Prior Art

I previously posted my origin story but it turns out to be not quite true as I found prior art! I thought finding an antique router plane was what triggered my interest in patents, that was until I visited my parents. They still live in the house I grew up in. On a shelf was this 1974 Parker Brothers game that I played as a kid.

The 12 game cards are real patents. The cards show their issue dates but not their patent numbers and most of their titles were changed, possibly to make them more amusing. “Massage apparatus”, for example, becomes “Pounds away weight reducer” on the game card. Finding the patents online became a game for me, a game within the board game. The USPTO web site only allows patent number, issue date and category searches for patents issued before 1976, this was before google patents was a thing.

Here’s how the search for the Adjustable Clothes Pins went.

Step one: determine a likely uspto patent classification:

I searched the title field on the USPTO’s site for clothes pin in the “modern” patents (post 1975 patents are fully searchable). The search criteria was: ttl/”clothes pin” (in English that’s searching the title field for the two word phrase clothes pin) At the time I did this eleven patents were returned. I clicked on 4,945,613 to find its Current U.S. Classes: 24/501; 24/511

Step two: Issue a search in the non-modern (pre-1976) section where the only criteria allowed are patent number, classification and/or issue date. Fortunately wildcards are allowed on the advanced search page. My search was Query: “isd/11/9/1915 and ccl/24/$” Select years: “1976 to present [full-text]” (quotes not entered in the query box). In English that’s a patent issued on November 9, 1915 that is in classification 24 with any sub classification (there are usually a hundred or more sub classifications per class).

Fourteen patents meet this criteria. An image of each patent is displayed after clicking on the links returned from the USPTO site. The sixth one returned was the one I was looking for.

The game isn’t being made any more but it does appear on ebay pretty regularly. Below is the display of an rss feed that serves up a different playing card’s patent each day.

  • US Patent: 1,159,804US Patent: 1,159,804
    Clothes pin Patentee: Robert John Schulz - Saginaw MI Granted:1915-11-09 1 of 12 patents in the Parker Brothers Inventor's Game.…

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