Annual Patently Impossible Project 2014

Patently Impossible Project

Every November, lawyers descend upon the Miami Science Museum for what is quite possibly the most delightful fundraiser of the year. The Patently Impossible Project, a benefit for Dade Legal Aid, features a unique challenge for the participants: teams are given a bag of parts and must race to assemble the invention with only the patent application to guide them.

Before the competition began on November 6, invitees circulated throughout the museum, taking in the exhibits while enjoying hors d’oeurves and scoping out the silent auction. The event has grown and flourished in its five years, and attracts hundreds of lawyers, judges, engineers, and students.

If you’ve never read a patent, you may wonder what exactly is so difficult about assembling a simple robot based on the patent description. Patent attorneys and inventors, however, are only too familiar with the frequent absurdity of patents. In an attempt to describe the claimed invention with as much specificity as possible while also keeping the patent protection as broad as possible, most patent descriptions end up becoming… well, patently impossible to read or understand.

The following, for example, is taken from a Mattel toy patent:

“… a drive mechanism operatively engaged with the plurality of leg assemblies so as to actuate each of the leg members of the plurality to rotate about the first and second axes in a like, predetermined, repeatable cycle of movement, with at least some of the leg members of the plurality being out of phase with other leg members of the plurality to produce an anatomic-like gait of the toy device on the surface upon actuation of the drive mechanism…”

Patently-Impossible-ProjectGiven this, last week’s teams performed admirably. Scrambling to piece together a small walking robot in a crowded room with excited spectators looming over their shoulders, the participants nevertheless stayed calm under the pressure. Yet even after putting together a working robot, the teams discovered that they had one more challenge: the robots would have to walk along the length of a table and across the finish line to win.

The Akerman team won the day, with the University of Miami placing second.

Many thanks are due to Jaime Vining, who chaired the event, to all the sponsors and participants for making it a memorable night, and most of all to Dade Legal Aid, which provides critical legal assistance to low income communities.

Other articles:

Author Bio

Jane Muir

Jane Muir is a Shareholder and Managing Partner of J. Muir & Associates, a Miami business law firm she founded in 2018. With more than 13 years of experience in business, she is dedicated to representing clients in a wide range of legal areas, including business litigation, contracts, corporate formation, insolvency, nonprofits, partnership disputes, and other business law matters.

Jane received her Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law and is a member of the Dade County Bar Association and Coral Gables Bar Association. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named among the “20 Under 40” in 2016 by Brickell Magazine. Super Lawyers named her a Rising Star from 2014–2019 and selected her for the Super Lawyers status.

LinkedIn | State Bar Association | Avvo | Google