actorartathleteauthorbizcrimecrosspostcustomerservicedirectoredufoodgaminghealthjournalistmedicalmilmodpostmunimusicnewsworthynonprofitotherphilpolretailscispecialisedspecializedtechtourismtravelunique

JournalistHi! We’re Eric Tucker and Jeff Horwitz, two AP reporters who have been writing about Robert Mueller’s investigation into how Russia tried to meddle in the 2016 US election. Ask Us Anything!

Nov 3rd 2017 by etuckerAP • 15 Questions • 6439 Points

Every year since 2011, the United State Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has shared intellectual property (IP) found in the deepest and darkest corners of our 200+ year old archives. This Halloween, join our social media team to talk all about #CreepyIP -- from how it got started, to the magic of searching for old patents and trademarks, to what invention artwork gives us the heebie jeebies.

The late Laura Larrimore – senior digital strategist

Liz ChuuuuUUUUUuuuuuUUUU – social media specialist

Paul “Freak Show” Fucito – press secretary

Paul “Redrum” Rosenthal – acting chief communications officer

Proof: AMA announcement from the official @USPTO account on Twitter

Send us your queries! We'll start answering questions at 9:30am ET.

UPDATE: Bats all, folks! Thanks so much for all your questions today, and have a safe and happy Halloween.

Want to suggest content for #CreepyIP? You can email us anytime at [email protected] with the subject line "#CreepyIP". Make sure to include the issued Patent or Trademark registration number so we can find the item in our archives.

Q:

In your opinion, how is this all going to end?

A:

Has anyone ever recognized their (or their great-granddad's) invention that was used in Creepy IP?


Q:

Hi, and thanks for asking the question that is obviously on everyone's mind right now. I unfortunately cannot begin to predict where this goes or how and when it might end. I would say that I have been surprised by certain developments; in the media, for instance, journalists were caught off guard by the unsealing of an guilty plea against an ex-Trump campaign adviser, so i would hesitate to even hazard a guess about the outcome.

A:

Laura: No one on social media has told us they’ve recognized a family members’ patents during #CreepyIP yet. But among the staff, most of us will admit to doing a quick search of the archives to see if any of our relatives are listed there. Anyone can search them -- you can search by the inventors first and last name, and limit by date, so that’s one way to find out if “Uncle So-and-So who had a patent” actually did, and what the patent claimed to do.

In my office I have several copies of patents issued to my husband’s maternal grandfather. He worked for DuPont on fiber technology/science. He also invented something he called the “wrinkle-o-matic”, which was a device to scientifically measure how much natural fabrics wrinkled versus some of the new “wonder” fabrics of the time, like polyester!

Sometimes you also find weird things, like this hairdressing patent by “L.Larrimore” [Note: not me and not related to me] which are just neat. I printed out a copy and have it taped to my office door, next to my nameplate.


Q:

Hello to both of you, and thanks for this AMA.

I see you used "tried to meddle". Is that just the easy way to describe things before proof is shown (e.g. 'The alleged attacker'), or do you both believe that Russia tried and failed?

Thanks in advance!

A:

That's not weird at all. A similar design is employed in practically every hairdressing salon in the UK and probably elsewhere... Prevents water dripping down your neck.


Q:

Hello there, and thank you for the question. It is accepted within the U.S. intelligence community that Russia attempted to meddle in the 2016 presidential election through the DNC and Podesta email hack as well as a vast social media effort to sow discord in the American political process. While the evidence suggests Russia at minimum tried to meddle in the election, and appears to have succeeded given the millions of Americans exposed to Russian-purchased Facebook ads, government officials have also said that no vote tallies were altered on Election Day.

A:

Laura: That's cool to know! I don't think this design is as popular in the US -- the ones I've seen use a u-shaped dip in the sink bowl, where you rest your head.

I think the invention itself is totally practical -- what I found slightly eerie was finding a patent that looks like I was the inventor, even though it was patented decades before I was born. :::cue spooky music:::


Q:

Russia tried and failed?

