26 October 1998

Mobile Phone Radiation "A Serious Problem" Says Phone Company

Being the sad creatures that we are at Science à GoGo, we often turn to various patent databases for a little light entertainment. Devices to straighten moustaches always raise a chuckle but occasionally something more interesting turns up. A weekend trawl of our friendly neighborhood database resulted in some interesting filings from various cell phone manufacturers and component suppliers.

We turned up three entries in the database, all from companies with substantial interests in the mobile marketplace, that seem to indicate that they may not be as sure of the safety of their equipment as they would have us believe.

First off the block, Alcatel Italia has a filing (application number EP930115026 19930917) for a "radiomobile telephone" that will result in "a greatly reduced irradiation". Astonishingly, the abstract goes on to say that "irradiation of the user's head is and will become a serious problem". Holy handsets! But the best line in the abstract is "the aim of the present invention is to provide a portable transceiver apparatus such as to minimize the irradiation of its user". Scary stuff. But Alcatel is not alone, Nokia and Ericsson seem to be thinking the same way.

Nokia has filed (application number US950507346 19950815) for a "shielding layer" that "reduces electromagnetic irradiation of the user", whilst Ericsson's filing (application number US950401024 19950608) says it is to increase the distance between the antenna and the users head. "Accordingly, the electromagnetic shielding caused by the user's head is reduced", says the rather cryptic abstract. Gee whiz, we'd never thought of our heads as electromagnetic shielding!

We got a bit bored at this point, after all, we had our moustache straightener patent to work on. But what does it all mean? Well, we thought that it looked like a godsend for the legal community. With 180 million mobile phone users world-wide, and all of them in litigious nations, it could make the tobacco settlements look like spare change.

Naturally, we tried to ring some manufacturers for their comment, unfortunately, our batteries were flat.

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