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Patents Idle

8-Year-Old Receives Patent 142

Posted by samzenpus
from the young-inventor-society dept.
Knile writes "While not the youngest patent recipient ever (that would be a four year old in Texas), Bryce Gunderman has received a patent at age 8 for a space-saver that combines an outlet cover plate with a shelf. From the article: '"I thought how I was going to make a lot of money," Bryce said about what raced through his brain when he received the patent.'"
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8-Year-Old Receives Patent

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  • by Lord Byron II (671689) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @11:57AM (#34389230)

    Considering how long it takes to get a patent, he must have been in diapers when he submitted it. Kudos to him.

    And the invention is a good idea too. My cell usually rests on the kitchen floor while it charges.

    • by Unkyjar (1148699) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @12:32PM (#34389836)

      He was 6 when the patent applied for. I guess it also helps that his father is a lawyer that founded a law firm actually named Patent Technologies LLC.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        *double facepalm*

        Either his father encouraged his son to make the patent as a sign of goodwill to educate his child on how to become an entrepreneurial inventor, or he owns a patent troll company and needed to file a patent and used his son.

        I'll let ./ readers make up their mind.

        I'm hoping it was not the latter. Patent doesn't seem broad enough for a troll.

    • I rest my cellphone on top of the charger.

      Can you say "prior art"?

      • Yes, I can pronounce it, but are you sure you know what that means? Also, do you know what an outlet cover plate is? Because I'm pretty sure you don't cover all the outlets in your house with phone chargers and if you do you might want to look into switching as it's probably the reason your little kids keep dying from electrocution.
    • by Shadyman (939863)
      Outlet plate covers with a little place to put your cell phone already exist. Just not a 'shelf', it's more of a 'bowl' or a 'cup'. We've got a couple of them.
      • by dudpixel (1429789)

        and did you seriously expect that the patent office would objectively search for prior art before just granting the patent?

        all we need now is a patent on patents and the world will explode.

  • so sad (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Something about this story just makes me want to cry soo hard. Faith in humanity lost yet again..

    • What made you sad? That an eight year old had a very good idea? It may not have been original to the world, but it was original to him. I, for one, see a future engineer. Nothing about that makes me sad.

      Go troll elsewhere.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by j00r0m4nc3r (959816)
        What made you sad?

        It makes me sad too. Here's an 8-year-old kid who is already turned into a money-grubbing materialist by his parents. The quest for money is the most empty and fruitless thing in life but our society idolizes it beyond everything else. He should be out playing with his friends and teasing girls and enjoying his youth instead of writing patent applications and worrying about how much money he's going to make and what useless crap he's going to buy with it. Not only that but he's going to
        • by windcask (1795642)

          The quest for money is the most empty and fruitless thing in life but our society idolizes it beyond everything else.

          You say that as though it's fact. People are achievement-driven, not money driven. Money is just part of the equation of a successful life. I'd say getting a patent when you're eight is a good first step towards success. I don't know about you, but where I grew up the kids who were at the top of my class were more often than not the best athletes (and the richest, too). If I were a betting man, I'd say that kid's probably spending more time with his friends and enjoying his childhood than you think. His dad

          • by Culture20 (968837)

            The quest for money is the most empty and fruitless thing in life but our society idolizes it beyond everything else.

            You say that as though it's fact. People are achievement-driven, not money driven. Money is just part of the equation of a successful life. I'd say getting a patent when you're eight is a good first step towards success. I don't know about you, but where I grew up the kids who were at the top of my class were more often than not the best athletes (and the richest, too). If I were a betting man, I'd say that kid's probably spending more time with his friends and enjoying his childhood than you think. His dad's just trying to take give him a head start in life; I see no fault in that.

            All true, except you ignore GP's comment entirely. Remember, it's not money itself that is the "root of much evil", but the love of money. This child exhibited that love. Instead of replying "I thought it was neat" or "I thought up a new invention", he said he was all about the muhnee.

            • by windcask (1795642)

              Remember, it's not money itself that is the "root of much evil", but the love of money. This child exhibited that love.

