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Patent Granted on Sideways Swinging 508

Posted by chrisd
from the uspto-idiots-makes-the-ins-look-good dept.
Matt Van Gundy writes "In another brilliant move by the well loved U.S. Patent and Trademark Office a patent (6,368,227) has been granted to a Mr. Steven Olson for inventing the method of swinging sideways on a swing. The patent even lays claim to "inducing a component of forward and back motion into the swinging motion, resulting in a swinging path that is generally shaped as an oval." I claim prior art, but perhaps I am one of the few fortunate ones who enjoyed this method of swinging long before its 'invention' by Mr. Steven Olson. " My favorite line from the patent : "The user may even choose to produce a Tarzan-type yell while swinging in the manner described, which more accurately replicates swinging on vines in a dense jungle forest. Actual jungle forestry is not required."
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Patent Granted on Sideways Swinging

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  • by Sapphon (214287) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @03:53AM (#3348710) Journal
    I'll have to try that position some time. I've been swinging for a while now and never come across a partner who.. oh wait ;-)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @03:54AM (#3348713)
    You fuckers can't simply accept that someone else has ideas that are new and unique, can you? Everything is obvious and easy to see once you hear it.

    Don't go saying that there's prior art or that it's such an obvious invention. Where is your prior art? Can you prove that the idea is obvious?

    I didn't think so. This patent stands.
    • Hey, maybe if I describe it properly and clearly list out all the steps involved, I may get a patent for the way I pick my nose!
      • I may get a patent for the way I pick my nose!

        With all those sex sites on the net, you'll make much more money licensing the technology of using porn to cause arousal. While nose picking may be just as common as masturbation, there is way more money in the latter.

        Besides, think of the lawsuits from Kleenex if you're invention catches on and results in a drop in tissue sales.
    • by Technician (215283) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @05:53AM (#3349026)
      Read the patent. It states the method for a swing suspended by two chains from a tree branch. Since the playground swing I used has a pipe frame instead of a tree branch, this patent does not apply to my horizontal swinging done in grade school. The swing we had at home used ropes instead of two chains. He has patented a specific implimentation of the horizontal swing method on a specific type equipment. (two chains and one tree branch) I'm glad he didn't patent spinning in circles on a swing.
      • Since the playground swing I used has a pipe frame instead of a tree branch, this patent does not apply to my horizontal swinging done in grade school.

        Read it a little more closely:

        As is apparent to those of ordinary skill in the area of swinging, the chains could be replaced with ropes, cables, or the like, or the tree branch could be replaced with another substantially horizontal support such as a metal bar or pole.

        Sorry, I think you're gonna have to pay up...
    • In other news, a bunch of SlashDot readers have obtained a patent on "A Method For Simultaneous Perambulatory Motion and Masticating a Pliable Sticky Artificially Colored and Flavored Confection"

    • I didn't think so. This patent stands.

      I propose a new moderation level for this type of posts: "Hillarious", it would cost 2 moderation points but only add +1 to the post's Score.

    • Curses! (Score:3, Funny)

      by Greyfox (87712)
      If only I had published my sideways swinging method in the New England Journal of Swinging 27 years ago, I would now have documented prior art! Curse you Steven Olson! Curse your cold black heart!
  • A sideways swinger's bar with a cowboy neal theme. Think of it. "Patent Pending Swinging Action" Hep Cats and Swingers Welcome Here. We'll make a mint!
  • This only applies to two chains hung from a tree branch (specified in the Claims section). The background section describes "other substantially horizontal support" but it's not in the Claims section. Legalistic? Yes. But someone has to think of the children ...
  • I did that when I before, and so did my sister!
    It's my invention! Mine, MINE, MINE!

    So I will swing sideways when I want to and I won't license it from you, sue me!
  • Wrong topic. (Score:3, Informative)

    by codetalker (245862) <mobersne@noSpAM.chat.carleton.ca> on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @03:58AM (#3348728)
    This should have been listed as a "funny" article. There's no way this is for real. Anyone remember a while back when someone patented the rights to the ";-)" and people were in an uproar until they realized that you could liscence them for free. I'm sure the same thing will happen here. Probably just someone out to prove that the patent office is either overworked or very negligent.
    • by Tensor (102132)
      "Licenses are available from the inventor upon request. "

      Which might mean that he will give them out for free ... but it DOES NOT actually say so.

