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Electronics patent of the month: A novel computer mouse

Michael Jaeger, patent attorney at leading UK patent and trade mark attorneys Withers & Rogers LLP, writes:

novel computer mouse I

GB Patent Number: GB2500134
Granted to: James and Stephen Bowden

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is a medical problem which is taken very seriously in the workplace. It can be a debilitating condition for sufferers. Keyboard and mouse users are particularly prone to suffer from it and many products have been proposed which attempt to prevent or alleviate the condition.

UK patent no. 2472880 was granted to the joint inventors, Messrs Bowden, at the end of April and may provide a breakthrough solution to those who are concerned by RSI. The patent describes a novel computer mouse which is allegedly even more ergonomically-designed than every other mouse seen to date.

The most common mouse design requires the hand and wrist of a user to be held in a position that is generally towards full pronation, i.e. with the palm facing down and held generally parallel to a work surface on which the mouse is located, and with the fingers and thumb splayed out over the mouse. This alignment of the hand and wrist can require the use of muscles in the arm which are better suited to gross motor movement, rather than the fine motor movements deployed in mouse control. The use of these muscles in this manner can lead to RSI.

novel computer mouse IIAs you can see from the diagrams, the innovative mouse design has a planar base for resting on a work surface in which an optical motion sensor is mounted. The mouse’s body extends upwards from the base and includes a thumb support ledge on the front, defining a thumb surface for engagement by the tip of a user’s thumb. On the reverse of the mouse, there is a finger surface area for engagement by only the tip of one or more of the user’s fingers. Upper and lower portions of the finger surface extend across the width of the device and constitute the standard function operation buttons. The mouse also incorporates a scroll wheel between the upper and lower buttons.

The Bowdens’ new mouse design places the hand in a more natural position in which the fingers and thumb are flexed, and the side of the wrist, the side of the hand and the adjacent edge of the palm surface rest on a work surface on which the mouse is located. The palm is generally inclined halfway between being parallel to the work surface and at a right angle to the work surface. The body of the device generally only requires light contact with the tips of the thumb and the tips of one or more fingers, typically the index and middle fingers, requiring no contact with the palm at all. This grip is well suited to accurately controlling precise movements without putting undue strain on the arm’s musculoskeletal system.

Additionally, the required grip facilitates use of the device on the centre line of the user’s body, which is of benefit where very precise control of movement is required. By designing the device so it is gripped between the tips of the user’s thumb and fingers, maximum sensory input and control of the device can be obtained, allowing for delicate and precise control and adjustment. I can’t wait to get my hand on it!

Michael Jaeger is a patent attorney at leading UK patent and trade mark attorneys, Withers & Rogers LLP.

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