              And I'm sure that when I was eight, I would have traded my parents away for a Super Nintendo. Kids tend to be superficial and don't have the self-reflective capabilities that adults have; you have no idea how this child will turn out based on scrutiny of one sentence he said when he was a pre-pubescent child. So what's your point?

              • Kids tend to be superficial

                And where do you think they learn this? The parents, and our society.
                • by windcask (1795642)

                  On the contrary. Kids are born that way. They want what they want, and they want it now. Parents and society stay that way because they never grow up.

        • And how do you know this kid doesn't do that? Does the paragraph Slashdot summary give you that keen insight into his life. Again... get over yourself.

        • Here is a kid with developing engineering an entrepreneurial spirit, and you are poo-pooing it.

        • The quest for money is the most empty and fruitless thing in life

          So, providing for your old age, so that you won't be a burden on your family, neghbors, and country, bleeding them to their deaths, that is the most empty and fruitless thing in life? How shallow. Money is the reward for production, and used for buying the productive effort of others. The earlier a person learns to be productive, and the more productive he is, the better a person he is (other things being equal).

          • by Alex Belits (437) *

            Any activity is evil if you can accomplish the same thing by killing yourself.

          • The earlier a person learns to be productive, and the more productive he is, the better a person he is

            Spoken like a perfect little drone. A+!
      • by Qzukk (229616)

        My first thought was "Oh look, someone learning that the patent system only works for the Big Boys". If he thinks his riches aren't coming fast enough now, just wait until the market is flooded with cheap Chinese-made ripoffs.

        That said, it looks like a fairly good idea if it's made with the right materials (hard plastic+"rubberized" coating to protect shins). Shame I didn't think of it first.

  • wtf (Score:3, Interesting)

    by richy freeway (623503) * on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @11:57AM (#34389252)
    These things have been available for years. Also the link to the patent is wrong.
    • Re:wtf (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @12:00PM (#34389306) Homepage

      These things have been available for years.

      When has that ever stopped a patent?

      • Indeed. I've seen one of these in my kitchen for years.

        Perhaps the whole idea is just that no jury would convict an 8 year old?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Java Pimp (98454)

        Only the first link is similar to the kid's "invention" because it is the only one that is a replacement wall plate. The kid did improve on the invention by placing the shelf "above" the outlets instead of below so you can actually stack things on the shelf without blocking the outlets. Of course IANAPL but the kid's idea is probably sufficiently different from the first link that neither infringe on each other's "IP". I mean he didn't patent "wall plate shelves" (overly broad) but only his "design" of the

        • Re:wtf (Score:4, Interesting)

          by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdotNO@SPAMworf.net> on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @12:56PM (#34390230)

          Only the first link is similar to the kid's "invention" because it is the only one that is a replacement wall plate. The kid did improve on the invention by placing the shelf "above" the outlets instead of below so you can actually stack things on the shelf without blocking the outlets. Of course IANAPL but the kid's idea is probably sufficiently different from the first link that neither infringe on each other's "IP". I mean he didn't patent "wall plate shelves" (overly broad) but only his "design" of the wall plate shelf (specific)...

          Last I checked, most outlets were pretty symmetrical, so that "below the plug" shelf can be turned 180 degrees around and made into an "above the plug" shelf. It may not look nice (if it was designed to below the plug), but anyone with a screwdriver could trivially turn it around if twas that useful.

          Hell, there's enough bad handymen out there that at least several people would've installed it upside down. Other than looking funny, they probably don't know better.

          No, there's got to be more to this patent than simply turning it around...

          • by gstoddart (321705)

            Last I checked, most outlets were pretty symmetrical, so that "below the plug" shelf can be turned 180 degrees around and made into an "above the plug" shelf.

            Do you not have grounded plugs where you live?

            Around here, most plugs are three-prong. And, even most of the newer two-prong plugs have a wider blade on one side which will only go into the socket one way to provide some grounding.