      What if he decides to charge elementary schools with swings for using his invention ? and makes the districts pay ... after all he does hold the patent to it

      :)
    • Re:Wrong topic. (Score:4, Informative)

      by number11 (129686) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @04:26AM (#3348819)
      >There's no way this is for real.

      It's a gen-u-wine US patent. Backed by whatever force of law genuine US patents have. And possessing whatever moral force the law provides.

      >someone out to prove that the patent office is either overworked or very negligent.

      Probably. Did anyone notice that the patent lawyer has the same last name as the patent holder? And remarkably enough, the phone listing for the attorney (or, at least, somebody with the same name as the attorney) is for the same address as the inventor. It would appear daddy used junior as a stand-in here.

      • Re:Wrong topic. (Score:2, Interesting)

        by What'sInAName (115383)
        I'm not so sure. My guess is that daddy is a patent attorney and junior came up with this invention, so dad decided to teach him about the patent process. Probably nothing to get your panties in a knot about.

        In fact, this idea seems to be borne out by the following web research. I found this conference [ipo.org] webpage. (Do a page search for "Peter L. Olson") It seems our boy works for 3M in St Paul, MN and is indeed invloved in patent law. I can't be positive it's the same dude, but it seems likely.

        • Re:Wrong topic. (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Lonath (249354)
          Yes it is something to get your panties in a knot about. If the USPTO allows bullshit patents like this through, then how many bullshit software patents are there? It costs a million dollars+ to break even one patent. Remember that even if this is a "joke", the owner can sue someone for use of this and they can bankrupt a normal person since a normal person isn't sitting on millions of dollars. This is a perfect example of what's wrong with the patent office granting patents on any old thing.

          As another example, should the USPTO be granting patents on some little rinky-dink calculations in CIFS so MS can stop SAMBA from existing? It's the same bullshit anything-goes mentality that gets us patents like that.
    • Re:Wrong topic. (Score:3, Informative)

      by Confused (34234)
      It was despair.com, who trademarked the :-(. There were no patents involved.

      More details on this page [despair.com].
    • Re:Wrong topic. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by glwtta (532858)
      very negligent

      That's the point! It's not the person patenting this that's causing the "uproar" it's the patent office.

    • Re:Wrong topic. (Score:3, Informative)

      by evilviper (135110)
      Probably just someone out to prove that the patent office is either overworked or very negligent.


      Quite true, but that's exactly why everyone is so damn pissed off.

      The I.N.S. sending green-cards to a dead terrorist isn't a security threat... It's the point that they have such a crappy system that they would send green-cards to obviously known terrorists.

    • There's no way this is for real.

      Wrong! This is a real patent. Read it.

      Contrary to whatever you've been led to believe about the patent office, you CAN get a patent on absolutely anything - it doesn't even have to work. The patent office just files the paper work. It's not until you sue (or get sued) that anybody decides the strength of your patent.
      • Can you say "chilling effect"?
      • More people should try this then, just to demonstrate how screwed up the system is.

        Let's see, I might patent "a method for catching raindrops on a human tongue", or "a method of achieving high cornering speeds on a three wheeled vehicle by shifting body weight"

        The more of this get approved and then publicised, the weaker the system will become, and the louder the cries for reform will get.

        Only problem is, I'm not a US citizen, so the rest of you slashdotters will have to do it for me.

  • Aren't they even pretending to read the darn things any more?
  • by xonker (29382) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @04:05AM (#3348755) Homepage Journal
    That the patent office isn't even reading these damn things?

    How about a $10,000 fine for any patent clerk who approves any patent requests that are obvious, cover business practices or are just painfully stupid. (Higher damages if a patent request is in two or three categories...) I think it's only fair - if you're found to "violate" one of these bogus patents, it's going to cost you five times that just to get in front of a judge.

    I have a hunch the fellow who sent this one in was trying to make a point. At least, I hope that's what was going on...
    • how about a 10,000 raise for all patent clerks, new hires, and a semi-anual review with demotions and firings for negative reviews. Oh, that would be anti-labor, wouldn't it?

    • Clerks probably on crap wages and crap working conditions and taking all the grief. Wonder how much the head of their department is making? It's why I've never wanted to work in the public sector - the guys at the bottom take all the grief and get paid rubbish. You know what I mean if you've ever shouted at traffic wardens who've given you a parking ticket or had to deal with social security or post office people enforcing asinine rules, got real angry then felt a bit guilty afterwards at ruining the guy's day when it's the rule book that is the fecked up part. I bet if you started fining and firing the decision makers things would change....
      • by mavenguy (126559) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @08:05AM (#3349272)
        Well, as /.'s favorite ex-Patent Examiner whipping boy I gotta chime in here, again.

