In my previous blog entry, I presented an initial review of the Apple/LQMT patent 8485245 titled “Bulk amorphous alloy sheet forming processes” based on the prosecution history from the USPTO. In essence, the Apple/LQMT patent is about the use of float-glass process to make amorphous alloy sheets.
There is a very good website to learn the basics of float-glass process (Pilkington process), where the step-by-step manufacturing of float glass is described.
Going back to the description of Apple/LQMT patent 8485245, the specification spends several pages on amorphous alloy basics and a laundry list of amorphous alloy formulations from the prior art. This part of the specification does not have much significance for any inventive subject matter, so it is not worthwhile to discuss here.
The core of the inventive subject matter, that is the steps of the float-glass process, starts at line 47 of column 16 in the formal USPTO patent publication. Therein, the different stages of the BMG float glass process are listed. This list looks awfully similar to the list provided by www.pilkington.com, the website cited above.
For the purposes of comparison, the stages of the BMG sheet production by Apple/LQMT patent 8485245 and the stages of float glass manufacturing by the www.pilkington.com are tabulated below.
|Apple/LQMT Patent 8485245
|Stage 1: Melting BMG Forming Metal Alloy Feedstock
|Stage 1: Melting and refining
|Stage 2: Float Chamber
|Stage 2: Float bath
|Stage 3: Coating
|Stage 3: Coating
|Stage 4: Annealing and/or Superplastic Forming (Optional)
|Stage 4: Annealing
|Stage 5: Inspection
|Stage 5: Inspection
|Stage 6: Marking and/or Cutting the BMG Sheet
|Stage 6: Cutting to order
It should be noted that both references explicitly use the words “stage 1″, “stage 2″ etc. It should also be noted that patent attorneys, at least good ones, prefer to use the word “steps” rather than “stages” to describe a method or process in conventional patent language.
Not enough for copying? Let me pull out sentences word-by-word from Apple/LQMT patent and Pilkington website.
Stage 5: Inspection
Apple/LQMT patent says the following about the Stage 5: Inspection:
“The float glass process of the embodiments herein could make perfectly flat, flaw-free BMG sheets. But to ensure the highest quality, inspection could take place at every stage.”
“Inspection technology could allow more than 100 million measurements a second to be made across the BMG sheet, locating flaws the unaided eye would be unable to see.”
Let’s see what Pilkington’s website says for Stage 5: Inspection:
“The float process is renowned for making perfectly flat, flaw-free glass. But to ensure the highest quality, inspection takes place at every stage.”
“Inspection technology now allows more than 100 million measurements a second to be made across the ribbon, locating flaws the unaided eye would be unable to see.”
The common words are highlighted in bold. To the credit of Apple/LQMT patent attorneys, they inserted the word “could” to change the present tense structure, a common practice in patent language.
If one is still not convinced, then here is a hilarious one.
Stage 3: Coating
Apple/LQMT Patent 8485245:
“(CVD) of coatings can be used to lay down a variety of coatings, less than a micron thick, to reflect visible and infrared wavelengths, for instance.”
“CVD can be used to lay down a variety of coatings, less than a micron thick, to reflect visible and infrared wavelengths, for instance.”
As we all know, window glass is transparent to visible light and needs coating for tinting, energy conservation and/or for decorative purposes. It makes sense to coat the float glass, especially to reflect visible light.
However, amorphous alloys (BMGs) are not transparent to visible light, and indeed reflect visible light pretty well. There is no need to coat amorphous alloys, especially to reflect visible light, perhaps except for a few niche applications.
If the above is not “slavishly copying“, then someone owes Samsung a big apology.
There is something called IDS (Information Disclosure Statement) in the patent application. I do not see any prior art reference to the floating glass process in Apple/LQMT patent despite its crucial relevance to the prosecution.
In the next blog, I will discuss whether this copy-paste patent has any meaningful technological development to enable the massive production of Liquidmetal alloy sheets.