# IBM Patents Dividing The Number 60 By Your Car's Speed

### from the divide-by-zero dept

theodp writes ""A billboard," IBM explains to the USPTO in its newly granted patent for Determining Billboard Refresh Rate Based on Traffic Flow, "is a large outdoor advertisement." Guess you have to pad your writing a bit when a cornerstone of your 'invention' is dividing the number 60 by the speed of a car (in mph). To be fair, Big Blue explains things this way in the patent: "A system for determining the refresh rate per minute of the dynamic billboard based on the traffic flow information, wherein the refresh rate is equal to 60 mph/V, wherein V is equal to an average velocity in miles per hour of vehicles passing the dynamic billboard. If the average velocity is 60 mph, the new refresh rate of the dynamic billboard is one refresh per minute (i.e., each advertisement is displayed for one minute), while if the average velocity is 10 mph, the new refresh rate of the dynamic billboard is six refreshes per minute (i.e., each advertisement is displayed for ten seconds)." Which begs a question: Will you see an infinite number of ads if traffic comes to a full stop?"

Filed Under: patent
Companies: ibm

• jsl4980 (profile), 7 Oct 2010 @ 11:50am

Wow they're patenting a divide by zero error in the case of no traffic or a stand still. Awesome invention!
• :Lobo Santo (profile), 7 Oct 2010 @ 11:51am

### Ah yes...

...another patent based upon something any competent code monkey could throw together in about 5 minutes based upon the given criteria.
• JTO (profile), 7 Oct 2010 @ 1:26pm

### Re: Ah yes...

If it takes you 5 minutes to code this, you don't even get to be a competent code monkey... :)
• ChurchHatesTucker (profile), 7 Oct 2010 @ 11:59am

### To be fair...

Patent examiners are apparently idiots. They spend, what?, about a day or two's work on an average patent? And they approve *this?*

Primary Examiner: Goins; Davetta W
Assistant Examiner: Lai; Anne V
• Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2010 @ 12:04pm

### That's neat but the new Microsoft Provisional Patent is better.

Right now, someone at Microsoft is filing a Me-Too provisional patent that "Embraces and Extends" the IBM discovery.

Not only will the billboard show rotating banner ads but it will also include photo-radar in the billboard. This is so Microsoft can report your license plate number to the authorities and various partner companies.

The logic is this: if you are speeding and they are unable to force-feed advertisements to you, they'll look for the last time you used your Bing account. If you don't have a Bing account, they'll sell your picture, likeness and license plate information to advertisers, marketing companies, and your car insurance provider.
• Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2010 @ 12:15pm

Can I get around the patent by dividing 59 by the average speed?
• :Lobo Santo (profile), 7 Oct 2010 @ 12:17pm

### Re:

Yes, or likely even by dividing 59.99999 by the average speed.

; P
• Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2010 @ 12:39pm

### Re: Re:

But then you'd be sued by Intel.
• Andrew F (profile), 7 Oct 2010 @ 12:28pm

### Re:

I don't think so -- see the doctrine of equivalents.
• Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2010 @ 12:50pm

We should patent dividing 63 by the speed because that is an octal magic threshold and everyone is probably speeding anyway.
• EF, 7 Oct 2010 @ 12:59pm

### Ridiculous

Isn't "refresh rate" basically determined by efficiency vs quality? Why is this even patentable?
If instead they're talking about when a new advertisement appears: dynamic billboards are allowed to change images only according to city code ordinances in which they reside. Too fast and flashy or too many, is a major distraction to drivers, which is dangerous! Don't we have enough distracted driving already without some company patenting an optimization system to squeeze the most out of our driver's attention?
• Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2010 @ 1:25pm

### Re: Ridiculous

"...dynamic billboards are allowed to change images only according to city code ordinances in which they reside."

Interesting. My township and its neighbors are currently fighting the billboard industry tooth and nail to keep it out - we all have ordinances prohibiting signs of such a size but they're claiming those ordinances violate their constitutional right...to be utter d-bags, I guess. They're stealing my tax dollars with this fight so they can steal my property values should such a horror come to pass.

It's like the content industries - not a constitutional issue but a bad business model problem.

OT: why the hell is anyone permitted to patent math? This is the second word math problem IBM's patented in recent months (the other was weighing a bus with and without passengers to figure the difference. Otherwise known as The Cat Weight Determination Method.)
• JTO (profile), 7 Oct 2010 @ 1:28pm

### Re: Re: Ridiculous

That's funny, because The Constitution protects the rights of individuals, not corporate entities...
• ckoning, 7 Oct 2010 @ 1:01pm

### Patent Workaround

As mentioned in the quote:

Will you see an infinite number of ads if traffic comes to a full stop?

