When jack-o’-lanterns begin to glow and youngsters chart out their candy-collecting routes, an often-overlooked trend takes over every October: the Halloween commercial extravaganza! Beneath the shadows of ghouls and goblins, a profitable domain emerges for candy makers and costume creators. Yet, it’s not just about commerce; the essence of innovation is very much alive in this festive spree. Venturing into the patent archives reveals a plethora of Halloween-inspired inventions, highlighting the seamless blend of creativity and business during this eerie season.

Today we descend into the cryptic catacombs of patent drafting to exhume a narrative of innovation entangled in a web of woes. Our pilgrimage unveils the peculiar tale of U.S. Patent Application No. 2014/0183326 (the ’326 application) dubbed “Halloween Pumpkin/Jack-O-Lantern Display Stand,” which faded into the abyss following a sinister scrimmage with the USPTO. The ’326 application is directed to a jack-o-lantern display stand that springs to life when approached. A ghostly gesture or a chilling chant triggers a suite of spooky surprises: a speaker, motor, and eerie embers that illuminate the jack-o-lantern, set it a-spin, and serenade the night with spine-chilling sounds. This spectral stand seemed like a promising potion for a hi-tech Halloween.

The tale takes a turn to the tragic as the ’326 application found itself abandoned in the cold crypt of USPTO after receiving only one Office Action. It’s a sorrowful saga, especially because the examiner had deemed that claims 2-5, 7, and 8 bear the badge of allowable subject matter. Had the inventor infused the subject matter from one or more of these claims into the independent claims, the patent might have emerged from the murky mire. Alas, the allowable claims were not the only asset left lurking in the shadows; a review of the claims unveils some self-imposed narrowing. It seemed the inventor was hesitant to haul in a hefty hoard of Halloween treats.

For instance, claim 1 recites a “Halloween Pumpkin/jack-o-lantern stand for to display a Halloween pumpkin or jack-o-lantern for viewing.” The term “Halloween Pumpkin/jack-o-lantern stand” here is redundant; the inventor could have simply claimed “a stand.” While the preamble of the claim often wields wispy weight, there’s no need to shackle oneself to the specifics of the “stand” unless beckoned by the ghostly grip of a prior art rejection.

Moreover, claim 1 recites “a motor means” and a “platform means,” but the “means” murmurs more mischief than magic, tempting the notion that these elements echo a means+function malaise. While such spectral suspicions could be seen as baseless, the murmur of “means” can manifest more tricks than treats. The inventor could have escaped this eerie entanglement by invoking “a motor” and “a platform.” A deeper delve into the diabolical domain of means+function language is beyond the scope of this blog as that tale can be too spooky our readers.

The tale’s tragic tint further unfurls with the revelation that the application, though adorned with 14 claims, had room for up to 20 at no extra exorcism expense. Six claims found themselves forsaken, akin to ghostly whispers in the wind, a lament of lost lore and potential protection.

Furthermore, the claims cast a cloak of ambiguity. For instance, claim 1 pronounces “a power source that responds to [an] activator and implements the at least one function.” The specification lifts the veil slightly, revealing the power source as either a battery or an electrical outlet. The “function” is hinted to animate the jack-o-lantern with a ghostly grin or a skeletal sway as a passerby ventures near. Strikingly, the function remains an enigmatic entity within the claims. Regardless, the sorcery of how a power source would implement a function remains shrouded in mystery. This phraseology also conjures a crafty corridor for infringers, who could conjure a defense that their power sources merely muster might, and nothing more.

As you embark on your own patent pilgrimage, let the lament of the ’326 application echo as a eerie epitaph: shun the shackles of superfluous stipulations and structure your claims with spectral strategy. Also, when you stumble upon a lackluster jack-o-lantern languishing like a lost soul, let the ’326 application resonate as a revenant reminder of the realms that could have been reached.