        Warning advisory: Some of this may have changed when the Office converted to the new structure, but the following is basically believed to be true.

        The examiner pay scale for series GS-1224 ranges from GS-5 to GS-15 (too lazy to look up the current pay chart); The lifer Primary Examiner (Full Signatory Authority) is a GS-14 (An application must be signed by a Primary to be allowed).

        There are Production Quotas, called "Goals"; the quota is determined by a combination of the "art" area(s) you are assigned (each area is asigned a normalized "H/BD" rating) and your Grade and Authority, expressed as a factor (historically called "the Feldman factor" after a former Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Patents).

        The Primary Examiner Grade, GS-14, is actually relatively high by general government standards, especially for a non-supervisory position.

        As for the merits of this case, no need for me to just pile on. In my day lots of us in my Group got a big kick over some of the infamous patents that came out, like the "Religious Bar of Soap" or the Board of Appeals decision reversing a final rejection of a perpetual motion application based on magnets (a classic subject of perpetual motion claims).
    • by afxgrin (208686) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @07:48AM (#3349234)
      How about patenting a method of how to fine a patent clerk that approves a painfully obvious method?

      Let's see if that gets past them.. :-)

  • Oh, come on! April first has long since past!

    Don't you think this is a little late to be posting April Fools...?

    Oh wait... You were serious.

    Sh!t.

    Seriously, I will never understand some of the scatterbrained decisions the Patent Office makes.

  • This is great! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mister Transistor (259842) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @04:07AM (#3348761) Journal
    This is absolutely the best thing that could happen - getting more and more ridiculous patents approved. This will prove to people once and for all the USPTO is obviously approving these things in their sleep. Pretty soon the books will be bulging with absurd patents, and someone will call for a review of ALL the patents issued, and whether or not they actually were deserved and worthy of continued enforcement. A buddy of mine that used to work for a very large electronics manufacturer actually submitted a patent for a picture-window Ant Farm as a joke, and was almost awarded it!
    • Re:This is great! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ebonic plague (573997)
      A buddy of mine that used to work for a very large electronics manufacturer actually submitted a patent for a picture-window Ant Farm as a joke, and was almost awarded it!

      Yeah, "almost". You just disproved yo OWN point.

      And what makes you think that the USPTO don't know that someone was tryin to clown when they submitted this swing $hit. Ain't nothin say you can't submit a joke patent. If you want to waste yo time and money I guess they don't care. There job is to make sure that yo followed protocol and didn't infringe on an idea that someone else submitted or that everyone don't already know about and that's all. If someone else want's to waste they time and money havin it struck down, that's cool too.

      That's how these gubmint offices be workin. They take on as much B$ as possible and spend all the money they be gettin, so they can justify a bigger budget when the next year come up.
      • You are right that they aren't supposed to prevent people from clowning - it's not there decision to make. It however is their decision to make whether a patent application is for something that is obvious to someone well versed in the field of the patent, and that there is no prior art. Both of which seems to fail miserably in this case.
      • But, if there was no previous patent, no matter how widely used they were, he could have filed and won. Thats the problem. Most things should not be patentable, and patents generally need to be more limited.

        This is bad because these shitty patents can be used to fuck people over in court. Ordinary people with new ideas may no be able to implement them because of these shitty patents (does your swing actually prevent sideways swinging?) are too much for most people to fight in the courts. One shitty patent holder can sue quite a few people into submission, and it costs way too much to fight these things. There needs to be some sort of patent reform.

        And I'd say about 50-50 I have some home video of me on the swings at about 5. No Tarzan yell, but I generally through in some sideways action. Especially fun when you hit other kids. Not so fun when you hit the bars.

  • I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by digitect (217483) <[digitect] [at] [dancingpaper.com]> on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @04:09AM (#3348764) Homepage

    So does this mean the Patent Office now implicitly agrees that they think patents are silly, too?

    (BTW, does anybody else see the potential here for using this as a general call for taxpayer revolt? How much did we pay for this? Do our congresspeople approve on wasting such funds? Do they want re-elected?)

    • Re:I don't get it (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NewtonsLaw (409638)
      Come on folks -- it's unreasonable to expect the patent office to act as judge and jury in respect to patent claims -- that's what the courts are for.

