It seems like only yesterday that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued U.S. Pat. No. 9,000,000 for a “windshield washer conditioner” that collects and conditions rainwater or dew from a windshield for use as washer fluid.  And now we’ve surpassed 10,000,000!  If patents were Wonka Bars, the millionth ones would surely include a Golden Ticket.

Previously, we explained that the USPTO hand-selects certain patents to be recognized as a “milestone millionth” as an infrequent opportunity to toot its horn.

For instance, in 2011, Second Sight Medical Products received U.S. 8,000,000 for a visual prosthesis that enhances visual perception for people who have gone blind due to outer retinal degeneration.  And in 2006, U.S. 7,000,000 was awarded to a DuPont inventor for biodegradable polysaccharide fibers useful for textiles.  The USPTO created an entertaining story of the history of patents to mark the issuance of U.S. 10,000,000, which you can find here.

Patents issue every Tuesday according to a well-defined system.  Once upon a time, mechanical patents went first, then electrical, then chemical, organized by class and subclass, issuing in order from smallest to tallest according to the main U.S. classification.  More recently, the USPTO began to use the CPC (“Cooperative Patent Classification”) system, which was jointly developed with the European Patent Office to harmonize classification systems.  The CPC classes are A-H and Y.  The larger classes are organized by specific subclasses, such as “B29C,” and subgroups within the subclasses, such as “45/14508,” all based on subject matter.  Category B is for “Performing Operations; Transporting.”  Category C is “Chemistry; Metallurgy” and Category G is for “Physics.”  When patent numbers are assigned, we still go in order from A through H and then Y.

All goes according to plan, unless, of course it’s a “milestone millionth” patent.   If certain strings weren’t “pulled and persuaded,” we might expect to see more “ordinary” inventions awarded a special milestone number.

So, what if the USPTO hadn’t singled out the high-tech, Massachusetts-based Raytheon Company for its LADAR invention as U.S. 10,000,000?  In fact, my review of the Official Gazette of the USPTO for patents issuing on June 19, 2018 and a quick search by classification indicates that the LADAR invention, properly classified as “G01S 7/4863,” absent hand selection, would have issued later as the relatively ordinary U.S. 10,001,551.

Clearly, someone else was deprived of a “milestone millionth” patent.  And it is they we praise today.

U.S. Pat. No. 10,000,001
Based on pecking order, U.S. 10,000,000, should have gone to Sun-Woo Lee and Hyeon-Jae Yu of the South Korean company LS Mtron, Ltd. for their invention titled “Injection Molding Machine and Mold Thickness Control Method,” which issued one tick later as 10,000,001.

LS Mtron, launched in 2008, but with roots in the 1960s cable industry in Korea, has products that include–in addition to machines for injection molding–tractors, automotive parts, ultracapacitors, connectors/antennas, and (naturally) track shoes.  (No, not the kind Nike and Adidas make.)  For more, check out their website.

According to the abstract of U.S. Pat. No. 10,000,001, the injection molding machine includes: “a fixed platen, a moveable platen moving forward and backward by a toggle link, a base plate supporting the toggle link, a driving part for mold clamping to operate the toggle link, a driving part for mold thickness adjustment to adjust a mold thickness, and a control unit to calculate a movement distance gap before a clamping process by controlling the driving part for mold thickness adjustment to move the base plate backward and then move the base plate forward to a target movement position based on a fold amount of the toggle link, and control the driving part for mold thickness adjustment using a value obtained by deducting the movement distance gap from the fold amount of the toggle link when producing a clamp force.”

Fig. 1 from U.S. Pat. No. 10,000,001 appears below:

I know that the abstract is a mouthful, and that molding machines are less sexy than LADAR, but there is little doubt that we also need improvements in injection molding.  Remember that line from Mr. McGuire to Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) in The Graduate?  “I just want to say one word to you … just one word … are you listening?  Plastics.”

We like to think that the ladder of law has “no top and no bottom.”  If so, the Korean inventors I celebrate today would have been awarded U.S. Pat. No. 10,000,000.  If this all sounds like “sour grapes,” it may be because I once hoped to see one of my meager creations issue as number 5,000,000 (it didn’t come that close).  Which was when I first noticed the peculiar “hand selection” at work.  Regardless, let’s not forget—at least every million patents or so—to praise our almost-famous, just-missed-it-darn-it-all inventors.

– Jonathan Schuchardt, Ph.D, JD

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