Patents

Take a look at this patent. Doesn't this sort of thing just kill you? It seems to cover many types of robots that are already out there
and stifle any inovation. I mean "transporting golf clubs or other objects and accessories". Does that mean that I should be able to get a patent on "a widget connected to zero or more widgets that do something"?
What does everyone think? Can this be for real and is there any way to challenge this patent?
United States Patent 6,404,159-Automatic cart for transporting golf clubs or other objects and accessories
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I don't find any problems in that patent.
You can make many many kinds of robots that don't infringe on this patent's claims.
Right at the beginning, they have this:
"a plurality of sensors positioned, peripherally, on said cart, including first sensor units dedicated to sense signals emitted by an external ultrasonic signal source associated with the user of the cart"
So if your robot doesn't use that exact mechanism to follow a user, your 100% fine.
Patents look really broad at first, but once you learn to read exactly what the claims are, they get really specific quickly.
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- Alan Kilian <alank(at)timelogic.com>
Director of Bioinformatics, TimeLogic Corporation 763-449-7622
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Alan Kilian wrote:

Indeed, this patent is fairly narrow, despite the generic title. I remember a poster on Slashdot got upset when they noted someone just got a patent for "Toothbrush." Turns out it was a very special toothbrush with a unique handle design, etc. IOW, exactly what the patent system is designed for.
For this patent, most of the claims are based on claim 1 (with some slight variations elsewhere), which are done to prevent someone else from "camping on" to this person's patent with further patents of their own. So claim 2, which seems to suggest any obstacle avoidance sensor on any robot, really only applies under consideration of claim 1. The claim does not stand alone.
There are some really silly abuses of patents these days, but I concur that this doesn't look like one of them.
-- Gordon Author: Constructing Robot Bases, Robot Builder's Sourcebook, Robot Builder's Bonanza
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The problem that I have with this patent is that it specifically says that it uses an ultrasonic transmitter to control the robot. I am using one of the keychain rf xmtr/rcvr units (bought from Parallax) for some of the controls on my robot. Therefore, I am in conflict with the patent. Right?
On Mon, 15 Dec 2003 15:53:56 +0000, Alan Kilian wrote:

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The patent says "ultrasonic sensor" and you are using a radio-frequency sensor, so you are NOT in conflict with even the first little tiny sentense of this patent.

--
- Alan Kilian <alank(at)timelogic.com>
Director of Bioinformatics, TimeLogic Corporation 763-449-7622
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Randall P. Hootman wrote:

The patent talks about an ultrasonic transmitter worn by a user, to which the golf cart responds. If you're making an automatic golf cart that follows you around the golf course, and you wear an ultrasonic transmitter than the cart homes in on, then yes, you might be infringing on this particular patent. Otherwise, likely not.
As I said before, this patent is very narrow. It is not possible to separate a single non-novel aspect (ultrasonic control) with the remainder. It all goes together.
-- Gordon Author: Constructing Robot Bases, Robot Builder's Sourcebook, Robot Builder's Bonanza
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