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I'm a Engineering student in Canada. Me and a couple of my friends developed a simple inductive system for wirelessly charging a mouse's battery.
The mouse pad has a grid of neodymium magnets built in. The mouse itself has a number of coils at the bottom. Current is induced in the coils according to Faraday's law of induction. This current is filtered and regulated before being used to charge a standard AAA battery.

We don't plan to pursue this in a commercial capacity. Basically, we're just looking to add it to our resumes.

Is it worth pursuing?

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Not now you've published it on a public forum. –  Alex Chamberlain Sep 20 '12 at 20:47
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Assuming this is the first public disclosure of this idea he would have 1 year to file for the patent based on 35 USC 102(b) –  Plepleus Sep 20 '12 at 20:52
    
Many schools in the US will contest their students patents if they can prove that you used school resources/computers/networks/whatever in inventing your device. I don't know if it's the same for Canadian schools. FYI. –  Roddy of the Frozen Peas Sep 20 '12 at 20:53
    
@Plepleus Interesting. He is Canadian though... –  Alex Chamberlain Sep 20 '12 at 20:53
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@Pleplus Your comments seem to assume that the above description would be sufficient to describe the device. Not at all clear. –  g33kz0r Sep 20 '12 at 21:50

5 Answers 5

I'm not an expert in Canadian law. However, in the U.S., and keeping in mind Pleplus' answer regarding the 1-year filing window after disclosure of your device, and assuming that your disclosure is sufficient (see my above comment calling that into question): I think your biggest problem is going to be getting over an obviousness objection.

Searching Google for "wireless mouse charging" and "wireless mouse charger" I get many results.

So while it's not impossible that you would get a narrow patent after a few rejections, an examiner would almost certainly argue right away that your invention would be obvious to one skilled in the art (i.e., an electrical engineer or the like).

The idea of wirelessly-charging devices is not new, and technically isn't patent-worthy unless you could demonstrate that some aspect of your invention is new and non-obvious. You don't say much about your idea of "filtering and regulation" (and I wouldn't!) but that could be the part that does the trick.

That said, there are lawyers who will charge you a lot of money to get this through the patent office.

As Roddy mentioned in the comments, some schools have provisions like this one at MIT which might end up owning your ass: http://web.mit.edu/policies/13/13.1.html#sub2

Be careful.

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Good answer I love this one When Intellectual Property is developed by MIT faculty, students, staff, visitors, or others participating in MIT programs using significant MIT funds or facilities, MIT will own the Intellectual Property Keyword here is visitors. –  JonH Sep 21 '12 at 17:52
    
Yeah. Careful not to code up and new inventions when you're in your buddy's dorm room. Or driving by in your car! –  g33kz0r Sep 21 '12 at 18:00
    
The hard part is it says using significant MIT funds or facilities. Huh? They do not elaborate what facilities or what are these significant funds. –  JonH Sep 21 '12 at 18:08
    
Thanks. But note that all wireless mouses so far use inductive charging (meaning that the pad/holder is supplied with electricity). Our design uses natural magnets and works under a completely different principle (generation rather than transfer of power). The application is to extend the life of the mouse when a source of electricity is not nearby (for example during travel in rural areas). –  lyxicon Sep 22 '12 at 1:47
    
Like this? docstoc.com/docs/118628156/… –  g33kz0r Sep 22 '12 at 4:51

As I understand it, your invention would used the fixed magnetic field generated by the magnets to induce a current in the moving mouse. That strikes me as fundamentally different than this patent publication http://www.google.com/patents/US20090096413, which involves fixed neodymium magnets in a pad (paragraph [0504]) for charging mobile devices, but only uses the magnets for alligning the receiving coil with the power supply coil. The device described is a powered charging pad, not a device that generates power only through the motion of the mouse.

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Yes we research the exisiting patents and they all used "Inductive charging" as opposed to using what practically is a mini-generator. –  lyxicon Sep 22 '12 at 1:39

I haven't seen that sort of design used to charge a computer mouse before, but I have seen the "coil + natural magnet" design used to provide power for other sorts of devices that were being moved or operated by a human (exercise equipment, RFID tags, flashlights, etc). Wireless mouse charging (by other means) is not new, so it's unlikely that the combination of the two would be considered novel.

We don't plan to pursue this in a commercial capacity. Basically, we're just looking to add it to our resumes.

If you're just looking for a resume booster, don't waste your time with a patent. Patents aren't cheap, and you won't be able to put it on your resume for years since it takes a while for an application to make its way through the system. The work that you did in designing and implementing the charging system is the real resume-worthy material, anyway. The only difference between saying that you "designed" such a system and "designed and patented" it is that you demonstrate that you're capable of hiring a lawyer to do some paperwork. If you were planning on selling the technology to another company, then it would be a different story (being able to point to a product currently on the market and say "I invented that" is a big resume booster).

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Do I necessarily have to hire a lawyer? How expensive are we talking about here? –  lyxicon Sep 22 '12 at 1:38
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@Arman- uspto.gov has a full schedule of fees. The total cost of applying for and keeping a patent is in the tens of thousands of dollars. I definitely recommend hiring a lawyer. It costs more money, but in the long run it's cheaper than getting the paperwork wrong and having to re-file several times (or wasting time and money on something that an experienced lawyer could immediately identify as not patentable). –  bta Sep 22 '12 at 12:18

There are a variety of induction chargers on the market already, but it sounds like you may be talking about a fundamentally different design, as the designs I've seen use a current to induce a charge in the mouse (thus they draw power). It sounds like what you're talking about is having natural magnets in the mat and then using the movement of the mouse in and out of the magnetic fields (by a human being) to do the charging. I have never seen such a system and I think that it is different from what Plepleus was describing in his answer.

Assuming I've understood you correctly, my only concern would be the sensibility of placing powerful rare-earth magnets next to your computer :) Shielding has gotten better, but how good?...

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Magnets aren't dangerous to computers anymore, unless they are incredibly strong. I have doubt that this mouse pad idea would contain such magnets. –  Dusty W Sep 21 '12 at 9:02
    
@DustyW They were actually pretty strong (it's very hard to separate two of them from each other), but I think you're right about it being harmless. It does mess with speakers though. –  lyxicon Sep 22 '12 at 1:36
    
@Arman kjmagnetics.com/blog.asp?p=hard-drive-destruction has info about a magnet + hard drive test they did which didn't seem to harm a hard drive with two magnets directly attached to the hard drive. They later claimed that it doesn't mean it can't damage the drive, but that it didn't this time. Plus magnets don't typically have the opportunity to be put right up against hard drives. My definition of "incredibly strong" is in the order of bending metal or the like. –  Dusty W Sep 25 '12 at 6:22

While in principle this could work as described, as a physicist/electronics/product-development guy I'm slightly sceptical that in normal use you would generate enough power to keep the battery charged (or total energy generated exceeds energy required to run the mouse when averaged over a few days of normal use). Even if it's just for a resume, you'll be a lot more credible if you have data from a prototype which proves that you can generate sufficient energy.

Be aware that "energy-harvesting devices" are a hot topic, but frequently when you look at the details the energy (and the economics/cost) fail to add up. Something which merely extends the battery life by 10-20% (for example) is unlikely to be a compelling product proposition, given the extra cost/complexity and need for a special mat.

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I like this answer a lot, but the proposed invention could still be worthwhile. Even if the proposed method is not fully up to the job of supporting a commercial embodiment at the moment, it could well serve as the foundation for future breakthroughs - making it a gateway technology and potentially rather valuable. –  user96 Sep 23 '12 at 15:47

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