Yup, failed miserably

A:

I've always found the TESS interface pretty creepy - any plans to do a refresh?


Q:

Hello there, and thank you for the question. It is accepted within the U.S. intelligence community that Russia attempted to meddle in the 2016 presidential election through the DNC and Podesta email hack as well as a vast social media effort to sow discord in the American political process. While the evidence suggests Russia at minimum tried to meddle in the election, and appears to have succeeded given the millions of Americans exposed to Russian-purchased Facebook ads, government officials have also said that no vote tallies were altered on Election Day.

A:

Paul F: We're always working to upgrade our IT tools, including TESS, which is part of our Trademarks Next Generation project. You can tune in to today's TPAC livestream for updates from CIO John Owens, starting at 10:50 am ET.


Q:

what does 'meddle' mean, from a legal standpoint, in a free-country?

A:

On Valentine's Day does the USPTO hold a Reddit_AMA on sexy tech: vibrators, contraceptives, toys, edible panties, etc.?


Q:

It is certainly not a legal term, but in this context, it means to interfere in an unwanted way with a political election. To your question, no, no one will be charged with meddling, per se. But hacking into Americans email accounts, purchasing Facebook ads from another country, or dangling opposition research, could all reasonably be construed as meddling.

A:

Nope. But you are welcome to search our patent archive --"Patent Full Text and Image Database" or trademark archive -- "TESS" in the privacy of your own home.


Q:

What do you think the widespread implications of Russian meddling is? How should we move foward from this knowledge?

A:

Favorite Halloween candy?


Q:

Hello, and thank you for the question this morning. I do think one clear outgrowth of this investigation is close scrutiny of the role of foreign influences in our American political process, and I think that's a good thing. I do think it's important, for instance, that American users of social media understand the source of a particular political message or advertisement. And I think this investigation, and the public discussion around it, is helping us better understand that some of what we see on social media is not actually legitimate and may instead be the work of foreign actors. Similarly, we now have heightened scrutiny of a law meant to require foreign lobbyists to register the source of their payments, and to identify as doing the bidding of a particular foreign government. I do anticipate that in the legal and lobbying community that there will be greater care in the future about abiding by those requirements.

A:

Laura: A favorite (trademarked!) candy of mine is Butterfinger®.


Q:

They did things like organize a pro-Muslim event and an anti-Muslim event in the same place and time and encouraged both sides to fight. They did more than ads and a lot of it points to them trying to sow discord.

A:

Favorite Halloween candy?


Q:

Good morning, and thank you for the question. You are certainly right that many of the ads that appeared on Facebook were indeed anti-Trump ads, and I, too, find that interesting. I cannot through my reporting discount the possibility that they were money-making attempts, but I also do understand these ads _ as does Facebook _ as efforts to cause confusion, anger, distrust and discord in the American political process, writ large. I think that helps explain why some of the ads and messages were anti-Trump ones. It seems clear that this reflected a desire to influence public opinion and cause a degree of chaos.

A:

Liz: Kit Kats, always. I also wish more people handed out fun-sized bars of Skor.


Q:

Do you think Kushner should be worried about being indicted?

A:

For example, what about "A non-transitory computer-readable medium, spooookily possessed with program code comprising..." ?


Q:

That's a fair question and is probably best addressed to his excellent attorneys! It is hard to rule out what actions could or might be taken with respect to individual White House staffers including Jared Kushner, but it is fair to note that Bob Mueller's investigation has reached into the White House. There have been requests for documents, interviews with current and former White House officials, and some of the key actions of the Trump administration _ such as the firing of Jim Comey as FBI director _ are now under investigation. Kushner was involved in that decision, so it's reasonable that anyone connected to that process could be questioned.

A:

Liz: Any of the coffin patents, especially US 901,407, which is for a grave attachment. This patent is for an invention that provided a way to observe or watch a body after it’s been interred. It reminds me of the time I visited one of the historic cemeteries in New Orleans and learned about how some people were buried prematurely. There was definitely a need for this kind of invention.


