Father of Patents: How Carl Bedingfield embraced the spirit of constant innovation
April 2, 2019
For a man with over 150 granted U.S. patents under his belt, you’d have a hard time getting Carl Bedingfield to pick his favorite. “It’s like you have 100 children. You like them all.”
Carl is an engineer at the AT&T Foundry in Atlanta, a space dedicated to prototyping new and innovative technologies. But his patented tenure doesn’t start there. Throughout his 30 years at AT&T, Carl hasn’t stopped filing patents. That’s thanks, in part, to AT&T’s rich history of innovation.
AT&T Intellectual Property is one of the world’s largest intellectual property operations, supporting a heritage of innovation that dates back more than a century, all the way to Alexander Graham Bell. In fact, we receive an average of more than 5 patents per business day, and AT&T consistently ranks among the top 30 companies obtaining new U.S. patents.
That said, unique ideas don’t always translate into patent-worthy innovations. While the qualifying criteria may appear subjective, a patent idea or design must meet three specific criteria:
- It must be novel
- It must be useful
- It must be non-obvious
New patents also don’t happen overnight. The evaluation process can take 3-4 years. But that hasn’t slowed Carl down. A few of his most notable patents include:
- Intelligent Cell Site: Carl’s first patent dates back to the late 1980’s, when he was involved with deploying the first network-based digital telephone system. As part of a Mobility project, Carl worked with an engineer from a switch vendor to explore new ideas. The two of them designed a configuration and procedure to support the transfer of mobile phone calls between cell sites by using the newly deployed Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN).
- 3D Television: We’ve all donned a pair of 3D glasses for a more thrilling cinematic experience. But while most everyone is familiar with the sensation of objects popping out of the screen while watching a 3D television, not as many know how that phenomenon is created. Televisions produce 3D imagery by showing two different signals –one for the left eye, and one for the right. But what if two different people could look at the same screen and see two completely different sets of 3D images? Applying his knowledge of how 3D TV glasses work, Carl worked on a team that developed a way to revolutionize the 3D viewing experience. Instead of one set of glasses designed to pick up the left- and right-eye signals, the team developed two different sets of glasses that separate the TV signals in a way that allows two different people to view the same screen, but see different pictures. This is a potentially useful application for multiplayer gaming happening at one location, which currently requires splitting the screen for each player. With these glasses, two full-screen gameplays could be happening simultaneously on the same television screen.
And despite his love for all of his patents, there is one that holds a special place in his heart – he calls it the “Mom Patent.”
Like many in the pre-email era, Carl’s mother was an avid believer in voicemail, but rarely checked her email. So Carl developed his “Mom Patent” system, which works by sending automated voicemail alerts to users’ phones whenever a new email hits their inbox. Not only did this solution help his mother – and others like her – stay savvy with the latest and greatest in tech, it also ensured she was finally getting his email messages loud and clear. Literally.
Hear more about Carl’s history of patent innovation in the video above.