Patent the same system with lower and upper bounds to the refresh rate. This should certainly be considered an advancement, since it is roughly three times as complicated:

freq = max( min( (60/V), 20 ), 30 )

Then when they deploy their astounding innovation, get Intellectual Ventures to sue them for payola.
• ckoning, 7 Oct 2010 @ 1:03pm

### Re: Patent Workaround

>

Proper formula:

freq = max( min( (60/V), 20 ), 2 )

Maybe this math stuff IS complicated.
• Steven (profile), 7 Oct 2010 @ 2:45pm

### Re: Re: Patent Workaround

You're both still replicating the divide by zero problem.

freq = max( min( (60/(abs(V)+1)), 20),2);

There, that should do it.
• Anonymous Coward, 8 Oct 2010 @ 5:01am

### Re: Re: Re: Patent Workaround

abs(V)? Are you expecting cars to go in reverse on the highway?
• Gabriel Tane (profile), 8 Oct 2010 @ 8:55am

### Re: Re: Re: Re: Patent Workaround

Obviously, you've never driven in Florida ;)
• Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2010 @ 1:10pm

I am one of the first to post contrarian opinions when I see articles and comments decrying the issuance of a patent because "it sure looks obvious to me".

This one, however, has even me scratching my head. Maybe there is something hidden in the file history that might alleviate my need to scratch, but having read the specification and the claims it does jump out at me what the file history could be hiding.

Perhaps more importantly, however, is why would IBM even be concerned with an invention such as this? I find it hard to believe that some aspect of this invention figures into its business plans. The only thing that makes sense to me is that someone at IBM has too much time on their hands and an imperfect understanding of when applications should be filed and when they should not. This instance seems to fall in the latter class.
• MAtt, 7 Oct 2010 @ 2:30pm

### Re:

I think the problem here isn't that it is obvious, but that it takes genuinely patentable processes (e.g., detecting traffic flow on a highway, LED billboards that change the image at a set frequency) and then adds very little of substance (i.e., calculating the refresh rate instead of setting it manually). Or is that the same as "obviousness" in the patent world?

Either way, I am jumping on the "disdain for retards in the patent office" bandwagon for this one.
• Anonymous Coward, 8 Oct 2010 @ 9:12am

### Re: Re:

"genuinely patentable processes". This is as good as any process patent there ever was. The ownership of concepts is what it is, as long as there exists the right to patent the imagination, patents like this will continue to take the lion's share of the USPTOs time.
• Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2010 @ 1:31pm

For large corporations, their subsidiaries are set up as seperate corporations. For may subsidiaries, they "sell" their patent to the parent corporation to earn money. What you see here is the effort of a subsidiary in attempting to gain money from IBM. Most large corporations automatically buy the patents , and thus you have situations where junk patents are purchased by the parent corporation.

Thats why IBM "bought" worthless, non business related patents, because they are contractually obligated to do so. And the cycle continues forever more.
• anger-management dude, 7 Oct 2010 @ 3:49pm

### You Punks Just Don’t Get It

You think they just picked that number 60 out of a hat? How long do you think it takes to sift through all the millions and billions of integers to come up with the right one? It took decades of research to come up with that number. No-one else came up with the number 60 before, so IBM fully deserve their patent for thinking of it.
• Staf-intern, 8 Oct 2010 @ 8:41pm

### Re: You Punks Just Donâ��t Get It

Yeah you tell em spike!
• Danny (profile), 7 Oct 2010 @ 4:19pm

### The denominator doesn't have to be zero if the numerator is infinity

Will you see an infinite number of ads if traffic comes to a full stop?"

Um, Mike.

If you sit there long enough you will.

Am pretty sure that works at all refresh rates.
• Anonymous Coward, 8 Oct 2010 @ 5:04am

### Re: The denominator doesn't have to be zero if the numerator is infinity

What Mike meant was, "Will you see an infinite number of ads PER MINUTE if traffic comes to a full stop?" That's what the formula leads to, anyways.
• abc gum, 7 Oct 2010 @ 6:29pm

Oh cool, I can use my patented voice recorder to note which products to not purchase next time I am using my patented shopping list creator.
• BentFranklin, 7 Oct 2010 @ 7:04pm

### New Patent to Measure Distance

Multiply the number of paces by 3 to get the distance in feet.

I'm rich!
• Lawrence D'Oliveiro, 7 Oct 2010 @ 8:33pm

### Re: New Patent to Measure Distance

A pace is closer to 5 feet, not 3. It’s the distance between successive positions of the same foot.
• Anonymous Coward, 8 Oct 2010 @ 5:05am

### Re: Re: New Patent to Measure Distance

My pace is closer to 2.5 feet. I have short legs.
• Anonymous, 8 Oct 2010 @ 7:20am

This may provoke or raise a question, but it does not "beg a question." http://begthequestion.info/

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