Patents

by Mike Masnick


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IBM Patents Guessing How Many Kids Are On A School Bus

from the jellybeans-in-a-jar-patent-is-next dept

theodp writes "Self-described patent reformer IBM was awarded a patent Tuesday for Utilizing Gross Vehicle Weight to Determine Passenger Numbers. And yes, the 'invention' of five IBMers is what you think it is - from the Abstract: 'A total weight of passengers on the vehicle is divided by an estimated weight of each of the passengers to estimate how many passengers are on the vehicle.' First-graders everywhere will no doubt rejoice to learn that the elusive how-many-kids-are-on-the-school-bus problem has finally been solved!"

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2010 @ 8:25am

    WTF? They just patented this:

    ***
    Empty school bus weight: S1
    Full school bus weight: S2
    Average passenger weight: X

    Number of passengers = (S1 - S2) / X
    ***

    How is this not bloody obvious?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2010 @ 8:26am

      Re:

      Frack, it was supposed to be:

      Number of passengers = (S2 - S1) / X

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

      • icon
        Hulser (profile), 10 Sep 2010 @ 8:41am

        Re: Re:

        See, the fact that it took you two tries to get it right proves it's non-obvious. /s

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

      • identicon
        Anon, 10 Sep 2010 @ 8:59am

        Re: Re:

        Clearly it took you nearly two minutes to solve this problem. Patent examiners can't be expected to spend that much time to examine a patent. That would be ridiculous.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2010 @ 9:12am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Well, one would have to consider the number of patents being processed and the amount of time it would take to process them all if each one took two minutes and one would also have to consider the number of patent examiners involved.

          If there are 20 patent examiners and each patent takes each patent examiner two minutes to process then you can process 2000 patents in 200 minutes.

          Hopefully the above calculation won't cause me to get sued for patent infringement.

          How many patent examiners are there and how many patents are being processed and how long does it take to process each patent?

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

        • icon
          The Groove Tiger (profile), 10 Sep 2010 @ 9:52am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Total number of neurons used by patent examiners to award a patent = (# of Patents / # of Examiners / (0.125) * 247) ^ 0.

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

      • icon
        Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 10 Sep 2010 @ 11:18am

        Re: Re:

        No, the first way works, you just missed the part after the equals sign.

        (S1-S2)/x=|e|
        Where
        S1 = weight of buss
        S2 = weight of buss plus kids
        X = average kid weight
        E = estimated number of kids

        (If I remember my math, the | | symbol is an absolute symbol so the number is positive even if it's negative.)

        And you can patent that.

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

    • identicon
      MrWilson, 10 Sep 2010 @ 9:19am

      Re:

      Forget obviousness. They patented a mathematical equation. It's not even a complex algorithm or anything you need to take years of college math to understand.

      I guess we've already had illegal numbers, so why not patentable grade school equations?

      Absurd and obvious patent is patently and obviously absurd.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2010 @ 8:32am

    And people take patents seriously LoL

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

  • icon
    Hulser (profile), 10 Sep 2010 @ 8:39am

    Laughable

    I think most Americans have a healthy distrust of government, but the patent office holds a special place in this negative view. The stereotypes are that the IRS is evil, politicians are corrupt, the DMV is indifferent, etc. But what's the general view of the patent office? Because even people who aren't up on all the latest patent and IP issues, the average person on the street, has heard about these kinds of ridiculous patents, I'd say the answer is "incompetent". That's gotta sting. People don't like government agencies for various reasons, but they don't like your agency because it's laughably stupid. Ouch.

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

    • icon
      weneedhelp (profile), 10 Sep 2010 @ 9:19am

      Re: Laughable - stereotypes?

      The stereotypes are that the IRS is evil, politicians are corrupt, the DMV is indifferent

      I dont think they can be considered stereotypes when they are fact. LOL

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

    • identicon
      Pete, 10 Sep 2010 @ 10:24am

      Re: Laughable

      Since we have a democracy here, this dim view of the government really reflects the ability of the citizens to make good choices. If you say this government is incompetent, then you are saying the majority of Americans are incompetent in choosing who should represent them.

