Inventor Claims He Got Patent 20 Years After Filing… But Details Missing
from the patent-what? dept
Samkash sends over an odd story out of the Houston Chronicle, concerning an 82-year-old physicist named Roy Weinstein, who supposedly received a patent 20 years and three days after he applied for it on a type of “super magnet.” There’s an awful lot about the story that doesn’t seem to add up, however. At first, I thought that the patent couldn’t even be valid, because patents today expire exactly twenty years after they’re filed. So a patent granted 20 years and three days after filing would, amusingly, have expired three days before it was granted (figure that out!). Except… then I remember that this only applies to patents filed after 1995. If I remember correctly, patents filed before that are given 17 years from when they’re granted. So, it’s entirely possible, if improbable, that the patent was granted and is now valid.
So I went looking for the patent… and I can’t find it (Updated below).
Perhaps someone with better tools and experience can find it, but I’ve got nothing. According to the article, the patent was applied for in 1990 and then granted on February 23, 2010. But if you do a search for Roy Weinstein, you get three main results. One is a patent that was applied for in 1991 (5,289,150), but the inventor on that patent isn’t Weinstein, but another guy named Mario Rabinowitz. It just cites the work that Weinstein has done in passing. Also, that patent was granted back in 1994. So that’s not it. I’ve found three other patents that do list Weinstein as the inventor (6083885, 6525002 and 7026271), but those were filed for in 1998, 2000 and 2003, and all issued anywhere from one and a half to three and a half years after being filed. I can’t find any patent that Weinstein applied for in 1990 or that was granted in 2010 — though, again, it is entirely possible that I am missing something. Thanks to Greg Fenton for pointing out the actual patent, 7,667,562. If you go into PAIR and search on that patent (tragically, and for no clear reason, the USPTO does not let you link directly to PAIR results) you can search on that patent and see the long, drawn out history of that patent. It shows just how many times patent examiners rejected the patent. Over and over and over again.
But the story continues to be bizarre. According to the article:
The patent lets Weinstein move forward with commercial development of his supermagnets that, when chilled to super-low temperatures, can produce a field with the strength of 2 tesla, billions of times stronger than the magnet on your refrigerator.
Weinstein’s magnets are about the size of a stack of five dimes, weigh an ounce, and cost $300. Commercially available electromagnets that can produce a comparable magnetic field weigh two tons and cost $60,000 to $100,000, he says.
The implication here, of course, is that for the past 20 years, this technology could not have been commercialized without the patent — but that’s ridiculous. Of course you can commercialize without a patent, and if the cost savings are really so incredible, there would have been tons of ways to make money, even sans patent. On top of that, it sounds like his other patents may be in the same basic field, so if he was really worried about protection, why not use those patents as well? But the whole claim that he couldn’t commercialize for all this time just doesn’t add up. And, frankly, if it’s true that he decided to not do anything with this supposedly amazing technology just because he couldn’t get a patent on it, it would make him an incredibly spiteful man to purposely deny the world some useful technology.
Weinstein said he is developing a $7 million agreement with Round Rock-based TECO-Westinghouse Motor Co. to construct a 1 megawatt motor that will be a prototype for a 10 megawatt version. The company declined comment.
I’ve done plenty of business deals in my time, and I’ve never heard of anyone publicly announcing to the press the terms of a deal before the deal was signed — especially a deal like a $7 million agreement with a single inventor. Perhaps such a deal is being worked on, but let’s see what actually comes out of the negotiations first.
The story also claims that the patent only got approved when Roy’s son started schmoozing the patent examiner in question, and apparently wore him down on the idea that the idea may have been obvious considering how many products already used similar technologies:
Instead of communicating by letters, Lee Weinstein called the patent examiner directly and struck up a relationship. He assuaged the examiner’s concerns that a patent for the magnet would cover too many existing technologies and might restrict billions of dollars in trade.
“To be honest, this is an area of science that almost certainly a patent examiner wouldn’t understand,” Lee Weinstein said. “It’s deep physics. I tried to help him understand that by granting a claim this wasn’t reaching out and covering some technology it shouldn’t cover.”
This seems rather insulting to the patent examiner in question, but also highlights how if you talk a good game, apparently the USPTO is willing to grant you patents.
Anyway, it seems like there are lots of holes in this story.
Hopefully someone can point us to the patent, and maybe we can look over its history in the USPTO’s PAIR system — but I’m still at a loss as to why the lack of a patent meant the technology couldn’t be commercialized.
Filed Under: patents