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Outrageous and Ridiculous Patents and Judgments

Taken from the Appendix to my Mises Daily article Radical Patent Reform Is Not on the Way:

Examples of Outrageous Patents and Judgments

Examples of (at least apparently) ridiculous patents and patent applications abound (more at PatentLawPractice):

The Supreme Court, in the 1882 case Atlantic Works v. Brady, 107 US 192, itself lists examples of patents issued to “gadgets that obviously have had no place in the constitutional scheme of advancing scientific knowledge … the simplest of devices.” These included

  • a particular doorknob made of clay rather than metal or wood, where differently shaped doorknobs had previously been made of clay.
  • making collars of parchment paper where linen paper and linen had previously been used.
  • a method for preserving fish by freezing them in a container that operates in the same manner as an ice-cream freezer.
  • rubber caps put on wood pencils to serve as erasers
  • inserting a piece of rubber in a slot in the end of a wood pencil to serve as an eraser
  • a stamp for impressing initials in the side of a plug of tobacco
  • a hose reel of large diameter so that water may flow through the hose while it is wound on the reel
  • putting rollers on a machine to make it movable
  • using flat cord instead of round cord for the loop at the end of suspenders
  • placing rubber hand grips on bicycle handlebars
  • an oval rather than cylindrical toilet paper roll, to facilitate tearing off strips

Below are a few notable or recent examples of large, significant, troubling, or apparently outrageous injunctions, damages awards, and the like:

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