            In my house, if it's intended to go into the plug one way, it's *only* going to fit in one way. There is not 180 degree r

            • unless you're in England, "Outlet Cover" is not synonymous with "Outlet Plug"

              • by gstoddart (321705)

                unless you're in England, "Outlet Cover" is not synonymous with "Outlet Plug"

                Fair enough, I wasn't thinking in terms of the actual faceplate.

            • by kimvette (919543)

              The wall cover will fit either way as single and double gang NEMA 1 and NEMA 5 outlets are symmetrical externally.

              Besides, even if they were not symmetrical would be a trivial matter to install an outlet fixture upside down.

              • by gstoddart (321705)

                Besides, even if they were not symmetrical would be a trivial matter to install an outlet fixture upside down.

                See, now there you go sounding like an engineer or something.

                True story -- some friends and I went out for lunch, and when one guys sandwich arrives, the bottom bread was torn and the sandwich would have fallen apart/made a mess.

                The solution, of course, was to invert the sandwich so the structurally sound piece of bread was on the bottom. :-P

          • by Java Pimp (98454)

            But wait... I'm confused... Aren't we at slashdot supposed to be upset because the patent system doesn't enable people to innovate on existing inventions... They are so broad that no one can solve the same problem in different ways...

            Now we're upset that this kid did get to improve on an existing invention? I'd be willing to bet you could get a patent on a wall plate shelf with the shelves off to the side of the outlets. Unless this post now constitutes prior art...

            I would argue it should be as simple as tu

        • Patents are invariant over Euclidian similarity transformations of translation, rotation and scaling. Meaning you can't patent "the same thing but bigger" or "rotated 180 degrees." At least you shouldn't be able to.

    • Not only is he the youngest patent recipient, he'll also become the youngest patent troll! Hooray for the system.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Palidase (566673)
        He isn't the youngest patent recipient. The youngest was a 4 year old who created a device for grasping round knobs on doors and cabinets, intended for peopel with physical disabilities.
      • Whee... didn't even RTFS, eh? The youngest patent recipient is a 4-year old in Texas.

    • by neowolf (173735)
      I guess the Patent Office still doesn't know about Google. Lots of prior art, existing products, and I've made a couple of tiny shelves above my own outlets as far back as ten years ago.
    • First thing I thought of when I saw the picture. I've seen these for sale many times, often the shelf was positioned below the outlet but I find it hard to believe changing the shelf location warrants a patent.
  • to bad billy mays is not around to sell this!

  • Now you can take an 8 year old to court.
  • by geegel (1587009) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @12:03PM (#34389368)

    The age seems pretty irrelevant. He actually invented an useful contraption, which he intends to produce and sell. This is actually a patent working as it should.

    • by geegel (1587009)

      Whoops, just saw the posts containing prior art. That kinda throws a wrench into my whole argument.

    • This is actually not at all how patents are supposed to work. Patents were designed to encourage inventors to disclose the secrets of the invention. There is hardly any tricky engineering that went into this.

  • Pass Code (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @12:04PM (#34389392) Journal

    Would this pass U.S. electrical codes? I am not an electrician, but wonder if the hazard of weight busting the cover would present a problem.

    • Unless you're still using a cell phone from the 80's, I don't think weight is going to be much of an issue.
      • But you will find that electrical codes anticipate misuse and are often overspec'd. I just wonder if this is one of those cases.

        • Re:Pass Code (Score:5, Interesting)

          by MyLongNickName (822545) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @12:15PM (#34389582) Journal

          Or imagine that because there is a shelf protruding that it is much more likely that someone kicks it, something falls on it, or something else unexpected suddenly puts tremendous torque on the plate.

          • by rolfwind (528248)

            I suspect the shelf will just bend and break. The outlets are usually very sturdy (obnoxiously so) and usually attached to a stud. The shelf is weak, in comparison.

            • Apparently you have never worked on an old house. Often, you will find outlets attached to the lath(sp?) board.

          • by v1 (525388)

            I think clipping a plugged in wall wart is going to be more destructive, that has potential to damage the actual outlet itself. if the coverplate is removed it's just a bit of broken plastic that doesn't require an electrician to replace

    • Dangerous (Score:4, Informative)

      by samjam (256347) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @12:47PM (#34390092) Homepage Journal

      I saw one of these demo'd a while back on Dragons Den as the "inventor" tried to get funding.

