How do you describe a book that is so original, creative and wacky that the best comparison to it is to MAD Magazine? (Fitting since Al Jaffee, the legendary MAD cartoonist and creator of the fold-in cover, wrote the forward to it.)
We’re talking about Patent Illustrator Tom Giesler’s new book, “UnVentional,” an unhinged collection of bizarre free inventions to save the world. Watch his hilarious trailer for a clearer picture:
Adam Savage, co-host of Mythbusters: “Tom Giesler has the illustrator’s version of perfect pitch. His drawings perfectly capture the sense of strange adventure inherent in every patent drawing. This book is a virtuoso performance.”
David Rees, author of How To Sharpen Pencils: “Brilliant, hilarious, and weirdly inspiring, unventional will forever change the way you look at objects that don’t actually exist.”
Fernando Cota, former U.S. Patent Office examiner: “Mr. Giesler has, for better or worse, applied the principles of open sourcing to the patent process. His cavalier vision is a world free from patent attorneys, licensing, patent examining fees, and, unfortunately, regard for public safety.”
This would make a perfect, unique gift. Order it on Amazon.
Tom is a patent illustrator in Berkeley, CA. His book is a wildly weird, inventive satirical look at inventions he made up and fabulously illustrated, as seen from this cover photo. We’re talking true galaxy-rescuing inventions like the Cig-O-Watt, which generates electricity from smokers’ puffing, and solar-power generating sunscreen.
You know this book must be original because the foreword is written by the legendary Al Jaffee, of MAD magazine, creator of one of the most unique printed-humor inventions of all time: the back cover “Fold-In” in MAD. (Even judges in their written opinions recognize Jaffe’s genius.)
The subject—heart attacks—is not funny, but U.S. Patent No. 6,457,474, issued October 1, 2002, and described as a method of alleviating chest pain, especially from angina pectoris, is amusing or at least interesting. What’s the amazing heart-attack fighting invention? Drinking lime juice.
But, wait, maybe I’m not being fair. Maybe I’m oversimplifying it. Let’s check out the official patent abstract and see:
A method of alleviating chest pain that stems from the heart, which method comprises: (a) noticing a pain in the chest; and shortly thereafter (b) taking an effective amount of lime juice into the body to alleviate the chest pain.
Nope. Guess not. It really is a patent on drinking lime juice. Here’s how the invention works:
In accordance with this invention, a person takes in lime juice after noticing the onset of the chest pain.
Don’t worry if you don’t understand it. It’s a very complex scientific procedure. But let’s at least clear up one other confusing point. What exactly is this secret ingredient? The patent explains:
“[L]ime juice” means lime juice or limeade or any combination that includes the juice of a lime ….
Pucker up because the inventor recommends “drinking at least a glass daily [of lime juice] in non-concentrate form” as a preventative measure.
Sound inconvenient? It’s not. In fact, one of the primary advantages of lime juice as a remedy for angina pectoris over nitroglycerin is that:
Since the juice is regularly stored in the refrigerator or freezer, it can be quickly located by the patient, particularly at nighttime where the refrigerator light plays a helpful role.
It appears this famous soccer player did not follow the patent instructions.
Apparently, it’s not as hard to get a patent as people think:
U.S. Patent 4,022,227 is a patent for a “Method of concealing partial baldness,” described more particularly in the abstract as “[a] method of styling hair to cover partial baldness using only the hair on a person’s head. The hair styling requires dividing a person’s hair into three sections and carefully folding one section over another.”
It even comes with diagrams:
Yep. It’s a valid U.S. patent for the dreaded “comb-over.” We’ve all witnessed the results of this amazing invention, which works so effectively that no one notices the baldness, provided they are sight-impaired and at a distance of more than 200 yards.
Not the patented dog waste catcher, but will work in a pinch.
Do have a dog? Do you like to take it for walks? Do you feel it’s your moral and social responsibility to clean up after it? Are you skilled at playing lacrosse?
