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Take a look at this patent. wo2013112217a3

There are hundreds if not thousands of patents filed before this patent that utilize this fundamental principal. Technically all samurai swords are in violation of this patent. Silly to see that system reform we had for patent system encourages this ridiculous behavior.

Thomas Edison is turning in his grave. This is stopping technology development.

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There are patent applications that seem ridiculous on their face. I don't think this is one of them. – George White Oct 24 '13 at 23:38

This is an application, not a granted patent. And I do not think Samurai were doing what the Cal Tech researchers are claiming. For example:

claim 4. The method according to claim 1 , wherein the at least one gradient transition region comprises a multi-stage gradient wherein the gradient region includes both incremental compositional steps and direct stepwise compositional transitions.

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well in the traditional making of swords the blade was folded repeatedly thus producing many layers, which sounds like stepwise compositional transitions to me. additionally the middle part of the heated blade would be coated with an insulating material prior to quenching, thus producing gradient transitions of the resulting crystal structures. so yes, claim 4 does sound a lot like what has been done for hundreds of years. – codeslinger Oct 30 '13 at 19:45

Hm, "The invention described herein was made in the performance of work under a NASA contract" but no info about that contract...

So, american taxpayers paid for this, without knowing that everything was later used to make a personal intellectual property for some people. As i know all inventions what was made by NASA for taxpayers money can be used by any american company in special request to use as prior art and etc. One startup effectively used this bureaucratic procedure for their own project of new space shuttle. It's easy in fact.

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