I retired in April 2013 after 25 years as a librarian at the British Library specialising in inventions. This included running numerous workshops; writing books on inventions and a work blog; carrying out searches for clients; and one-to-one meetings with inventors. [more]


20 June 2014

Putting pillows in their pillowcases

Putting pillows in pillowcases may not seem much of a problem, but if you cannot use your arms properly it can be a genuine difficulty.

Birmingham, UK resident Dave Northcote has come up with a solution, tells free newspaper Metro in its 19 June edition. Basically, it's a curved tray which is covered by the pillow so that the pillowcase goes over it, when the tray is removed. The drawings imply that it is deformable but the description didn't seem to mention that (I found it hard going).

There is a granted UK patent for it, dated April 2014, but I link to the published British application, as page 12 lists several previous patent specifications which have a certain similarity. In recent years these search reports have become more detailed, helping anyone looking for related prior art to get a feel for what other solutions are about. The publication is Device for placing a pillow in a pillowcase, and those citations can be seen by going to the cited patents listing for it. Below is the main drawing.

Mr Northcote is 68 years old, and had thought of the idea when having problems when recovering from an operation. He has tried several major stores, but all have rejected it.

He has spent £55,000 on "prototypes, patents, design rights, a registered trademark and materials", says the article. This sounds rather a lot to me, as design rights, a short-term version of copyright on the appearance of things, are free and merely have to be asserted, and a UK trade mark costs just £170 in official fees. I checked, and while Pillow Tray was rejected, zoox was accepted and is indeed a registered trade mark. I can't say I find it that exciting a trade mark.

When I worked at the British Library I, like my colleagues, always suggested using a patent attorney. The attorney listed on the patent is Swindell & Pearson, of Derby. We also suggested working on a business plan to work out strategy and how much expenditure, and hopefully income, was expected.

"Once you've started, you're committed to carrying on", Mr Northcote is quoted, continuing "We're living on our uppers but we are happy as pigs in muck because we have the patent and I have a lot of faith in this." It will cost £15, presumably as a recommended retail price.

I have many inventors and nearly all will say, as money gets spent and problems seem insurmountable, that they want to keep on spending time and money on it. It becomes, truly, an addiction. It is like someone spending £10 a week he can't afford on a gambling habit being advised to stop -- he won't lose any more money, but he also loses the chance of a big win. So he goes on gambling.

Of course, all inventors will claim that their invention is both unique and valuable. Mr Northcote in the article compares it with Cat's Eyes, where reflecting studs encased in hardened rubber, set at intervals along the middle of roads, help illuminate the road at night as they reflect car headlights.

There is supposed to be a website for zoox but it gave me an error message when I tried to load it.

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