Sybaritic Pleasures: A Quick Econ 101 Primer

 

On the Demand side, marketeers talk about creating and growing markets by identifying needs (e.g., hunger) and turning them into wants by creating products that offer more and more satisfaction (e.g., hamburgers, then caviar). Economists talk about growing demand by foreseeing consumer preferences across all possible goods which deliver the greatest satisfaction within their budget constraints (the champagne taste on a beer budget problem).  Regardless of approach, it’s the collective behavior of consumers that shapes the Market, aka the Demand schedule. 

On the Supply side, marketeers talk about creating buzz and excitement to sell new products, coupled with desirable pricing and branding. Economists talk about technological innovation and increased productivity to create new and better products more efficiently than competitors. Regardless of approach, it’s the competitive behavior of suppliers that shapes the Supply schedule. 

Patents and patent protection of specialized “products” are key competitive behaviors of successful suppliers, especially in technologically intensive areas. They help keep price high enough to encourage continued production and development by protected suppliers; they discourage lesser competitors’ endeavors, which may slow innovation in the short run. But in the long run, they shift Demand by creating more utility for consumers.  

It’s been so since the time of the ancient Greeks, when “any new refinement in luxury” was encouraged in the Greek city of Sybaris by ensuring that “the profits arising from which were secured to the inventor by patent for the space of a year.”  

What kind of technologies were being developed and innovated back in 500 BCE by Sybarites, when ancient Greece had only recently emerged from its own Dark Ages and entered the Iron Age in metallurgy? True to their name, and setting the stage for consumers and suppliers throughout the ages, Sybarites were interested in developing and protecting  ever more sybaritic tastes, starting with the culinary. According to Phylarchus, “exclusive rights were granted for one year to creators of unique culinary dishes.”  

So much for hamburger and refining the sense of taste by patenting culinary arts. Later cultures expanded into the other four senses, inventing to influence consumer preferences and grow demand by improving consumers’ ability to see, feel, smell and hear.  

 

We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

 

The years of  plain vanilla amplifiers squealing in the ears and worn only by those with hearing loss are past us.  Now, suppliers of Hearables by any name are aiming for the best sound,  least noise, most content,  longest battery life,  fastest processing, widest connectivity, smallest size, greatest multi-functionality, most comfort, most attractive, and, of course, broadest market.  And, of course, we sybaritic consumers want it all now, at the lowest price we can get, and preferably over the counter so we can pick it up at takeout, just like our food choices.  

Inventors and suppliers are undaunted by this demanding set of demands from the Demand function.  On the contrary, they’re spurred on to more and better ear device creations, as we’ve been seeing in the traditional hearing aid manufacturers’ products as well as from consumer electronics firms and start ups. The patent applications and awards are proof of progress, as well as protection and pricing.  Reading what’s envisioned is a bit mind boggling, even if we limit functionality to “only” audio. Consider this dense description in a patent application by Mass Moment LLC:

A multifunctional wearable audio-sensing electronic device is disclosed in which audio is detected, detected audio is analyzed to determine characteristics of the audio, a warning is generated in response to determining that a decibel level of the detected audio is physically harmful, when the wearable audio-sensing electronic device is in a musical tuner mode, a deviation of the audio from a pre-determined audio characteristics of a musical instrument is displayed, when the wearable audio-sensing electronic device is in a hearing aid mode, an identification of the audio and a direction from which the audio originates is displayed, when the wearable audio-sensing electronic device is in an ambiance indicator mode, a visual representation of an audio ambience is displayed, and when the wearable audio-sensing electronic device is in an audio recorder mode, the audio is recorded to the memory and played back.  (USPTO #9500515)

Sybarites rejoice. The luxury of exclusive and highly personal audio is available and preferred. 

 

The November List

Description

Patent Number

Assignee

Issued

Method and Hearing Aid System for Logic-Based Binaural Beam-Forming System

9473860

Sivantos GmbH (Erlangen, DE)

10/18/2016

Cochlear electrode with apical lateral wall section and basal modiolar hugging section

9480838

Med-El Elektromedizinische Geraete GmbH (Innsbruck, AT)

11/01/2016

Inverted Flange Earbud

9485595

Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)

11/01/2016

Managing a Hearing Assistance Device Via Low Energy Digital Communications

9485591

Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)

11/01/2016

Enhanced Dynamics Processing of Streaming Audio by Source Separation and Remixing

9485589

Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)

11/01/2016

Acoustic Device

9485593

Kyocera Corp (Kyoto, JP)

11/01/2016

Wireless Power Transmitter Tuning

9484766

Qualcomm Inc (San Diego, CA)

