Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Some sense on patents please

On Monday Judge Robert Sweet struck a blow for common sense in that mind boggling area of Patents in the US. He invalidated several patents on two breast cancer risk genes in the human body issued to a bio tech firm. He had a breathtakingly simple logic – you can’t patent a product of nature !

The principle of protecting innovation through patents has been rather stretched in the US. All sorts of stuff gets patented. Many of these are primarily designed to block, or sue, others. The Patent Office uses the criteria of novel, non obvious and useful in determining whether a submission qualifies for a patent. It should also add non trivial, non absurd and non laughable as criteria !

For your reading pleasure here are some actual patents issued in the US

-Method of stopping a stolen car without a high-speed chase, utilizing a bar code (well ; the barcode is to identify the vehicle; the method of stopping it is to switch off the engine)

- Anti-Eating Mouth Cage (presumably a weight reduction “device”)

- Electrified table cloth (to discourage bugs from crawling on to the table cloth)

- Beerbrella (an umbrella attached to the beer can to keep the sun off your beer)

- Method of exercising a cat (waving a laser pointer and making the cat jump up and down)

- Device for the treatment of hiccups (a glass that delivers a mild electric shock when drinking to make you stop hiccuping)

- Motorized Ice Cream Cone (Instead of licking the cream manually, you stick out your tongue, the cone rotates and you can make designs on the ice cream without having to move your tongue)

- Animal Ear Protection (a device for preventing long eared dogs from getting their ears dirty from their food bowl)

- Device For Moistening The Adhesive Coating On Postage Stamps and Envelopes ( No kidding – the patent says, the applicator may be a human tongue)

- Hands free towel carrying system (A towel with a loop for hanging from the neck)

- Linear putter device of a golf club (well; a golf club)

- Equidae Excrement Receptacle (in plain English, a horse diaper)

- Hijacker Injector (a hypodermic injection apparatus that is installed on the seat and which the cabin crew can remotely activate to inject a hijacker)

- Gas Factory (a devise to strap on a cow’s back which taps the methane emitted by cows and converts into a biomass)

- Airplane moisturizer (a mask you wear which captures the moisture you exhale and gives it back to you when you inhale)

- Hand near mouth alarm (another dieter’s aid)

- Ultimate umbrella (a huge baseball cap mounted on your head)

- Cheese filtered cigarette (apparently hard cheese is a good filter and you can get a cheesy flavour to the smoke)

One of the readers of this blog actually worked for the US Patent office. Would welcome his rebuttal of this piece.


zeno said...

On a serious note, one reader of this blog has a patent pending approval[if i am right]

On a very serious note, one more reader of this blog will have several more patents pending approval :P :D

gils said...

before someone rushes..lemme patent the mokka comment putting :D engenthunga intha list pudicheenga :D :D chancela..vadivelu kaamedi onnu nyabgam varuthu..he wl invent a machine for killing bed small metal cup and an iron peice..steps for killing bug is..1) find bug..2) put it in the cup
3) squash it with the iron peice. 4) if it doesnt die at first attempt keep hitting it with the iron peice :D :D maybe THATS a device which shd be patented :D :D

Sandhya Sriram said...

I sometimes wonder how a business man would do business in the US.

If he tries to build something, he first need to check whether by any chance any part of it is patented.

after clearing it all, he needs to ensure that he has the right set of declarations on it.

and then, he need to take back the whole stuff for a minor defect

and he need to bat law suits of million dollars for trivial reasons

given that i am glued onto IPL these days, i want to mimic a Siddhu Say here - a mediocre attempt - sorry about that

"Let the looming glooms in the hearts of these zooming fumes get engulfed by blooming dunes of rational change"

ambulisamma said...

You are becoming hilarious day by day

Pranav said...

The underlying grounds for a patent stems from three ideas: a) The invention has utility (there is no patent on a slot machine for that exact reason). b) The invention is novel c) If the invention is a combination of two ideas, it is NOT obvious to anyone of ordinary skill in that technical field to combine the two ideas.

