First law of thermodynamics strikes again. Peter Crowley v United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (unreported, but noted on the Lawtel subscription-only service) is one of those cases that should never be allowed to happen. It's an extempore Patent Court, England and Wales, decision of Mr Justice Mann on a patent-related topic that is sufficiently simple that even one of the Patent Court's non-technically educated judges can handle it safely.
|Kats' Law of Thermodynamics: more energy|
is expended in trying to shift the cat from
in front of the fire than is absorbed
by sitting in front of it yourself ...
The hearing officer rejected this application on the ground that the machine contravened the first law of thermodynamics which states that energy can be neither created nor destroyed. This being so, it was impossible for the machine to rotate continuously. Rather, it would gradually slow down and eventually come to a halt on account of the energy losses inflicted on it by the forces of friction and turbulence. In legal terms, this meant that the invention was not patentable since it was incapable of industrial application under sections 1(1) and 4(1) of the Patents Act 1977.
Crowley, who represented himself, did not deny that the first law of thermodynamics applied but contended that, since gravity was introduced into the system for operating his machine, it would indeed be possible for the machine to produce a surplus of energy over that which was needed for the machine to function.
Mr Justice Mann dismissed the appeal.
* In the first place, neither the hearing officer's analysis nor his conclusion could be faulted, since it was inevitable that there would be some energy losses in the machine through friction and turbulence, as well as in the compression roller and the valves. Energy might also be spent in inflating the bags with water and, if not, in removing water from the bags. This being so, Crowley's design plainly contravened the principles of the conservation of energy.
* Crowley's explanation of the machine's operation showed a misunderstanding as to the system to which the first law of thermodynamics applied: the relevant system had to be the machine combined with the force of gravity and, when the principles of the conservation of energy were applied to that combination, it was clear that the energy losses involved in the functioning of the machine would mean that the machine would not experience the continuous rotation claimed by Crowley.
* In any event, it was plain that the machine would not be able to generate any surplus energy to enable it to be put to any industrial purposes.
* Crowley's appeal was sufficiently deficient so as to be labelled as totally without merit since it was highly unlikely that Crowley would be able to upset principles as established as the first law of thermodynamics.
The IPKat has written about perpetual motion patents in the past: see eg "UK-IPO gets tougher on perpetual motion" (here) and "The continuing incredible adventures of Dr Randell Mills" (here). While it seems a terrible waste of time and effort to apply for patents for inventions that contravene the first law of thermodynamics, it seems to him to be a terrible waste of time and effort to have to go through the procedure of rejecting them. Says Merpel: why not have a special class of perpetual motion patents, which applicants can happily be granted? If they don't work, there shouldn't be any problem infringing them, after all.
Second law of thermodynamics here
Third law of thermodynamics here