      Registering a patent does not prove that you were first to come up with an idea or invention -- it simply provides you with the ability to prove that you were in posession of such knowledge at the time you filed the registration.

      In effect -- a patent is little more than proof of knowledge at a specific time/date, and a right to sue.

      If we were to place the onus of verifying each application's technical merit and freedom from prior art -- then it's unlikely that anyone other than the large corporates could afford to register their inventions.
      • Wrong. (Score:4, Informative)

        by Irvu (248207) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:46AM (#3349703)
        The US code does not allow for "obvious" patents, such as this one. It also charges the USPTO with asessing the nature of the patents. Specifically, see U.S. Code Title 35 [cornell.edu] (Patent Law) Part 1 Chapter 1 Section 9: [cornell.edu]


        "The Commissioner may revise and maintain the classification by subject matter of United States letters patent, and such other patents and printed publications as may be necessary or practicable, for the purpose of determining with readiness and accuracy the novelty of inventions for which applications for patent are filed" [emphasis added.]


        See also Chapter 10 [cornell.edu] Patentability of Inventions. Or here [cornell.edu] for a summary.

        The interesting question is, did Olsen violate his oath [cornell.edu] in applying for this, or was he serious?
    • by AftanGustur (7715) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @07:36AM (#3349206) Homepage


      So does this mean the Patent Office now implicitly agrees that they think patents are silly, too?

      That just gave me an idea, issue a patent for approval that patents the process of patenting silly things.

      Either they will have to find prior art (there are tons but I doubt they have the balls to point them out), or grant the patent.

      And if they grant the patent, you can collect fees from anyone who 'infringes' on your invention.

      Voila, no more silly patents.

  • by Kris_J (10111) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @04:12AM (#3348776) Journal
    If the patent office can't understand something, it should deny the patent.

    If the patent office doesn't have the resources to properly investigate the patent, it should deny it.
    If a single company submits too many patents, they should be denied.

    Why is the default to allow a patent if it can't be proven not to be original, useful and non-obvious?

    • Don't forget "inventive" which is far harder to achieve than any of the things you listed, and most people seem to have forgotten that it's part of the requirements for soemthing to be patentable.
    • by kinko (82040)
      because the view of the USPTO (which gets funding based on the number of patents granted) is that it is better for a U.S. company to have a dodgy patent than a company from some scummy foreign country, where it might be used to harm U.S. commerce.

      But also because qualified people who could examine technical patents make far much more in the private sector. Then again, I wonder how qualified you have to be to understand the above patent...

    • by armb (5151)
      > If the patent office can't understand something, it should deny the patent.

      If the patent office can't understand a swing, things are even worse than we thought.

      > If a single company submits too many patents, they should be denied.

      How many is too many? Maybe hundreds or thousands of IBM's patents really are reasonable, original, useful and non-obvious. Applying for lots of patents might sometimes be a sign of abuse of the system, but denying patents after some arbitrary number is unfair to large companies doing lots of research. If it costs money to submit a patent application, and dodgy ones are rejected, companies will reduce dodgy submissions without a limit on how many they can have.

      Anyway, large companies could just get individuals or spin-off companies to patent stuff and then licence them back to the companies on favourable terms.
    • A patent does not specifically have any legal standing by itself. It is up to the courts to decide the legitimacy of a patent. To require a full level of investigation of a patent and prior art would make getting any patent far too difficult. The way patents work now are they way they *should* work.

      The problem comes when we have blatantly stupid patents and blatantly stupid courts and blatantly stupid people. A company can use a baseless patent with no backing in the courts to harrass other companies, organizations, or individuals, especially if those organizations have less resources for things like legal battles.
    • by MyNameIsFred (543994) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @08:15AM (#3349298)
      This makes absolutely NO sense to me.
      If the patent office can't understand something, it should deny the patent.
      So if they're a bunch of idiots, inventors should pay the price.
      If the patent office doesn't have the resources to properly investigate the patent, it should deny it.
      If they're underfunded, inventors should pay the price.
      If a single company submits too many patents, they should be denied.
      If they're inventive, they should be penalized. Think about Edison, under your rules he would be denied

      While I agree the Patent Office needs to be reformed. Your suggestion doesn't fix any of the problems, and only penalizes inventors. How about some useful suggestions like more funding to hire more examiners. Or did you know that examiners have to fill quotas -- that is process X number of applications per week. How about getting rid of the quotas or reducing them.

