Patents, Patents and More Patents
More than 150,000 patents are approved every year, but only a small fraction become commercial products, and even less are successful money-makers. Patents can be filed for inventions, but also for methods of doing something. Of course, there are restrictions on what can be patented, but as you’ll see here, that hasn’t stopped some ridiculous patents from being accepted. If nothing else, we hope that this list might inspire some inventors out there to take a chance with their idea. After all, it can’t be worse than some of these.
Photo Credit: cytech
Yes, you. Approximately 20% of the genes in your body are currently patented. That means one-fifth of you is owned by someone else. How is it possible that someone can claim ownership over your genes? Well, the U.S. Patent Office prohibits patents on “naturally occurring substances” (i.e. life). But as the Los Angeles Times reports, ”The office has carved out an exception, however, for genetic sequences that are isolated, purified and put to a novel use.”
This practice has been controversial since it first started in 1980 and has divided the scientific community. Any company that patents a gene then has the right to limit who gets to use that gene for research purposes, which could arguably slow down the process of innovation. There is currently an ongoing court case that may help decide the future of gene patenting. At issue in this case is a company has patented two genes linked to breast cancer.
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The Electrified Tablecloth
I’m glad my parents didn’t have this around when I was a kid. The Electrified Tablecloth is an invention that was designed to prevent “crawling insects from gaining access to the consumer's food or drink” and it “comprises a cloth formed of electrically insulated material,” according to the patent. As for the people sitting around the table watching the bugs get fried, they don’t have much to worry about. “A consumer who may come into contact with the strips will usually not feel the current and, even if the consumer is wet, the current will produce only a slight tingling sensation.” That’s comforting cause I do hate insects in my food…
Photo Credit: cybaea
Headache Relief Method
Speaking of electrified things, there is also a patent on file for a method of relieving headaches. Forget Advil, apparently the answer is just shocking yourself with electricity. According to the U.S. Patent Office, “The present invention discloses human headache relief by application of electric impulses.” Hey, here’s an idea for an invention: how about we do the opposite of that? Yeah? Alright, let me just get my patent application together…
Photo Credit: TheGiantVermin
Edible Animal Greeting Cards
No list is complete without a ridiculous invention for pets. Case in point: the edible animal greeting cards. It is exactly what it sounds like. These are birthday cards and holiday cards for pets. But since pets really can’t, well you know, appreciate the text, someone brilliant thought to patent the idea for cards they could at least enjoy devouring after the celebration. The patent includes details for different edible tastes (liver, alfalfa, corn) and even specifics for different kinds of pets (a card for a bird would also feature a wire with which to hang it in the cage.)
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No, this is not for women with a third leg (please, no pun intended there.) Rather, it’s for all the women out there who have discovered a tear in their pantyhose in the middle of the day and were faced with a dilemma about whether to go home and change or just try to cover it up. According to the description on PatentStorm, “The wearer inserts her legs into two of the leg opening in the conventional fashion of donning a pair of pantyhose. The remaining unused leg portion is then gathered and the toe end tucked into the pocket of one of the absorbent crotch members. If a run or hole develops… the leg of the wearer can be easily and rapidly removed from the damaged leg portion and placed into the undamaged spare leg portion. The damaged leg portion is then gathered, folded and tucked into a pocket…”
As ABC points out though, there is the possibility that this item could produce an “unsightly bulge” for the person wearing it.
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Ladies Underwear... And Calendar
As long as we’re talking about undergarments, we have to throw in this bizarre patent. There is a small calendar sewed onto the band of their underwear, with “numerals and heart shapes” and a moveable clip to help keep track of time. The calendar is included to help women keep track of their… you know what, never mind. You can figure it out yourself.
Photo Credit: elvissa
Like gene patents, this soybean patent has caused quite a bit of controversy. The patent in question is held by Monsanto, an agriculture company that produced a popular weed killer called Roundup. The company then created a genetically modified soybean that could withstand this weed killer, called the Roundup Ready soybean. This might not be so bad if not for Monsanto’s notorious policy of regulating the way farmers use these soybeans. If a farmer tries to save seeds from year to year, the company views this as a threat to their product and will file a lawsuit with the farmer.
This patent is set to expire in 2014 and Monsanto has decided not to fight it, most likely because of the bad press and fears that the U.S. government was readying an anti-trust case against them.
Photo Credit: amicor
Swinging... The Method of Swinging
Talk about an idea that a child could think of. Back in 2002, a 5-year-old from Minnesota actually patented a method for swinging on a swing set. This patent, like the crustless patent, generated a debate about the notion of obviousness. According to the guidelines for the U.S. Patent Office, an invention or idea cannot be patented if it is too obvious. Yet, somehow this idea got through.
So what’s the big difference between this method for swinging and the normal way? “The patent covers moving a swing side to side or in an oval pattern. Children can get bored by swinging back and forth, or by twisting the swing to make it spin, the patent says,” reports the New Scientist. We’re all for young inventors, but that is just absurd.
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A Different Way to Give Birth
I’m a man and I know I can’t possibly imagine the agony of giving birth. But it does seem pretty apparent to me that the only thing worse than being in labor for 10 hours or more is to be in labor while being spun around in a machine at 82 revolutions per minute. Still, that didn’t stop someone from patenting a machine that allows an alternate method for giving birth, one that relies on centrifugal force, generated by twirling the mother around. As Forbes noted, hospitals still have yet to use this device.
Photo Credit: mahalie
Toilet for Dogs
Yes, we know, you totally thought of this idea once, and then you continued to drink your beer and forgot about it again. Well, someone actually patented the idea for the doggy toilet. According to PatentStorm, the goal of the invention is to “provide a flush toilet suitable for use by dogs of various sizes.”
How exactly would this work? From PatentStorm: “In use, the dog is led with a leash to enter the toilet from the rear ramp, then the leash is mounted to the mounting ring of the cross bar of the restraint frame to retain the dog within the toilet. The position of the restraint frame 19 is then adjusted until the rear end of the dog is positioned at or close to the drain opening 16 so that when it defecates the feces will be deposited either directly or close to the drain opening 16.” Sounds… complicated.
Check here for an enlarged drawing of what such a contraption would look like.
Photo Credit: thievingjoker
The Flaming Trumpet
This gadget sounds like something James Bond will use whenever they decide to make a movie to restart the series, again, this time with James Bond in high school (maybe I should patent that idea!) According to PatentStorm, the flaming trumpet “emits a flame under the control of the musician playing the instrument.” The instrument includes a gas cartridge and is ignited by a built-in “spark mechanism.”
Photo Credit: Punk Jazz
Shark Protector Suit
Never leave home without this. It’s a suit and helmet covered in spikes to help prevent sharks from “clamping” their jaws down on you. (Another option, of course, would be to not hang out with sharks, but let’s just put that point aside for now.) Check out the U.S. Patent Office Web site for a sketch of the suit.
Photo Credit: WikiCommons.org
This patent was awarded last year to Volomedia, and has already stirred up quite a bit of controversy in the tech community. The problem is that the patent itself is very broad, basically just taking credit for every aspect of podcasting, rather than just a specific part of the technology. BoingBoing argued that this patent “could create a whole new layer of ongoing costs for podcasters and their listeners.”
Photo Credit: fe llya
Pillow... with Breasts
The description for this invention starts with some very basic psychology. “There are many instances when the human psyche requires a familiar environment to feel comfortable and secure. This is true of adults and especially true of infants.” So someone thought to create a pillow with breasts built in, filled with materials including foam and even silicon. Because nothing gives you the feeling of authentic breasts like silicon.
Photo Credit: limaoscarjuliet
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