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CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
November 12, 2011 | Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports
While running through the slick streets of Minnesota on a particularly cold and wet winter day in 1975, cross-country skier Ed Pauls was moved to wonder: Could he come up with an exercise machine that would allow him to practice skiing indoors? Trained as an engineer, he invented NordicTrack, which employed wood slats, pulleys and wires — and allowed the user to imitate the movement of gliding on skis through snow. On the advice of a family friend, Pauls decided that his creation had commercial potential.
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CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
September 30, 2011 | By Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times
While building an oscillator to record heart sounds, Wilson Greatbatch made a fortuitous mistake in the late 1950s. After he grabbed the wrong resistor from a box and plugged it in, the unit gave off a startlingly familiar, uneven electrical pulse. "I stared at the thing in disbelief and then realized that this was exactly what was needed to drive a heart," he wrote in his 2000 memoir "The Making of the Pacemaker. " The accidental discovery propelled the electrical engineer to handcraft the first practical implantable pacemaker.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
September 20, 2011
Dave Gavitt Coach led organization of Big East Conference Dave Gavitt, 73, one of basketball's most influential leaders in the last three decades, died Friday in a hospital near his hometown of Rumford, R.I., after a long illness, his family said. Gavitt coached Providence College to the NCAA tournament five times, including the Final Four in 1973. He was the driving force behind the formation of the Big East Conference and was its first commissioner.
BUSINESS
July 28, 2011 | By Stuart Pfeifer, Los Angeles Times
A Southern California man who invented the cold treatment gel Zicam has agreed to plead guilty to marketing an unapproved drug that he claimed could prevent and treat flu. Charles B. Hensley of Redondo Beach was indicted in May on 12 felony charges related to sales of an influenza treatment product called Vira 38 without Food and Drug Administration approval. Hensley will plead guilty to one of those charges under an agreement with prosecutors. Free on $5,000 bond, Hensley is scheduled to appear in federal court in Los Angeles on Aug. 8 to enter the guilty plea.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
July 23, 2011 | By Andrea Chang, Los Angeles Times
Elliot Handler, a pioneering toy maker who co-founded Mattel and invented Hot Wheels, has died. He was 95. Handler died Thursday from heart failure at his Century City home, according to his daughter, Barbara Segal, after whom the Barbie doll was named. In 1945, Handler and his wife, Ruth, founded Mattel out of a garage workshop in Los Angeles with their friend Harold "Matt" Matson. They called it Mattel, a name fashioned from Matson and Elliot. The first Mattel products were picture frames, but Handler soon developed a side business making dollhouse furniture out of picture frame scraps.
BUSINESS
July 11, 2011 | By Cyndia Zwahlen
A bill making its way through Congress calls for a significant change in the way patents are awarded. It would switch the U.S. from a system that favors the first person to invent an item or process to one that would instead give preference to the first person to file for the patent. It's a change that has independent inventors worried that it would make the process more complicated and expensive, and thus give an advantage to large firms. "It does add to the anxiety, it does make it feel like more of a race" to the patent office, said Minna Ha of Arcadia, who has a patent application pending for a cosmetic case designed to hold makeup refills.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
July 3, 2011 | Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times
While driving through an automatic carwash in 1971, George Ballas watched the whirling nylon bristles glide around the contour of his vehicle and wondered if he could adapt the technology to remove the weeds around trees in his yard. At home, he punched holes in a tin can, threaded it with wire and fishing line and bolted it to a rotating lawn edger. He called it the Weed Eater, and when he couldn't sell the concept, he founded his own company and built it into a $40-million-a-year business.
BUSINESS
June 24, 2011 | By Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times
The House passed the most sweeping changes to the patent system in nearly 60 years, a rare bipartisan accomplishment pushed by major businesses bent on reducing a huge backlog of applications and aligning U.S. procedures with most of the rest of the world. The legislation would change long-standing law to grant a patent to the first person to file an application, not to the original inventor. It has become harder to determine and easier to challenge in court who first invented a product or procedure.
BUSINESS
June 14, 2011 | Michael Hiltzik
Like many other American innovators, Larry Lockwood took the patent system at face value: Invent something new, and you get a limited monopoly to exploit it for up to 20 years. The implicit conditions are that you make your invention public and offer licenses for its use in good faith. That's the course Lockwood, now 64, pursued after he received patents in 1994 and 2001 covering e-commerce systems to market merchandise and services. Programs for translating customers' search terms into multimedia screenfuls of goods and services for sale may be common today, but the patent office concluded that Lockwood's combination of searching, retrieving and displaying data — originally aimed at the travel agency and banking businesses — was sufficiently unique and original to warrant protection.
BUSINESS
June 7, 2011 | By David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times
The Supreme Court ruled that inventors — and not the universities that employ them — have the first right to patent and profit from their discoveries, dealing a defeat to Stanford University and its bid for full patent rights for the diagnostic test used worldwide for detecting HIV. "Since 1790, the patent law has operated on the premise that rights in an invention belong to the inventor," Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said. Roberts and the court majority, in a 7-2 decision Monday, rejected Stanford's claim that a 1980 federal law changed that rule and gave universities the rights to all inventions that were funded in part with federal money.
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