More patent stuff than you would ever want to see...
First off, I made a mistake in the URL for the actual Patent and Trademark Office. The correct URL is www.uspto.gov/#
. I've corrected this in the original posting as well.
(The other one that I ginned up on my own without looking leads to a for-profit site that looks like the government one, but is really a portal to a whole series of private money makers. Getting a patent costs enough by itself without having one of these vultures suck you dry as well.)
The answer to that is that the prior art for almost anything is quite wide indeed. For example, if someone else had similarly modified his front F key, and if this modification was "widely known" (usually, this implies publication, but with modern developments publication has acquired a whole different meaning - think a photo on a web site of the performer playing), then it becomes a race to the patent office and the first one through the gates wins (usually).
(Hereafter, I'll use "your" instead of "your friend's" - it's a lot easier to keep things sorted out, grammar-wise.)
There are many, many examples of this process, the most famous of which was the Alexander Graham Bell "invention" of the telephone. Someone else came up with it first, but Bell beat him by a half hour
or so in getting his application filed (physically, at the actual front desk of the PTO). Much litigation ensued, but Bell remained the winner and that was that. (He did not make any subsequent improvements to the device, from what I have read over the years - in itself a good indication that something fishy was going on with "his" invention.
So, how do you search the "prior art" for something like a high F key? The answer lies in that book I referred to above. There are two (or more) chapters on prior art, and searching for it. It can be fascinating (at least I found it so) or frustrating, depending on your tolerance for reading. But, it has to be done in the PTO files at the very least. Fortunately, much of it can be done on line these days - when I got my patent, there was no "internets" upon which to do this. (Gawd but I'm an old fart..._
The files of the Patent and Trademark Office are the primary source, of course. But, it could be that your idea has already been patented in Europe or Japan or elsewhere. That's prior art, and it's enough to scuttle your application.
There's also publication. If the novel idea has been published, I believe that it starts a one year clock, during which time an application can still be filed and be patented. In that case, it's still a race to the patent office, only you need to argue (through your records) that you thought of it first. This is not the best route to take, since someone may beat you to the punch.
There's also "discovery" (at least I think that it is the term - it's been a few years). This is a notice that you file with the PTO, often nothing more than a one page summary of your idea (with a sketch if needed), witnessed by one other party. This "freezes" your intent to patent the invention, and gives you a "priority" for the originality of the concept. You still have to do the search, write the application, and perfect the claims.
There's one other thing that I have yet to mention. In addition to "regular patents", there are also "design patents". It may be that the improved high F key would not pass the "novelty" test, but it may well pass the much less stringent test for a design patent, which allows the inventor to protect appearance. Design patents are taken on automobile body designs, toaster designs - anything where physical appearance is primary. It is relatively easy to get a design patent, and it may be the only route open if you cannot prove the novelty that a slightly different arrangement may offer.
One last thing - your "invention" cannot be "obvious", that is to say something that anyone familiar with the prior art would automatically be able to derive. This is a fine point, and the examiners are not quick to jump to it. But, it is a hurdle that has to be overcome.
Here's the text portion of my patent; the formatting is not as good as the original:
BEGINNING OF PATENT DOCUMENT
United States Patent 4,796,507
Stibal January 10, 1989
Reed holding device
A reed holding device for single-reed woodwind musical instruments constructed of a strip of knitted or woven material having a plurality of pile loops on one of its surfaces, and a plurality of hooks formed by cutting loops on the opposite surface. The strip is wound around the mouthpiece and reed of the musical instrument in a helical fashion with the surface having the uncut loops placed against the surface of the mouthpiece and reed. The free ends of the strip are secured in place by pressing the pile loops on the one surface into the formed hooks on the other surface on the wrapping placed immediately above or below.
