For an invention to be patentable, it must be novel, non-obvious and useful. For each of these criteria, there are standards which must be met. While the standards for novelty and obviousness can be hard to meet, the same is not true for usefulness – any utility, no matter how small, will suffice. Furthermore, a finding of usefulness does not mean that the invention must be commercially viable. To illustrate this point, here are three inventions whose commercial viability is questionable at best.
- US Patent 6360693 entitled “Animal Toy”:”
Claim 1 reads:
“An animal toy comprising:
- a solid main section having a diameter and a longitudinal length and extending a predetermined distance along said longitudinal length; and
- at least one protrusion attached at one end thereof said main section and extending a predetermined distance therefrom and wherein said at least one protrusion includes a second longitudinal axis that is not in parallel alignment with a first longitudinal axis of said solid main section; and wherein said animal toy is adapted to float on the water.
Yes, it’s a stick.
- US Patent 4455816 entitled “Tricycle Lawnmower”:
Claim 1 reads:
“A pedal operated mower assembly comprising a tricycle frame having a front wheel mounted in a fork, a central frame mounting a pedal sprocket and a wide fork frame at the rear supporting a reel-type mower assembly, the mower assembly having spaced support plates mounted on the wide fork frame, the support plates supporting a shaft having a rear sprocket about a midpoint of the shaft for chain engagement with the pedal sprocket, separate arrays of cutter blades spaced about the shaft on opposite sides of the rear sprocket respectively, said arrays of blades being mounted upon the shaft for rotation therewith and defining a gap therebetween in which is located the rear sprocket, a drive chain connecting the pedal sprocket and the rear sprocket, the drive chain being received in said gap, and a cutter member cooperating with the cutter blades for providing mowing of the grass.”
This particular invention has a number of stated objects, including:
- “To provide a pedal operated mower that does not consume fuel or make noises corresponding to engines for mowers but provides an arrangement that is conveniently an exercising assembly for operators, both young and old”. How young exactly?
- To provide a “pedal operated mower arrangement” that young and old can operate for “purposes of conveniently cutting the grass” while also exercising and which completely avoids the risk of pulling one’s arm out of its socket because there is no pull cord.
This invention does have its merits. But you can’t escape the fact that a mower has essentially been fitted to a child’s tricycle.
- US Patent 3216423 entitled “Apparatus for facilitating the birth of a child by centrifugal force”:
Here is an invention that has absolutely no merit.
Claim 1 reads:
“Child delivery apparatus comprising a centrifuge, means for supporting said centrifuge for rotational movement about a vertical axis, means for holding the patient’s body against dislodgement by the centrifugal forces created in such rotational movement, with her body disposed radially of said vertical axis in proper attitude for delivery of the child and with her head located at or near said vertical axis, said holding means including means for securing the patient’s body in place on said centrifuge, means for supporting the patient’s limbs in child bearing position against the centrifugal forces, and means for supporting the abdomen against such forces, means connected to said supporting means for rotating said centrifuge, means controlling said rotating means to precisely control the rate of revolution of said centrifuge by said rotating means, and means for applying braking action to the revolving centrifuge.
Apparently, “civilized” women do not always get the opportunities to develop the muscles required for birthing a baby and so this machine’s primary purpose is to “assist the under-equipped women by creating a gentle, evenly distributed, properly directed, precision-controlled force, that acts in unison with and supplements her own efforts”. The centrifugal force is said to be less stressful to the mother.
Clearly, a patent does not necessarily make an idea a good one!
By Dr Victoria Argyle