I Don't Want to Be a Patent Lawyer


I just found a link to The Delphion Gallery of Obscure Patents over at The Straight Dope. If you enjoyed the Unuseless Japanese Inventions books, this site is for you. The site is a study in American capitalism. Whereas Japanese practitioners of Chindohgu, the art of the "unuseless idea," develop ridiculous inventions for the sake of artistry, we western barbarians actually take our shit to the USPTO.

My favorites:

Apparatus for simulation a "high five"

Method of exercising a cat

Hyper-light-speed antenna (In your face, Raymond Chiao!)

Versatile necktie tying aid gauge

Pneumatic shoe lacing apparatus (As seen in Back to the Future Part II.)

Greenhouse helmet

Hat simulating a fried egg

And, unquestionably the best of the bunch, Bird trap and cat feeder


It appears the attack on American inventors as barbarian shit-producers, without art-minded Japanese concerns, is really an indictment of capitalism, markets and all spontaneously generated social orders. While in this case, the charge is that Americans and marketeers have no aesthetic sense, in other cases, charges of capitalism, the market and marketeers claim that such systems produce too many choices, destroy the individual or the working classes. No matter what the indictment, though, the verdict is always the same: guilty, guilty, guilty. Couching critiques of the freedom to produce and consume in whatever way one sees fit, in aesthetic jabs, is such a charge, and its author will conclude the same verdict everytime: guilty. That, however, does not stain markets, but rather the reductio ad absurdum tools of anti-market arguments throughout the ages.

first off, i was using "shit" in its colloquial sense, meaning "stuff." i wasn't characterizing ALL american inventors as barbarian shit-producers. i was only referring to american inventors who produce the kind of bizarre crap worthy of the gallery of obscure patents. my point is that one of the tenets of Chindohgu, as i understand it, is that you don't mass-produce or sell your invention. the art is the idea itself, and once you reduce the idea to a prototype your idea is finished. again, this doesn't apply to all japanese inventions, just the "unuseless" ones. conversely, the americans who invented these unuseless inventions felt the need to patent them lest a market for greenhouse helmets or fried egg hats actually open up.

i'm actually a fan of capitalism, but i think that americans go a little crazy with it, and nowhere is that more apparent than in intellectual property laws. IP is the evil twin of antitrust: antitrust is government regulation preventing the evils of extreme market success; IP is subsidization of market dominance through government created and enforced monopolies. i'm not in the camp that believes that copyright and patent laws should be eradicated but i think it's clear that they're subject to abuse. as an example, consider the "method of exercising a cat" patent linked above. that isn't a patent for the laser pointer itself, it's a patent for the ACT of using a laser pointer to exercise your cat. that means that every time my neighbor makes her cat chase a laser beam up and down the hallway she should be paying royalties to kevin amiss and martin abbott.

the free market is a wonderful thing but come on, i mean, hey, come on.

I was going to read all that shit but come on...

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This page contains a single entry by hb published on January 23, 2004 1:41 PM.

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