East Lansing, MI asked in Copyright, Intellectual Property and Patents (Intellectual Property) for Michigan

Q: How does Tangle Inc still have the patent for the tangle toy? I remember grew up having it as a toy in my childhood.

How does Tangle Inc still have the patent for the tangle toy? I remember grew up having it as a toy in my childhood. Now I'm 30 years old.

I'm doing patent law research and came across the US patent 7601045 from Tangle Inc. It seems this patent only apply to the textured toys, not the original ones I played when I was young. Is it correct?

2 Lawyer Answers
Peter D. Mlynek
Peter D. Mlynek
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Moorestown, NJ

A: This type of a question is fairly common. How can there be a patent on something that has already been in existence many years before the patent was ever filed?

The answer almost always is that the patent claims a product that is somehow improved over the old product. There is something in the claims that seems totally unimportant when you read the claim, that actually makes the new product patentable over the old. This improvement does not have to be very drastic or really all that readily apparent to the end user; the improvement only needs to be patentable (novel and non-obvious).

In the case of this Tangle patent (which was filed when you were 16 years old), each of the two independent claims is almost 200 words long. It is very likely that there are a couple of words that make the claimed product patentable over the Tangle toy that you've played with before you were 16.

John Espinosa agrees with this answer

Kevin E. Flynn
Kevin E. Flynn
  • Patents Lawyer
  • Pittsboro, NC

A: I used to work for a patent firm that defended the Bell patent for the telephone. More than a hundred years later, there are many patents issued each year for improvements to the telephone.

I am not familiar with the Tangle patent (or the Tangle toy) but if you want to take a deeper dive, you can go to the Public PAIR system and look at the exchanges back and forth from the attorney and the USPTO examiner to see what was thought to be the novel twist the merited a patent.


I hope this helps.

Kevin E Flynn

John Espinosa agrees with this answer

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