2012-08-14

Absurdly Patented

Here's something - a late 'April Fool' perhaps? - from The Engineer magazine dated 22 April, 1883. The journalist (it's a British magazine, not an USanian one) appears to believe that an attempt to patent the catapult is too ridiculous to be genuine, He suspects a plot by GOTUS.

Mr. Smith's Patent Catapult.

As an example of the skill and efficiency with which the examiners at the United States Patent-office do their work, we publish the enclosed from No. 14 of the "United States Patent-office Gazette for 1881 :" — "As an improved article of manufacture, a sling, made substantially as herein shown and described, with a forked handle carrying an elastic band and central pocket, as set forth. In a sling, the combination, with the elastic band, of a pocket in the middle of the same for receiving the missile, the fork and the handle substantially as herein shown and described, and for the purpose set forth."

18810422catapultpic1024

We can scarcely think it possible as the — alas for England ! — much-too-well-known catapult is still regarded as a new invention in the States. The only explanation of the granting of a patent under the circumstances is that the whole thing is a deep-laid plot of the United States Government against the peace and happiness of the hitherto confiding schoolboy. Finding that various legislative enactments to put down the use of this malign instrument have been in vain, the Government have had a patent applied for by Mr. Smith — the name is as vague as a name can be — of Sabula, Iowa. No one is likely to go to Sabula to find out if a Mr. Smith really lives there and holds a patent. Under this veil of mystery the Government can pounce on any one vending or making catapults, in the name of Mr. Smith of course, and levy appalling royalties, to say nothing of impounding the machine. It is improbable that any one will plead prior user, and so the scheme will work well in all probability. It is much to be regretted that the same plan cannot be tried here. For instance, would it not be well if the various metropolitan authorities were to get a Mr. Smith to patent street slides, the use of snowballs in a game, tip-cats, kites, leap frog, tops, and hoops. All these things ought to be patented, and large royalties charged on licences for their use within twenty miles of Charing Cross in public thoroughfares.

I'm not sure I should have republished this 131 year old article. It might give ideas to large multinationals who want to own IPR in anything and everything. But that would be silly wouldn't it.

Oh, and if you're wondering what on earth can a tip-cat be ...

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