UK-IPO gets tougher on perpetual motion

Perhaps the UK-IPO is getting a little bit fed up with having to deal with impossible inventions. The IPKat noticed this decision (O/156/08), which deals with a patent application for a perpetual motion machine in an unusually swift, not to say tetchy, way. Since it is very short, it is reproduced in full here:
"This is an application for a patent in relation to a device, the operation of which is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the basic laws of physics - ie. it’s a form of perpetual motion machine [IPKat comment: of type "alleged perpetua mobilia" under international classification code F03B17; thanks to Steve van Dulken]. The applicant, Mr Coonan, has requested a decision on the basis of the papers on the file.

The invention is a variable buoyancy device [illustrated right] that supposedly moves up and down in a fluid, by using eg. hydraulic forces within the fluid to change the volume (and hence buoyancy) of the device; the motion of the device being harnessed via cables and pulleys to generate electricity. The invention purports to create energy from nothing, and is therefore contrary to the law of conservation of energy. (Claim 1 is reproduced in an annex to this decision.)

The examiner has made several attempts to explain the flaws in the ‘physics’ of the invention, but he has not persuaded the applicant that his invention will not work. I do not think that I could do any better than the examiner in this regard, so I am not going to try.

I note that the Comptroller’s Hearing Officers have refused many applications for perpetual motion machines in recent years, and therefore I am also refusing this application under section 18(3) because it is not capable of industrial application (as required by section 1(1)(c) of the Act) for all the same reasons that have been given in those earlier decisions."
The decisions the hearing officer referred to are (with links where the decisions have been published) O/112/08, O/086/08, O/285/07, O/216/07, O/080/07, O/034/07, O/275/06, O/150/06, O/044/06, O/228/05, O/164/05, O/162/05, O/224/02, O/213/02, O/389/00 and O/368/00. One common factor (other than all the alleged inventions being impossible) is that in none of these cases was the applicant professionally represented. The IPKat is not sure whether this represents a sign that this type of applicant is always impecunious or if any sensible patent attorney would try to steer well clear of such inventions. He suspects both may be the case. Merpel wonders what the problem would be in representing such clients; aren't patent attorneys generally ok with arguing for impossible cases?

More impossible inventions here and here.
UK-IPO gets tougher on perpetual motion UK-IPO gets tougher on perpetual motion Reviewed by David Pearce on Thursday, June 12, 2008 Rating: 5


  1. They generally don't have money and if they won't accept the laws of physics what chance is there of them accepting advice?

  2. The UKIPO aren't restricting their clamp down to perpetual motion machines - they're clamping down on unworkable bombs too

  3. I generally advise clients that to get the Patent Office to accept something that would break the current Laws of Physics, they would need to build a working prototype. None has succeeded so far...

  4. They don't even try to build one, do they? After all, they think, I've already done the really hard part, namely, working out the theory in my head. Making the prototype is easy stuff, for anybody at all who has both my idea, and the funds to finance building a prototype. Shame, eh, that every one of those with sufficient funds is cursed with insufficient vision.


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