1 Patents for devices that defy the forces of nature
The IPKat found this in National Geographic News. On November 1 Boris Volfson of Huntington, Indiana, received US Patent 6,960,975 for his design of an antigravity space vehicle. Volfson's craft is theoretically powered by a superconductor shield that changes the space-time continuum in such a way that it defies gravity. The design effectively creates a perpetual-motion machine, which physicists consider an impossible device.
Robert Park, a consultant with the American Physical Society in Washington DC, warns that such dubious patents aren't limited to the antigravity concept:
"I might hear a complaint about a particular patent, and then I look into it. More often than not it's a screwball patent. It's an old problem, but it has gotten worse in the last few years. The workload of the patent office has gone up enormously."Some people might consider patents on unworkable products to be relatively harmless. Park, a physics professor at the University of Maryland at College Park, disagrees.
"The problem, of course, it that this deceives a lot of investors. You can't go out and find investors for a new invention until you can come up with a patent to show that if you put all this money into a concept, somebody else can't steal the idea. [Approving these kind of patents can] make it easier for scam artists to con people if they can get patents for screwball ideas."Perpetual-motion machines have long held special appeal for inventors—particularly during the concept's heyday around the turn of the 20th century. Patent applications on such devices became so numerous that by 1911 the patent office instituted a rule that perpetual-motion machine concepts had to be accompanied by a model that could run in the office for a period of one year.
The IPKat likes patents for perpetual motion machines (though, embarassingly, he couldn't find a link to this one). They shouldn't need to be expensive to examine once you rumble the concept, so the patent office should get good income from them. The inventor is happy because he's got his patent. The patent agent is happy because he gets his fees. Other manufacturers sleep soundly because, if the invention is contrary to the laws of nature, there's not much risk of infringing it. Merpel adds, there's not much sympathy for investors. They're prepared to sink a lot of money each year into patents that don't work even if they're not contrary to the laws of nature; if they don't do their due diligence, it's their own fault.
Other patents by Boris Volfson here, here and here
2 Bio-Science Law Review
Issue 3 of Lawtext's Bio-Science Law Review for 2004-5 has now been published.
Goodies in rather thin issue include a review by Gareth Morgan (Taylor Wessing) of the royalties dispute between Cambridge Antibody Technology (alias CAT) and Abbott Laboratories that ended in victory for the triumphant licensor over use of its Humira product. There's also a challenging piece by Wim Nauwelaerts (from the Brussels office of Hogan and Hartson) entitled: "Whose DNA is it Anyway? Testing Genetics Under the Auspices of EU Data Privacy Law" - a new slant to an old problem, the IPKat thinks.