Inventors: Stibal; Terry L. (Belleville, IL)
Appl. No.: 06/823,347
Filed: January 28, 1986
Current U.S. Class: 84/383A ; 984/142
Current International Class: G10D 9/00 (20060101); G10D 9/02 (20060101); G10D 009/02 ()
Field of Search: 84/318,383B 248/205.2 24/442-450
References Cited [Referenced By]
U.S. Patent Documents
555561 March 1896 Cadwallader
1496535 June 1924 Hammann
2292584 August 1942 Tafarella
3941159 March 1976 Toll
4056997 November 1977 Rovner
4185535 January 1980 Lorenzini
Primary Examiner: Buller; Benjamin R.
1. A holding device for a reed placed against a surface of a mouthpiece of a single-reed musical instrument, said device comprising a single unitary continuous strip material, having a base comprised of first and second surfaces, having attached to said first surface a plurality of loops made of flexible resilient material, and having attached to said second surface a plurality of hooks made of flexible resilient material, said strip material being wound around said mouthpiece and said reed in a helical fashion with said first surface placed against said mouthpiece and said reed, ends of said strip material secured in place by engaging said loops on said first surface into the surface of said hooks by winding of said strip material around said mouthpiece and said reed, said strip material exerting holding pressure against said reed.
2. A holding device for a reed placed against a surface of a mouthpiece of a single-reed woodwind musical instrument according to claim 1 wherein said holding pressure applied to said reed is regulated by the tension applied to said strip material when wound around said mouthpiece and said reed.
3. A holding device for a reed placed against a surface of a mouthpiece of a single-reed woodwind musical instrument according to claim 1 wherein said holding pressure applied to said reed can be varied by sliding said device up and down said mouthpiece and said reed.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates to single-reed woodwind musical instruments and specifically to an improved means of attachment of a single beating reed to the mouthpiece table of such instruments.
Heretofore, single-reed woodwind musical instruments, such as those of the clarinet and saxophone families, utilized one of two varieties of reed holding devices (commonly called ligatures) to secure the single beating reed that acts as the sound generator to the reed attachment area, or table, of the instrument mouthpiece. From the inception of the single-reed mouthpiece, a wrapping of waxed string, twine or cord around both the mouthpiece and the reed has been used, at first from the want of better means. Even today, this method is preferred in Germany and some other European nations. It is generally agreed upon by those familiar with these families of instruments that the use of string, twine or cord affords a greater degree of flexibility to the reed which in turn allows the instrument to produce a superior tone that is more responsive to the manipulation of the player. However, the musical qualities of a string, twine-, or cord-wrapped reed and mouthpiece combination are more than outweighed by the cumbersome and time-consuming process of winding and unwinding the string, twine or cord when it becomes necessary to rapidly change and/or adjust the reed during the course of a performance. In order to overcome this disadvantage, the second variety of reed holding device was developed, starting with the invention of the twin-screw metal band reed holding device by the great clarinet virtuoso Ivan Mueller at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Since that time, such reed holding devices have generally replaced the use of string, twine or cord throughout most of the world. This type of reed holding device, whether of metal, plastic or of other materials, affords the player of a single-reed windwind musical instrument a means of securing the reed to the mouthpiece that allows rapid removal and replacement. However, such convenience of adjustment carries with it the loss of the flexible response allowed by the use of string, twine or cord. This is due to the rigid formed materials used in these devices which tend to restrict the free vibration of the reed. In addition, such rigid formed devices present the additional disadvantage of a lack of adaptability to all of the sizes and varieties of single-reed mouthpieces in use for a given type of instrument. Mouthpieces for all single-reed woodwind musical instruments come in a variety of lengths, diameters and tapers. For example, the degree of taper can vary from virtually no taper at all, as is seen in some metal saxophone mouthpieces, to a high degree of taper, such as seen in certain hard rubber mouthpieces made for the same instruments. Finally, the reed holding devices of this type are relatively complex and correspondingly harder to fabricate compared with one composed of string, twine or cord.
