If you think intellectual property law is dry and boring, you haven't seen some of the patents that have been granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Indeed, one of the most inventive applications was filed just recently—Ryan Thomas Grace has filed an application to patent a marriage proposal in which the application itself would serve as a proposal.
Follow that? You have to give points for creativity, right?
The same goes for these—10 of the wackiest patents on the books, covering matters of life, death, and everything in between.
1. Apparatus for Facilitating the Birth of a Child by Centrifugal Force
With this invention, the mother-to-be is strapped down to a table that is then is spun to allow centrifugal force to take its course and aid in childbirth. This invention by a husband and wife team was patented in 1965, but surprisingly hasn't caught on in maternity wards around the country.
2. Portable Automobile Partition
When the baby gets bigger and perhaps is joined by a brother or sister, you may have car trips to look forward to—and anyone who has been around small children in a car knows the kind of "squabbling, fighting, or other behavior that may be distracting to the driver."
Enter the portable automobile partition, patented in 2001, a divider attached to a seat plate that makes the imaginary "Do not cross" line between siblings a reality. The children can still see each other as the partition is transparent, though, so be aware that bickering may persist.
3. Drug Awareness Game and Method for Playing
On rainy days, your children can play this board game "wherein players assume the identities of police officers and fight the war against crack cocaine." The Drug Awareness Game was issued a patent in 1994 and should not be confused with other patent-worthy board games such as those simulating drunk driving (1980), deterring drug use (1992), or teaching responsible drinking (2001).
4. Pair of Fake Sideburns for Sunglasses
Patented in 1996 and perfect for a Halloween costume, these fake sideburns attached to sunglasses let everyone channel their inner Elvis—without having to grow facial hair.
5. Novelty sun glasses with information display members having the form of moose antlers
If sideburns aren't your thing, you can also get moose antlers attached to sunglasses thanks to this patent issued in 1990. These were invented "to appeal particularly to children and youths who find it amusing, distinctive and attractive when notice[d] by others." Getting noticed definitely shouldn't be a problem.
6. Jewelry for Animals
Don't forget about your furry friends! A patent issued in 1982 provides for personalized earrings for animals with "two decorative sides and interchangeable 'add on' decorative parts." In case you are short of ideas, the patent application notes that "an earring particularly suitable for a French poodle can be built up and added to, to provide the appearance of an elaborate French key with a fleur de lis, etc., and the facsimile of a head of a [F]rench poodle."
7. Cheese Filter Cigarette
Why should children and pets have all the fun? For adults, there is a patent issued in 1966 for a cigarette with grated parmesan cheese in the filter. Unfortunately this one doesn't seem to have taken off either; apparently smokers want to eat first and smoke later, separately.
8. Life Expectancy Timepiece
Speaking of cutting short your life expectancy, this handy timepiece will count down the days until your demise. After you figure out your life expectancy based on health factors and actuary tables, you program your final (estimated) day into the timepiece, and you can watch the minutes tick, tick, tick away. No word on whether this 1991 patented invention offers a money back guarantee.
9. Drip Pan for Caskets
For when the timepiece tells you time is up, this 1990 patent ensures that "body liquids" from decomposition are trapped and collected appropriately in a "drip pan . . . at the bottom of the casket." Turkey gravy anyone?
10. Method of Preserving the Dead
And finally, if you would rather remain hermetically preserved, this 1903 patented method for preserving the dead uses a block of transparent glass to exclude air from the corpse, maintaining the body in "perfect life-like condition" for an indefinite period. Moreover, the illustration with the patent application makes it clear that you can use the method only for the head "if preferred."
What does this mean for my invention?
From a glance at this list you might think the USPTO has seen it all, but don't be discouraged when it comes time to submit your own patent application. There's always room for a better mousetrap, or a new casket drip pan as it were—a modular drip tray inside the casket was patented in early 2008.
So get inventing and then get started on that patent application!