      So, those who complain are either a bunch of hypocrites or really don't believe in democracy.

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

      • icon
        Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), 10 Sep 2010 @ 1:28pm

        Re: Re: Laughable

        The biggest argument against democracy is a five minute discussion with the average voter. - Winston Churchill

        I don't really disagree with your comment. Every time I go vote, I'm either picking the least worst candidate, knowingly selecting someone who doesn't have a chance of winning, or eventually disappointed by my choice (even though I should know better).

        Decent, intelligent people with convictions are mostly ruled out of being successful in politics by what is required to get into a position to do any good.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2010 @ 11:45am

          Re: Re: Re: Laughable

          "The biggest argument against democracy is a five minute discussion with the average voter. - Winston Churchill"

          no i have a better one, the 2 party system or in other words "white vs. black" grey would be nice, and color is laughably nowhere near politics

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

      • identicon
        abc gum, 11 Sep 2010 @ 7:49am

        Re: Re: Laughable

        Your argument would be valid if there were a "None of the Above" box to select.

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

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 10 Sep 2010 @ 8:42am

    Black Team

    Maybe this is the work of the IBM Black team.

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

  • icon
    Hugues Lamy (profile), 10 Sep 2010 @ 8:47am

    Stupid patent

    Will the patent hold if I want to calculate the number of passenger in a Greyhound bus ?

    What about patenting the average calculation and sue every primary school in the USA. At 1500$ for a settlement, that will rack up a good sum of money.

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

  • icon
    halley (profile), 10 Sep 2010 @ 8:51am

    Even though the arithmetic may be schoolyard simple, the actual techniques may be pretty sophisticated if we assume that they're trying to guess accurately. Given that an obese sixth-grader can weigh over twice the amount of a small first-grader, and given that we see so many kids being forgotten, misrouted, or otherwise unaccounted, it's hard to say that an accurate method is simple, or even possible, but quite sought-after. Many parents cringe at the issues of individual tracking, but all parents go ballistic if their precious child is not exactly where the school system says they are. I'd be interested to see what this group did, to see if it's as laughably useless as everyone's assuming; it may be, it may not.

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

    • icon
      Richard (profile), 10 Sep 2010 @ 8:58am

      Re:

      If you bother to actually read the patent you will see that none of the clever stuff you talk about is even in it.

      It is laughable.

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

      • icon
        halley (profile), 10 Sep 2010 @ 9:02am

        Re: Re:

        I've read it, and I agree it's short of the mark of addressing the accuracy down to each head. Disappointing.

        However, they are definitely trying to get a better guess at X (in the above-commented formula): the passengers get heavier in the winter, and if still talking about school, presumably over the course of a school year.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2010 @ 8:59am

      The only thing they do to go beyond a basic average is explained. None of it is anything new, of course.

      "The typical adjusted passenger weight is determined using preset information such as, but not limited to, average passenger weight, area of vehicle use, holiday of use, day of week, time of day, season of use, average weight of passenger personal items, etc. For example, individual passengers may weigh more in the winter than in the summer due to heavy coats, while holiday shoppers (with their packages) may each weigh more than passengers on a workday. Such average weights can be estimated or calculated using statistical analysis of past measurements, etc."

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

  • identicon
    Scote, 10 Sep 2010 @ 8:56am

    Wow, a way to **estimate** how many kids are on the school bus. I bet that will be a great help coming back from field trips, not knowing if you have 49 or 50 kids coming back because you don't know if you have the skinny kids or the chubby kids.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2010 @ 8:56am

    The actual technique is simple regardless of whether they want to be accurate or not.

    They didn't patent a way to correctly determine the estimated weight they patented a basic math equation regardless of whether they want to be accurate or not.

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

  • icon
    Steve R. (profile), 10 Sep 2010 @ 8:58am

    Why?

