required to wear, which holds their "alarm button" in case of emergency. Not surprisingly, this and a few similar incidents, had staff members at the hospital quite wary of wearing the lanyards, even though they were required. So Mike Jarschke came up with a new lanyard design, which has three "breakaway" points that will snap if the lanyard is pulled too hard. The hospital tested it out, and now they've been issuing the new lanyards to staff. After all that, he had no interest in getting a patent.
Jarschke didn't bother to patent his invention. There are other things more important than money.

"When we get safety for this hospital, that's going to be way better than money for me," he said.
Of course, watch now as someone else tries to get a patent on it. Either way, this actually reminds me of some research we pointed to a few years ago, showing that the vast majority of inventions occur not because of the direct profit motive of selling a product on the market, but rather because someone is trying to solve a need for themselves. We see this over and over again, and it seems odd to have a patent system that covers those cases. It goes against every reasonable defense of the patent system. After all, the patent system is really only supposed to be an incentive to create a product that wouldn't exist but for the patent system being there to prop it up. And yet, patents are still granted on those kinds of inventions all the time. It's nice to see that at least some people don't see the need to go that far.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:06am

    The true inventor

    Has priorities in this order

    1) that the invention should be used.

    2) Tht he/she should be recognised as the inventor

    3) Money.

    If No.3 gets in the way of No.1 then No.3 is ignored.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    AJ (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:08am

    Better Idea.

    Would it not be a better idea to patent it, and offer up the license for free? That way, someone else couldn't steal his idea!!

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:11am

    weary/wary

    weary = tired
    wary = on guard for possible danger

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:17am

    Re: Better Idea.

    No. He would then need a lawyer or possibly more. Very bad idea getting those types involved.

     

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  5.  
    icon
    RonKaminsky (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:17am

    Even Better Idea

    Fix the patent system so that patents with obvious prior art are not issued --- in fact, there should be a fine for applying for a patent when there exists blatant prior art. (The fine should be larger than the ordinary fees generated by an issued patent, so the USPTO would have an economic incentive to fine people.)

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Dan J., Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:17am

    I hope he wasn't so silly ...

    While the attitude is certainly nice, I hope that if he tried to patent the idea he'd get laughed out of the office.

    http://www.amazon.com/Fox-40-Break-Away-Lanyard/dp/B0017W1PLS

    I had a breakaway lanyard for my whistle as the high school football team manager in the late 70s.

     

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  7.  
    icon
    A Dan (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:18am

    Re: weary/wary

    Agreed, you beat me to it. They're wary, not weary, of the dangerous lanyards.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:19am

    He doesn't want money? He must be a filthy commie, who hates capitalism and American way. If I saw him in the street, I'd spit in his face!

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Jaqenn, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:22am

    Haven't pet collars been doing this for a long, long time?

    http://www.squidoo.com/breakaway-cat-collar

    Anyway, it's at least five years, back to the dawn of my cat ownership.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:23am

    So if the US switched to a "first to file" patent system and somebody filed, would this guy loose all rights and control over his idea?

     

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  11.  
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    A Dan (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:23am

    Simple extension of an existing idea

    This seems to basically take the method for cat collars, which are designed with breakaway clasps for safety, and uses it on human collars. Definitely a good idea. I'd consider having the breakaway trigger the alarm, too.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:24am

    Not a new invention. Cat collars, at least, have been breakaway for pretty much the same reason, e.g., if they catch on a tree branch or whatever, they'll break rather than strangle the cat.

     

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  13.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:27am

    Not sure there isn't prior art already

    My wife is a nurse, and the lanyards she uses have had a breakaway feature as described for years (she has to buy them herself as the ones the hospital supplies are the non-breakaway ones). It's saved her from being strangled a number of times.

    I'm not sure what is patentable about the idea -- it may be something special about his breakaway design, but it's not the concept of a breakaway lanyard itself.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:28am

    Re:

    If you can make a new invention by adding "on the Internet" to the description, why should "on a human" be any different?

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:28am

    'watch now as someone else tries to get a patent on it'

    just trying to think how the RIAA or MAFIAA could claim this as being one of their copyrighted items. there must be a way.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:30am

    Re: Not sure there isn't prior art already

    Maybe his have rounded corners.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:30am

    Isn't it wonderful that the USA has moved its patent system to first-to-file, so that someone can in fact file for a patent on these breakaway lanyards and then use the patent to extort money from hospitals?
    Of course, I'd rather point to the host of previously-existing breakaway connectors as evidence that this isn't even a patentable invention, but this is the USPTO we are talking about here, so no doubt whoever does file will enjoy a healthy, innovation-fueling 20-year monopoly.

     

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  18.  
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    art guerrilla (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:34am

    Re: Re: weary/wary

    well, they could be weary from wearing the dangerous lanyards while wary of their strangulation potential...

