Whitebox Robotics Patent App?

Any comments on Whitebox Robotics trying to get a patent for a robot with a PC inside? There HAS to be prior art on this. I believe in
intellectual property but this idea doesn't seem new to me.
You can go to the www.uspto.gov website and look up patent applications (not issued patents). Do a search for Thomas Burick and his application will come up.
I want to sell a robot with an ITX motherboard inside but there could be complications if this patent issues. I'm looking to the community for prior art references.
Thanks, Danh
Here is a copy of the claims:
The invention claimed is:
1. A hobby robot having an encasement shell surrounding a support structure, wherein the hobby robot is comprised of: means for securing the encasement shell to the support structure; at least one cavity defined within the support structure, wherein the cavity is adapted to receive at least one mounting element; and an opening situated in the encasement shell, wherein the opening is sized to accommodate the insertion and removal of the mounting element therethrough, and wherein a portion of the cavity and a portion of the opening are arranged to allow the mounting element to simultaneously be situated within the cavity while protruding through the opening.
2. The hobby robot of claim 1, wherein the cavity is adapted to receive the mounting element in one of a substantially horizontal orientation and substantially vertical orientation.
3. The hobby robot of claim 1, wherein the mounting element is hardware for performing a desired function in connection with the operation of the robot.
4. The hobby robot of claim 3, wherein the hardware is one of a mother/ daughter board, hard disk drive, optical drive, media reader, non- volatile/volatile memory, slide rail, speaker system, I/O interface, rack mount, riser card, and face plate.
5. The hobby robot of claim 1, wherein the mounting element is a tray for supporting hardware that performs a desired function in connection with the operation of the robot.
6. The hobby robot of claim 5, wherein the tray is slidably received in the cavity.
7. The hobby robot of claim 1, further comprising a face plate for covering at least a portion of the cavity.
8. The hobby robot of claim 1, further comprising means for securing the mounting element to the support structure.
9. The hobby robot of claim 1, wherein the support structure is adapted to receive a circuit board.
10. The hobby robot of claim 1, wherein the support structure is adapted to receive a self-contained power source.
11. The hobby robot of claim 1, wherein the support structure is adapted to receive means for imparting motive force to the support structure.
12. The hobby robot of claim 11, wherein the means for imparting motive force includes a motor coupled to one of a plurality of wheels, one or more treads, and a combination thereof.
13. A hobby robot having a support structure, the hobby robot comprising: a cavity defined within the support structure, wherein the cavity includes means positioned within the cavity for removably coupling at least one mounting element to an interior portion of the cavity; and means for securing an encasement shell to the support structure.
14. The hobby robot of claim 13, further comprising the encasement shell for receiving the support structure therein.
15. The hobby robot of claim 13, further comprising means attached to the support structure for imparting motive force to the support structure.
16. The hobby robot of claim 15, wherein the means for imparting motive force to the support structure includes one of wheels, one or more treads, and a combination thereof attached to the support structure.
17. The hobby robot of claim 13, wherein the mounting element is in one of a substantially horizontal orientation and substantially vertical orientation.
18. The hobby robot of claim 13, wherein the means for securing the encasement shell to the support structure is one of a snap fit, friction fit, screwing and bolting.
19. The hobby robot of claim 13, wherein the means for removably coupling the mounting element is one of slide rails, screws, and fasteners.
20. The hobby robot of claim 13, wherein the cavity is substantially rectilinear.
21. The hobby robot of claim 13, wherein the mounting element is one of a mother/daughter board, hard disk drive, optical drive, media reader, non-volatile/volatile memory, slide rail, speaker system, I/O interface, rack mount, riser card, tray, and face plate.
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<snip>
I'm sure and othes will be more specific that there is prior art. But that is not guarantee that this guy won't have his patent accepted. I'm also a photographer, and I can provide you with an interesting example of such patents. Without being too specific, the guy patented a certain workflow that comprises of taking pictures of sport events and then publishing the pictures to be sold on a web site that has a search mechanism (by bib number, clothes color or approximate time the participant passed by the camera). The claims section is as long as this one, and kind of generic too. And if you think, people have been selling pictures of sporting events on the internet since the internet (and digital photography) is known. In my opinion (and I'm not a lawyer), his patent won't hold on court, but that doesn't keep him from hassling other photographers (and event sponsors). He sends a letter for any photographer selling pictures on the internet warning about the "patent infringement" and to discuss licensing options. Most of photographers will say "f-you very much" and go on about their days, but others, afraid of the amazingly high costs of going to court on a patent case will simply bow and pay the license fees.
We may be talking about something similar here. If his patent is approved and even if your project doesn't infringe all of his claims (which probably won't), he may start doing the same...
Cheers
Padu
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This might be one starting point : http://www.trossenrobotics.com/tutorials/tutorialshome.aspx
I also want to do something similar to what you are talking about (but not exactly). If I am not mistaken, they can't really patent the *idea* of using a PC inside a robot, right? But they can patent their particular shell and features about it that make it unique, I would think? Admittedly I don't have legal training or even much experience, so take that with a grain of salt!
JCD
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He is not doing anything new. Has everyone forgot about the Synpet Newton(486 inside), Androbot B.O.B. and the Topo 2, and for that matter even the RB5X (INS8073 Microprocessor) uses a card cage system with a back plane and externally accessable periphials. Even more the Heathkit Hero 2000 was an 8088 on a backplane system with a floppy drive.
I respect what Tom is doing, but I dont think his patent holds any weight. These things have already been done.
Perhaps I should send him a nasty gram claiming that he is infringing on my own patents for the RB5X even if they are expired (filed in 1982,83)..... (Card Cage, own powe rsource, option covers, floppy option (even if it was never made, but patented), speaker system, I/O interface, mobility ....)
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Hotwing wrote:

