While digital forms of payment are becoming increasingly popular, cash probably isn't going away anytime soon, and a lot of people still like to collect coins. For the amateur numismatists out there, here are just a few interesting coin stories.
The capabilities of 3D printing are just starting to become a mainstream phenomenon. Printing custom parts for prototype devices doesn't sound too cool to non-geeks, but when 3D printers are common household appliances, people will look back and wonder how we lived without being able to instantly produce unlimited copies of almost any object. Here are just a few examples of some 3D printed items that are pretty cool.
Recently on Techdirt, we highlighted a number of ways the US patent system could be fixed. One of the proposals on the list was allowing for input from those who are skilled in the art behind a patent application. Under this system, a person or company working within the industry surrounding a patent application could review it and submit their reasoning behind whether the proposal is obvious and not patentable or original and patentable. This public input would help patent examiners decide on the final patent-ability of an application.
As an example of why such a public input segment would be beneficial, we have a recent patent, found by io9.com, for "A costume suit modeled after a large size animal"(PDF) This patent, which was submitted by Japanese company ON-ART, which specializes in airbrush painting of large balloons, was approved on August 16, 2011. This patent has a total of twelve claims all having to do with the mechanics of the suit, which allows for the operator to create the realistic movements of the animal he portrays.
Here is a video of the suit in action.
So how does this support the need of public input into the patent system? For this, I submit the 1986 Jim Henson movie, Labyrinth. This movie stars a character by the name of Ludo, a large, hairy monster who is gentle at heart and friends with rocks of all sizes. Ludo was created by the Jim Henson team and allows for a person to sit inside the suit, and to move his head, neck and mouth as well as his arms and legs.
Below is a portion of the Labyrinth production video featuring the creation of Ludo.
Had public input been allowed, Disney, which owns Jim Henson Productions, would have been able to submit their prior art and this patent would have been either resubmitted with a more narrow focus or rejected outright. Unfortunately, the final patent-ability of this costume will not be determined until a costly legal battle takes place.
I may be a lay person when it comes to costumes modeled after large animals, but I find nothing unique or original about the patented dinosaur costume when compared to the 25 year-old prior art of Ludo. The only explanation I can think of is the that patent examiner really was not familiar with costumes and relied too heavily on the patent applicant to do the search for prior art. To wit, the applicant informed the US Patent Office, "a full-scale costume of a large size animal that is able to make a realistic movement has not been disclosed."
Sometimes people really leap before looking -- and that can be especially dangerous when it comes to technologies that we don't fully understand. Not too long ago, we created rivers so polluted that they'd actually catch on fire. We seem to be tuning in to the environmental repercussions of the chemical industry, but we might be making analogous mistakes when it comes to nuclear or biological technologies. Too much, too soon -- and we'll be cleaning up the aftermath for generations (if it can be cleaned up). Here are some quick links to some potentially concerning activities.