Ford Applies For A Patent For An Idea That's Been Around A Long Time But Is Still A Good Idea

Illustration for article titled Ford Applies For A Patent For An Idea Thats Been Around A Long Time But Is Still A Good Idea

I’m never exactly sure how patents like this work, when they’re attempting to patent a concept that’s been around for a good long while. In this case, the good idea is having a curtain/screen to turn the area below a van or hatchback or SUV’s tailgate into a little private area, suitable for doing shameful things without everyone knowing. Companies have been selling things like these for a while, and people have been rigging their own, but now Ford is attempting to patent the idea of the tailgate privacy curtain.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled Ford Applies For A Patent For An Idea Thats Been Around A Long Time But Is Still A Good Idea

As far as how Ford can patent a concept that is already out on the market, Paul Fucito, my very helpful contact at the U.S. Patent Office, pointed me to this clarification:

In the language of the statute, any person who “invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent,” subject to the conditions and requirements of the law. The word “process” is defined by law as a process, act, or method, and primarily includes industrial or technical processes.

Advertisement

So, it’s possible the patent is for such a new and useful improvement.

To be fair, Ford’s implementation here appears to be quite well thought-out. As you can see from the drawings, the curtain seems to form a pretty good-sized private area under the open tailgate, suitable, as the image shows, for tying shoes, which nobody wants to be caught doing in public.

Illustration for article titled Ford Applies For A Patent For An Idea Thats Been Around A Long Time But Is Still A Good Idea

The patent also seems to show that the curtain assembly folds into the tailgate quite seamlessly when not in use, and there’s a variation where instead of a curtain, it’s a pull-out awning, complete with telescoping support legs.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled Ford Applies For A Patent For An Idea Thats Been Around A Long Time But Is Still A Good Idea

Either or both of these would be very welcome additions to any of Ford’s SUVs or, really, anything they sell with a tailgate. While we tend to think of camping uses first, I can see these proving useful pretty much anywhere you may be outside with your car, from parking lots in stadiums to a parking lot by a beach or lake, or even in your own driveway. When you can make a vehicle useful even when it’s not in motion, that’s a good thing.

Advertisement

Also interesting is “the curtain comprises a photoluminescent structure.” Is Ford planning a glowing curtain assembly? Here’s a diagram of what seem to be LEDs embedded in a curtain material:

Illustration for article titled Ford Applies For A Patent For An Idea Thats Been Around A Long Time But Is Still A Good Idea
Advertisement

It’s interesting stuff, and I’d love to see something like this make it to market, glowing or not. I’m sick of being mocked for my public shoe-tying.

Oh, also, I promised my Patent Office pal I’d mention this: On June 19, the U.S. Patent Office is expecting to issue its 10 millionth patent! Holy shit, right? We’ll comb through and find some of the best automotive-related ones at some point.

Advertisement

(thanks to AutoGuide for showing us this!)

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

Jason, I mention this every time you or another writer at Jalopnik writes about patents. You mostly do not understand them. As I’ve said before, a published application is not a patent, it’s just an application. You can file an application and have it publish for pretty much anything. It has nothing to do with whether or not that application will ever become a patent.

Also, while the drawings are great to focus on, the “invention” is defined by the claims at the end. The claims are the legal description of what the applicant/inventor thinks their invention is. The claims almost always are narrowed (usually significantly) during examination at the USPTO.