      I live in D.C. and actually know some patent examiners. They are not the complete idiots that ./'ers think they are. Many of them have Ph.D.'s in the field that they examine -- e.g., a Ph.D. in biochemistry looks at biochemistry patents. At the same time, they have to live within the beauracracy, and it's inane rules.

      Reform is good, as long as its sensible.

  • by m_evanchik (398143) <michel_evanchikATevanchik.net> on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @04:14AM (#3348784) Homepage
    This is by the same federal government, (though, to be fair, by a different agency), that issued student visas to the 9-11 hijackers 6 months after the fact.

    I'm not a lawyer, but is there anyone out there who is? Wouldn't this sort of gross incompetence bring into question other patents issued, at least by this obviously negligent examiner?

    And at least the "Tarzan" yell part gives off the strong suggestion that this was submitted as a goof.

    The intellectual property laws in this country have become nonsensical and counter-productive in their execution and enforcement.

    Embarassing.

    Funny though.
  • For those of you blowing milk out of your nose while you laugh at this article, I just want to inform you that I own the patent on that method. Thank you.
  • Seriously, we do. I'm moving to Canada... anyone want to house me for a bit? I'll fix your computer.
    • Seriously, I love it here - I am going to school in Canada, so I've been here for about two years now. I am sure most of it is not great (but then neither is much of the US), but I am quite enjoying myself here in Montreal.

      While on paper this is a "less free" country, in practice a lot more common sense is applied to the way things are done. One of my fouvorite parts - most movies that are rated 'R' in the US are rated 'G' here, and I have to say it really doesn't look like the MPAA's the one that's right :)

  • by Get Behind the Mule (61986) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @04:42AM (#3348864)
    Can somebody put up a mirror? Or would that violate some kind of IP laws? You never know these days.

    The USPTO has become such an outrage that it needs to become in issue in this year's elections. That can only happen if media attention can be drawn to absurd patents, and this is just the kind of thing to do it. Everyone can understand how preposterous this is; and then, if we're lucky, the TV news will get someone like Bruce Perens or ESR as a talking head for background, and that person can go on to say, "You know the patent office does this all the time, let me give you some more examples, and let me explain the damage that it does to our economy." It's our best chance.

    If we're unlucky, they'll put on an M$ spokesmen, who will use the TV sound bite to blast the GPL as an evil, anti-capitalist plot.
    • It may sound stupid, but I think this would actually be the only way to get people to care about the absurd state of the Patent Office.

      Face it: patents, for non-geeks, sound like an incredibly dull subject. They will find it preposterous and silly, but they won't stay tuned long enough to realize the damage it does to the economy. How many typical Joe Americans stay tuned for more than 30 seconds to a political analysis on NPR, C-SPAN or PBS?

      Unfortunately, the patents are a "pure real issue". That is, they cannot be reduced to partisanship, a scandal or a psychological "hot button" (like "help the poor", racism, Big Government, abortion, Christian Decency, taxes, gun-control, etc) which seems the only way to gather support for an issue these days.

      It takes some real thinking to figure out the role of IP on the economy, and then the role of the Patent Office in there, and then the difference between trademarks, patents, copyrights (because someone will ask about the "patent on Mickey Mouse or Shakespeare").

      Even among geeks people care because it has become a psychological hot-button, with most geeks being "for-IP" or "against-IP". If they didn't already advocate one side, they wouldn't probably tune in either.

      Now, put ESR or RS on Jerry Springer in a show about "Absurd Patents and the Outrageous Government that Grants Them!" and you'll see more people being aware of the subject than if you throw a rationalistic national campaign. After they already have a position, they might be willing to be convinced.
    • The USPTO has become such an outrage that it needs to become in issue in this year's elections. That can only happen if media attention can be drawn to absurd patents, and this is just the kind of thing to do it. Everyone can understand how preposterous this is; and then, if we're lucky, the TV news will get someone like Bruce Perens or ESR as a talking head for background, and that person can go on to say, "You know the patent office does this all the time, let me give you some more examples, and let me explain the damage that it does to our economy." It's our best chance.

      Yeah, that's exactly what we need. In an era where people don't tune into politics because there aren't any real issues, let's throw the whole geek-led patent issue at them. When will the geek community learn that the best way to forward geek causes is not to try and get the general populace behind them? You would think after the beatings in high school we would learn that our plights don't interest those in the "real" world.

