Friday, April 24, 2020

The meaning of "significantly flat," in patents and for Covid19

US Patent 10,610,035 titled "Spreading device" to Champions of Butter, Inc contains the words "significantly flat" in the following text:

The spreading device of the present disclosure may, in whole or in part, be provided in different shapes. FIGS. 1-6 depict a spreading device having a concave dispensing surface (i.e., the bottom of the spreading device, including the filter, is concave). Such a concave dispensing surface may be advantageous for applying a spreadable surface to a rounded surface, such as a cob of corn (as depicted in FIG. 6). Additionally or alternatively, the shape of the spreading device or the dispensing surface thereof may be provided as flat, convex, bent or some combination of the foregoing. For example, above-noted FIGS. 7-13 depict a substantially flat dispensing surface. Moreover, FIGS. 14-19, which are described as follows, also depict a substantially flat dispensing surface. Such a flat dispensing surface may be advantageous for applying a spreadable substance to a flat or significantly flat surface, such as bread/toast, meats or pastries.

US Patent 10,605,805 attempts to quantify the meaning of "significantly flat":

In some embodiments, significantly flat is determined relative to the final sample thickness, and has, depending upon on embodiments and applications, a ratio of to the sample thickness of less than 0.1%, less than 0.5%, less than 1%, less than 2%, less than 5%, or less than 10%, or a range between any two of these values

One could envision (hypothetically) a patent litigation over a claim involving the term "significantly flat." US Patent 7,752,986 does include "significantly flat" in its first claim [ A boat having a shallow draft hull, the hull comprising: a significantly flat bottom extending along a substantial length of the hull (...)]

On April 23, 2020, in the context of Covid19, Governor Murphy of New Jersey made the following statement:

"We continue to see the curve of new COVID-19 cases remain significantly flat, but we cannot ease up one bit on our social distancing. I am not in a position yet to begin reopening our state and jump starting our economy."


As we map the outbreak across the state, we continue to see a slowing in the rate of spread.


New Jersey publishes a Covid19 tracker, which presents the total number of identified cases (per nasal swab; not antibody testing) on each day.
This is available at IPBiz leaves it to the reader to judge whether there is a flattening or slowing of the rate of spread in New Jersey.

The frequently published "flattening the curve" argument presents two curves, which represent the derivatives (with respect to time) of plots of total number of cases on a given day. By measures such as social distancing, the rate of new cases is slowed, as illustrated by the curve peaking at longer times. These curves are based on an assumption that the total number of cases can be displayed as a sigmoidal curve, ultimately reaching a plateau value, wherein there are no new cases in the limit of a long time (for example, contemplate the logistic curve).

The first reported Covid19 case in New Jersey was on March 4, 2020. The stay at home order came on March 21, 2020. For reference, selected datapoints from the New Jersey Covid19 tracker are reproduced below.

New Jersey Stay at home order started 21 March 2020

Reported cases delta average delta

March 21: 1327
March 22: 1914
March 23: 2844
March 24: 3675


April 1: 22,255
April 2: 25,590
April 3: 29,895
April 4: 34,124
April 5: 37,505
April 6: 44,416



April 20: 88,806
April 21: 92,387
April 22: 95,865
April 23: 99,989



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