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A Brief History of Patenting the Wheel: What Goes Around Comes Around 36

Posted by samzenpus
from the round-and-round dept.
v3rgEz writes Marc Abrahams, founder of the Ig Nobel Prize, has put together a fascinating history of people patenting the wheel, including one inventor that did it to prove how ridiculous Australia's patent system was and another that put wheels on a wheel so it could wheel while it wheels. From the article: "I discovered today that the Australian patent office has — quietly — revoked the patent it granted, in the year 2001, for the wheel. The patent office had awarded Innovation Patent #2001100012 to John Keogh of Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia. Keogh’s application called his invention a “circular transportation facilitation device.” I became acquainted with Mr. Keogh when we awarded him — and the Australian Patent Office — an Ig Nobel Prize, in 2001."

A Brief History of Patenting the Wheel: What Goes Around Comes Around

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Make 50% of the salaries of the patent office "contestable", so when they get it wrong it comes out of their pay packet

    ALSO

    Make the fees for failed patents applications high to discourage frivolous patents and make the costs of failure 10 times that for a failed appeal.

    • Re:Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

      by HornWumpus (783565) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @07:11PM (#47420477)

      Clearly, we currently have too many competent patent examiners. We should do everything possible to get them to quit.

      • Re:Solution (Score:5, Informative)

        by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @08:21PM (#47420951)

        Clearly, we currently have too many competent patent examiners. We should do everything possible to get them to quit.

        I'm not so sure too few patent examiners is the only problem. According to a patents documentary I watched recently one of the big problems is a piece of legislation passed in the USA during the 80s or 90s in a panic over patent rates in Asia outstripping those in the USA. It caused the number of patents in the USA to rise sharply but it also allowed people to patent ridiculous crap because the patent office was now totally overworked and the restrictions on what could be patented had been relaxed. The Danes have a saying "He just tried to patent hot water" which is equivalent to the English proverb "He's not the sharpest knife in the kitchen", i.e. "he's stupid". The unfortunate thing is that these days you'd actually stand a good chance of patenting hot water if you tried, especially in the US where the rules are very lax. Come to think of it I'd actually like to see somebody try to patent hot water, just to see if they succeed. That being said I'm not generally against patents, I just think the system need major reform. This same documentary I cited above also included an interesting interview with James Dyson, the vaccuum cleaner guy. He described patents as a major pain because they are expensive to obtain and defend and don't really do much to help the small inventor anymore (which is what they were originally intend to do) and because patents have become weapons used by big players to stifle competition. But at the same time he also said he wouldn't want to live without some sort of patent system and took an example in his company's bladeless fan. It took them several years and tons of money to develop and they'd hardly released it when the market was flooded with cheap ass Chinese copies. The problem from Dyson's point of view is firstly that the copies are crappy and don't work very well which reflects badly on Dyson whose product actually works. Secondly the patent system (broken as it is) still helps companies like Dyson to crack down on copycats, even in China and even though the Chinese take significantly longer (years) to process foreign patent applications than they do Chinese patent applications (months) in violation of WTO regulations.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The problems of the US patent office can be summarized in two simple words.

          Software Patents

          It is not feasible to review and examine them properly, due to their number and the tremendous overlap in methods and code bases used to produce the relevant software. Simply eliminating software patents, outright, would cause a short flurry of business plan changes for companies that have invested in them. But th

          • Not just software patents. Patents on having your cat chase a laser pointer dot. A million people can come up with the same thing, and not bother to patent it, then one guy decides to patent it, and the other million have to pay him for it? It's ridiculous, because ridiculous things should not be patented. They should have very strict rules on what can be patented, such as a drug, a technical manufacturing process, or a technical device, that's novel. I came up with the same idea, with a playful cat, and la
            • by operagost (62405)

              How about Microsoft/IBM screwing Gary Killdall out of DOS

              Uh... he didn't create DOS. He created CP/M. You could say MS screwed DR out of a _deal_ with IBM, but it's likely he did that to himself.

            • I didn't mean to imply that the guys that make a lot of money on software had anything to do directly with Gary Kildall's death. It was probably similar in situation to how a Stefi Graf women's tennis fan stabbed Monica Szeles in the shoulder muscles back in the 90's. Kain is everywhere, killing Able, simply because he's able - when you're supposed to make smoke that rises to the sky, the fastest way to winning is to kill everyone whose smoke rises up more than yours. Are you your brother's keeper?
  • Yo dawg (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I see you like wheels.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They probably found my prior art

  • I invented the "One Click" wheel.

  • by fisted (2295862) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @08:49PM (#47421085)
    That omni drive seems pretty legit [chiefdelphi.com], not sure why it is in TFA's list
  • by crioca (1394491) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @09:11PM (#47421217)
    On closer inspection the Australian patent that was granted is less absurd than it seems, as it was more of a quasi-patent:

    Innovation patents last for a maximum of 8 years, whereas standard patents last for maximum of 20 years

    Innovation patents are granted without examination, usually within 1 to 3 months,

    whereas standard patents are examined only after paying the examination fee, and usually take 2 to 4 years.

    After an innovation patent has been granted, the owner or any person may request examination, and such examination must occur before the owner can commerce or threaten to commence infringement proceedings.

    • On closer inspection the Australian patent that was granted is less absurd than it seems, as it was more of a quasi-patent:

      Innovation patents last for a maximum of 8 years, whereas standard patents last for maximum of 20 years

      ... which is why the article quote "I discovered today that the Australian patent office has — quietly — revoked the patent it granted, in the year 2001, for the wheel" is even more absurd. It expired in 2009. This was "revoked" in the same way that the moldy cheese in the back of your fridge with a best-by date in January has been "quietly revoked".

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The axle, now that was worthy of a patent. Well, maybe not, but a much more complicated thought process.

  • Can't interest them in facts baffle em with bull sh!t.

    As far as I know MS still holds the patent to smiley faces, the fact they have been around since the keyboard made no difference..

    A rock "rolling" downhill has the same features of a wheel, when it hits and kills someone can I patent a new weapon?
    I'll make much mention of the fact it was revolving to maintain accuracy.

    A sling doesn't require a rock/stone to spin, in fact can't really pull it off.

  • by AC-x (735297) on Thursday July 10, 2014 @07:19AM (#47423143)

    US patent D690249, granted on September 24, 2013 to Mark Finnie of La Palma, California, for a “Motorcycle wheel with seven bifurcated spokes”.

    But that's a design patent which just protects the cosmetic look of the product, which is perfectly legitimate for designer alloy wheels.

    • I think design patents are stupid. I highly doubt that the quality of designs would suffer if design patents did not exist.

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