Q:

What do you see as the best possible solution to this investigation?

A:

This one creeps me out.


Q:

Thank you for the question. It is not my job as a member of the media to determine the outcome of the process, or the best possible solution. But I would also say, again speaking as a member of the media, that I am all about maximum transparency, and I do believe that the public would benefit from as much information as possible about what Bob Mueller and his team of investigators find. I think the release of information to the public, such as in the form of a report to Congress that can be declassified, as a good step toward public transparency.

A:

That's technically not a question, but it IS pretty creepy!


Q:

Are you guys having fun? Or is it a schlep?

In my opinion, an unintentional outcome of Trump has been the press reverting to high quality investigative journalism. Is that your take too?

A:

This one creeps me out?


Q:

A fair question. Covering a high-stakes investigation such as this can be very fun but also very exhausting, and I think most journalists would tell you that it is one of the hardest _ if not the hardest _ story we have covered. It is an incredibly competitive, challenging assignment, with developments that come at you from all corners in ways that are often hard to analyze or synthesize. I agree that there has been a surge in high-quality investigative work, both by excellent colleagues at AP and my competitors at other news organizations!

A:

Paul F: I have always been fascinated by technology and innovation, and getting to meet the people behind the inventions is simply amazing. As a former radio personality, being able to meet people like National Inventor’s Hall of Fame inductees James West, co-inventor of the Electret Microphone, or Garrett Brown, inventor of the Steadicam (who also happened to film the uber creepy tricycle scene in “The Shining”) is about as cool as it gets. I’m also fortunate enough to work with a great group of colleagues who share a similar sense of humor and tend to geek out over all the same things I do.


Q:

This one creeps me out?

A:

Sharon (our colleague in Human Resources):Thanks for your interest! The best way for us to understand your qualifications is by doing what you already know to do: apply via USAJOBS. But here’s something you might not already know: you can apply to more than one vacancy announcement for different engineering disciplines.  It’s the best way to increase your chances of landing an interview. 

For more info on jobs at the USPTO and to stay connected with us outside of Reddit, check us out on (LinkedIn) [https://www.linkedin.com/company/uspto] and at [@USPTOJobs on Twitter](http://www.twitter.com/uspto]!  

And if you have any additional questions, contact us at [email protected]!


Q:

Where can I go to view these creepy IPs?


Q:

How do you guys get paid, and do you guys get paid?

A:

Paul F: Yes, yes we do get paid. Today, it is strictly in bags of candy however, but for the rest of the year, you can see the OPM salary and wage breakdowns for federal employees here: https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/salaries-wages/2017/general-schedule/


Q:

For microentity fee purposes for a new application, if an inventor had previously filed a provisional and then a nonprovisional based on that same provisional, do they count as two previous filings or just one? If two, does that mean that an inventor who did that twice (two provs and two nonprovs based on said two provs) can no longer file another new application as a microentity?

A:

Since June 8, 1995, the USPTO has offered inventors the option of filing a provisional application for a patent which was designed to provide a lower-cost first patent filing in the United States. For more information on provisional versus nonprovisional patent applications, please refer to https://www.uspto.gov/patents-getting-started/patent-basics/types-patent-applications/provisional-application-patent. For your specific question, I’d recommend you talk to our Help Center. Phone: 800-786-9199.


Q:

Awesome. Thanks!

A:

Laura: Do medical devices count as torture devices? Even though we’ve made major advances in dentistry, anything related to going to the dentist is creepy to me. The patents for various old-time ‘advancements’ like this dental tool, are pretty horrific. I’m sure one day we’ll be saying the same thing about today’s high-tech tools and methods.


Q:

Are there any #CreepyIP's that one person on the team thought was REALLY creepy and another was like, "meh, that's not so creepy at all"? :-)

A:

Liz: I think we’ve all generally agreed that the patents and trademarks we’ve selected for #CreepyIP have been creepy or strange. I personally think that anything with clowns is extra creepy, but I’m sure there’s been someone on the team who views them as a piece of nostalgia from their childhood. Not. Me.