Patent Trolls

Last week, a jury in Tyler, Texas shut down a patent-holding company called Eolas, which by some accounts has threatened tech companies for a decade. Companies like Eolascalled non-producing entities or <a href=>patent trolls</a>, depending on your perspectivedon't actually make a product. But, they do buy up patents on a variety of technologies, which they then use to sue active companies. In the recent Texas case, Eolas claimed ownership of the interactive Web (yes, you read that right. That's basically the whole Internet) and thus sued Google, YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo, among others. <p> Eolas isn't the only non-producing entity out there, so even if the company is finished, patent trolling is not. Some companies are fighting back in an unusual way by attempting to patent the process of patent trolling. IBM <a href=>filed an application</a> for such a patent back in 2007, which is still making its way through the United States Patent Office. A similar <a href=>patent application (US20080270152)</a> by Halliburton is also under review.<p> Halliburton's application currently tops a <a href=>list</a> of Crazy Patents curated by Free Patents Online, a patent search engine. But, the idea behind patenting patent trolling may not be so crazy. The purpose of a patent, after all, is not to make the patented product, but to prevent others from doing so. Owning the patent on trolling, then, could help prevent others from trolling. <p> Will it work? Probably not, says Patricia Carson, a patent litigation partner at Kaye Scholer LLP in New York and a former USPTO examiner: It's a cute concept, and based on who is applying to patent it, it's a backlash that you can understand. But I can't imagine how those applications will ever get issued and, if they do, how they're ever going to hold up.<p> Still, many other crazy patents have successfully been issued. Click through the gallery for some of our favorites. Keep in mind that each inventor had to pay hundreds of dollars in USPTO fees and slog through a series of <a href=>complicated steps</a> to get their patents. Many also likely paid additional hundreds or thousands of dollars in attorney fees, based on the fact that they indicate an attorney of record (those that don't were probably filed pro se, or by the inventor on their own behalf).

Apparatus for Facilitating the Birth of a Child by Centrifugal Force

Are you having a baby anytime soon? May we offer you a spin on what looks like a rotating torture chamber? Don't worry, you won't see a thing. Comes complete with a baby-catching net. <a href=>(US3216423)</a>

Anti-Eating Face Mask

Can't stop eating? No problem. Here is a locked cage for your mouth. Insert Hannibal Lector joke here. <a href=>(US4344424)</a>

Pedal Operated Mower

Perfect for your lawn-mowing toddler. You might want to strap her feet to the pedals. <a href=>(US4455816)</a>

Method of Exercising a Cat

Patents the use of a laser pointer to entertain a cat. And, as Free Patents Online <a href=>points out</a>, it's not alone. At least four other patents try to do the same thing. <a href=>(US5443036)</a>

Animal Toy

Don't worry, dog lovers. You are not forgotten. Here is a patent that covers, essentially, a synthetic stick. <a href=>(US6360693)</a>

Pet Displaying Clothing

What's that? You don't have a cat or a dog, but you are looking for something for your pet gerbil? Look no further. This fine vestor belt, if you'd preferwill keep your furry friend close at all times. Appropriate for both formal and informal occasions. <a href=>(US5901666)</a>

Method of Swinging on a Swing

This patent claims ownership of swinging sideways on a swing. Because, the patent says, the present inventor has discovered that much greater satisfaction can be obtained by swinging in this fashion. According to <a href=>this account</a>, the patent is the work of a then-5-year-old boy and his father, a patent attorney. <a href=>(US6368227)</a>

Frameless Glasses Attaching to Body Piercing Studs

Can't imagine why this didn't take off. <a href=>(US6557994)</a>


For days when a koozie just isn't enough. <a href=>(US6637447)</a>

Hands Free Towel Carrying System

Don't you hate it when you need to dry your hands and there is no towel in sight? Problem. Solved. <a href=>(US6718554)</a>

Light Bulb Changer

How many pieces does it take to screw in a light bulb? Ninety-seven. Ba-dum ching. Seriously, though, this patent has 17 different figures that try to explain how this machine works. <a href=>(US6826983)</a>

Method and Apparatus for Temporarily Immobilizing an Earthworm

For those times when you just can't get your earthworm to sit still. Just before you stab it with a hook and feed it to a fish. <a href=>(US4800666)</a>

Device for Perfusing an Animal Head

Oh good. We were wondering what to do with all those severed heads. This patent shows how to keep a discorporated headof any animal, including a humanalive in a cabinet. <a href=>(US4666425)</a><p> <li><a href=>10 Inventions That Were Ahead of Their Time</a> <li><a href=>Top 10 Life-Changing Inventions</a> <li><a href= >Shortage of Rare Metals Could Threaten High-Tech Innovation</a></li>

14 Crazy Patent Applications