Google did what it does best this week: they introduced a new search feature, this one for searching US Patent applications. And I did what I do best: I typed ‘medieval’ into the search field looking for things to make jokes about. And boy, did I learn a lot about patents. For starters, it seems like you get extra points for mentioning that elements of your invention date back to medieval times, kind of like how undergraduates like to begin their essays with “All throughout history.”* My favorite “since the medieval era” is in the application for a “Panty Condom“: “Since medieval times, the concept of a condom as a means to prevent [censored in case another professor of mine discovers this blog], and hence preventing insemination, is known.”*** And yet no one ever says, “Use a condom? Are you insane? Get your medieval bedroom paraphernalia away from my [likewise censored in case of prudish job search committees].” But perhaps the applicant for this patent planned a series of commercials featuring the tagline: “Stop using medieval birth control. The Panty Condom is the way of the future!”
But my discoveries don’t stop with unlikely prophylactics–I also discovered that someone has patented a Method for Manufacturing a Heraldic Escutcheon that, as near as I can tell, is just a shield-shaped picture frame:
According the the application, “Although battle by sword is uncommon these days … there is a need for an efficient process to manufacture personalized heraldic eschutcheons which are attractive and durable.” I know my own method for making attractive, durable personalized heraldic eschutcheons is nowhere near as efficient as it could be. And likewise, how many times have you said to yourself, “There is a need for computer accessories that allow the user to personalize his or her computer and can make computing fun for youngsters.” Well, someone’s one step ahead of you: “The present invention addresses the above-mentioned deficiencies in computer system appearance by providing a system of accessories with a common theme to accentuate the appearance of the computer system”? You know, for the kids.
Allow me to introduce this Computer Mouse House and Interactive System.
Sure, it looks cool, but when you get down to it, this is a patent for stacking toys around your computer. I think I may owe the owner of this patent a lot of money if he ever finds out how I used to decorate my desk at work with Star Wars figures back in the late nineties. But that’s really beside the point. The important thing here is that only you can prevent deficiencies in computer system appearance. If you won’t help these children, who will? For just pennies a day, you can make sure that little Johnny never has to use a barren, dragonless computer ever again.
Speaking of the children, there also exists a deficiency in Toy Apparatuses Simulating Hunting or Combat. When I was a kid, we simulated hunting and combat by hitting each other with things. This patent appears to simulate hunting and combat by stabbing things through other things, plastic swords and bald children, respectively****:
Perhaps you prefer your toys to be just a tad safer. Think of how much fun a child would have with a sword firmly planted in a stone. Wait, stop thinking! Someone already has the patent on that idea, buddy, and those thoughts now require six easy payments of ninteen ninety five. It’s a Medieval Sword in Stone Game:
I know that you probably won’t believe me after the fake bald child debacle of one paragraph ago,***** but the patent in no way explains how a sword in a stone constitutes a game. There are no Community Chest cards, no Pop-A-Matic Bubble, no specific pattern of sounds to reproduce by hitting a bald child with the sword before time runs out–nothing. Hey, kids, think how much fun you’ll have… uh… staring at this amazing game? How long can you stare? Who can get the closest to the sword without touching it? For a unique spin on an old classic, hide the sword in the stone, count to ten, and then try to find it! How many times can you spell S-W-O-R-D before the sword spontaneously tips over? (I’ll bet more than a few. Notice how they thoughtfully included an extra wide base.) How long will it take you to guess what type of sword is hidden inside the stone? Collect all five swords in stones and form the mighty Row of Five Swords in Stones!
And finally, there’s the System for Allowing a Person to Experience Systems of Mythology which will allow you to experience the Middle Ages firsthand… somehow. The description certainly seems scientific:
It includes an existential analyzer module (EAM) for assessing a portion of a person’s meaningful experiential world. The EAM generates an existential descriptor (EXD) data structure describing the assessments. A facilitator module (FAM) utilizes the assessment from the EXD data structure for determining at least one enactment descriptor (END) data structure describing the enactment chosen from the FAM. An enactor module (ENM) utilizes information from the EXD data structure and from the END data structure to generate a mythic virtual reality that incorporates the chosen enactment.
It’s just that simple. I bet you’re kicking yourself for not patenting it first. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go file some paperwork for my Series of Connected Sentences Describing Strange Patent Applications with Occasional Snarky Commentary Interspersed between.
*My personal favorite overly broad undergraduate** essay beginning is stolen from a friend of mine who’d rather his name not be mentioned in a blog. “All throughout history, men have written in English. One of those men was Mark Twain.”
**To any undergraduates who happen to be reading this blog, especially undergraduates I’ve taught, don’t worry, it’s not you I’m talking about. I only make fun of hypothetical undergraduates who can only be hypothetically offended and thus can only write hypothetically unfavorable evaluations of me at the end of their hypothetical semesters.
***As I have mentioned before, this may be due to my overactive inner Beavis.
****Ok, so the bald children are actually action figures with foam cores so that you can poke things into them.
*****You really need to read the footnotes sooner.