Understanding Apple Patent: Method Patents

Understanding Apple's Patent to Remotely Control Cell Phone Functions: 
Method Patents
by Susan Basko, esq.

There's been a flurry of news recently about a patent granted to Apple for a method to remotely control cell phone functions.  I will write more about that patent and another similar patent by a different company in an upcoming essay. 

Today, the topic is method patents.  The Apple patent in question is a "method patent." That means they have patented the method of doing these things. They don't have the inventions or equipment or programs to do them.  All they have is a method.  This is like when you sit around and think, "Wouldn't it be cool if there was a way to -- ?" And if you have enough money or a friend who is a patent lawyer, you will patent it.    The Apple patent, which I have read in its boring entirety, simply lists ideas, such as the idea (or "method") of controlling a phone ringer, phone lights, phone camera, phone use, etc. via controls using gps or radio frequency.  I will tell more about it in a soon upcoming post.

The U.S. Patent Office is NOT very careful on what gets a method patent.  To illustrate this, I am including a REAL patent below. This is real, not satire.  Ever make a cat run around by shining a laser pointer flashlight on the floor?  The cat chases the little red dot and gets exercise.  Yes, you did this? You were violating someone's method patent.

The people with the patent below have not patented how a laser works, or how a cat works.  They have patented a method of making a cat chase a red dot.  This is a whole lot like what Apple has done.  

United States Patent5,443,036
Amiss ,   et al.August 22, 1995

Method of exercising a cat 

A method for inducing cats to exercise consists of directing a beam of invisible light produced by a hand-held laser apparatus onto the floor or wall or other opaque surface in the vicinity of the cat, then moving the laser so as to cause the bright pattern of light to move in an irregular way fascinating to cats, and to any other animal with a chase instinct.

Inventors:Amiss; Kevin T. (Alexandria, VA), Abbott; Martin H. (Fairfax, VA)
Appl. No.:08/144,473
Filed:November 2, 1993

Current U.S. Class:119/707
Current International Class:A01K 15/02 (20060101); A01K 15/00 (20060101); A01K 029/00 ()
Field of Search:119/702,707,174,905 446/485

References Cited [Referenced By]

U.S. Patent Documents
3877171April 1975Sloop et al.
4208701June 1980Schock
4231077October 1980Joyce et al.
4757515July 1988Hughes
4761715August 1988Brooks
4926438May 1990Maes et al.
4985029January 1991Hoshino
5056097October 1991Meyers
5194007March 1993Marshall et al.

Other References

Carayan et al., "Effects of tianeptine on the Performance of a reaching movement in a cat", Psychopharmacology, vol. 104, Issue 3, Berlin, 1991, pp. 328-336. .
Levesque et al., "Visual `cortical-recipient` and tectal-recepient pontine zones play distinct roles in cat visuomotor performance", Behavioral Brain Research, vol. 39, Netherlands, 1990, pp. 157-166..

Primary Examiner: Manahan; Todd E.


What is claimed is:

1. A method of inducing aerobic exercise in an unrestrained cat comprising the steps of:

(a) directing an intense coherent beam of invisible light produced by a hand-held laser apparatus to produce a bright highly-focused pattern of light at the intersection of the beam and an opaque surface, said pattern being of visual interest to a cat; and

(b) selectively redirecting said beam out of the cat's immediate reach to induce said cat to run and chase said beam and pattern of light around an exercise area.

2. The method of claim 1 wherein said bright pattern of light is small in area relative to a paw of the cat.

3. The method of claim 1 wherein said beam remains invisible between said laser and said opaque surface until impinging on said opaque surface.

4. The method of claim 1 wherein step (b) includes sweeping said beam at an angular speed to cause said pattern to move along said opaque surface at a speed in the range of five to twenty-five feet per second.



1. Technical Field

The present invention relates to recreational and amusement devices for domestic animals and, more particularly, to a method for exercising and entertaining cats.