      Look, our country is in a recession. The rich are getting tax breaks. More people are living in poverty. Social security, which many in our generation believe will form the foundation of our post-retirement earnings, is in jeopardy of falling apart. There is a war against terrorism and a parallel war against human rights. When you stack the fact that out of the thousands of patents that the USPTO gives out a year, a few are silly and challengable against the real problems plaguing our country right now, I don't think we're talking an election year issue.

      Geeks need to get off their horses and walk among the people for whom silly patents and the lawsuits that question them are not life-challenging events.

      p.s. The last thing we need is ESR getting on national television as a representative of the geek community. If you want to talk about ways to connect geek causes with mainstream America, ESR does not enter into the conversation.
  • Mastermind (Score:3, Funny)

    by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @04:55AM (#3348893)
    We now have proof of a machiavellian genious working within the USPTO. We may not know his intent, but we do know his modus operandi: absurdity.


    Maybe the agent posseses a sense of humor and an apreciation for irony that has slowly twisted his mind over the years. It started simply. A inane little patent. Won't hurt anything. But it was darned funny. And nobody caught it. So he upped the stakes with another gem. Unnoticed. And another. And another. The beancounter souless zombies that are his coworkers oblivious to the parade of delicious irony under their noses, presented by inane claims, burried in a sea of paperwork. Taunting him. Daring him. Just a little more. They'll appreciate his humor. If he just found one obvious enough.


    Maybe our mastermind is actually an activist. Working from the inside. Sabotaging the system. Poisoning the dignity of the entire USPTO system with more and more outlandish patent grants. Daring the public to see the USPTO for the foolishness that it really is. They'll apreciate how foolish it all is. If he just made it obvious enough.


    Or maybe there is no mastermind. We are simply witnessing the byproduct of a reality distortion only known to exist within the proximity of US Governmental beurocracy and Steve Jobs.


    So many posibilities. And we've only just began to scratch the surface...

  • What's the suggestion we always hear when we are lacking any form of "power" for some task? Distribute it! So I am suggesting that we replace the USPTO with Patent@Home, where all patent applications will be randomly distributed between the participants to be approved or rejected. It might seem that giving the decision to 14 year old kids with no kind of training on the subject is a bad idea... but then, look at the parent.
  • by btempleton (149110) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @05:09AM (#3348928) Homepage
    Folks, this is mostly an amusement patent. The inventor was a seven year old, and of course he's not the first to invent it. But his dad's a patent lawyer and wrote it up for him on a lark.

    Like the laser cat-exerciser patent, nothing will ever come of this. It's just there to be silly. Nobody will ever be sued for infringement. Can't there be a sense of humour in this?
    • by Zoop (59907) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @06:05AM (#3349046)
      Nobody will ever be sued for infringement.

      Probably, but the problem with patents is that you can never be sure, can you? Unlike with trademark, which is subject to dilution, patents can be allowed to exist as long as the term is granted and even on the last day, someone can sue another person (even if they ignore someone standing next to them doing the same thing--it's totally up to them). It's a great harassment tool.

      The fact that such a waste of the taxpayers' money was able to go through the system indicates just how easy it is to do...provided you can afford a patent lawyer. If not, you're SOL.

      Corporations patent things largely because they fear just these things--so everybody sets up a system where they think they can scare everyone else from suing them because they might also be sued for some obscure patent. In effect, they don't expect anyone to NOT violate their patents--they just want it to make sure you can't sue them over one of yours.

      That is an increasing trend in law. Laws and regulations exist not to be adhered to, but to insure that someone has broken some law and that fact can be used against them as leverage. So if the city decides they can't afford eminent domain (where they have to pay you usually below-market prices for any property of yours they take to widen a road, for example), they simply find you guilty of one of the many ordinances they have and stick you with a massive fine--unless you agree to settle with them for the property they want.

      The danger with this is, aside from the obvious abuses, that it degrades respect for the law. Eventually, it fuels a very combative relationship with the government--which, combined with the size and intrusiveness of modern government is why you can't even drive past the White House on one side anymore. They're afraid of you.

      So no, this patent by itself isn't anything to worry about...it's a symptom of the larger set of problems, not all of which have to do purely with the patent office.
      • The fact that such a waste of the taxpayers' money was able to go through the system indicates just how easy it is to do.