Although several attempts have been made in the prior art to combine the features of the above types of reed holding devices, no adequate solution to the problem of even distribution of a flexible holding force (such as that provided by string, twine or cord) over the length of the reed of a single-reed woodwind mouthpiece without the corresponding disadvantages of application of the multiple wrappings of string, twine or cord has yet been proposed. In addition, all of the attempts in the prior art have been incapable of being applied to all of the various geometries of mouthpieces available for a given type of instrument. For example, Lorenzini U.S. Pat. No. 4,185,535 shows the use of spaced string restraints combined with either tapered or straight rigid brackets. This embodiment applies tension to the restraints at only two locations, and must be procured in a configuration matching that of the mouthpiece in order to allow proper use. The provision of a fixed holding means for the string restraints does not allow the restraints to freely conform to any irregularities presented by the contours of the reed and tends to leave one or more of the various sections of the string not in proper contact with the bark of the reed. The Rovner U.S. Pat. No. 4,056,997 utilizes a strip of rubber-impregnated fabric adjusted by a single thumbscrew. It can be seen that the use of an elastic medium such as rubber-impregnated fabric does not duplicate the even holding characteristics of a ligature made of a continuous wrapping of string, twine or cord. Furthermore, the embodiment shown does not apply tension evenly throughout the entire strip when used on all geometries of mouthpiece and reed combinations due to the fixed configuration of the fabric strip combined with the limited adjustment range of the single thumbscrew provided. The Tafarella U.S. Pat. No. 2,292,584 approaches the problem by another means, utilizing a rigid collar of plastic material provided with strips of felt which isolate the device from contact with the mouthpiece. However, this embodiment does not restrain the reed with string-like means since it employs a slide of plastic material bearing against the rigid collar to locate and secure the reed in place. Also, the variations of taper between individual geometries of mouthpieces available for a given type of instrument combined with the limited adjustment range provided by this embodiment require a specific version for each style of mouthpiece available for a given type of instrument. The Cadwallader U.S. Pat. No. 555,561 employs a continuously-wrapped quantity of cord wound between two metal loops adjusted by a single thumbscrew. Although the cord provides a flexible holding medium, the friction between the wrappings prevents the cord from evenly distributing the pressure applied by the single thumbscrew over the bark of the reed. In addition, the limited adjustment range provided by this embodiment would require a specific version for each style of mouthpiece available for a given type of instrument.
None of the items in the prior art describe a reed holding device which provides the even application of pressure to the back of the single-beating reed that affords the freedom of response as that applied by a continuous wrapping of string, twine or cord while at the same time allowing the ease of application, removal and adjustment afforded by the various types of Mueller-derived metal or plastic screw adjustable ligatures.
These and various other problems were not satisfactorily resolved until the emergence of the instant invention.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
In accordance with the present invention, there is provided a reed holding device for single-reed woodwind instruments. The present invention further provides a readily adaptable reed holding device that allows the freedom of response afforded by string, twine or cord without the extreme inconvenience of application, removal and adjustment provided by such reed holding devices.
Further objects and advantages of my invention will become apparent from a consideration of the drawings and ensuing description thereof.
DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is a perspective view showing a portion of the reed holding device.
FIG. 2 is a perspective view showing the reed holding device in place on the mouthpiece of a clarinet.
FIG. 3 is a side view showing the reed holding device in place on the mouthpiece of a clarinet.
FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view along lines 4--4 of FIG. 3.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PERFERRED EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION
As shown in FIG. #1 of the drawings, the holding device 1 includes a base 2 of a relatively non-elastic flexible substance such as woven cloth, metal mesh or other suitable material having first and second surfaces 3 and 5. Attached to said first and second surfaces 3 and 5 are a plurality of closely spaced interengageable hooking elements, where said first surface 3 is provided with hooking elements comprising loops of flexible resilient material 4 secured thereto in positions generally extending vertically from said first surface and where said second surface 5 is provided with hooking elements comprising hooks made of flexible resilient material 6 secured thereto in positions generally extending vertically from said second surface. The physical dimensions of said base 2 may be varied dependent on the specific type of instrument to which said holding device 1 is to be applied. It has been found that one specific length and width of said holding device 1 will fit all variations of diameter, taper and length of the various styles of mouthpiece available for each given type of instrument. For example, all versions of soprano clarinet mouthpieces commonly encountered on the commercial market can utilize a length of base 2 of 223/8 inches with a width of 3/16 inch.
