Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Who Invented That?

A sample question from the US Patent Bar Exam:
Roger Rocket is a designer of paper cups at Paper America. During his free time, he likes to attend baseball games at Yankee Stadium. One day, while seated in the stands, he caught a fly ball. He took the baseball home and played catch with his friends Andy Cannon, Orlando Torpedo, and Mariano Missile. Unfortunately for Rocket, Cannon has a problem with accuracy. Cannon threw the ball over Rocket’s head and straight through a neighbor’s front window. The shattered glass ripped the lining off of the baseball. Instantly, Rocket conceived a more durable baseball with an exterior similar to that of a golf ball. Rocket worked for months on his invention in Missile’s garage. His new baseball was comprised of a titanium core, and a plastic shell having circular dimples and V‐shaped laces. Torpedo realized and told Rocket that Y‐shaped laces would enable baseball players to throw the ball faster. Cannon, an engineer in a radar gun laboratory, tested the velocity of the baseball with both V and Y‐shaped laces. To Cannon’s surprise, the baseball traveled 10 M.P.H. faster with the Y‐shaped laces. Rocket wanted patent protection for a baseball having a titanium core, and a plastic shell having circular dimples and Y‐shaped laces, so he approached Yogi Practitioner for assistance. Rocket has no obligation, contractual or otherwise, to assign his inventions to Paper America. 
In accordance with proper Patent Office practice and procedure, who should execute the oath [i.e., who are the inventors]?
(A) Rocket
(B) Rocket and Torpedo
(C) Rocket and Cannon
(D) Rocket, Torpedo, and Cannon
(E) Rocket, Torpedo, Cannon, and Missile


  1. Would handing out a clue give the answer away?

    First guess would be A. Second B, because Torpedo's idea changed the physical properties of the ball.

    Missile provided space and Cannon testing. Not sure those count.

  2. I have been trying to avoid this test question, as I no longer go to school, but I used to be pretty good at these things. Clearly this is a trick question, or it wouldn't have been asked. That makes me want to go with E. Common sense would indicate A is the actual answer, but the intersection of the set of common sense and the set of law probably is a null set.

  3. The answer is B, for the reasons MamaM suspected.

    The clue is in the verbs: "Rocket conceived..." and "Torpedo realized"; this is conception. Cannon just quantified what was already predicted. Missile was utterly passive.

  4. Obama said he didn't invent that.

    Yeah, I went there...

  5. Cannon's problem with accuracy results in something sailing over Rocket's head before Eureka occurs.

    I was consistently a B+ student, because I'd get tangled in the questions and would see/hear something from a different angle. I honestly don't know how students maintain a straight A record. Even when I knew the material, I'd end up with a couple wrong.

    I'm glad you reposted the question here, chickelit. I wouldn't have thought to look at the verbs, but it's clear now: it's all about conception.

    from L.concipere-to take in, receive, con-together, capere, to take.

    The taking in of something so a 3rd thing results?

  6. Back to the light a fire, as opposed to filling the bucket.

  7. The problem with these patent bar test questions is that they're chock full of useless fact cluttering the way towards the actual question. It's almost like you have to read the end first, then reread it.

    1. The name similarities add another layer to the clutter. Have you completed the test you were studying for or is that still to come?

    2. Not for another couple few weeks.

  8. Co-inventorship and co-authorship in the realm of science and technology makes an interesting comparison. A student may work on a problem or some aspect of a scientific paper and will garner--and rightfully expect--co-authorship. Not true in the patent world. A lazy but brilliant professor can conceive of an idea and delegate the details to a student: "Go, do this and see if it works." If it does work as expected, the student gets a publication but no patent, cruel but fair.

  9. I worked in family law, in an round-about way, and now read mainly malpractice deps - so my expertise (now that's funny!) boils down to two phrases - "forgiveness" for the first and "standard of care" for the second.

    About all else I shall plead ignorance, and no judge in the world would dare doubt me.