        This is not a waste of taxpayers money. The USPTO funds itself on the fees people pay to file and maintain patents. The USPTO made money by allowing the patent. This patent doesn't hurt the public in any way, and it is obviously a joke.

        GET A SENSE OF HUMOR!

    • Folks, this is mostly an amusement patent. The inventor was a seven year old, and of course he's not the first to invent it. But his dad's a patent lawyer and wrote it up for him on a lark.

      Couldn't a patent of this type (or the cat one) be used as a defense in a patent-infringment case?
      I mean: you claim that whatever you infringed is obvious and use those examples to demonstrate that the the fact of being approved by the USPTO is in no way a guarantee of quality, inventiveness or anything. The idea is basically to kill the image of the USPTO as a reliable source and thus undermine every patent issued.

    • I would just like to point out prior art on this.
      I also learned this method of swinging when i was ~7 or so, since I'm in my mid-twenties now that pretty much counts as prior art. I'm sure you can find hundreds of people who practiced the pulling on one chain then the other for side to side swinging when they were kids. I didn't actually do the oval swinging method though, just the side to side. I'd also like to note that the helix method described in the patent description is more fun when one is lying on the swing with their belly, or is leaning back to look up at the sky. I'm also suprized that the method whereby one stands on the swing instead of sitting and jumps off isn't described. I mean come on there are dozens of ways to use a swing for fun.
  • My new employer pays a fat bounty (cash!) for any good patentable ideas, and provide company lawyers to help rewrite one's scribblings into a filable form. If it gets used, you get another $10,000. The car park here is full of Porsches, TVRs, Lotus Elises etc. The tempation to think of a silly idea (say, mouse pointers, cross-platform FEs, firewall rulebases kept in a databae... that sort of thing) and get a pointless patent, just for the money, is pretty strong...

    Don't get me wrong, I think software patents are Evil and Rude and I would never patent something actually useful. Any suggestions for stupid things to patent so (a) I get the cash and (b) companyt lawyers go mad trying to enforce something unenforceable (or better: something that would be struck down as a patent when it came to court, so that after I have the cas they realise the patent is unenforcable) received with thanks!

  • To be fair... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Observer (91365) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @05:44AM (#3349007)
    ... to the USPTO, my understanding is that provided an examiner with reasonable knowledge of the field doesn't find any published prior art, then they're under an obligation to issue the patent. And on the whole it's a good thing that examiners' discretion to reject applications is limited to the claims themselves, and not (subjective) assessments of what is or is not ridiculous or useful.

    Where USPTO's actions can be justifiably questioned is when decisions are made which appear to show that it does not have (enough) examiners with adequate knowledge of the field concerned, IT being, unfortunately, one of these fields. As has been commented before, the remedy is to improve the scrutiny by taking on additional knowledgable examiners, but this isn't something that can be done overnight even if the neccessary resources were approved by government and legislature: ask yourselves what it would take to persuade you to consider such a career, rather than working in the "real world".

  • Oh dear... (Score:2, Funny)

    by MrSeb (471333)
    I hope I'm not the only sad bastard that's just ran outside to the nearest park (first time in DECADES) to try out this 'better' method of swinging?
  • by klarck (133633) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @06:57AM (#3349133)
    This story was covered on NPR over the weekend with a fluff/human interest angle. Sorry, couldn't find it in their archives.

    The NPR story mentioned that the patent holder's father is a patent attorney. (The patent holder is a 10-12 year old boy.) There was no suggestion that the patent was filed to raise awareness of problems with patent law, but I can't help but think that's the case.
  • by vulgrin (70725)
    Here is my letter which I sent this morning:

    Rep. Morella:

    I am writing today with further concern of regarding the U.S. Patent Office. The U.S. Patent Office and its antiquated practices are working against the very purpose it was created for, furthering American innovation and invention. Instead, in recent years, it has shown that it cannot keep up with the rapidly growing pace of technology and has not been applying proper standards to evaluating prior art. There have been several cases over the past five years where patents that are harmful to my industry, the Internet, and the technology industry have been granted. These patents, which have ample prior art, only induce frivolous lawsuits and draw my industry into the quagmire of costly legal debate, not to protect the rights of inventors, but to further corporate coffers.

    The reason that I write today is because a frivolous, non-technology patent was granted on April 9th. Patent 6,368,227 was granted for "Method of swinging on a swing", and describes a method in which a person swinging on a playground swing could swing sideways. This patent is the best indicator that the U.S. Patent Office needs serious review.