      The dragon nearly showed that while it looks like a shelf, it's really a lever for exposing high voltage electrical wiring.

      So we appreciate the idea behind it, but it's so obviously got dangerous and potentially operational modes that can occur in normal (not intended) use.

      Better to tie your phone to a piece of string and tie the string to the charger - then if anyone yanks or kicks it, it'll just pull the charger out. I realise that this won't work on flimsy US sockets, I also realise that a half-out plug can be a fire risk as well as cause damage to the connectors that can make it a permanent fire risk, so it's still a bad idea - even making a shelf out of the charger is a bad idea

    • Probably not much of a hazard with MOST receptacles, where the box was anchored to a wall stud during initial construction. But when an electrician installs additional receptacles AFTER the sheetrock is in place, most of the time they will use an "old work" or "cut-in" box, which is essentially clamped onto the sheetrock itself. Sheetrock has very little structural value.

      The shelf on the top could act like a really nice lever to bust the box loose from the wall if some idiot puts too much weight on it.

      If th

      • If this kid is planning to sell these, I hope he has some serious product liability coverage when the inevitable accident occurs.

        This is the problem with 8 year olds running businesses. Instead of thinking about these issues, he thinks "Now how can I sell these so I can buy a hockey puck?" Actually I take that back; most businesses don't have the foresight to realize these issues. He'll make a fine capitalist!

        • by Reziac (43301) *

          I'd put the onus the other way: if you're such an idiot that you put that much weight on a shelf designed to hold a cellphone charger, your busted sheetrock is not my problem.

          Seriously, there comes a point where the consumer has to exercise common sense. You can't expect the manufacturer to exercise sense for you for every little thing. If it weren't for personal injury lawyers (and the extremity of that issue is documented by the absurd "do not whatever idiotic thing no sensible person would even think of

  • The market segment, sales and production can be the most difficult.

    Good thing he has supportive parents in more ways than one.

    Maybe this will set Bryce off on a lifelong career?

  • I hope he earns enough to cover the class-action suit after someone trips on this thing and starts an electrical fire.
  • You have to sue people to make money from patents. Your daddy is the lawyer. He's the one who's going to makes money from your idea, not you.
  • http://www.slipperybrick.com/2009/06/the-power-shelf-holds-your-gadgets-while-they-charge/ [slipperybrick.com]

    I have had a device EXACTLY like this for over 10 years now. I bought one in 1999 at a strange thrift/junk store.

    Glad to see the patent system not checking to see if something exists already.

  • Not only have products like this been on the market for some time -- even big enough for laptops [thinkgeek.com] -- ThinkGeek sells a better one [thinkgeek.com] that keeps your phone from falling.
  • Kid or not, the undeniable fact is this is a previously existing "invention" that has been on the market for about a decade (at least). 10 seconds with google produced a half dozen variations, so I doubt the kid, or parents were unaware of prior art.

    The fact that the patent office actually awards patents on things that are extraordinary slight variations on existing products is just showing how broken our patent system is. THAT is the story here, not some tinkering kid (although I would encourage him t
  • You know it's sad when the most interesting part about the article was that he wants to buy hockey skates and Buffalo Sabres tickets...

  • Does this [hardwarestore.com] look familiar to anyone. They have been around for years. It looks like the kid patented a minor change to an outdoor cover plate so the door opens perpendicular to the wall.
  • The actual patent references Westmeister, who is referred to at buypowershelf.com, the company behind the product at Amazon.

    http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=/netahtml/PTO/search-bool.html&r=9&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PTXT&s1=gunderman&OS=gunderman&RS=gunderman [uspto.gov]
    http://buypowershelf.com/Photos/Times%20At%20Home%20With%20Lynn%20Fetzer%20Westmeister.pdf [buypowershelf.com]

    Searching for Westmeister in the patent database brings up the Gunderman patent.

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