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The patent is https://www.google.com/patents/US20110201238. Would that patent preclude any sort of electric motor with a jet drive system from being created for stand-up paddle boards? It mentions "similar small watercraft". Well, a paddle board isn't a watercraft, nor is a surfboard. Does this intentionally vague wording end up hurting their case against future "inventors" who happen to create a similar product?

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Claim 1. A powered small watercraft, comprising: a battery pack with seated terminals and casing preventing current leakage into ambient water; a water-jet pump powered by the battery pack; an electronic control unit powered by the battery pack and controlling the water-jet pump, comprising a wireless receiver, a programmable motor controller, an information storage element with instructions for nuanced control of the water-jet pump, a microprocessor interpreting signals received by the wireless receiver, reading the instructions on the information storage element, and issuing commands to the motor controller according to the instructions being read. a body assembly comprising a body of a size and shape similar to a conventional unpowered version of the watercraft, modified with cavities and channels fitting the battery pack, the water-jet pump, the electronic control unit, and associated electrical connections, and a plurality of covers configured to confine and protect the battery pack, the water-jet pump, the electronic control unit, and the associated electrical connections inside the cavities and channels, where the cavities are configured to distribute the weight of intended contents so that the drag coefficient, balance, and center of gravity of the powered watercraft resembles those of a conventional unpowered version of the watercraft, and when fully assembled, the shape of the powered watercraft substantially resembles that of a conventional unpowered version of the watercraft; and further comprising: a wireless controller comprising a switch, a wireless transmitter controlled by the switch, and a waterproof support structure supporting the switch and the wireless transmitter, where the wireless transmitter communicates with the wireless receiver in the electronic control unit, and the support structure positions the switch to be operable without disrupting an operator's normal postures and gestures conventionally associated with piloting the watercraft.

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No - it does not cover every possible board type and its claim wording is not particularity ambiguous.

This document is not a granted issued patent. Rather, it is an application for a patent that has not yet been granted. To see its current state you can look up the whole history of the case in the USPTO's Public PAIR database. Other answers here explain how to do that.

If it were a granted patent (for educational purposes) what it would cover is not defined but what is merely "mentioned". To infringe a patent one must have or do everything in at least on of its claims. I have edited in claim 1. It is very very detailed. If it were a granted patent one would need to make, sell, import or use something that had everything in the claim to infringe.

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The patent application in question has been abandoned on 2013-09-24 (before this question was posted). To see the status and examination progress of a patent application, visit USPTO PAIR and search for the application.

The OP is correct that the wording is ambiguous. On 2013-01-14, the examiner issued a 23-page non-final rejection. Some objections were as followed:

  1. The drawings did not comply with 37 CFR 1.83(a) by showing "every feature of the invention specified in the claims" (e.g. "water-jet pump" in claim 1 and "flotation elements" in claim 3).

  2. The specification did not "provide proper antecedent basis for the claimed subject matter". The examiner cited the following paragraph from MPEP 608.01(o)

The meaning of every term used in any of the claims should be apparent from the descriptive portion of the specification with clear disclosure as to its import; and in mechanical cases, it should be identified in the descriptive portion of the specification by reference to the drawing, designating the part or parts therein to which the term applies.

  1. "The claim(s) contain subject matter which was not described in the specification in such a way as to reasonably convey to one skilled in the relevant art"

  2. The claims were "indefinite for failing to particularly point out and distinctly clam the subject matter" (35 U.S.C. 112). The examiner objected to terms such as "small", "conventional unpowered… watercraft", and "similar to".

  3. Disclosure by prior art (e.g. US6311631, US20030167991, and US7134925).

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No, it would not cover every possible type of watercraft. But I have trouble seeing how a paddleboard practicing all limitations of the claim would not infringe. The scope of the claims are governed primarily by the disclosure. The drawings depict a surfboard, and written description also discusses surfboards. What is a paddleboard but a large displacement, floaty surfboard capable of being paddled on flat water? Further, I see paddleboard surfers all the time (i.e. paddlers riding waves in the surf and then paddling back out). I think it would be difficult to argue that a paddleboard is not within the scope of the claims.

Furthermore, independent claim 15 recites:

  1. The watercraft of claim 1, where the conventional unpowered version of the watercraft is a surfboard.

Under the doctrine of claim differentiation, independent claim 1 was presumably intended to have different scope than claim 15. Since the "watercraft" of claim 15 is expressly recited as a "surfboard," the watercraft of claim 1 can presumably be something other than a surfboard.

Taken together, I believe an embodiment of claim 1 implemented on a paddleboard is most likely within the scope of the claims. That is a paddleboard that practices EVERY limitation of claim 1 would infringe.

That said, claim 1 recites, among other things, a programmable motor controller, an information storage element with instructions for nuanced control of the water-jet pump,and a microprocessor interpreting signals received by the wireless receiver, reading the instructions on the information storage element, and issuing commands to the motor controller according to the instructions being read. An electric waterjet powered paddleboard would not infringe claim 1 if the motor controller was not programmable. There are certainly any number of motor controls available that could throttle the motor up and down and not be programmable. For example, though certainly not a good design choice, something as simple as a rheostat could be used as a throttle control.

So you can see, because claim 1 has so many limitations, it may be relatively easy to design around the claim.

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  • Given radio controlled (TOY) surfboards have been around since the late 1970's, the novel element appears limited to adding a "programmable motor controller", but then again does being able to select the RC frequency / channel constitute programmability, if it does there's plenty of prior art. – arober11 May 13 '15 at 13:24

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