Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Cosby patent link in Jackson shooting of McKenna misguided

Concerning a possible link between the Jackson shooting of McKenna and a US Patent issued to Leslie Cosby of Chicago (US 6,240,576; application 09/067,976 filed April 29, 1998), one notes the first claim of the '576 patent states:

A portable toilet comprising:

a frame defining a sealable collection space for waste product, an opening in the frame, and a seating surface for supporting a user in a seated position to allow waste product from a user in the seated position to be discarded through the opening into the collection space; and

a removable cover on the frame for selectively sealing and exposing the frame opening,

the removable cover being joinable to the frame through a threaded connection,

the frame comprising a wall structure comprising a fixed configuration, integral piece that defines the collection space, a flat upwardly facing surface extending around the frame opening to support a user, a downwardly facing exposed surface to support the portable toilet on a subjacent surface, and a wall projecting upwardly from the seating surface at the rear and each of the spaced sides of the frame to confine a user in the seated position on the frame,

said integral piece defining threads which cooperate with threads on the removable cover to make the threaded connection between the removable cover and frame.

One notes that Joe Jackson was talking about a toilet in a truck situated UNDER a seat, not a portable toilet ON a seat. Although Cosby envisioned a toilet in a car for use by children, it was to be placed ON a seat, not under it: "The method includes the steps of situating the portable toilet in an operative position on a passenger seat within a movable vehicle having joinable seat strap parts..." It is separately unlikely Jackson envisioned a removable cover joined to a frame through a threaded connection. Cosby's invention is not Jackson's.

The distinction between Cosby's invention and Jackson's is further seen in the fact that US 6,889,393 (application 10/615,271 filed July 9, 2003; which cited Cosby's patent) entitled Combined portable stool and toilet was patented over Cosby's invention. Jackson clearly envisioned a dual function seat and toilet. If Jim Rinaldo could patent over Cosby, so could Jackson.

A report by Debra Dale of WBBM in Chicago has even more glaring errors.

Dale reported:

She [Cosby] has a theory as to what happened between the law firm and Joe Jackson.

Cosby says she waited until the last possible day to pay her patent renewal fee. She thinks maybe an attorney at Wood Phillips thought she was going to let it expire, and perhaps told Jackson that he might be able to patent his idea.

However, when she paid her renewal fee--through an agency other than Wood Phillips--she guesses that Jackson was told a patent already existed for a very similar product.

If, hypothetically, Cosby's patent were prior art to Joe Jackson's invention, it would be prior art WHETHER OR NOT Cosby's patent expired. Further, no reputable patent attorney would tell an inventor that he/she could patent an idea that was embodied in an expired or lapsed patent. The disclosures of an expired patent are in the public domain. That's the whole point of the patent system. The Dale/Cosby "theory" is untrue and represents a serious misunderstanding of the patent system.

Separately, the Dale report contains the text: --Her [Cosby's] attorney at Wood Phillips was John Mortimer. She says there are not that many patent attorneys in Chicago to choose from. --

One notes that Wood Phillips, located on the 38th floor of 500 W Madison St. in Chicago, is not even the largest patent firm in the building (check out the firm on the 34th floor), much less the largest firm in Chicago. There are MANY patent attorneys in Chicago to choose from.

***See also




WBBM has jpeg files on some of the Jackson documents.

One of the documents is titled "Disclosure to ISC and Record of Invention," which is dated February 10, 2002. Another document is a confidentiality agreement signed by Michael R. McKenna on February 11, 2002. It is possible that ISC referred Jackson to McKenna. A different document shows that in response to a question "what problem does it solve?" Jackson wrote: Just in case a driver ate a cup of chilli [sic: chili] that don't agree with him...


Blogger Eric said...

As a lawyer - you should know there is a big difference between getting a patent issued - and defending it in court when you get sued for infringement. I personally agree with Mike McKenna's assessment.

9:52 PM  
Blogger Lawrence B. Ebert said...

Eric, I think you are missing the point.

First, I am not commenting on, or disagreeing with, McKenna's assessment of "not patentable."

Second, I am saying that Leslie Cosby's invention is NOT Jackson's. As noted elsewhere on IPBiz (see post on google.com/patents), a patent cited by Cosby is closer to Jackson's invention.

Third, I have not yet seen a discussion of "which prior art" McKenna cited.

Fourth, lots of companies get patents which they know can't be defended, with a strategy of simply wearing down opponents. Even a small inventor might get some leverage in licensing talks by virtue of having a patent. Further, opinions differ. I personally didn't think the URochester patent on COX-2 inhibitors had a chance, but someone at URochester was willing to spend $10 million to check that (and to verify that).

Fifth, the Unocal patents come to mind. Lots of people didn't think those patents would stand up. But they did. One (disgruntled) manager of a competitor noted that he should have told his patent counsel (who said such a thing could not be patented): Well, patent the damned thing anyway.

8:43 PM  

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