Puzzling Patents

ImageWe are happy to bring to you an interesting guest post by Jasneet Kaur. Jasneet is an independent legal practitioner with extensive experience in trade mark law, having worked with the IPR divisions of two leading law firms in Delhi. This post is in response to an e-mail sent by Prof. Basheer to our subscribers last week, wherein he kickstarted a new column on weird/interesting patents with a 1965 patent for an apparatus for facilitating the birth of a child by centrifugal force. The e-mail reads: “We’re thinking of kickstarting a column on weird/interesting patents. 

We bring you the first one. A 1965 patent. See link below: basically rotate/revolve a woman to ease childbirth. Apparently the generated centrifugal force helps. For “civilised” women who need this, as opposed to “strong” “primitive” women…“. We requested Jasneet to put together some of the absurd patents that have come her way in this post. For more examples of absurd patents, our readers may visit websites like the ones here and here.

Puzzling Patents

Jasneet Kaur

“What if I slept a little more and forgot about all this nonsense.”  ― Kafka (The Metamorphosis)

What if we could sleep a little more and wipe out all the eccentricity from global history of patenting. That would only make our lives less humourous. Sometimes, one can find humour even in absurdity, and absurdity, at times, can even be traced to a mechanism based upon one’s desire for an improvised lifestyle. Such a desire, ultimately metamorphosed into an invention (patentable in cases referred below), could either be singular or despite such initial singularity, subsequently even develop into a universal phenomenon.

Absurdity is probably as new to patenting as Einstein is to science, who himself believed in infesting absurdity into an idea for it to hopefully turn into something superior. A little research on the subject can provide several examples for one to cite in this regard, from as early as the nineteenth and even early twentieth century. Patenting a toilet paper roll with lateral angular incisions to facilitate smooth tearing, and a method for preserving the dead by covering the corpse with water glass and thereafter incasing the same in a molten glass, are two such early examples of singular desires pertaining to life-oriented processes being executed into inventions. It is, of course, the fact that such inventions were deemed patentable, that qualifies them as the subject matter of our current discussion; although, their subsequent transformation into universal phenomena is rather, doubtful.

The recent e-mail from Prof. Shamnad Basheer introducing the column on weird / interesting patents reminded me of an unfinished research undertaken by me during college on the said subject; which coincidentally and rather unsurprisingly, I still had tucked away in a remote corner of my database. Following are certain snippets from that research for an amusing read:

1. Substance Dispensing Headgear


Image 1US Patent No. US5966743. A headgear for dispensing a substance has a container to carry the substance. A spigot is secured to the container. The spigot can be opened to dispense the substance by gravity, suction, pressure or levity flow when the container. The spigot can be closed to retain the substance in the chamber. A hat-like recess is formed within the bottom wall of the container sized for wearing on an individual’s head, and for maintaining the container in a freestanding condition during hands-free ambulation of the individual.

This innovation was intended to facilitate easy transportation of substances by humans, with a vessel and a spigot. Modern man’s hip flask. Patent granted in 1999.

For complete details, click here.

2. A Liquid Brassiere

Image 2US Patent No. US4734078. A brassiere which maintains a liquid, such as water, in contact with or very close to the breast such that a buoyant force provides improved and independent support for each breast. The invisibly supported breast has a rounded, firm and youthful appearance. Methods are described for varying the shape and apparent size of the breast and for providing additional beauty and health benefits. A transparent version is provided to facilitate incorporating the breast’s improved appearance into many forms of fashion statement.

A breast support technique by introducing a novel concept of brassieres. Patent granted in 1988.

For complete details, click here.

3. A High-Five Machine

Image 3US Patent No. 5356330. An apparatus for simulating a “high-five” including a lower arm portion having a simulated hand removably attached thereto, an upper arm portion, an elbow joint for pivotally securing the lower arm portion to the upper arm portion, and a spring biasing element for biasing the upper and lower arm portions towards a predetermined alignment.

Patent granted in 1994 to an inventor propagating the concept of a solitary high-five.

For complete details, click here.



4. User-Operated Amusement Apparatus For Kicking The User’s Buttocks 

Image 4US Patent No.6,293,874. An amusement apparatus including a user-operated and controlled apparatus for self-infliction of repetitive blows to the user’s buttocks by a plurality of elongated arms bearing flexible extensions that rotate under the user’s control. The apparatus includes a platform foldable at a mid-section, having first post and second upstanding posts detachably mounted thereon. The first post is provided with a crank positioned at a height thereon which requires the user to bend forward toward the first post while grasping the crank with both hands, to prominently present his buttocks toward the second post. The second post is provided with a plurality of rotating arms detachably mounted thereon, with a central axis of the rotating arms positioned at a height generally level with the user’s buttocks. The elongated arms are propelled by the user’s movement of the crank, which is operatively connected by a drive train to the central axis of the rotating arms. As the user rotates the crank, the user’s buttocks are paddled by flexible shoes located on each outboard end of the elongated arms to provide amusement to the user and viewers of the paddling. The amusement apparatus is foldable into a self-contained package for storage or shipping.

The image is descriptive enough for those who wish to avoid the long abstract. The best part of this self-paddled, kicking-butt amusement apparatus, however, is that the apparatus could be dismantled into a portable package. One can travel the world with one’s personal kicking-butt apparatus.  Patent granted in 2001.

For complete details, click here.

5. Gas Collection

Image 5UK Patent No. GB2289222. A device for collecting flatus gas from a human or animal subject, the device comprising a gas-tight collecting tube 10 for insertion into the rectum of the subject and retaining means comprising a pair of O rings 18 locatable in the subject’s inter-sphincter groove, for retaining the device in the subject with the O rings 18, 20 providing a gas-tight seal. The end of the tube inserted into the subject is apertured and covered with a gauze filter to prevent the ingress of solid matter. This end of the collection tube is also covered with a gas permeable bladder with the distal end of the tube being connected to a gas-tight collecting bag.

Although no longer in force due to non-renewal as becomes evident from here, the instant patent was a serious attempt at analysing flatus gas production by human subjects, a topic much debated and researched in view of the inventor. Patent granted in 1997.

For complete details, click here.

Every invention must entail a certain degree of oddity at first for imbibing not only interest but even ‘hope’. The above referred patentees seem to have adopted Einstein’s theory (of absurdity and hope) rather too seriously. The result is a package full of not just interest and hope, but even hilarity. To many such absurd patentees and future good reads.

Image from here

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