Sexy inventions have their place
Sexual appliances have subclass, says the Patent Office
massager-FEATURE
"SEXUAL APPLIANCE" is the official name of the US Patent and Trademark Office's Class 600, Subclass 38. Class 600, the broad-ranging general class of which Subclass 38 is a mere part, is for inventions that, in the view of the patent office, have to do with "SURGERY". Innovation, as seen by the Patent Office, does not happen willy-nilly. Innovation happens in the real world. In the real world, there are always constraints. To succeed, inventions must obey the physical laws of nature — they must be usable (and manufacturable) in way that is physically possible. And if you patent your innovation, it must be classified. Properly. The Patent Office oversees such a huge variety of inventions that it long ago invented its own, bounteous list of classes. Within each class, there are official subclasses. Class 600 (SURGERY), comes immediately after Class 588 (HAZARDOUS OR TOXIC WASTE DESTRUCTION OR CONTAINMENT). Within Class 600, Subclass 38 (SEXUAL APPLIANCE) comes immediately after Subclass 37 (INTERNAL ORGAN SUPPORT OR SLING). This is the official description of Subclass 38 (SEXUAL APPLIANCE):
SEXUAL APPLIANCE: This subclass is indented under the class definition. Subject matter which comprises means to substitute for or enhance the act of human copulation. (1) Note. The term copulation, as used in this subclass and those subordinate hereto, is considered to be inclusive of any permutation of gender among participants. (2) Note. The terminology copulation enhancement is considered to be inclusive of any device, appliance, or paraphernalia which provides a sexual aid or a substitute genitalia means.
Inventions do not always fall obviously into a particular class and subclass. In listing each subclass, the Patent Office also lists suggestions about other, maybe related, classes and subclasses. In the official listing for SEXUAL APPLIANCE, the Patent Office says:
SEE OR SEARCH CLASS: 2, Apparel, for waterproof or inflatable garments. 70, Locks, for handcuffs and similar restraint devices. 119, Animal Husbandry, appropriate subclasses for sexual means for enhancing reproduction in animals. 231, Whips and Whip Apparatus, for whips, lashes, and electric prods. 482, Exercise Devices, subclasses 140,141, and 148 for means to exercise various muscles of the body. 623, Prosthesis (i.e., Artificial Body Members), Parts Thereof, or Aids and Accessories Therefor, for devices which actually replace a body part.
Here's an example of an invention that officially falls in Subclass 38 (SEXUAL APPLIANCE) of Class 600 (SURGERY). (Thanks to Martin Gardiner for alerting me to it). "Pogo Prostate Massager", patent application 13/1631807, was filed on June 20, 2011 by Cliff John Atchinson and Mark Richard Plehn of Pinedale, Arizona. I have slightly redacted the patent's technical drawings, for fear they might confuse or disturb readers who are unfamiliar with inventions that fall under Class 600, subclass 38. You can see the original, full drawing in the patent itself). massager-application   NOTE: This invention is a good example of how variously useful a supposedly narrow-purpose device can be. Men have prostates (clarification: each man has a maximum of one prostate). Women do not. No matter, apparently. The patent application says: "The adjustable features of the invention provide for use by both male and female users."
Circling the block
Can mobile apps help make parking in Boston less miserable?
parking1
I’m an optimist, and so despite almost 15 years of searching for parking, getting ticketed, and being towed in Boston, I still believe that something will eventually mitigate the misery. Several new mobile apps promise to do that. So I loaded them on my iPhone this month and set out in search of parking. Read More
Dollars for scullers
Community Rowing creates innovation fund to promote interest in sport
Rowers at the Head of the Charles Regatta.  Jonathan Wiggs / Globe Staff.
Interesting initiative from Brighton-based Community Rowing, the largest rowing non-profit in the county, to generate some creative ideas about getting more people involved in the sport: they're creating a $200,000 innovation fund. And behind it are some venture capitalists and tech execs who also happen to be seasoned rowers. Read More
Virtual world
The virtual reality revolution arrives in Boston
Brian Ornstedt showed off a swiveling chair that connects into the Oculus and eliminates associated dizziness (Photo by Kyle Alspach)

It’s been about two decades since virtual reality arrived as a major area for technically-adept tinkerers to explore. They’re still tinkering. But it’s a different story now: The arrival of the Oculus Rift, and its $2 billion vote of confidence from Facebook, suggests that VR is finally on a path to the mainstream.

Read More