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Saturday, 9 May 2009
How Inventive! (No. 15)
Horses run, right? That means they move in three dimensions. In 1891, William Cronin and Cyril Adams of Philadelphia patented an improved merry-go-round that incorporates this three-dimensional movement into a classical children's play apparatus. U.S. Patent 445,134 claims a merry-go-round in "which the animals, in addition to their movement of rotation about the axis of the machine, will be given a movement perpendicular to the floor of the machine. … The animals carried by platform A have not only a movement around this platform, but are also given a vertical movement, so as to have the appearance of running."
Figure 1 from U.S. Patent 445,134:
Figure 2 from U.S. Patent 445,134:
Sunday, 3 May 2009
How Inventive! (No. 14)
The Egptian Pharaohs famously wanted to preserve their bodies forever, after death. If only Joseph Karwowski had lived 3,000 years earlier! In 1903, this inventive Russian received U.S. Patent No. 748,284, entitled "Method Of Preserving The Dead". Preserving a body by mummification requires laborious preparation and drying of the body, then entombment and isolation in a favorable environment. Mr. Karwowski had a simplier idea: "a corpse may be hermetically incased within a block of transparent glass, whereby being effectually excluded from the air[,] the corpse will be maintained for an indefinite period in a perfect life-like condition, so that it will be prevented from decay and will at all times present a life-like appearance." If the whole body is too big, just the head will do — perfect for displaying your favorite relative on the mantle!
Figure 3 from U.S. Patent 748,284:
How Inventive! (No. 13)
When was the helicopter invented? Setting aside the classic example of Leonardo da Vinci's drawings (because he apparently never attempted to make a working device?), how long ago was the helicopter patented? In 1907, J.N. Williams applied for his "Flying Machine" patent, U.S. Patent 1,023,233. The following year, the venerable Thomas Edison applied for U.S. Patent 970,616, also titled "Flying Machine".
Figure 1 from U.S. Patent 1,023,233:
Figure 1 from U.S. Patent 970,616:
Sunday, 23 March 2008
How Inventive! (No. 12)
Do domestic chickens naturally see clearly? Probably, so these patented spectacles are purely defensive weapons — "designed for fowls, so that they may be protected from other fowls that might attempt to peck at them … [but] will not interfere with the sight of the fowl."
We have Andrew Jackson to thank for this patent, U.S. Patent No. 730,918. No, not the former President. So far as I know, Abraham Lincoln is the only U.S. President who is the inventor on a U.S. Patent (No. 6,469).
Wednesday, 27 February 2008
How Inventive! (No. 11)
Lots o' love for the lotto! If you've ever played a lottery scratch-off game, you know how annoying it can be to use a fingernail to scratch off the gunk that covers the playing field. The gunk gets caught under the nail or little bits get all over the place. Most of us solve this problem by scratching it off with a penny, or whatever else is handy. But not Ronald Smith of Long Beach, California. In U.S. Patent 4,646,382, he claims a dedicated scraping device for lottery tickets. The unusual thing about this patent is the introduction to its written description — which reads like the introduction to a master's thesis in world history.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
How Inventive! (No. 10)
Birds can be messy pets. When they're caged, it's relatively easy to clean up after them. But when you let them out to exercise and play, you never know where they'll drop a mess. Fortunately, we have a solution — the bird diaper disclosed in U.S. Patent 5,934,226:
A bird diaper for an uncaged pet bird to wear, featuring an enclosed pouch for receiving and containing excrement, and apertures to accommodate both the wings and the tail of the bird. Elastic straps and hook and loop fastener components (e.g., VELCRO) secure the diaper onto the body of the pet bird without restricting movement. The bird diaper is fabricated from spandex (e.g., LYCRA) or another stretchable, lightweight material, allowing absorption of bird excrement to prevent leaks and facilitating easy cleaning using soap and water. The bird diaper can incorporate decorative designs, bright colors and is available in different sizes. The bird diaper also has a leash which is insertable within the hook and loop fasteners. The leash serves to restrain or limit the bird's area of free flight.
How Inventive! (No. 9)
Who hasn't needed a pat on the back at some point? In case you don't have a friend handy, Ralph Piro invented a device that helps you pat yourself on the back. U.S. Patent 4,608,967 describes a "self-congratulatory apparatus having a simulated human hand carried on a pivoting arm suspended form shoulder supported member. The hand is manually swingable into and out of contact with the user's back to give an amusing or an important pat-on-the-back."
