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Crazy Patents!

Crazy Patents! For the USPTO 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 Title Summary
20080270152 Patent Trolling Application - by HalliburtonYes - this Application, by a Halliburton Patent Attorney, seeks a Patent for "Patent Acquisition and Assertion by a (Non-Inventor) First Party Against a Second Party". Submitted by Michael.
3216423 Apparatus for facilitating the birth of a child by centrifugal forceThis one is too old to have full-text, so you are going to have to look at the pictures -- but it's worth it. I can't help but wonder if this device was ever actually used? Submitted by Dan.
6360693 Animal Toy Thanks to Samuel Pai for this submission, which is nearly unbelievable. Claim 1 describes (in fancy language of course), a synthetic STICK. Yes, a stick. I'm not kidding. This patent was applied for in 1999. Do you think anyone had ever conceived of the idea of using a stick (albeit a plastic one) as an animal toy prior to 1999? Check out the front page image -- a picture is worth a thousands words, or in this case, a stick.
5392735 Marine Mammal Communication Device This Walt Disney patent contains detailed source code (about 17 pages worth) of what basically anounts 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.
7108178 Method of stopping a stolen car without a high-speed chase, utilizing a bar codeThe title alone earns the patent a place on this page. 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.
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. How would one even get this contraption up to a light bulb?
6659880 Chin Putter The funny thing about this is that I think the authors take it seriously; it does not seem to be a novelty item.
4344424 Anti-Eating Mouth Cage Just think Hannibal Lecter
5107620 Electrified table cloth Designed to discourgage 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, let me know :) Submitted by Karan Morrow.
6745394 Ballistic resistant body covering From the picture, one would guess that this is a super hero costume which purports to protect the wearer from bullets. All I can do here is to pray for the test engineers. Good luck pals.
6637447 Beerbrella Keeps the sun off your beer (no, I am not kidding). One would think that those little insulating sleeves would be much more effective, but perhaps they were worried about their beer getting sunburned.
5443036 Method of exercising a cat In 1993 the USPTO 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: Michael Burns pointed out something truly amazing about this patent. Not only should this patent probay never have been issued, but it appears that the USPTO has issued what is essentially the same patent many times! See:
6505576 Pet Toy
6557495 Laser Pet Toy
6651591 Automatic laser pet toy and exerciser
6701872 Method and apparatus for automatically exercising a curious animal

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. Submitted by Carl Palmgren.
5971829 Motorized ice cream cone I am usually a proponent of anything that allows me to do less work, but everyone knows that the best part of eating an ice cream cone is eating the cone and ice cream at the end!
4455816 Tricycle Lawnmower No, you aren't misreading anything. This really is a child's tricyle with a lawnmower attached. Real safe, eh?
4432545 Non-lethal cock fighting system Cock fighting is illegal in the US (except for Louisiana and 1 other state as one of our readers has pointed out). So, these geniuses probably just drew attention to the fact that they are breaking the law. While this is a ridiculous patent, it did give me a idea for my next patent: A Kangaroo Kickboxing Kit.
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. Isn't that pretty much the way drywall is always patched??? Submitted by Ren Hoek.
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.
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.
5904268 Mug incorporating a simulated artificial horizon Granted, this isn't very useful, but let me tell you what really worries me about it: I know what I would do with it. I'd sit the cup on my dashboard and use it to see how many G's I could pull while driving. The lure of always going for a new "personal best" would surely be hazardous to one's health. Thanks to Oliver Kroth for submitting this one!
6557994 Stud Spectacles Eyeglasses that don't need a frame because they attach to body piercings on the face. Yeah
5265827 Paddle Wheel Plane Does this thing really fly??? I'd be amazed.
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?
5678617 Method and apparatus for making a drink hop along a bar or counter This is essentially the same as the fountains that Disney has at Epcot -- controlled streams of water designed to look like that are "jumping" (in this case, into a beer glass). But hey, this probalby IS amusing when you are drunk!
4202456 Toy utilizing used, discardable items such as bottle caps and beverage cansMaking building blocks out of bottle caps? Sounds like a good way to cut yourself. OK, stupid invention. That's a given -- most everything on this page is stupid in one way or another. But, here is a legitimate question: Why did someone spend thousands of dollars to patent something whose primary purpose is to use cheap parts available in the home, rather than having to go to the store and buy blocks (are blocks really that expensive?) when the whole idea of the patent essentially means that the inventor can't sell a product, since he is encouraging people to make their own "toy" at home? I suppose he could sell the device that puts the holes in the sides of the caps. Not surprisingly, I've never seen such a device for sale. Perhaps the toy mafia is blocking the commercialization of this patent. Submitted by Oliver Kroth.
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.
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.
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???
6711769 Pillow with retractable umbrella A pillow, with a built-in umbrella to protect the user from the sun. Somehow the idea of having a tanned body and a ghostly white head doesn't appeal to me, but whatever floats your boat.
6142880 Method of playing a bowling gameThis is basically bowling like it is today, but changing the scoring system to "eliminat[e] the unfair advantage of scoring consecutive strikes with a multiplier effect".
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.
5878931 Halloween Backpack A backpack that dispenses candy! I'm sure this will be a hot seller at Walmart.
20040161257 Just read Claim 9! If you are a patent attorney or inventor, you have to read Claim 9 -- hillarious, though perhaps not intended to be. Submitted by Angelo Castellano
5491007 Carvable Artificial Pumpkin and Method Who ever said creativity is dead in America? No one who knows the patenter of the Carvable Artificial Pumpkin. This guy took a hollow Styrofoam ball (that may or may not be painted orange) and called it a new invention. Somehow this reminds me of that Saturday Night Live skit with Dan Akroyd playing the crazy defective toy maker. I can just see this product coming with a big butcher's knife for the carving and maybe a bag of glass and nails for this kids to play with.
6035447 Halloween Mask with Flash Device This guy took a Halloween mask, strapped a light on it and called it a new invention. I know that Halloween is a relatively new holiday compared to some of the others, but I do recall seeing glowing masks well before this patent existed. In fact, I had a Jason mask that glowed when you pushed a button. I bet I know the next patent this guy submitted. He took a tree and stuck some lights and decorations on them and called it a "Christmas Tree." Pure genius.
5175571 Subliminal Glasses Glasses that project subliminal images? They claim to ge a possible aid for everything from quitting smoking, stopping drug and alcohol abuse, and learning. Yeah, because the submliminal tapes that are available work so well
5901666 Pet display clothing A wearable Habitrail! This is a system of tubes that you can wear around, while your hamster crawls around in them. I have yet to see anyone wearing this, so I am guessing that it wasn't a smashing success at the pet stores (or clothing stores?).
4553748 Electrostatically Enhanced Game Unless you take some pleasure out of being shocked or shocking someone else, the Electrostatically Enhanced Game is not for you. I personally could find some joy in shocking my buddy while beating him at Madden, but unfortunately I don't think this is an original invention. I seem to recall a James Bond flick that had a video game like that, and that's kind of sad ripping off Bond.
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!
20090188617 Dog Nose Art Dog nose smudge as art?