John, We'll be calling you as an expert witness! No one knows more about old robots than you. Seriously. (And I think you have many of them in your garage...)
-- Gordon
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wrote:

Hello,
There is a LOT of prior art which would negate a many if not most of the claims. The claim of the drive bay alone has been on the HERO 2000 since day one, there were room for two on the Hubot, the Newton has a single floppy bay, the Gemini had it's removable wafer drive, etc.
For the actual off the shelf PC components the Newton would probably be the best Prior art for that one. They started with the XT based 8088 PC but since it was a standard form factor many people yanked out the original motherboard and upgraded it to newer motherboards like 486 based ones. Going much faster posed a problem with some of the hard coded software delays but that is another story...
The BOB/XA would have been a close second with an industry standard type bus on it's motherboard which had standard expansion slots.
I suppose I should go and review all those claims and see how they match up to my HERO robots. Some of those claims would sound like HERO Jr since it uses removable cartridges, and the head panel itself has wing nuts so it is easily removable for access to the main electronics in the Head. Does anyone have the # of the design patent? It would be interesting to see how it looks compared to a HERO 1 or HERO Jr since that is based more on the appearance of the robot.
While a few of the older robots sold well, some of the other robots were sold in small numbers and many people forgot about them. They were still there first and I have a lot of respect for all the people that created them!
Best Regards,
Robert
http://www.robotworkshop.com http://www.robotgallery.com
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robotworkshop wrote:

I'm not as familiar with the Newton, but of course any commercially available or publicly demonstrated design could serve as prior art.
NoteL Danh talked about the WB patent covering a PC motherboard inside, and that's not what this patent is about. The patent is basically for adding and removing components through the outer shell without taking the robot apart. With the HERO and the RB5X, for example, you had to at least partially disassemble it -- including removing all or part of the outer shell -- in order to gain access to the internals. The fact that the RB5X or whatever used a PC board with a backplane is not relevent. What would be relevent is any prior art where you can take a critical components things off the robot and put other things on, WITHOUT dissassembly of anything, particularly the outer decorative shell. If you have to take the robot apart to remove or replace the drive it doesn't count. The patent is not trying to claim this.
IMO, the RB5X and its PROM is the closest example of prior art that I could remember for the things raised in Claim 1.
-- Gordon
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wrote:

I don't see where claim 1 implies that you don't have to take the robot apart. Claim one sounds like a robot shell place around a standard PC case. He makes reference to that in his summary of invention "The support structure is modeled after current industry standard personal computer cases"
Seems obvious to me. If I put a mini itx motherboard in a robot I need to have a mounting struture for the board along with mounts for PCI cards, etc. That's all I'm looking to do.
If you're correct and his patent is about not having to disassemble the bot then it's no big deal. It would be a narrow claim with easy work arounds.
Danh
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

