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Need more explanation of "what we're looking for"

Need more explanation of "what we're looking for"

Posted Apr 25, 2006 17:39 UTC (Tue) by dwheeler (guest, #1216)
In reply to: The JMRI Project and software patents by iabervon
Parent article: The JMRI Project and software patents

I agree, we need more explanation of what we're looking for. The right to create blog entry on this refers to the KAM letter. I looked at the KAM letter, and the letter focuses on this: "Claim 1 of U.S. Patent No. 6,530, 329 claims a method of operating a digitally controlled model railroad comprising the steps of: (a) transmitting a first command from a first program to an interface; (b) transmitting a second command from a second program to said interface; and (c) sending third and fourth commands from said interface representative of said first and second commands, respectively, to a digital command station."

I would love to see a more detailed posting on WHAT prior art, exactly, they're looking for, so we could all help more directly. But the above may be a start. Identifying many previous model train controllers might help to at least some extent, since one of those may very well have the other properties they're looking for.

The notion that you can patent multiplexing when you apply them to model railroads is ludicrous, and points out the problem in the patent system: It fails to work rationally with software. It's like a painter being told he can't paint, because someone patented the idea of painting big buildings. Software developers go to school to learn a large set of well-known techniques and then apply the techniques to each problem they face. Multiplexing is one of those well-known techniques. The idea of applying a well-known technique to a well-understood problem is immediately obvious to any practitioner of software development, and thus the patent should never have been granted in the first place. Frankly, the fact that JMRI was first should be enough, right?

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What about full-size trains controllers as prior art

Posted Apr 26, 2006 11:26 UTC (Wed) by eru (subscriber, #2753) [Link]

So the patent talks about model trains.

In the normal universe (as opposed to the looking-glass world of patents), it is obvious to anyone that controlling model trains with a computer is not much different in principle than controlling real trains (if anything, model trains should be much simpler).

So when was the first fully-automated rail system (including subways, trams, airport terminal trains, automated carts running on factory floors, whatever) designed? I am pretty sure I have heard of such things being done before 1986.

One computer-controlled train example:

Posted Apr 26, 2006 11:34 UTC (Wed) by eru (subscriber, #2753) [Link]

Apologies for following up myself, but I just now remembered one very well-known (at least in Europe) case: The Docklands Light Railway in London.

Accoring to the info on this page:, (follow the DOWNLOAD FREE INFORMATION PACK (PDF) link), construction started in 1984 and it was opened to the public in 1987. It was computer-controlled right from the start.

One computer-controlled train example:

Posted Apr 27, 2006 11:02 UTC (Thu) by NRArnot (subscriber, #3033) [Link]

The London Underground's Victoria Line, opened in 1968, was designed to run under automated control. Officially it was never run without a "driver". Unofficially there has been at least one instance when the driver (or ratherm, manual supervisor) got out of the cab without disabling the automation, and the train took off without him, no harm done.

What about full-size trains controllers as prior art

Posted Apr 27, 2006 10:56 UTC (Thu) by macc (guest, #510) [Link]

the "Institut für Flugführung" at TU-Braunscheig, Germany

had a large Modelrailway to demonstrate general concepts
of ( distributed ) traffic control.

forgot to mention the year : old in 1984

Posted Apr 27, 2006 11:07 UTC (Thu) by macc (guest, #510) [Link]

i.e. it was already shoved in the corner then because
the institute had moved on to air traffic control

In Germnay starting in the 80ties you could buy a lot of
modular digital control stuff for modelrailroads from
Märklin and Fleischmann and probably some others

Magazines like Elektor or ELV probably had project
in that direction as well. I will have to look this up.

forgot to mention the year : old in 1984

Posted May 4, 2006 15:47 UTC (Thu) by arcticwolf (guest, #8341) [Link]

I also recall reading about a system that allowed you to use your computer to control your model railroad in a Märklin catalogue - this must've been in the early 90s. I'm not a model railroad fan myself anymore, but if somebody else still has those catalogues or can find them on eBay, it might be worth looking into.

What about full-size trains controllers as prior art

Posted May 17, 2006 11:34 UTC (Wed) by stuartward (guest, #37788) [Link]

There is a fully automated "Train" that runs between the North and South Terminals at Gatwick Airport. The north terminal was opened in 1988, so presumably the train was designed well before that.

Work began on a second terminal in 1983. Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh inaugurated the £200 million Gatwick Airport North Terminal in 1988.

and from
Gatwick Airport Transit
The Gatwick Airport Transit provides free transportation between the North and South Terminals. The transit system uses transit vehicles that run along a 1.2km long elevated two-way track system. The transit vehicles are automatic driverless people movers each with three cars.

Need more explanation of "what we're looking for"

Posted May 30, 2006 12:48 UTC (Tue) by Fossils (guest, #38077) [Link]

Your comment about Software developers is spot on. Even basic programming course teach these techniques. Furthermore does KAM Industries honestly want us or the patent office to believe that he was the first in this regard, that no one else has used logic gates and/or multiplexing in electronic circuits controlled by computers and software.
Whats the definition of a "Digital Command Station" certainly not a term that can be specifically applied to a DCC controller in a train set.

What is the definition of "digitally controlled" in relation to a model railroad? what is the first command? an instruction issued by software or an electronic circuit be powered up and intialised.

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