Patent Argot

The Language and Wordplay of Patents

Inventors are their lexographers. The words may be in the dictionary but in the patent domain they take on new and interesting meanings. You'll find some of their creativity here.


On the language of innovation…

The difficulty of forming a clear conception of the subject is increased by the fact that while we have to deal with novel and strange facts, we have also to use old words in novel and inconsistent senses.

Harper's New Monthly Magazine on the telegraph, 1873

If the inventory of ready-made words in our language determines which concepts you are able to understand, how would you ever learn anything new?

Guy Deutscher, University of Manchester

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Article Holding Figurine
Article holding figurine image
A decorative item holding an object.
Autonomous vehicle
A vehicle that drives itself. A motor vehicle that uses artificial intelligence, sensors and global positioning system coordinates to drive itself without the active intervention of a human operator.


Bioluminescent Novelty Device

An image of a toy for blowing bubbles and a boy blowing bubbles that are bioluminescent.
The picture says it all.

Blockchain & Distributed Ledgers
In June of 2021 blockchain and its cohort distributed ledger technology (DLT) are two of the hottest technologies since the boom of the 1990s. But if you do a search for blockchain the Cooperative Patent Classification system to see how blockchain patents are classified you will find no results. (There are hundeds of patents that describe inventioins built on a blockchain or a digital ledger.) Cryptography, distributed computing, and methods of keeping an electronic ledger are not new even though how its used is innovative. Inventors of novel blockchain inventions found creative ways to describe blockchain technology without describing using the word blockchain. Here are a few of our favorites:
Term Description
A Time-Sequenced Immutable Database A time-sequenced immutable database is a distributed database that is implemented using a plurality of nodes.
The nodes each maintain a copy of a sequentially growing list or ledger of data records or query one or more other nodes.
An example of a blockchain implementation is a public ledger used for crypto-currency transactions. The data of a
blockchain may be encrypted and may include data other than crypto-currency transactions, e.g., smart contracts may be implemented using a blockchain.
(From IBM, the global leader by patent count.)
Digital Math-Based Assets Decentralized digital asset network that uses a decentralized electronic ledger in the form of a blockchain maintained by a
plurality of physically remote computer systems to track at least one of asset ownership or transactions in a digital math based asset system.
(From WINKLEVOSS IP, LLC. Yes, of Facebook fame.)
Shared Append-Only Ledger A blockchain.
Mutual Append-Only Transactional Log A blockchain.
Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG) A variation on blockchain technology described as inter-referencing cryptographically verifiable records.
(Used by Hedera and SkuChain.)


Coffee Cup Insulator from patent 5,205,473Cardboard Coffee Cup Insulator
A recyclable, insulating beverage container holder, comprising a corrugated tubular member comprising cellulosic material and at least a first opening therein for receiving and retaining a beverage container — This definition is brought to you by GAO in its August 22, 2013 report on patents. To the rest of us this is known as the holder thingy that you put on your Starbucks Venti Oatmilk Two Splenda Latte to keep your fingers from burning off.

Closure Member
A closure member is a DOOR. Many enclosures (e.g., safes, freezers, refrigerators, emergency shelters, etc.) include a closure member configured to allow access to an enclosed space, and then to be closed to provide a desired level of protection for items and/or entities within the enclosure. Closure members associated with such enclosures, due to their protective nature, are typically made of metal or other dense material, and are sturdy and frequently dangerously heavy.

Closure Member Stop
A closure member stop is a door stop. This explains why you need a closure member stop: When such a closure member closes unintentionally, due to, for example, gravity, lack of levelness, an unexpected force such as moving air (e.g., wind), and/or being bumped (e.g., by a person), etc., a person desiring to operate the closure member, or even simply in proximity to the closure member, can be surprised by the closure member coming into contact with the enclosure frame unexpectedly (e.g., slamming), and even injured during such an event by squeezing and/or crushing a body part, such as a finger, arm, or foot, between the closure member and the enclosure frame or opening. This is especially true for heavy closure members associated with protective enclosures. Door Stop Image To keep a door from slamming on your hand you need a Closure Member Stop.

Reduced to minute particles or fragments
Computing Device
A computing device is an exemplary device including Wi-Fi controller, the access points, and the stations. The computing device can be a mobile computing device, a laptop device, a smartphone, a tablet device, a phablet device, a video game console, a personal computing device, a stationary computing device, a server blade, an Internet appliance, a virtual computing device, a distributed computing device, a cloud-based computing device, or any appropriate processor-driven device.
This definition was pre-Internet of Things, self-driving cars, refrigerators with cameras and Wi-Fi connectivity so you can see what's in the fridge while shopping online using your phablet.
A Thing. More particularly — a thing that is created skillfully and inventively to serve a particular purpose. The word contrivance appears in patents when the inventor doesn't want to tie the invention to a particular device or class of object.

As in 'A roller contrivance intended for at least one foot": roller blade image
A vehicle used for transportation.