If your answer is yes to all of the above, then the invention protected by U.S. Patent 7,090,268, Aug. 16, 2006, is the perfect dog-walking accessory for you.
As described in the patent application, the invention is “a simple portable device which allows the dog’s owner to catch and hold the dog waste in a plastic bag before it comes in contact with the ground or grass without bending over.”
Basically, the invention sounds like kind of a lightweight lacrosse stick that you use to catch dog feces in. But just as in the real sport, you have to be quick on your toes to use this baby effectively. As the patent explains: “As soon as the dog shows a motion to excrete, this device is … placed underneath the dog’s bottom and catches the dog waste, thus preventing the soiling of the ground or grass.”
Is it a good invention? Darn right it is. As everyone knows, “[d]ogs tend to excrete while they are walked” and “[o]nce the droppings fall on the ground or grass, it is difficult to collect them completely, especially when they are loose.” Which, of course, is why many dog owners prefer to leave it to their neighbors to deal with.
This sounds like a good invention, although I’m not sure the dogs are going to sit still for it.
That’s apparently what the inventors of the “non-lethal gamecock sparring match” and equipment are trying to sell. And they got a patent for it: U.S. Patent 6,928,960, Aug. 16, 2005.
With this invention, each fighting bird is fitted with a protective vest carrying sensors that send a signal to an electronic scoreboard each time they are pecked or clawed. The talons of each gamecock are also “covered with a protective device,” and their beaks are “taped shut.” Sounds very comfortable.
The “background” of the invention explains it was designed to remedy a “cultural clash of values” pitting aficionados of gamecock fighting (which the inventors assert is an accepted and enjoyable form of entertainment in Latin and Asian cultures and many U.S. states) against those who object to the birds being killed or injured.
The patent description reminded me of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer’s rooster, named “Little Jerry,” was about to become embroiled in cock-fighting because of a bad check Big Jerry wrote at the deli. Seinfeld’s explaining that cock-fighting is dangerous and that Little Jerry could get killed. Kramer says something like, “I thought they wore little gloves and helmets!” Well, now they might.
You’ll be tempted to look this one up to be convinced it’s not made up.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a patent for a toy rocket powered by flatulence.
That’s right. U.S. Patent No. 6,055,910 is for a “toy gas-fired missile” that is prepared for takeoff by the operator placing “the inlet tube with its valve open adjacent to his anal region from which a colonic gas is discharged.”
After being loaded, “[t]he ignitor is then activated to explode the mixture in the chamber and fire the missile into space.”
The “Status of the Prior Art” section of the patent offers a dissertation on flatulence, including way TMI in the form of revelations that a normal individual produces 400-600 ml of flatus per day and that the major components, in descending odor, er, order, are: nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, methane, and oxygen. The odor-causing ingredients are sulfide, skatole, indole, volatile amines, and short-chain fatty acids.
Why is this invention needed? For consumer safety, of course.
The inventors offer the invention as a safer alternative to the “popular practice” of “ignition of one’s own flatus” by lit match or candle, or a cigarette lighter. Of course, “[a] major drawback” of this practice is the “hazardous coupling of fire, combustible gases and inebriated participants.” Serious burn reports are not uncommon, according to the patent application, “especially … when the participants remove their clothing.”
Accordingly, “[i]n view of the foregoing, the main object of this invention is to provide a safe toy which exploits combustible properties of flatus to fire a toy missile into space.”
So you’re reading through the patent entries on the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office website, you know, just for fun, and come across a patent for an invention titled “Method of using a water pipe”:
Bor-ring. But wait. Not so fast. Turns out this inauspiciously titled invention is actually quite interesting:
A water pipe providing sexual stimulation includes a tube with an exit port at its upper end, an reservoir port at its lower end, and an inlet port. The inlet port is spaced from the lower end whereby the inlet port remains exposed when the lower end is inserted into a vagina. The lower end cooperates with the wall of the vagina to form a water reservoir holding water in the lower end and the vagina. A stem is received into the inlet port with an end opening submerged in the water reservoir. Suction applied at the exit port draws air through the stem to bubble through the water reservoir to generate stimulatory vibrations transmitted to the vagina. Optionally, a bowl holding combustible material communicates with the stem such that smoke bubbles through the water reservoir to simultaneously filter and cool the smoke and generate stimulatory vibrations.
