A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a process or product that provides a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. To acquire a patent, technical information about the invention must be disclosed to the public in a federal patent application.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) receives more than 500,000 patent applications each year. Many of these patent application requests are for some pretty whacky devices and ideas, including: vibrating tattoos, kissing shields, high-five machines, and portable nuclear shields. Some patents are much more practical, however.
According to Engadget, Apple recently had a new patent approved for a pair of over-ear headphones that could make it impossible to actually put headphones on wrong.
The patent, titled “System and method for automatic right-left ear detection for headphones,” details a concept for a reversible pair of headphones that would adjust the right and left ear audio depending on how they are put on.
Approximately 73% of the U.S. workforce — 100 million people — are knowledge workers who work primarily in open office environments. In these spaces, Apple’s new “cotton swap” headphones are already ubiquitous. It would be quite rude for these knowledge workers to blast music, sports broadcasts, or podcasts out of a speaker, so headphones are popular options in just about every office building across the country. Apple’s new over-ear headphones might soon be commonplace among the workplace, as this invention would focus much more on higher-end audio previously unseen (and unheard) in conventional headphones.
Apple has already been a leader in the headphone market, but the company has done so under the Beats brand. These new headphones would be under Apple’s own name, rather than Beats.
Once these headphones have determined their placement on a user’s head, five microphones inside each ear cup will adjust accordingly so the user will be able to ear high-quality audio correctly. Additionally, the patent describes how these headphones use microphone arrays to capture the user’s voice and cancel out background noise so they can be heard clearly during conversations, even with the headphones on.
Since Apple already has a tremendous following, we could soon see these new high-tech headphones donned on office workers, students, and even professional athletes alike.
If you want to learn more about the patent process or are hoping to get a patent of your own, here is some information that should help:
Types of Patents: There are three primary types of patents you can acquire: utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. There are also provisional patents, which is not a full patent but can be useful for those in the early stages of the process.
- Utility Patent — Utility patents are the most common patent type and protect the way an article is used and works. Anything from a unique invention to a technical machine process can fall under the utility patent umbrella.
- Design Patent — Design patents protect the way an article looks. It’s important to note, however, that not any design can be patented.
According to the U.S. government: “The ornamental appearance for an article includes its shape/configuration or surface ornamentation applied to the article, or both. Both design and utility patents may be obtained on an article if invention resides both in its utility and ornamental appearance.”
- Plant Patent — Plant patents are not common for individual inventors or even business owners. These pants allow individuals to patent a new variety of plant that was “invented or discovered and asexually reproduced.”