In 2016, IBM inventors were awarded more than 22 patents/day. That includes one last June in its “cognitive healthcare patent” group for a Smart Hearing Aid (USPTO #9374649). It looks a lot like the Smart Hearing Aid patents IBM was awarded (USPTO #9609441 & #9609442) in the March 2017 list below (see feature image above).  Same name, same inventors, same diagrams, slightly different wording to describe a personalized hearing aid to meet specific needs.  To wit,

 Finding hearing aid devices personalized to meet the specific needs of individual users continues to be a challenge. IBM inventors developed a hearing aid device that can distinguish and filter voices and sounds. The device could be trained to distinguish sounds such as a smoke alarm and to listen intelligently to one’s environment while filtering some sounds and amplifying others to improve the user’s experience with the device. (icrunchdata.com)   

 

A Word on IBM

 

Checking out the feature image, IBM’s strategy for filing multiple patents with the same name for the same (very complicated) thing is probably to hit a target from all angles. That’s not a revelatory statement or smart comment, but it’s consistent with IBM’s high patent activity and probable intention to enforce its patents on anything that looks or acts like a smart hearing aid from here on out. Whether it makes a hearing aid or not, IBM will benefit from those that do. 

IBM’s operating segments have seen no growth on falling revenues since 2011. Consequently, IBM is transforming itself into a “cognitive solutions and cloud platform company,” with roughly 40% of overall revenues coming from “SMAC” technologies (social, mobile, analytic, cloud) last year and more is expected as it expands to take VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality, IoT and AI under its wing. Smart hearing aids fit right into that package.

Patents and patent royalties are an important part of IBM’s technological transformation. The company has led the pack for years in number of patents awarded.  It broke its own record in 2016 by gaining 8088 patents, one-third of which were for SMAC technologies.  Depending on how revenues are sliced up,  IBM arguably derives upwards of $1B/year in patent-related income. Smart hearing aid patents can add a bit to that pile of money and why not?

 

The March 2017 Patent List

 

Description

Patent Number

Assignee

Issued

Bilateral hearing assistance system and a method of fitting a bilateral hearing assistance system

9584928

Oticon Medical A/S (Smorum, DK)

2/28/2017

Hearing assistance apparatus

9591410

Bose Corporation (Framingham, MA)

3/07/2017

Self-calibration of multi-microphone noise reduction system for hearing assistance devices using an auxiliary device

9591411

Oticon A/S (Smorum, DK)

3/07/2017

Hearing aid comprising a flexible connection member

9591415

Oticon A/S (Smorum, DK)

3/07/2017

Passive vibration cancellation system for microphone assembly

9591416

Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW)

3/07/2017

Hydraulic microphone

9591413

Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW)

3/07/2017

Sound processing based on a confidence measure

9589580

Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW)

3/07/2017

Cap for an implantable electrical lead assembly

9586042

Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW)

3/07/2017

Hearing aid device comprising a sensor member

9596551

Oticon A/S (Smorum, DK)

3/14/2017

Prosthesis adapter

9596550

Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW)

3/14/2017

Electrical isolation in an implantable device

9592395

Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW)

3/14/2017

Prosthesis adapter

9602936

Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW)

3/21/2017

Bone conduction device

9602931

Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW)

3/21/2017

Portable power charging of implantable medical devices

9597522

Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW)

3/21/2017

Intra-cochlear stimulating assembly insertion

9597503

Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW)

3/21/2017

Hearing aid with antenna for reception and transmission of electromagnetic signals

9602933

Oticon A/S (Smorum, DK)

3/21/2017

Antennas for standard fit hearing assistance devices

9602934

Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)

3/21/2017

Method for operating a hearing system as well as a hearing device

9602935

Sonova AG (Staefa, CH)

3/21/2017

Resource manager

9602932

GN Hearing A/S (Ballerup, DK)

3/21/2017

In-the-ear hearing aid having combined antennas

9609443

GN Hearing A/S (Ballerup, DK)

3/28/2017

Hearing device with communication protection and related method

9608807

GN Hearing A/S (Ballerup, DK)

3/28/2017

Method and device for personalized hearing

9609424

Personics Holdings, LLC (Boca Raton, FL)

3/28/2017

Template for implanting a housing of a hearing instrument

9609440

Advanced Bionics AG (Staefa, CH)

3/28/2017

Smart hearing aid

9609441 & 9609442

International Business Machines Corp (Armonk, NY)

3/28/2017

In-the-ear hearing aid having combined antennas

9609443

GN Hearing A/S (Ballerup, DK)

3/28/2017

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