Celebrity Invention: Jamie Lee Curtis's Diaper-Wiper Duo

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for patentsrichfamous_280(2).jpgSome celebrities aren't just pretty faces. A few of them are also touched with that Yankee prowess for tinkering and invention. In this weekly series, we introduce you to the Patents of the Rich and Famous. And maybe you learn a little bit about how the patent literature works along the way.

Inventor: Jamie Lee Curtis

Known For: On-screen, Jamie Lee Curtis embodies various mom personae. In True Lies, she portrayed the dowdy under-appreciated mom who doubled as a strip teasing spy. In another transformational role, she played Freaky Friday's uptight psychiatrist mom. My Girl 2 showed her as the awkward but loving step-mom. And she even played a wannabe mom as babysitter Laurie Stode in Halloween.

She also does the mom thing off-screen. Curtis and her husband of 15 years, Christopher Guest, have two adopted children.

In both her fictitious and actual lives, Curtis has spent a lot of time caring for children, meaning she has docked lots of hours changing diapers. So it's no surprise that this on-the-go mom thought the conventional diaper system could use some tweaking.

Invented Apparatus: "Infant garment"

JamieLeecurtisEDIT.bmpIt's a suped-up diaper, equipped with a waterproofed baby wipe holding compartment -- wipes included.

Or as Curtis explains, it's "a disposable infant garment which takes the form of a diaper including, on its outer side, a sealed, but openable, moisture-proof pocket which contains one or more clean-up wipers."

Rationale Behind Invention: Any woman with a baby-on-board knows the hassles of baby accoutrements. Between the diapers, wipes, bottles, binkies, bibs and whatever else little Johnny -- or in Curtis' case, Annie or Thomas -- might need, that baby bag is a schlep. Consolidation is key. A baby pro, Curtis understood that, thus creating an all in one diaper-wiper garment.

A routine which is repetitively familiar to parents of infants everywhere, involves the handling of soiled diapers, and the infant cleanup which follows.

The introduction, in the not-too-distant past, of so-called disposable diapers has, by addressing the diaper-washing and re-use consideration, offered a significant advance in this field. Likewise, recent introduction of prepackaged clean-up wipers has provided a simplifying advance in dealing with clean-up activity.

Nevertheless, and despite these worthy contributors toward simplifying infant care, there is still room for important improvement. For example, until now, diapers and wipers have been sold, stored and handled as two different, separate, independent entities. So, one making use of these products, both at home and while traveling, must necessarily store, dispense, and travel with, etc., two separately packaged items. Quite apart from these issues, there is the further consideration about the convenience of bringing the two (separate diaper and separate wiper) into necessary proximity when an infant's diaper is to be removed for changing, and a clean-up conducted.

You know how in Christopher Guest movies, the entire joke is that people take small things ridiculously, incredibly, unbelievably seriously? Well, that's basically how the patent literature works, except that it's real. Changing diapers is a clunky process, Curtis simplified that process, and now she wants to protect her intellectual property. Who says America is losing its innovative prowess?

Off Label Uses: Why stop at baby wipes? Diapers (especially soiled ones) serve as a really great hiding place for valuables -- they have a built in deterrent! We conjecture that moms and dads will store other gems -- iPod shuffle, passports, etc. -- in that little pouch. Nobody ever thinks to look in the diaper.

Future Directions: You know when you're in a restaurant, or on a long flight, and they surprise you with that delightful warm moist towel? We bet babies and parents alike would appreciate one of those during changing sessions. Cold wipes on a warm baby's bottom probably don't feel so good. Perhaps a piezoelectric material could line the inside of the wipe pouch, scavenging energy from the baby's movements, converting it into electricity, and transmitting it to a mini resistance heater. Just imagine the feeling of a warm post-wipe wipe after changing sessions.

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Rebecca Greenfield is a writer based in Brooklyn. She was formerly on staff at The Atlantic Wire.

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