That being said, anyone that tries patenting products of nature needs to be fined for wasting the time of the patent examiner and having the nerve to apply for a patent for a product of nature. This has happened before. I won't name the company but someone tried patenting Neem and Basmati Rice. Here's the best part. The applicant actually got the patent. They must have had some really shameless law firm help them draft the application. My friend's mom (a fierce activist) got those patents reversed. Quite a victory for her. The USPTO (United States Patent Office) came out looking NOT "very good" at all.

The bit about "non-trivial, non-absurd, and non-laughable" is highly debatable because the question can come right back asking "non-trivial, non-absurd, and non-laughable in the eyes of who???". There actually might be someone out there that really cares about wiping a horse's ass with the "Equidae Excrement Receptacle" - especially if it has some intrinsic capability that differentiates it from a regular diaper.

I have to defend the "Method of stopping a stolen car without a high-speed chase". In my opinion, the only crime with this patent is its incredibly dumb name. In reality, I can bet what the guy or gal was patenting here was the algorithm that translates a bar code to a control signal and its associated control target (i.e. the car that needs to be stopped).

I will contact my ex-boss at the US patent office and ask him to orchestrate the firing of the examiner (and his supervisor) that issued the patent for the "Beerbrella".

In that list of patents you captured, not all of them are bogus. Most of them either suffer from a dumb name or actually have design value. They might be design patents. The few like "Beerbrella" are certifiably dumb and don't do wonders for the image of the US Patent Office.

Deepa said...

On a serious note, your post reminded me of these rural innovations in India. There was some program on TV where they showed villagers who have come up with some innovations to make thier life simpler. There are irrigation pumps and threshers attached to a stationery cycle. And these things work as the person pedals on! And these poor men will never know what a patent is!

On a lighter note, motorized ice cream cone is my pick! That design-on-the-ice cream thing was simply out of this world! :D:D U should patent that line!

One with a patent pending approval and one working with the patent office! :) me thinks of a lunch invitation!

Ramesh said...

@Zeno - Ha Ha

@gils - That is a beautiful invention - patent awarded to gils

@Sandhya - Superb Sidhuism that would do the Sardar proud :)

@ambulisamma - :)

@Pranav - Aha, a very dignified remonstrance so typical of you and that the US patent office would be proud of. Some of the names were (ahem) invented or copied from parodies by me. I am sure there was something unique about the bar code car stuff ; so perhaps very defensible. In continuation of the impish mood, I couldn't resist poking fun; thats all.

@Deepa - Grand idea of the lunch invitation. I am not sure where the patent pending man is, but the one who used to work in the patent office is not very far from you !

kiwibloke said...

Cheese filterd ciggies, wow sounds good (the compulsive smoker I'm, pretty chuffed about not having discovered it earlier). During our college days, cash used to run dry in the last week. The Goldflake "Kings" used to drift down to more plebian Berkley Plains (60% lower price) To make it palatable we used to apply Vicks vaporub for that 'smooth and flavorful' smoke simulating the kings. Wish I had patented it!

Deepa said...

Both me and my husband love having people over for lunch or dinner! Anyone close to Connecticut or even passing by is very warmly invited. Although, you will be subjected to my cooking, but so far no one has died; a few have even gone back smiling!

Vishal said...

I would definitely need device for the treatment of hiccups and relish motorized ice cream cone. Quite hilarious! Beerbrella, ultimate umbrella - too good! :D

J said...

LOL! I hope you conjured up some of these patents because they are really hilarious. But the more serious cancer gene story seems to have gotten buried...

Ramesh said...

@kiwi - You should patent Vivks in cigarettes.

@Deepa - I am coming. Its only 24 hours away :)

@Vishal - Beware; if myou use any of these ideas you have to pay a royalty to the patent owner :)

@j - I know; this is a hopeless post. Started as a serious writeup on patents and got hijacked like this. They are all true patents ......

RamMmm said...

Ha Ha Ha. The fun in patents is more the language used to define the patent itself. Typical jargon and legalese and obtruse references for coverage.

You send a document to a patent attorney and out comes a gem of a document, that the original cannot hold a candle to. :-D

And there are small companies that do nothing but buy up patents and then stalk the biggies for settlements.

Ramesh said...

@RamMmm - Oh yes, completely obscure stuff. There are gold diggers everywhere; and surely in the corridors of the patent office.

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