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IBM Flushes restroom patent

[via Chris, from a article, here is a link to the patent filing]

IBM's restroom reservation patent describes a system that would determine who is next in line for using the facilities on an airplane, passenger train or boat. As envisioned in the patent, the system would be run by a computer that would assign customers a number based on a first-come, first-served basis. The system would give customers an estimate of their waiting time to use the restroom and would notify them when the restroom was available and allow them to cancel their reservations.
"Because of the shortage of restrooms on board, it is often necessary for passengers (on an airplane) to stand for quite sometime in the aisles while queuing to use the restroom," IBM said in a description of the patent, No. 6,329,919. "Standing in the aisle of a moving aircraft creates safety hazard and inconveniences for both the passenger and other people on board. Likewise, a passenger may lose a great deal of his valuable time or miss a significant portion of an entertainment program because of waiting to use a restroom.

"A need therefore exists for an apparatus, system, and method for providing reservations for restroom use in places such as on an airplane, a passenger train or boat where safety concerns exist."

But the need for a patent on this method of restroom reservations was questioned soon after the patent was issued. In February, a petition was filed on it, and the patent office was asked to re-examine it, according to patent office records. Later that month, IBM decided to renounce the patents, according to the records.

Superfluous patents such as this stem from a drive inside corporate research labs to measure productivity in number of patents filed (IMO partially a leftover from the early nineties when the Japanese where "taking over the world" and using the patent system to their advantage) and the floor of patents created affects the entire system; the USPTO simply can't keep up... which makes it easy for patents such as this to get through.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on October 15 2002 at 11:54 AM

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