Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The USPTO really will patent absolutely anything

  1. Sep 1, 2009 #1
    http://media.fukung.net/images/13471/5c63f4db815ec14d850c49ef1d5d10a1.jpg [Broken]

    http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT5443036
    US Patent Number: 5,443,036
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 1, 2009 #2
    I think that there are alot of patents like this. I'm trying to think of the word for it and all I am coming up with is 'reapplication'. Even though a device is already patented one can submit a new patent using more or less the same device just claiming a different application. In this way someone can produce and sell an item that already exists without needed to get permission from the original patent holder or having to pay them anything for the use of their designs.
     
  4. Sep 1, 2009 #3
    dude, it's like you didn't notice that this is a patent for any moving pattern of light used to distract an animal! that's like patenting your "sexy walk" that gets all the ladies and trying to charge people money when you see them imitating your "sexy walk"!
     
  5. Sep 1, 2009 #4
    I will show this to my sister. She is a patent lawyer and may have something interesting to say about this :biggrin:
     
  6. Sep 1, 2009 #5
    Oh! hahaha... I thought it was for a laser pointer and the diagram was just to demonstrate its application. lol

    Still, one can patent an exersize regimen or diet plan. This isn't really that different. We just tend to think things are more silly when they are for pets (and they probably are).

    Do you think that this would be a silly thing to patent?
    how-to-use-an-exercise-ball.jpg

    Now actually protecting/enforcing the patent could be problematic but that isn't so much the patent office's concern I don't think.

    Mind you that the patent protection only applies to those that are attempting to use your patented idea for profit. So just some old lady playing with her cat in the park that happens to copy this persons patent isn't going to be held at all liable. Anyone who say attempts to reproduce this in book on cat exercise though could definitely be held liable. There are also certain gray areas like say a veterinarian teaching a client to exercise their cat in this way.
     
  7. Sep 2, 2009 #6
  8. Sep 2, 2009 #7

    Moonbear

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    If she's any good at it, spare her the pain. I've stopped sharing things like this with my boyfriend, because he just goes into a rant about the morons who are employed as patent examiners. Alternatively, it sometimes turns into a rant about the hacks who will take people's money and hand them an unenforceable patent.

    Apparently, when something like this gets patented, it's because the claims are so limited and narrowly defined that they are unenforceable and nothing else will ever even be at risk of infringing on them.

    Basically, all this might ever stop someone from doing is putting an insert into a laser pointer package describing a specific method of aiming the light to get your cat to exercise. Not covered by the patent...the actual light source, the hand holding it, any other "regular" pattern of moving the light, the cat, use of the pattern for any other purpose than "exercising" the cat, such as for interacting and playing with the cat, teasing the cat, irritating the dog by making the cat run around, etc.
     
  9. Sep 2, 2009 #8
    Here is what she quickly said :)

     
  10. Sep 2, 2009 #9

    mgb_phys

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    The USPTO takes the view of approving pretty much everything - it's then upto the court to decide if it stands. Since uniquely the US allows first to invent rather than first to patent, almost every case ends up in court since irrespective of the patent you still have to demonstrate that you invented it first.

    They also allow a lot of 'with an X' or 'on an X' style patents, so you can take a bunch of existing stuff and patent doing exactly the same thing with a laser/computer or doing it on a mobile phone.
    There have even been patents recently to IBM for the business idea of creating a lot of patents to use as weapons against a competitor.
     
  11. Sep 2, 2009 #10
    My cats love that form of exercise.

    I hope I don't owe anyone anything. I've been doing it for years.
     
  12. Sep 2, 2009 #11

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Did you sell it?

    The only thing that I can see here is the possibility that someone will try to make and market an automatic exercise system for cats that uses a LASER. In that case the patent might be enforceable.
     