“Water pipe”? “Suction”? “Inlet port”? “Combustible material”? “Smoke”? All combined with a sensitive body part?
Is it just because I’m a Torts professor or does this sound like it fails Judge Hand’s risk-utility formula?
These games are more fun - and much safer - to play at home.
Melanie Ware must have been in a partying mood when she did the patent research below. She’ll tell you about it:
What party would be complete without board games? Each of the priceless treasures below is a patented board game, though I’m not so sure that Milton Bradley is beating down many of the patent holders’ doors to put these things on the market. Let’s get this party started!
1. Here’s a “Board game and method for teaching responsible drinking.” U.S. Patent 6,276,686, August 21, 2001, provides in part: “Another objective is to provide a board game that teaches responsible drinking to a plurality of players.” (That’s it, share the love. Nobody wants to drink alone.) “A further objective is to provide a board game that is easy to learn and fun to play.”
2. When the “responsible drinking” goes too far, here’s a “Board game simulating drunk driving.” U.S. Patent 4,216,966, August 12, 1980. The title speaks for itself, but here is a basic overview: “The invention relates to a game board apparatus which correlates consumption of liquor and the time span during which the liquor is consumed. The game board includes a pathway of connected playing locations upon which a player token is progressed …. Adjacent some of the playing locations are stop locations where liquor and time can be obtained. With the roll of dice, the player moves toward a happening such as the theater and enroute can be moved into a liquor establishment wherein liquor is consumed over a stated period of time all evidenced on a card drawn by the player. The amount of liquor consumed and the time of consumption in the various liquor establishments are recorded on a display board. Information from the display board is transferred to a blood alcohol chart which indicates sobriety or drunkenness. If a player is shown to be drunk, the sober player token head is changed to a token head indicating drunkenness and a police car is put into play by use of a second pair of dice.”
3. Since you’ve been driving drunk, it’s only natural that you might get busted, in which case you’ll need the “Double-Standard DWI-Rules Game.” U.S. Patent 6,412,77, July 2, 2002, describes “A game for a multitude of players based on driving rules applied according to a player’s social status.” (Apparently, the game educates us on who’s most likely to get out of a DWI.) “The object of the game disclosed herein, is to provide amusement for the players while they acquaint themselves with the financial liability incurred by being arrested for driving drunk. It is also is an object of the game is to provide amusement for the players while they acquaint themselves with the behind the scene manipulations resulting in special treatment for drunk-driving offenders according to their social status.”
4. Finally, you can wend your way through the criminal justice system playing a “Board game apparatus involving criminal justice,” U.S. Patent 3,977,680, August 31, 1976. “This invention relates to an educational game which simulates the criminal justice procedure, from the initial police encounter, through Attorney selection, arraignment, the posting of bond and the selection of an appropriate jury.”
Thanks to Melanie Ware. The full text of these patents can be found by plugging in their numbers at the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office website here.
Ever think being a “taste-tester” might be a good way to pick up a few extra bucks? Better read the fine print before signing up.
U.S. Patent No. 6,485,773 is a patent for an invention for a “semen taste-enhancement dietary supplement.”
This invention allegedly results in a “significant improvement to the taste of the male ejaculate by reducing its generally salty and/or bitter taste while also adding a pleasant flavor that is considered by 98.5% of all customers as very enjoyable.”
Marketing testing started with 27 couples of various lifestyles, all of who reported “significant semen-taste improvement.”
The secret ingredients include freeze-dried pineapple juice, broccoli powder, celery powder, strawberry powder and banana powder.