Saturday, 22 December 2007
How Inventive! (No. 8)
Losing a loved one is hard. How to keep the memories alive? Last week, Mary Rydberg and Sharon Robinson received U.S. Patent No. 7,308,741 for a huggable cremated remains storage system. The invention uses a "plush container", such as a stuffed animal, and ornamental symbols characteristics of the person whose remains are inside. Think: teddy bear with golf clubs. The invention is marketed under the name EternaHugs, with several bear, pet, and pillow variations.
Saturday, 15 December 2007
How Inventive! (No. 7)
Who hasn't had to lift a heavy object at some point? In 1996, Michael Schaefer patented a method for demonstrating his "Powerlift" technique (U.S. Patent No. 5,498,162). The technique requires no tools and assertedly prevents back injuries.
Interestingly, the claims don't cover a technique for lifting an object. Rather, they cover a method of demonstrating the lifting technique. Assume for a moment that the patent satisfies 35 U.S.C. § 112 and its specification teaches how to use the lifting technique. Who would ever have to infringe the patent by demonstrating the technique that's already been taught?
Wednesday, 21 November 2007
How Inventive! (No. 6)
Everyone knows the feeling of regret — of wanting to kick one's self in the behind. Thanks to Joe Armstrong, now you don't have to! His invention will kick your butt for you. U.S. Patent 6,293,874 ("User-operated amusement apparatus for kicking the user's buttocks") claims an apparatus that delivers kicks for you.
[W]hereby as the user bends forward while grasping said crank, the user bends at his waist to predominantly present his buttocks toward said outboard end on each of said plurality of rotating arms, and the user operates said crank to engage said drive train and to rotate said plurality of rotating arms, causing each respective outboard end on each of said plurality of rotating arms to sequentially strike the user's buttocks.
Wednesday, 7 November 2007
How Inventive! (No. 5)
Who doesn't fear being buried alive? Fortunately, Franz Vester came up with a solution, way back in 1868. (The basic idea of "safety coffins" goes back further, however — at least to the 1820s.) In U.S. Patent No. 81,437, he claimed an apparatus comprising coffin with a string extending to a bell located above ground. If you're buried alive, jingle the bell to alert help. He even illustrated his invention with Abraham Lincoln in the coffin.
Sunday, 7 October 2007
How Inventive! (No. 4)
What would patents be like if professional comic-book artists drew the figures? Like U.S. Patent 3,398,406, probably. This Bouyant Bulletproof Combat Uniform is fit for G.I. Joe.
Thursday, 13 September 2007
How Inventive! (No. 3)
Can an old dog learn new tricks? Can pigs fly? Can elephants climb trees? Maybe so. U.S. Patent 461,449 claims a "Performing Platform For Animals" — an artificial tree that is specially-shaped to allow an elephant to climb it.
Monday, 13 August 2007
How Inventive! (No. 2)
US Patent 6,025,810
The ansible — a long-time staple of science fiction — was been patented on February 15, 2000. This patent claims a device capable of communication at faster-than-light speed.
1. A method to transmit and receive electromagnetic waves comprising:
Saturday, 11 August 2007
How Inventive! (No. 1)
This is the first in an occassional series of posts on interesting, dubious, or fun patents. (Or my second, depending whether this counts.) Three recent emails asked if my blog was defunct because I hadn't posted in a while. Two of those asked about my patent collection. Since I have little time for "real" blogging now, I'll post on some of the patents in my collection from time to time.
US Patent 7,114,465
Yes, the invention is what the title sounds like. This really is a pet-powered self-exercise device:
A pet operated ball thrower including a base, a fulcrum post attached at its lower end to the base, a throw arm pivotally attached to the upper end of the fulcrum post, a ball receiving receptacle attached to the throw arm adjacent its outer end, a treadle pivotally attached at its lower end to the base, and an attachment member pivotally attached at its lower end to the treadle and pivotally attached at its upper end to the throw arm. A pet is trained to jump on the treadle to cause the outer end of the throw arm and attached ball receiving receptacle to be rapidly moved upwardly, thereby tossing the ball from the receptacle into the air for retrieval. The pet is trained to replace the retrieved ball into the receptacle, thereby allowing repeated tossing and retrieving of the ball by the pet.