Friday, 27 April 2007

Bright ideas

The admirable Martin Gardiner (not to be confused with the equally admirable Martin Gardner) maintains on his website for the delight of all of us a continuously updated review of “some of the most promising, interesting, and intriguing examples of the latest US patents”. He has been accused of spoofing, but, as he says, no-one could make up things like these—other than those who really did have the ideas and patented them, that is. Here is a small selection:

Leg-mounted mouse pad
Chin chain
Steerable roller skates
Cucumber sandwich

Boot lacing system
Breast enhancement device
Circular shirt
Garment for two people

Potato chip bag holder
Men’s underwear with adjustable support sling (illustrated above)

Fish breeding toy for cellular telephones
Internally illuminated knitting needle
Criminal arresting assembly
Beach blanket
Shelter for small animals and pets
Burial container

There seems to be a recurring theme which suggests that an easy way to come up with a patentable device is simply to cut a hole in something: the last three listed above, for example, consist of, respectively, a blanket with a hole in it, a box with a hole in it and a coffin with a hole in it.

All this is just as an introduction for those who have not yet sampled these joys. For Martin’s (often puzzled) comments, the filed illustrations and specifications, you need to go to Really Magazine.

[In an introduction, Martin had explained the basis on which US patent applications are assessed. It doesn’t seem too difficult to persuade American Patent Officers that they should protect your right to profit from some unlikely device you have invented, but their British equivalents are probably made of sterner stuff. Alan Coren described the weary cynicism with which they might have greeted John Logie Baird’s unsuccessful attempt to register his machine for sending pictures by radio:“What is it this time, Mr Baird? Raspberry death-ray? Thing for turning socks into honey?” ]

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