Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Crazy Patents!

For the US Patents Office to issue a patent, the invention must be novel, non-obvious, and "useful." The standard for usefulness is certainly the weakest of the three - any possible utility, no matter how small, will suffice. And, useful does not necessarily mean commercially viable. In other words, you can get a patent on some crazy things that will never make it to the shelves of your local store. For instance:

Patent Number 5392735

"Marine Mammal Communication Device"

This Walt Disney patent contains detailed source code (about 17 pages worth) of what basically amounts to a dolphin size keyboard that translates keystrokes into sounds for both humans and other dolphins and perhaps "whales and porpoises" as well. They hope that once trained that a human will be able to simply speak to the Dolphins as well.

Patent Number 7108178

"Method of stopping a stolen car without a high-speed chase, utilizing a bar code"

The title alone earns the patent a place in this article. Part of the invention also requires that the rear wheel covers have bullets or knives installed in them, however the inventor also offers a method to disable the engine by remote control.

Patent Number 6142880

"Method of playing a bowling game"

This is basically bowling like it is today, but changing the scoring system to "eliminate the unfair advantage of scoring consecutive strikes with a multiplier effect".

Patent Number 5107620

"Electrified table cloth"

Designed to discourage bugs from crawling on a table cloth, the electrified table cloth shocks them, much like an invisible dog fence. I'm not sure this idea is so crazy - if anyone knows where to get one of these, please let me know.

Patent Number 7062320

"Device for the treatment of hiccups"

Appears to be a glass that shocks you when you drink from it, ostensibly stimulating specific nerves in an attempt to cure hiccups.

Patent Number 6994809

"Plug for and method of patching a hole in a wall"

Maybe not really crazy, but crazily obvious. This patent shows you how to patch a hole in a wall by cutting out a piece the same size as a pre-formed plug, and then inserting the plug and plastering over it.

Patent Number 5443036

"Method of exercising a cat"

In 1993 the US Patents Office issued this patent for using a laser pointer to exercise a cat (yes, by moving the laser pointer beam around and having the cat chase it). Come on now... Not only is this crazy to patent, but this idea had surely been thought of long before this patent came about. In fact, a bit of research turned up the book: "One Hundred and Eighty-Seven Ways to Amuse a Bored Cat" (Ballantine Books; May, 1982) that describes the exact same idea, but using a flashlight. Sorry guys - the use of a laser pointer for the same thing is obvious.
Update: There is something else that is truly amazing about this patent. Not only should this patent probably never have been issued, but it appears that the USPTO has issued what is essentially the same patent many times! See: Patent Number: 6505576 "Pet Toy"; Patent Number: 6557495 "Laser Pet Toy"; Patent Number: 6651591 "Automatic Laser Pet Toy And Exerciser"; Patent Number: 6701872 "Method And Apparatus For Automatically Exercising A Curious Animal"

Patent Number: 6826983

"Light Bulb Changer"

How many machines does it take to change a light bulb? Come on now, who is going to buy a machine, that looks like it weighs 100 pounds and costs plenty, to change light bulbs?

Patent Number: 6752088

"Eating counter apparatus for mobile vending vehicle"

This guy must have been sitting around with a hotdog cart, a park bench, and a welding torch, and decided he needed to patent something using only these three things.

Patent Number:6739074

"Tamper Resistant Institutional Shoe And Method"

A shoe with a transparent sole to prevent concealing contraband. Don't laugh just yet - these might be required on planes soon!

Patent Number: 6718554

"Hands free towel carrying system"

A towel with a neck loop. Seriously -- that's all it is. And it took until 2004 to patent such a thing. I wonder what other amazing inventions remain to be discovered???

Patent Number: 6650315

"Mouse device with a built-in printer"

The title is pretty self-explanatory. Yes, it takes very small paper. Maybe it could serve as a label maker -- that's about all I can think of.

Patent Number: 6368227

"Method of swinging on a swing"

So these fools think that in all the years of swinging no one has ever before thought to pull on the opposite chains and swing form side to side? Well, I guess they got the PTO to issue the patent, so I'm not sure who the fool really is... But, even so, what do these guys expect to do with this anyway? Are they going to go around and collect royalties from kids on the playground?

Patent Number: 4858627

"Smokers Hat"

A hat with an air intake, which filters and then expels the air. Looks pretty much like wearing the exhaust hood for a stove on your head.

Patent Number: 4455816

"Tricycle Lawnmower"

No, you aren't misreading anything. This really is a child's tricycle with a lawnmower attached. Real safe, eh?

Patent Number: 4300473

"Device For Moistening The Adhesive Coating On Postage Stamps and Envelopes"

Describes a device containing an applicator to moisten stamps. Check out this quote: "The applicator may be in the form of a human tongue". Boy, that's novel.

Patent Number: 4233942

"Animal Ear Protection"

A device for protecting the ears of animals, especially long-haired dogs, from becoming soiled by the animal's food while the animal is eating. OK, your pet might look better without dirty hair, but it's going to look pretty dumb wearing this thing.