2. Discussion of the Prior Art

Cats are not characteristically disposed toward voluntary aerobic exercise. It becomes the burden of the cat owner to create situations of sufficient interest to the feline to induce even short-lived and modest exertion for the health and well-being of the pet. Cats are, however, fascinated by light and enthralled by unpredictable jumpy movements, as for instance, by the bobbing end of a piece of hand-held string or yarn, or a ball rolling and bouncing across a floor. Intense sunlight reflected from a mirror or focused through a prism, if the room is sufficiently dark, will, when moved irregularly, cause even the more sedentary of cats to scamper after the lighted image in an amusing and therapeutic game of "cat and mouse." The disruption of having to darken a room to stage a cat workout and the uncertainty of collecting a convenient sunbeam in a lens or mirror render these approaches to establishing a regular life-enhancing cat exercise routine inconvenient at best.


Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide an improved method of exercising a cat in normal day and night lighting environments.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a method of providing amusing, entertaining and healthy exercise for a cat.

It is yet another object of the present invention to teach a method of exercising a cat effortlessly at any time.

In accordance with the present invention, a light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation (laser) device in a small hand-held configuration is used to project and move a bright pattern of light around a room to amuse and exercise a cat.

The method is effective, simple, convenient and inexpensive to practice and provides healthy exercise for the cat and amusement and entertainment for both the cat and the owner.

These and other objects, features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following description and accompanying drawings of one specific embodiment thereof.


FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a cat owner exercising a cat in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a plan view of a hand-held laser exerciser.


Referring to the drawings, a light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation (laser) apparatus 10 for exercising cats, in the hands of a cat owner 12, emits an invisible beam 14 of light from and along the longitudinal axis of the device barrel 16. Activation of the laser cat exerciser 10 is controlled by spring-loaded trigger 18 energizing the laser mechanism by completing a battery power circuit. A cat 20 reacts to the bright pattern of light 22 occurring at the intersection of the laser beam and an opaque surface, for example, the floor or wall of a room.

The involuntary and almost imperceptibly slight movements of the hand holding the laser device of the present invention creates a jittery animated effect in the light pattern at the opaque intersection appealing to cats even when the device is held essentially steady.

Intentional movements of the hand-held cat exerciser cause angular changes in the direction of the beam 14 and consequently the light pattern 22 moves unpredictably about the intersecting surfaces. The cat 20, intrigued by the jumpy movement of the light pattern, experiences a playful and healthy chase impulse and follows the irregularly moving light pattern around the room to the cardio-vascular, respiratory, weight control, and muscle tone benefit of the animal.

The coherent nature of a laser light beam results in a small intensely bright pattern of light clearly visible in normal day light or artificial night illumination, small enough relative to the paw of the cat to cause interest without posing a threat, and sharply defined over long enough distances (e.g., up to 150 feet) to provoke a full workout with long sprints for the pet. Ideally the bright pattern of light is directed along the floor, steps or wall at speeds sufficient to exert and entertain the cat but not so discouragingly fast as to dissuade against the chase, i.e., typically in the general range of 5 to 25 feet per second. In other words, the angular sweep speed of the laser beam is controlled by the cat owner 12 to effect an appropriate linear sweep speed of the pattern on the opaque surface within the stated general range. It is understood, of course, that the angular beam sweep speed required to effect a given linear pattern speed depends upon the distance between the laser and the surface on which the pattern impinges; specifically, as the distance between the laser and the surface increases, the same linear pattern speed is produced by a slower angular beam sweep speed. Release of trigger 18 interrupts the power circuit and extinguishes the laser beam, whereupon the cat can return to more traditionally feline time passing until cat owner 12 re-initiates the laser cat exerciser.

The light pattern projected by the laser cat exerciser is invisible until intersection with an opaque surface. Lasers emitting various colors of coherent light can be used and the laser apparatus can be distinctively shaped and colored for easy identification.

Although particularly suited to amusing and exercising cats, the method of the present invention can be applied to other domestic pets, for instance dogs, ferrets, and any other animals with the chase instinct.

Inasmuch as the present invention is subject to many variations, modifications and changes in detail, it is intended that the subject matter discussed above and shown in the accompanying drawings be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.

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