Device independent message distribution platform
TWITTER — A system (and method) for device-independent point to multipoint communication is disclosed. The system is configured to receive a message addressed to one or more destination users, the message type being, for example, Short Message Service (SMS), Instant Messaging (IM), E-mail, web form input, or Application Program Interface (API) function call. The system also is configured to determine information about the destination users, the information comprising preferred devices and interfaces for receiving messages, the information further comprising message receiving preferences. Inventors are Jack Dorsey and Christopher Isaac "Biz" Stone. See US Patent 8,401,009
Digital Bazaar
An electronic marketplace for used digital objects like ebooks purchased from Amazon or music purchased on the iTunes Store. See 8364595 B1. image of digital marketplace design


Excercise Escalator

Exercise Escalator

Think Stairmaster™ — "An escalator type apparatus for exercising a subject "in situ" in a simulated stair climbing activity, comprising a structure including a flight of steps movable in a closed loop, each step having a closed riser affixed thereto, and means operatively connected to said apparatus for measuring the effort of a subject in the act of simulated climbing of said movable steps." The exercise escalator was invented by Walter Harrison and Samuel Talbot from Johns Hopkins University as a way to access cardiovascular health. According to their patent, The Exercise Escalator is especially suited for multi-lead electrocardiography during the exercise of patients with coronary heart disease...presenting minimal danger to the weak and unsteady; one which exercises the muscles habitually used by nonathletic people... See US Patent 3,497,215




Hook and Loop Fasting Systems
Velcro™ — a fastener for clothes or other items, consisting of two strips of thin plastic sheet, one covered with tiny loops and the other with tiny flexible hooks, which adhere when pressed together and can be separated when pulled apart deliberately.AKA the zipperless zipper. A number of Velcro Corporation products were displayed at a fashion show at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York in 1959. The fabric got its first break when it was used in the aerospace industry to help astronauts maneuver in and out of bulky space suits. Per Wikipedia, touch fasteners only became widely used after NASA's adoption of it,


Information Recording Medium
An information recording medium is also USB drive, a thumbdrive. A USB flash drive consists of a flash memory data storage device integrated with a USB (Universal Serial Bus) 1.1 or 2.0 interface.




Linear Television
Watching television according to the schedule and on the channel prescribed by the content provider.


Multi-media Object
Multimedia object images, videos, live motion digital files, audio files combinations. Also in place advertising placement and creating dynamically personalized media. Picture of multimedia object inserted into a digital ad




Personal mobility business models
Zipcar executives talk about their sophisticated computer implemented "personal mobility" proprietary business models when announcing Zipcar's merger with Avis. Note to patent prosecution language architects — renting a car (or maybe a bike share) is now a personal mobility business method when it uses a sophisticated computer implemented method — the reservation system. "A computer assisted method of using the Avis cars that sit unrented on the weekend to fill the personal mobility access requests from personal mobility orderers when there is higher than normal requests for personal mobility on Saturdays". Uber and Lyft fit into the paradigm as well.
Bigger than a smartphone, smaller than a tablet. First patent appearance in January 2013 in Patent Application 13/54041. Phablet continues to appear in patents. It appeared in 11,006,422, granted on May 11, 2021.
Porous Tip Liquid Applicator
Felt tip marker. "Porous tip liquid applicators such as the highly popular "felt tip marker" have enjoyed great popularity through the years." See US Patent 2,643,409 Fountain Marker, an early design of a porous tip writing instrument.
Portable Wagering Media (Medium)
Tokens, chips, cashless gaming tickets; wagering chip for use at a table game. Think color chips for use while playing roulette, blackjack, or poker. Basically you can pick up the chips and move to a new game so they are portable wagering media.




Single Action Ordering System
Amazon One click shopping or ordering a pay-per-view movie with your cable system remote control where your personal and credit card information is already stored at the server so all you have to do is "execute a single action" before WWE Raw or the latest On-Demand movie can be seen on the TV. See US Patent 5,960,411.
Apple's Note Pad app that looks like…a notepad. iBooks which presents documents in an interface that looks like a bookcase. Skeumorphism is a design style where applications mimic the real world.
Social Expression Card
What Hallmark Cards, Incorporated and others market as a greeting card is called a social expression card in patent speak. See US 6,493,970
A method of paying a second party. See US Patent 9,436,955Drawings of the Square Device from the patent application.
Supernumerary Robotic Limbs
Supernumerary Robotic Limbs (SRL) is a wearable robot which provides a human user with two additional robotic arms. The SRL is being used to assist wearers in complex tasks, to compensate for their weight while working in uncomfortable positions, and to augment their balance during walking. US Patent 11000945 — Wearable robotic systems for supporting a load granted on May 11, 2021. Drawings of the supernumerary robotic limbs being used by a person.




See Hook and Loop Fastening Systems


Writing Appliances, also writing implement, marking device, marking pen, writing instrument with refillable reservoir.


A Pen, pencil, felt tip marker. Just in case you don't know what a writing appliance is, consider this definition:

An implement having a longitudinal axis, comprising an essentially tubular body, a retractable nib mounted at an open end of this body, an actuator located at the opposite end of this body, a retractor means for retracting said nib and connecting the nib to the actuator through said body and transferring a movement applied to the actuator into a displacement of said nib along the longitudinal axis between a retracted position and an extended position, a guard member of said open end comprising a plurality of guard petals, each mounted so as to be able to move between an open position and a closed position about a pivot axis tangent to a circle concentric with the longitudinal axis, and a movement transfer means integral with said body, synchronized by said retractor means, and connected to said guard petals to transfer the movement applied to the actuator into a pivoting movement of said guard petals; in which implement said retractor means consists of a cylindrical cam comprising a first helix read by a first cam feeler integral with the body, and a second helix read by a second cam feeler integral with said nib.




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