U.S. Patent No. 4,320,756 appears to be a useful and quite ingenius invention that could prevent deaths from smoke inhalation in the event of fire by allowing trapped occupants in proximity to a toilet an alternative source of air.
The illustration shows a man with a tube in his mouth. The tube runs into a toilet and back into the toilet sewage pipe, where breathable air apparently exists. But the inventor oversells the invention a bit by naming it the “Fresh-Air Breathing Device and Method,” and repeatedly extolling the “fresh air” one can access while waiting for help from firefighters.
Fresh air? Not too sure about that. The breathing tube connects to “a sewer line or soil pipe for draining waste materials and water upon flushing of the toilet.” It does contain a filter to help deal with the “residual sewer gases.” I guess that would help.
By the way, an excellent part of the invention claimed is “the step of flushing said toilet” prior to inserting the breathing tube. Leave it to those inventors. They think of everything.
Good old American ingenuity and entrepreneurship. Just when you think everything worth inventing has already been invented, someone comes up with a great invention like the one described in U.S. Patent No. 5,928,170: the “audio-enhanced sexual vibrator.”
The ultimate gift for multi-taskers, this is a vibrator with a built-in “audio signal processor for recording and playing back personalized messages, before or after sexual interplay for enhanced aural stimulation.”
The main object of the invention is “to enhance the pleasure or satisfaction of a person during sexual intercourse, sexual simulation, or orgasmic therapy by providing a vibrating device which can record intimate or personalized messages, music or other sound effects ….”
However, “a further object of the invention is to provide a vibrator that can capture spontaneous thoughts or ideas occurring during a sexual situation, whereby those thoughts or ideas may otherwise be lost or forgotten if not recorded during the emotional or passionate state of sexual arousal.”
Suppose, for example, in the middle of sex, the user remembers they forgot to pick up the dry cleaning. Just make a quick memo to self and no worries.
If they could only build a smart phone into it, they’d really have something going.
You’d think the bathroom would be the one place you could escape to for some quiet time, but no.
U.S. Patent No. 6,417,773, issued July 9, 2002, is for a talking toilet. This invention allows one to record audio messages that are delivered to toilet users when a microphone hears the sound of the toilet flushing. The purpose of the invention is to promote good hygiene by reminding toilet users to wash their hands, but since users can record any message they want, there’s no reason the device couldn’t be put to other good uses like practical jokes or even political commentary. “There goes the economy” with every flush could have your guests in stitches.
For more toilet humor, check out U.S. Patent No. 5,829,068, issued Nov. 3, 1998, which could prove to be the greatest invention ever for promoting peace in the war between the sexes. The invention is a hydraulic toilet seat raising and lowering device. No more, “Honey, you didn’t put the seat down.” Let this baby do it for you.
Okay, maybe it’s a little fancier than a stick, but it’s still pretty funny that someone could get a patent for “[a]n apparatus for use as a toy by an animal, for example a dog, to either fetch, carry or chew; includes a main section with at least one protrusion extending therefrom that resembles a branch in appearance.” U.S. Patent No. 6,360,693.
Included in the invention are the “OBJECTS AND SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION,” such as: “It is an object of the present invention to provide an animal toy that a dog may carry in its mouth.” Wow, that is like, almost Edison-esque.
And this one: “It is also an important object of the invention to provide an animal toy that is easy for a dog to pick up off of the ground.” Well, of course, that’s important. Dogs have a rough enough life as it is without having to suffer the annoyance of fetching a toy that’s hard to pick up off the ground. Think how aggravating that must be.
This must-have toy for your canine friends also floats, glows in the dark and is flavored. You can see how wistful the doggie in the picture looks, stuck with that large tree limb instead of a coveted patented stick.
Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. Learn more...
Funny Law School Stories
For all its terror and tedium, law school can be a hilarious place. Everyone has a funny law school story. What’s your story?