11/01/2016

Hearing Instrument Comprising Two Antennas

9485592

Sonova AG (Staefa, CH)

11/01/2016

Hearing Device with a Means for Receiver Current Estimation and a Method of Estimating a Receiver Current for a Hearing Device

9484490

Sonova AG (Staefa, CH)

11/01/2016

Systems, Articles, and Methods for Gesture Identification in Wearable Electromyography Devices

9483123

Thalmic Labs Inc. (Kitchener, CA)

11/01/2016

Method and apparatus for microphones sharing a common acoustic volume

9491555

Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)

11/08/2016

Method and Apparatus for Programming Hearing Assistance Device Using Perceptual Model

9491556

Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)

11/08/2016

Hearing Aid Device with Integrated Antenna

9491554

Oticon A/S (Smorum, Denmark)

11/08/2016

Method of Audio Signal Processing and Hearing Aid System for Implementing the Same

9491553

Ching-Feng Liu & Hsiao-Han Chen (Taiwan inventors)

11/08/2016

Method and Apparatus for Directional Acoustic Fitting of Hearing Aids

9491559

Dean Robert Gary Anderson as Trustee of the D/L Anderson Family Trust (Orem, Utah)

11/08/2016

Electro-acoustic stimulation systems that perform predetermined actions in accordance with evoked responses

9486630

Advanced Bionics AG (Staefa, CH)

11/08/2016

Sound processors having contamination resistant control panels and implantable cochlear stimulation systems including the same

9491530

Advanced Bionics AG (Staefa, CH)

11/08/2016

Cochlear lead

9492654

Advanced Bionics AG (Valencia, CA)

11/15/2016

Flex-based connector for hearing aid

9497554

Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)

11/15/2016

Hearing aid using wireless test modes as diagnostic tool

9397553

Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)

11/15/2016

Audio system for audio streaming and associated method

9497541

GN ReSound A/S (Ballerup, DK)

11/15/2016

Leaky-wave antenna for hearing device

9496619

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (Suwon-si, KR)

11/15/2016

Implantable fluid delivery apparatus with micro-valve

9498608

Med-El Elektromedizinische Geraete GmbH (Innsbruck, AT)

11/22/2016

Automatic selection of reduction or enhancement of transient sounds

9498626

Med-El Elektromedizinische Geraete GmbH (Innsbruck, AT)

11/22/2016

Pairing method for establishing a wireless audio network

9504076

Sonova AG (Staefa, CH)

11/22/2016

Apparatus for secure hearing device communication and related method

9503437

GN ReSound A/S (Ballerup, DK)

11/22/2016

Hearing Aid

D772417

IMHear Corp (Downers Grove, Ill)

11/22/2016

Hearing Aid and Hearing Aid Dual Use Dongle

9503825

III Holdings 4 LLC (Wilmington, Del)

11/22/2016

Multifunctional Wearable Audio-Sensing Electronic Device

9500515

Mass Moment LLC (New York,  NY)

11/22/2016

Method for Adjusting Parameters of a Hearing Aid Functionality Provided in a Consumer Electronics Device

9503824

Jacoti BVB (Wevelgem, Belgium)

11/22/2016

Method and apparatus for a binaural hearing assistance system using monaural audio signals

9510111

Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)

11/29/2016

Method and apparatus for communication between hearing assistance devices in a bluetooth network

9510113

Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)

11/29/2016

Systems and methods for managing power consumption in a wireless network

9510283

Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)

11/29/2016

RF transmitter for electrically short antenna

9509345

Oticon A/S (Smorum, Denmark)

11/29/2016

External microphone array and hearing aid using it

9510112

Oticon A/S (Smorum, Denmark)

11/29/2016

Audio processing pipeline for auditory prosthesis having a common, and two or more stimulator-specific, frequency-analysis stages

9510114

Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW, AU)

11/29/2016

Editor’s note:  The Patent Series is updated monthly now, and every two months in the past.  Click links for patents approved in October 2016Sept 2016,  Jul/Aug 2016,  May/Jun 2016Mar/Apr 2016Jan/Feb 2016,  Nov/Dec 2015, Sept/Oct 2015,  Jul/Aug 2015, May/Jun 2015,  Mar/Apr 2015Jan/Feb 2015,  Nov/Dec 2014,  Sep/Oct 2014,  July/Aug 2014,  May/Jun 2014,  Mar/Apr 2014,  Jan/Feb 2014Nov/Dec 2013September/October 2013Jul/Aug 2013May/Jun 2013Mar/Apr 2013Jan/Feb 2013Nov/Dec 2012

 

feature image courtesy of Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies

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