The Walkin Squawkin Patent Examiner Blues – Part 1

I got this in an e-mail from my U.S. Patent Office Patent Examiner on Jan 24th, 2018:

“I cannot conceive of any way to generate an “infinite” (your word) table that would accommodate the breadth of claim 28. You mentioned going through this and “visually” deleting duplicates. How do you do that with infinite pickups? How do you do it with 500,00 pickups? 10,000? 500? You mention FFT, claim 28 is silent as to any FFT. Or, how do you create a table-lookup system to delete duplicates of, say, 500,000,000 pickups? 10,000? 500? Even 25? And finally, to me, removing duplicates is pretty obvious, e.g., to optimize user experience, to reduce CPU load, minimize memory/storage, etc. I just did a quick search of “eliminate duplicates” and returned about 14,000 hits.”

Speaking of “obvious”, I got this from Google today:

Can you say “super obvious”?

There’s a mathematical object, with which some Patent Examiners may not be familiar, called an “infinite series”. It doesn’t mean that you have to take it all the way to infinity, just that in principle it can be taken that far, according to some relatively simple rule.

I have a relatively simple set of rules for expanding pickup (and other sensor) circuit topologies from a single pickup, to a series and parallel pair, up to any number and complexity of series-parallel circuits you might wish. To cover all the cases, these rules happen to generate a number of duplicate circuit topologies that have to be eliminated, before counting up how many different ways you can get potentially unique tones from those pickup circuits. For small number, you just look at them and ask, “Which one of these is like one of the others?”

Simple, but most inventors who have filed pickup circuit patents haven’t bothered even to draw out the circuits their switching systems produce. Consequently, their patented switching circuits often have a number of duplicate circuits, producing duplicate tones. And even a number of circuits producing no output at all.

This goes all the way back to the Fender Marauder patent, US3290424, C.L. Fender, 1966. Four 3-throw switches gave it 81 different parallel-circuit switch configurations, of which one had no output. About half of the rest are duplicate circuits with duplicate tones, simple because of you reverse the output connections of a pickup circuit, the human ear cannot tell difference without any other reference. And of the unique tones, only a small fraction could have been humbucking.

The Marauder allegedly failed in the marketplace for being too noisy. Not to mention 81 switch positions with no map to the tones and duplicate tones.

So I systematically went about determining just how many unique series-parallel connections you could get from J number of pickups, how many unique ways you could switch pickups from one spot in the circuit to another, and how many unique ways you could reverse the connections of one or more pickups in the circuit to get a new tone. The number of unique topologies for J pickups don’t seem to have an equation, but number of ways you can switch pickup positions and reverse connections do.

So, how do you figure this out for “500,000 pickups?” Can you say “computer”?

Claiming, “I cannot conceive of any way to generate”, is like saying that because it is difficult to add 3000 10-digit numbers, that one must throw out the principles and methods to add 2 4-digit numbers. And besides that, the claim involving FFTs was past where this gentleman had bothered to read, in the second independent claim set.

And last, but not least, no matter how many unique circuits and tones you may devise, they are not truly unique until they are proven unique with actual spectral measurements. Because as the Great Murphy can tell you from his Law, if two tones can be very close together as to be virtually indistinguishable, they will be. You just don’t know which ones or how many. And that children, is why we say “potentially unique”.

It seems than an engineer has much less problem with this fact of nature and life than at least one U.S. Patent Examiner.

(c) 2018 Don Baker   dba   android originals LC

This entry was posted in Humor/Satire, Patent news, Pickup circuits & switching, Tutorial and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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