    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy
    eof

     

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  19.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:36am

    Re: Not sure there isn't prior art already

    This isn't a new idea in general. My step dad is a cop and part of his uniform is a clip on tie. That way it can't be grabbed and used to strangle him. Been that way for at least 10 years now.

    This fact wouldn't stop some people from patenting it.

     

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  20.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:45am

    Re:

    This illustrates the silliness of the patent system. Breakaway technology has been around for centuries. In the middle ages there were breakaway weapon sheaths so that if an opponent grabbed your scabbard you could get away.

    As you note, breakaway things around the neck are also well known.

    Still, he could probably have gotten a patent on his "invention." If his patent examiner balked, the inventor's patent attorney would have deluged the examiner with additional BS until the examiner caved and awarded the patent. If they examiner held out longer than usual the patent might have had to be narrowed to hospital lanyards with exactly three break points.

    The latter bit of specificity might cause minor problems for future trolling. For example, if they tried to sue someone for a breakaway clothes hanger that had two break points it would have been a little bit harder to win a patent suit in some jurisdictions. But trolling doesn't really require a strong suit. The patent holder could probably get some type of settlement on any type of breakaway feature on any type of object in the future.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    MrWilson, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:46am

    Re:

    Which brings up a good question. Does only other patented technology qualify as prior art? If not, first to file seems pointless since first to invention would have evidence of prior art (in the event the USPTO actually did their job and rejected patents based on prior art).

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    RD, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:46am

    The best way

    The best way is to file for the patent, so that no one else can patent it and shelve it, and then just not ever enforce it if someone makes a similar product.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Dave Nelson, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:53am

    Beware the Trolls

    His need for a patent is predicated on the likelihood of someone else doing it, filing a patent, and suing him to prevent him using it. Humanitarian reasons and logic have little effect in court, especially where money is involved.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    The Great Inventor, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:54am

    I have an idea....

    ...a break away collar...On. The. Internet!

     

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  25.  
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    Keroberos (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 12:07pm

    Re: Better Idea.

    I doubt it is actually patentable anyway. I first saw badge lanyards with breakaway clips years ago. This design just adds 2 more of them. But kudos to him. This is how innovation is supposed to work--take an existing design, and make it better.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 12:07pm

    How is this patentable?

    Everyone in my building has a lanyard with one breakaway point. Are you telling me that three points is patentable? Then how about five?

    Then again, everyone had two click ordering, but only Amazon was brillant enough to make the non-obvious leap to a better high-tech tomorrow.

     

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  27.  
    icon
    lucidrenegade (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 12:09pm

    Re: Re: Not sure there isn't prior art already

    ... and slide to unlock.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    DCL, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 12:12pm

    The innovative part is...

    ...that there are multiple break away points.

    If you only have one break away that leaves a lot of strong lanyard length to be strangled with. With multiple breakaway points there isn't a long enough piece to be an effective (or convenient) strangle device.

    Cat collars break in one place just to relieve the confinement not to have shorter length.

     

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  29.  
    icon
    Mike Raffety (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 12:40pm

    Re: Simple extension of an existing idea

    "I'd consider having the breakaway trigger the alarm, too."

    Have you patented this yet? :-)

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Re:

    The problems with first to invent are plenty:
    It is a significant extra burden to actually find out who invented things.
    Conciously not filing for a patent to later backstab the first to file the patent under certain circumstances.

    The problems with first to file are:
    There is literaly no reason not to file for a patent. In turn it is encouraging trolling since any patent getting through is a good patent. (It can be combatted by raising the bar for patenteability, less damage awarded (maybe compensated by fines) or complex changes to the patent definition).
    The true inventor will sometimes get screwed by the most patent-office-savy guys.

    Pick your poison. None of the above are particularly good systems, but both are overall working fine.

     

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  31.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 1:06pm

    Re: weary/wary

    Oops. Fixed.

     

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  32.  
    icon
    Atkray (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 1:11pm

    Re: How is this patentable?

    See also: multiple blade razors.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Trish, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 1:19pm

    lawyers

    *As this news breaks, a million patent lawyers feel a great disturbance in the force*

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    DCX2, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 1:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Not sure there isn't prior art already

    I think in this case, it's "pull hard to unlock"

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 1:45pm

    pffft...I think the psycho can still find other ways to kill you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Mike, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 1:50pm

    Re:

    No.

    This guy's public disclosure and use of the invention would destroy the absolute novelty requirement under the new patent law. The first to file name is a bit of a misnomer. It's really the "first inventor to file (with grace for the inventor)".

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 2:36pm

    Question: Shouldn't he have patented it anyway since now someone can just snipe the patent right out from under him with the extremely lax rules that exist around prior art?

    Could he have only delayed a very nasty patent failure somewhere down the line when a company with more lawyers than engineers recognize this?

     

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  38.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 3:13pm

    Re:

    Shouldn't he have patented it anyway since now someone can just snipe the patent


    Yes, and it's horrendous that such a move would be necessary. However, getting a patent is not cheap, and it's a lot of hassle. "Defensive patents" are a luxury beyond what normal people can justify.