FIG. #2 shows said holding device 1 applied to a single-reed musical instrument mouthpiece 7 and reed 9 of the conventional type used with clarinets, saxophones or the like. Said holding device 1, of a length and width suitable for the mouthpiece at hand, is wound around said mouthpiece 7 and said reed 9 in a helical fashion with said first surface 3 placed against the outer surface 8 of said mouthpiece 7 and against the reed 9. The ends 10 and 11 of said holding device 1 are secured in place by pressing said ends 10 and 11 against the surface 12 formed by the helical windings of said holding device 1, thus engaging said loop elements 4 attached to said first surface 3 into said hook elements 6 attached to said second surface 5. Once so configured, the combination of said mouthpiece 7 and said reed 9 surrounded by the windings of said holding device 1 places said loop elements 4 in compression, thereby exerting holding pressure against said reed 9.
It can be seen that once said holding device 1 is so configured, an adjustment of the degree of holding pressure applied to the reed by said holding device 1 may be obtained in two ways. The most direct of these two methods is performed by lifting either of said ends (10 or 11) from said surface 12, slightly increasing or decreasing the tension on the detached end, and then again pressing said lifted end (10 or 11) onto said surface 12. The resultant change of tension in said base 2 causes either an increase or decrease in the degree of compression of said loops of flexible resilient material 4, thereby increasing or decreasing the amount of holding pressure exerted against said reed 9. An alternate method of varying the degree of amount of holding pressure exerted by said holding device 1 is provided by sliding said holding device 1 up or down the tapered mouthpiece main body section 13.
It is noted by an inspection of FIGS. #3 and #4, that said reed 9 is secured in place by the holding pressure of said loop elements 4 attached to said first surface 3 of said holding device 1. This holding pressure, plus the unconnected circumferential wrappings of said holding device 1 that lay across the back of said reed 9, allow free vibration throughout its entire length in a similar fashion to the traditional string ligature, while still allowing rapid removal, replacement and adjustment of the reed. This is permitted since the configuration of said holding device 1 is retained when said holding device 1 is slid off of the mouthpiece due to the overlap of said ends 10 and 11 over said surface 12 presented by the successive wrappings of said holding device 1.
The invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from the spirit of essential characteristics thereof. The present embodiments are, therefore, to be considered in all aspects as illustrative and not restrictive. The scope of the invention being indicated by the appended claims rather than the foregoing description and all changes which come within the meaning and range of equivalency of the claims are, therefore, intended to be embraced therein.
END OF PATENT DOCUMENT
I have put in bold type the critical claims section - this is the actual patent "meat", if you will. You'll note that it's wordy and convoluted, but it is critical that the wording be precise enough to make the invention distinct from any other device from the written description alone
. I had only three claims; many patents have twenty or thirty.
The more precise the claims, the stronger the patent. Conversely, you want to get as broad a description approved as possible. That's where "weasel words" such as those in italics above are critical.
Where a patent attorney comes in handy is that you can bounce ideas off of your attorney, and he can refine them and make suggestions as to how to change your wording and so forth. I didn't use one, instead doing my patent pro se
, without the benefit of attorney. It's more tedious and time consuming than hard, as long as you are able to argue with yourself, and refine your thinking. Most will need an illustrator for the drawings (I paid for one, doing my initial drawings on the computer and only having the finished version executed when I obtained word that my claims were approved.)
I've only gone to the PTO well one time, with the above patent. It's certainly not rocket science, but it was my original idea, and it will remain that into perpetuity. My toddler daughter actually put me up to it, and I have to say that I had fun doing it.
I have another idea (in a totally unrelated field from music, pertaining to sex, I am ashamed to say) that I mean to get around to some day. Maybe next year...