  13. Sep 2, 2009 #12
    I always thought patents were to prevent people from stealing and SELLING other peoples ideas. In this case if you had a laser pointer and were playing with your cat you wouldn't be breaking any laws... However if you tried to sell it as a cats aerobic toy you would be. Same goes with the walk. If you sold lessons on how to do the walk and someone else tried selling lessons on how to do the same walk then they are breaking the law (assuming its patented) or if the person somehow made money from walking that way... I don't think they patent walking styles though...
     
  14. Sep 2, 2009 #13

    mgb_phys

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    It depends on the country - in the UK and most places that uses the original definition of patent you can make the invention for your own use but are prohibited from selling it (or sometimes for import/exporting it).
    Mr Carnegie used this loophole to use the Bessemer process for making steel for free - the US argued that he wasn't selling Bessemer converters so he wasn't breaking the patent.
    Later when the US became a major manufacturer (and invented it's own industrial processes) the rules changed and the US now has the widest definition of a patent - it allows ideas, business methods, utilisations, software algorithms and even story plotlines to be patented. The only thing specificaly prohibited by the USPTO is 'philosophical ideas'
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2009
  15. Sep 2, 2009 #14
    Is 'sell it' the criteria?
    Am I allowed to just look through a bunch of patent ideas and just build 'for me' the ones I find useful?
    Sure saves ME a bunch of R&D for some ideas.

    I 'gifted' a few laser pointers to my friends and family for them to use as cat toys.

    I guess my point is that I don't see this idea as a patentable item.
     
  16. Sep 2, 2009 #15

    mgb_phys

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Depends on the country - but generally yes.
    Saving R+D is the idea - in return for a few years of monopoly the inventor gifts the idea for the good of humanity.

    The best hope to overthrow this is to show some prior-art, that the idea existed before the patent was filed. The USPTO is (in)famous for limiting it's prior art searches to pretty much its own patents.

    The difficulty with US patents is that the holder can pick the location of the court to try the case - if they can show that they have a single user in that jurisdiction. East Texas is notorious for agreeing with the patent holder so most corporations keep an office in the area to file patent cases.
     
  17. Sep 2, 2009 #16

    Moonbear

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Probably not, because it only talks about a hand-held laser. I wonder if the patent is owned by the company that sells the cheap laser pointers in the pet store labeled as a cat toy instead of labeled as a laser pointer?
     
  18. Sep 2, 2009 #17

    berkeman

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    BTW, the drawing in the OP appears to be fake. It isn't the drawing page from the patent. Probably a spoof on the whole concept of the patent, but not from the patent itself. The drawings in the patent do not even show the traditional laser pointer -- instead it's some strange little laser gun-looking thing...
     
  19. Sep 2, 2009 #18

    Moonbear

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    It's more mind-boggling that somebody wasted their money on the filing fees for something so useless. Though, it seems an interesting commentary on the whole field of patents...that usually seems like a cat and mouse game too. Someone makes some claims, someone else makes something and finds a way to just eek by and not infringe on those claims by the slightest technicality, someone else can't find a way around both sets of claims, so tries to sue to invalidate one or both prior patents, someone else failed to pay attention and did infringe on the claims of one or all three, and gets sued and pays for the patents of all three (those are the big, scary litigation cases, when some of the big guns actually join forces and go after the little guy, obliterating him in one fell swoop).
     
  20. Sep 2, 2009 #19
    Its not so much the USPTO allowing a patent on anything, its "inventors" willing to go through the hassle to get a patent on anything. If the new claims don't read on any previous work and are within the scope of the laws, its patentable! The saying among examiners is "stupid is patentable"
     
  21. Sep 2, 2009 #20

    berkeman

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Things must change over time, as mentioned previously in the thread. Back in 1987 when HP filed my first patent application, it was like pulling teeth to get the patent examiner to see that we had made a fundamental improvement over existing graphics tablets.

    http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/4806918/description.html [Broken]

    I swear, the improvements should have been obvious from reading our application and studying the prior art, but in the end I had to work out the math for him to show how much of an improvement it was. Jeeze.

    But it sounds like by the mid-90's the trend was the opposite way, and may have swung back to more conservative again now. You'd think it would be more scientific than it is....
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook