Patent Research ServicesHORK Enterprises has assisted Alston & Bird, LLP successfully defending the validity of airbag patents before the PTAB. We have assisted DLA Piper, LLP defending against an alleged weight sensor patent infringement, resulting in a summary judgement in favor of the defendant. Further patents related work is ongoing. Where appropriate we may clarify our findings with analysis based illustratives.
We have a long history in safety research that has led to patents in the fields of airbag design, inflator design, occupant classification sensor systems, and software algorithms.
US Patent 5,695,242describes an airbag system, embedded in the seat, to raise the front of the cushion. This bends the knees and lifts the feet off the toeboard and thereby prevents bracing. It also restrains the lower torso, so forward excursion is reduced.
Airbag DesignCurtain airbags deploy in a side impact to protect against intrusion injuries and deploy in case of a roll-over to prevent occupant ejection. The challenge was to get enough tension in the curtain, to retain even an unbelted occupant. Our research of 1996 contributed to solving that and led to
US Patent 5,924,723
Later challenges involved filling the curtain quick and evenly, without causing undue stresses in the fabric near the fill point. Then there was the research into bonding the fabric panels, rather than sewing them together.
Side curtains became standard issue with the growth in popuarity of SUVs and cross-over vehicles. One approach to occupant classification was the Occupant Spacial Sensor system, developed by Automotive Technologies International. The 1998-2000 iteration was based on ultrasonic transducers creating an echo pattern of the passenger seat area, which was analyzed by an artificial neural network. The ANN was trained to recognize patterns that required the passenger airbag to be switched off. Great progress was made in the knowledge of how best to collect a data set to train the ANN, how to optimize the network design, and how to apply post-decision filtering. All those technological advances were incorporated in
US Patent 6,529,809.
US Patent 7,905,516describes an airbag module that integrates the components required for gas generation. It thereby eliminates the need for a separate inflation component. The inflator is in fact assembled, as the module is assembled. This required a special arrangement to minimize the pressures on the components. This was achieved by expanding the inflation gas to supersonic velocities and shocking it down to subsonic velocity in an area where the higher pressures could be sustained. The shock wave is led into a circular channel, where it can dissipate without choking the upstream fluid flow.