Patently BlackBerry

December 22, 2005|By KNIGHT RIDDER / TRIBUNE

The patent battle between the maker of the BlackBerry device and a small Virginia-based patent-holding company called NTP got us looking for Web sites for BlackBerry users, as well as those meant to shed light on the world of patents.

Here is the International BlackBerry User Group, or IBBUG. For the BlackBerry's 3.65 million users around the world, the user group site has links to news and other sites, such as, a BlackBerry blog, where users were reporting BlackBerry sightings in the movie Syriana.

No wonder there is confusion. More than 7 million U.S. patents have been granted since 1790, and the patent office received 406,000 patent applications last year alone. Due to required software downloads and inscrutable instructions, you had better be inventive to figure out how to file for a patent at the Web site of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Dec. 31 is the deadline on this contest for inventors. The winning invention will be named the 2006 "Modern Marvel of the Year," and the inventor will get $25,000 and be featured on the History Channel.

In the fog of new patents, silly inventions abound. Here is a compendium of them, including -- kid you not -- the recently patented "canine relief station," which looks an awful lot like a fire hydrant; the refrigerant-loaded "doggie poop freeze wand"; the cube-shaped tennis ball; and the bottle-cap necktie. The site's editor, Daniel Wright, is a comedian, but his material is for real.

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