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Lesson 4:  Intellectual Property


Task 1: What is a PATENT?
Have you ever had someone copy your idea?  It did not feel good, did it?
The United States Government has a legal way to protect your new idea in an invention and it is called a PATENT.  If anyone tries to copy your invention, they will have to pay a fine to you.  
Kids in Art Class
Look at the image below.  What do you think the invention in this patent is?
Pencil patent.jpg
  • It is something you use in school A LOT!
  • They can easily break.
  • They are often lost.
  • As you use them, they get smaller.
  • You have to use a #2 version of one when you take standardized test.
What is it?
Pencil Bunch
Look closely at what is written on this PATENT:
1.  H.L. Lipman - He is the inventor or this device
2.  No. 19,783 is the patent number
3.  Mar. 30, 1858 is the date the patent was granted.
There is another part to this legal document called the "CLAIMS".  This is a list of what you need in order to make the invention without using ideas from other devices with patents.
Pencil claim.JPG
This is the claim made by inventor Hymen L. Lipman when he applied for his patent of a pencil with eraser:
  • Combination of lead and india-rubber or another material that can erase the lead.
Pencil patent.jpg
Is this enough for Lipman to be granted a patent?
Actually, in order for an idea to be granted a patent, it must meet these standards or rules:

  • It must be NEW and no other invention like it.

  • It must be NOVEL,  involve an inventive step: this means it is not something that anyone could have easily made

  • It must have an application to the real world: it must be useful to do something.

  • It must NOT be OBVIOUS to create it.


Lipman had to prove that his pencil + eraser is:

1.  NEW because the old ones just had the lead and the erasers were separate.

2.  NOVEL because he had to invent a way for the pencil to hold the eraser inside the pencil so it would not easily fall off.

3.  The real world will find it useful because you will have a way to write and erase using just one device.

4.  It was NOT OBVIOUS  to put the pencil and eraser together - No one had done if for 300 years!

The end of the story is yes, Lipman received his patent, sold it to a business man for $100,000 only for a court to reverse the patent years later.  Lipman went on to invent adding a sticky adhesive to envelopes so they would seal more easily.

Patent lawyers help inventors through the long and detailed patent application.  There are also Copyright and Trade Marks to protect people's ideas and business logos.

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Task 2: Patent Practice
Ms. Pat Pending snip.JPG
patent activity.JPG
  • Use the materials available to you to build Pat's invention.
  • You must finish in the time given on the timer.
  • Share your final toy with your class.
  • Use the graphic organizer to evaluate how well your toy meets all six claims.
The claimed invention2.JPG
Remember to add problems to your Things That Bug Me! problem log.
Extension Activity 1
Spot The Invention
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The labeled items on the following image are a small sampling of inventions that are, or once were, protected by patents. Can you locate any other inventions in this image? Click the arrow on the right to go to the next page. Click on blue circles to see the examples of patents related to these objects.

Trademark Graveyard

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Some common terms were once trademarks.  Enter the Trademark Graveyard to see which terms were ruled to be generic, because their primary significance to the public became the name of the product itself. They are now part of our everyday vocabulary. 

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