    I call upon you to investigate this matter further, and if the investigation warrants, bring this topic up for debate within the House of Representatives. It is time that we begin to fix those areas of Government that are not performing their prescribed duty and return them to working for the people again.
  • The user may even choose to produce a Tarzan-type yell while swinging in the manner described, which more accurately replicates swinging on vines in a dense jungle forest. Actual jungle forestry is not required.

    If they don't get a C&D from one [tarzan.org], they'll be hearing from another [cbfan.com].
  • Mail this to CNN or some other news site that most Americans read. If the general public learns about this then there will be an outrage and changes may be made to the patent office. Any complaints slashdotters send in is only a fraction of a percent of the number of Americans out there.
    • Reporters from CNN, NYT, WSJ, and many other mainstream news media regularly scan Slashdot, Linux.com, NewsForge and other "niche" Web sites for story ideas. Posting something interesting (or silly) on Slashdot usually brings it to their attention just as effectively as emailing them about it. :)

      - Robin

  • Here it is:

    To: usptoinfo@uspto.gov
    Subject: Patents
    Date: Tue, 16 Apr 2002 09:05:08 -0300

    Hi. I am a swing researcher, and in my advanced studies to find out how kids swing, I came to the conclusion that 99.38% +-0.62 of
    the average american kid has swong sideways, at least once in his lifetime. This study was conducted with careful observation of
    2.495.487 kids swinging, and took 10 years of my life.

    So I guess my research pretty much conflicts with patent # 6,368,227 (Olson April 9, 2002).

    Shall I publicize my findings ?

    Or can I be sued if I do so ?

    TIA.

  • People will won't see this an example of general bad patent granting policies, they'll just see it as a mistake.
  • The problem is... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ecyrd (51952) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:35AM (#3349617)
    ...that the USPTO is not responsible for the patents it has granted. If they were responsible, then someone could sue them for issuing a bad patent. That would certainly get their attention.

    Hey, you issued those guys a bad patent, causing our company to go through a very expensive legal process. We are suing you for $25M damages and legal fees that we wouldn't have suffered if you hadn't screwed up.
  • Prior Art (Score:3, Informative)

    by Krieger (7750) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @10:28AM (#3349979) Homepage
    The prior art and other patents listed are actually interesting. One is for an original swing, and another is for an indoor swing. Both have relatively lengthy prior art sections as well. Interesting reading.

    I think where the patent office went wrong was that they started allowing concepts to be patented. Inventions or processes are fine as there is a defineable method you go through to get a result. A specific engine, chemical process, etc. But allowing patents for a one-click shopping system? For swinging in a circle? How can they sign off on these things?
  • by Sloppy (14984) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @10:30AM (#3349994) Homepage Journal

    Without the protection of a monopoly on their methods, children would not have a sufficient incentive to play. Imagine a world where the children do not play. That would be aweful. You don't hate children, do you?

  • by Deven (13090) <deven@ties.org> on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @11:51AM (#3350766) Homepage
    If you're tired of obvious patents like this, then do something about it! This patent is a golden opportunity to shine some light on the disgrace that the patent office has become. This is a smoking gun!

    The computer industry suffers increasingly from bad patents being granted on obvious techniques which are far from novel. This trend is obvious to us, but not so clearcut to those outside the industry. An XOR cursor may be obvious to a programmer, but sounds quite novel and non-obvious to a layperson. This patent should be blatently obvious to anyone, including your elected representatives!

    Everyone who reads Slashdot and hates to see obvious patents should print out this patent, schedule a face-to-face meeting with their elected representatives, show them this ridiculous patent and use it to drive home the point we've been trying to make for years -- that the patent office is out of control and completely ignoring the "novel and non-obvious" standards that the law sets before patent protection is warranted. If enough of us do this, Congress might actually get the hint and start taking patent reform seriously. And this patent doesn't require them to take our word for it; they can see for themselves how absurd this patent is! It doesn't matter if this patent was requested as a lark; it was granted and has the full force of law behind it.

    We need Congress to be outraged about this patent as an example of the corruption in the system. Whether or not this particular patent could or would ever be enforced is irrelevant; if patents are granted on obvious methods, it harms the public interest by granting a legal monopoly on the obvious. That impedes progress and economic growth, endangers companies and jobs, and erodes public trust and confidence in the government -- all things that Congress ought to care about...

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