    Why would IBM want to patent this? Seems that there has to be an undisclosed motive. What interest would IBM have in determining passenger numbers based on vehicle gross weight?

    I had assumed that that this so-called innovative technology would already be utilized at US border crossings. Its a no brainier. Not to mention truck weighing stations too.

    Also why limit to people? A "better" more abstract and ridicules patent would be "a method of assessing the validity of cargo being carried on a generic vehicle based on gross weight".

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2010 @ 9:01am

    Another problem with patents is how does one know that whoever has the patent is in fact the one that came up with the idea. Perhaps the person that came up with the idea never patented it and the person with the patent patented it after getting the idea from the originator.

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

    • icon
      Nastybutler77 (profile), 10 Sep 2010 @ 10:26am

      Re:

      Perhaps the person that came up with the idea never patented it and the person with the patent patented it after getting the idea from the originator.

      You probably think Edison invented the incandescent light bulb too, right? It doesn't matter who invented it first; only who patented it first.

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

  • identicon
    Michael, 10 Sep 2010 @ 9:03am

    They need this patent...

    ...because I have patented actually counting the number of students and am in the process of suing a lot of school systems for not purchasing a license to use my counting technology.

    I am guessing that this was passed because the patent office lacked anyone with the appropriate expertise in the field (you know, 1st grade math) to use for the obviousness test.

    I don't know how anyone can take the patent office in this country seriously anymore.

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

  • identicon
    Dan, 10 Sep 2010 @ 9:05am

    you just infringed

    @anonymous coward - you just infringed the patent. either pay up or let us see in court.

    oh! man, I can't stop laughing :D

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

  • identicon
    Jack Everitt, 10 Sep 2010 @ 9:22am

    Who knew simple math could be patented?!

    Patents for games I'm now filing:

    Adding two dice to determine a number.
    Adding two dice to determine a number, where one die is the tens digit.
    Use of a red jar icon with subscript to be number of Health Potions.
    Use of a blue jar icon with subscript to be number of Mana Potions.
    Use of sliding red horizontal bar to indicate health.
    Use of sliding blue horizontal bar to indicate mana reserves.


    And the big one, where all your base is mine:
    M the 1+1=2 patent, so that all software created must pay me a royalty. (I accept only PayPal!)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2010 @ 9:38am

    Changing the description to fit your point of view

    It's dishonest to present this as patenting guessing how many kids are on a school bus (unless that part was in the images, which would not appear for me for some reason). It's very clear by the reading of the patent that what they're talking about is a system for a city bus service to be able to change routes, the number of buses, the length of routes, etc. based on the number of people on the buses. It might be useful, but I suspect just using bus fares and average time on the bus to estimate how full the buses are would work just as well and be a hell of a lot cheaper.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2010 @ 10:01am

      Re: Changing the description to fit your point of view

      Title:

      "Utilizing gross vehicle weight to determine passenger numbers"

      Abstract:

      "A method, system, and computer program for determining the number of passengers riding on a vehicle in real time is presented. A total weight of passengers on the vehicle is divided by an estimated weight of each of the passengers to estimate how many passengers are on the vehicle in real time."

      Where I come from, the abstract of an article should be enough for an expert in the field to understand what is going on. If that isn't what the patent is about, then THEY are being dishonest.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2010 @ 10:27am

        Re: Re: Changing the description to fit your point of view

        The patent isn't that long nor is it overly complex. Nor does the abstract mention schoolchildren or school buses. That's what I was objecting about.

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

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 10 Sep 2010 @ 11:21am

          Re: Re: Re: Changing the description to fit your point of view

          You seem to be missing the forest for the trees. While your complaint is accurate, what difference does it make in how stupid the patent is?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2010 @ 9:38am

    Changing the description to fit your point of view

    It's dishonest to present this as patenting guessing how many kids are on a school bus (unless that part was in the images, which would not appear for me for some reason). It's very clear by the reading of the patent that what they're talking about is a system for a city bus service to be able to change routes, the number of buses, the length of routes, etc. based on the number of people on the buses. It might be useful, but I suspect just using bus fares and average time on the bus to estimate how full the buses are would work just as well and be a hell of a lot cheaper.