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 4:33pm

    Re: Re:

    But if he defensively registers a patent, how would he indicate that the patent was inherently 'open'? There's not an 'open' patent that can be registered.

    Would one just not enforce it?

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 6:12pm

    Umm Mike, considering you take Google's money (indirectly, I am sure) you perhaps want to try their product, called a search engine.

    First entry for "breakaway lanyard":

    http://www.idsuperstore.com/lanyards-breakaway-lanyards-c-8_17.html

    He likely couldn't patent it, because there is plenty of prior art.

    Sorry!

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    Larry, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 6:27pm

    Re: Better Idea.

    Obtaining a patent remains an expensive item to pursue, thanks to Ronald Reagan. For an ordinary working person to have to fork over $10k + for a patent can be a tremendous drain on ones resources.

     

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  42.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 6:39pm

    Bigger question people should be asking...
    Why did it take random tech to come up with an obvious solution?
    Why hadn't one of the large lanyard manufacturers done it already?
    Oh because they have their IP and can just sit on it, and the fear of being sued for making something like a remote idea some patent reviewer rubber stamped that one time.

    People are/were dying, because adding multiple breakways might have been to costly in a courtroom battle.
    IP Is our greatest asset, even more important than lives.

     

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  43.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 6:40pm

    Re:

    How many of those lanyard meet the requirements for a lanyard to hold a medical panic button used by techs?

    You obviously know how to use Google, so we'll wait.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    MrWilson, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 9:14pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Sounds like we just need to nuke the patent system from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

     

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  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:57pm

    Re: Re:

    The concept is the same, pretty much regardless of size. A breakaway lanyard is an existing technology, making it has the correct mount for a medical panic button instead of badge isn't a big thing.

    The point is that the "technology" already exists. He may have come up with a specific application, but it's not new (but maybe "new to him"...). So while it's a nice story of "didn't choose to patent" the point is it's unlikely he could have, even if he had wanted to.

     

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  46.  
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    bratwurzt (profile), Sep 27th, 2012 @ 12:55am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Strange - tablets and rounded corners existed since the 80s - existing tehnology? Also - isn't it the specific application/implementation you can patent but not the underlying tehnology/idea?

     

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  47.  
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    Mesonoxian Eve (profile), Sep 27th, 2012 @ 3:41am

    "Of course, watch now as someone else tries to get a patent on it."
    They'll quickly find out someone else already has a patent on it (and it'll either be Microsoft, Apple, or Amazon).

    Worse: had this guy filed is patent, and marketed the product, the patent trolls would find "fibrous straps with multiple break-aways in chastity belts" patent enough to sue for infringement.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2012 @ 7:40am

    Not sure how one can say something is or is not prior art without even having seen what this individual created.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
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    rick (profile), Sep 27th, 2012 @ 8:48am

    Curious that the lanyards that they used at the hospital had NO breakaways. The single breakaway lanyard is used in places that have machinery to keep it from harming the wearer if it gets caught up.
    I can see how the three breakaways are better than one in this circumstance, though, because an attackers hands could grab the lanyard at the breakaway and still have a nice long "string" to use with one hand on each end.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 27th, 2012 @ 8:55am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Would one just not enforce it?


    Yes, or if you're afraid of it appearing to be abandoned, simply give a perpetual non-exclusive license to anyone you find infringing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 27th, 2012 @ 8:59am

    Re:

    Curious that the lanyards that they used at the hospital had NO breakaways.


    When I learned about the standard-issue being the non-breakaway variety at my wife's hospital, I was very surprised, too.

    But I understood better after hearing her talk about work for a couple of years: in general, hospitals are broke and they cut corners in every little way they can find. A normal lanyard is less than $1, a breakaway one is about $3. Mystery solved.

     

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  52.  
    identicon
    Anon Commenter, Sep 27th, 2012 @ 9:26am

    Why such criticism?

    Why are some of you dissing the gentleman who started making lanyards with 3 breakaway points? The links provided in the comments all have only 1 breakaway point.

    If this guy doesn't wish to patent his 3 breakaway design, big deal. He doesn't want to stop other companies from making them too. He just wants hospital employees to be safe and save lives if ever they're in a dangerous situation.

    End of story.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
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    Anon Commenter (profile), Sep 27th, 2012 @ 9:43am

    Found Link

    Here is a 3 breakaway point lanyard. Thank you Google.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54.  
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    junebug (profile), Sep 27th, 2012 @ 11:43am

    Good for you. Well done.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
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    Anon Commenter (profile), Sep 27th, 2012 @ 11:53am

    Re: Found Link

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, Sep 28th, 2012 @ 9:27pm

    It would be ironic if someone else patents his design and then sues him for patent infringement...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  57.  
    identicon
    Robert Stillwell, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 10:45pm

    Medical staffs in hospitals are prone to accidents as well. I applaud him for inventing that lanyard without bringing it to the patent office because he just wants his co workers to be safe.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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