This is pretty common in patents. They don't really say what they mean, at least not directly. As you read through the claims you can see the common thread is about inserting components in and out, sometimes through trays, through openings in the shell. Since a patent doesn't cover implied claims, and the patent never discusses dissassembly of the shell to get to the support structure where the mechanics actually are, the only other conclusion (IMO) is that the claims cover inserting/removing components without disassembly.
*That*, actually, is somewhat novel, and it is not something you commonly see. However (IMO), there is prior art, as I previously noted, that renders the claim moot.

This part is clearly old-hat, and no patent could cover simply fastening a computer into a robot. As that notion seems rather silly, it's what should give rise that the WB patent is about something else.

Bear in mind I don't mean to speak with authority, and I'm just stating an opinion. If you are bringing a product to market, it might be wise to consult with an attorney to get his/her judgement. You are now on record that you are aware of the patent (though you can infringe either way).
-- Gordon
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wrote:

The main intention was to look for leads on prior art. I'm not impressed with what I've seen so far with the personal robotics industry. Too much imitation and not enough innovation and this becomes even more evident looking at the robotgallery website. Let's all step it up a notch and build something usefull. I'm also guilty of building useless 6 legged robots that end up costing way too much money and time. It's what Colin Angle termed "demo bots" at one of the robot conferences. By the way, if you go to youtube and type in Colin Angle you can see his keynote at CED.
Danh
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

I think it all depends on how you define "useful." Many people build robots because it is a personal challenge for them. It doesn't matter that the same thing has been built a thousand times before. What matters is it's the first time for that person.
No one faults amateur radio enthusiasts for getting excited about talking to someone on the other side of the globe when anyone can do the same thing with a $5 telephone. What makes it special is that the ham studied and learned and figured out how to do the transmission himself. And certainly few suggest running marathons ("been there, done that") or climbing mountains ("that again?") is not useful. Well, maybe not to them...
Most of the times these "demos" do not advance the art, but that doesn't detract from their usefulness for personal improvement.
If industry has not yet come up with a truly "useful" personal robot that's not more hassle than just doing the work ourselves, perhaps we don't need one. That's the other way of looking at it.
-- Gordon
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Thanks for the info. I also like looking at the industrial design of the vintage robots in your gallery.
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Do you have a patent number on your RB5X? This would be considered prior art and prevent the WhiteBox application from being granted.
I did some more research and found that WhiteBox got a design patent but failed to get a utility patent so far. I suspect the USPTO rejected his first claim which would invalidate the other dependent 20 claims.
Danh

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What's the difference between a "design patent" and a "utility patent", in a nutshell ?
Thanks ! JCD
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On Feb 20, 9:34 pm, "Pogo"
message

In a nutshell, a design patent is based on the "look" of a product and a utility patent is based on the "function" of a product.
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

The prior art is the product itself, whether or not ever for sale, as long as it has been publicly demonstrated or published prior to his filing. I suspect the RB5X patents John refers to are design patents, which don't apply here, but in any case, it doesn't matter, Claim 1 of WB's patent is dependent on a hole ("opening") in the enchasement shell that allows the insertion or removal of a part. That's basically what it comes down to: a way to get something into the robot without taking it apart, or removing its case. Secondarily, Claim 1 has this part protrude through the opening, as a disk drive would in a PC.
While RB5X is generally designed where its case (shell) is removed to get to the inside, and its parts are fully enclosed, in fact a well-known picture of this mid-80's robot shows a person plugging a PROM into a socket, through an opening of the encasement shell. The socket serves as "at least one mounting element through an opening," and when plugged in, the PROM protrudes through the opening. The PROM serves a critical function of the robot, such as voice, and is not merely decorative (Claim 3).
Look about half way down the page, under Software:
http://www.robotgallery.com/robotgallery/rb5x /
Life sucks.
-- Gordon
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Here's some links for you to research. Happy hunting !
http://www.epiacenter.com/modules.php?name=Sections&sop=viewarticle&artid=61
Good page - but has nasty popups: http://home.scarlet.be/~mhorst/robot.html
http://oap.sourceforge.net/index.php
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