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

  • identicon
    Coco Was Screwed, 10 Sep 2010 @ 9:40am

    Umm, hello, prior art?

    Tare (pronounced /ˈtɛər/), from the Middle French word tare "wastage in goods, deficiency, imperfection" (15c.), from Italian tara, from Arabic tarah, lit. "thing deducted or rejected," from taraha "to reject"[1] weight, sometimes called unladen weight, is the weight of an empty vehicle or container. By subtracting it from the gross weight (laden weight), the weight of the goods carried (the net weight) may be determined.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2010 @ 10:27am

      Re:

      Yes. I use this method to weigh my cats on the WiiFit balance board.

      But no one from the patent office asked me for input.

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

  • identicon
    NAMELESS.ONE, 10 Sep 2010 @ 1:42pm

    so

    using this IBM system its entire possible after a school trip to either have extra kids on your bus who might not be in your school OR missing a few

    OH GEE i can see this now....

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2010 @ 9:06pm

    I have to wonder if anybody here actually read the patent and analyzed the claims in light of the specification?

    My initial reaction is that the answer is "no".

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2010 @ 6:14am

    Except that people have. Now can I borrow your patent on mind-reading and arrogance?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2010 @ 12:15pm

      Re:

      If you were responding to my comment at 45, all I can say is that the general tenor of comments here, as well as the article itself, misconstrue what the patent is intended to cover and does cover. It is not merely "How many are on a bus?", but directed to a broader, real time system where data may be usefully employed across a transit system in to reallocate resources, etc.

      This site does no favors by its deliberate distortion of what the patent covers so that it can present an attention grabbing headline.

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

  • identicon
    abc gum, 11 Sep 2010 @ 8:07am

    Most buses are not so large that the act of counting the passengers falls outside the realm of possibility. With this in mind I question what this method will address. Is the bus driver incapable of counting? Or maybe there is a contract which disallows the counting of passengers.

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

  • identicon
    porkster, 11 Sep 2010 @ 2:53pm

    Too late IBM!!!

    This patent is just a rehash of the calculation for estimating the combine weight of passengers on an aircraft!

    Number of passengers x average weight = additional weight add to aircraft.

    Does that makes this patent a copyright issue?

    I'm going to patent a new method of calculating the number of children on a bus. Count the number of legs and divide by two and subtract 1 (driver). Of course all one legged kids will have to be banned from riding school buses but that a sacrifice we all should be willing to make for the sake of accuracy.

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

  • identicon
    darryl, 12 Sep 2010 @ 8:45pm

    From the ""Its a patent so it MUST be "BAD"" Department.

    Maybe I should get a patent, on the method of weighting my dog, by first weighing myself, then picking up my dog and waying myself (and the dog) together).

    And if you can ZERO your scales when you (alone) are standing on it you dont even have to do any math.

    or maybe they watched Oceans 11, and worked out that by measuring the level of suspension compression they could work out which armoured truck held the real gold !!.

    But im sure if you read the actual patent, there is more to it that Mike would wish us to believe.

    Why dont they just put wireless pressure sensors in the tyres, and calibrate the pressure to load ratio. !!

    (also could be applied to aircraft). they use that now with formula 1, (wireless pressure sensors in tyres). and in Rally. It would not be hard to do a temperature, pressure, load calculation real time. (and pump your types up to the correct pressure for that load dynamically)..

    You have a right as a citizen to fight patent claims, so if you actually do believe its a 'bad' patent, stop whining, tell us what exactly is wrong with it, and why.

    Then explain why you are not taking appropriate action to inform the patent office of your findings ?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2010 @ 10:32am

    Oohhh so thats what IBM stands for, Idiotic Bus Measurements

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


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