If you’re a budding inventor and want to make sure that you get credit for your creations, then you might want to consider filing a patent with the US Patent Office. For a fee, you can protect your invention and make sure that no one can copy your ideas and make money from your genius. The fact that the fee can often run into thousands of dollars–including attorney bills–prompts the need to be undoubtedly confident that your invention was worth protecting!
Actually, there are obviously a lot of inventors out there who think that their contraptions are worth protecting. In 2015, for example, the US Patent Office received over 629,000 patent applications, and out of those, nearly 326,000 were awarded a patent.
Patenting an invention, a design, or even a scientific discovery can be very lucrative for the individual or the company that owns the patent. Microsoft earned $1 billion in 2013 just from its Samsung Android patent, while drug company Pfizer earned $105 billion from its patent for cholesterol-lowering drug, Lipitor, before the patent expired, allowing anyone to manufacture the drug without paying Pfizer a cent.
Sadly, few of the patents in the list below would make their inventors nothing like the money mentioned above. Which do you think is the most bizarre?
15 Vibrating Tattoo
The vibration function on your phone can come in pretty handy when you’re in meetings or at an event where a ringtone would be frowned upon. Finnish telecoms company, Nokia, went one step further in 2012, when it patented its design for a vibrating tattoo, which would alert “wearers” when their phone was ringing or if they had received a text message. The specially-applied tattoos would detect the magnetic field generated by the received call or message and vibrate accordingly. Although, why anyone would want their left butt cheek or right shoulder to jiggle without their say is another matter entirely.
14 Kissing Shield
Filed in 1995 by inventor Deloris Wood, the kissing shield is composed of a flexible plastic membrane stretched over a frame and attached to an elongated handle, the idea being that you can move the shield into place when you are going to kiss someone to avoid passing on germs or receiving theirs! Why anyone kissing their loved one would have a sudden desire not to make skin-on-skin contact is not explained by Ms. Wood, and her patent also reveals some rather inaccurate information about how HIV is spread. In her defense, though, she does say that it might be deployed most usefully by politicians who want to kiss babies.
13 High-Five Simulator
Is there anything more rewarding and confidence-boosting than a successful high five, especially if you have just managed to do something awesome? But what do you do if there is no one around to witness your achievement or, worst of all, no one to participate in a celebratory high five with you? Well, worry no more as thanks to inventor Albert Cohen, you can now enjoy the pleasures of a high five wherever you are, with his innovative apparatus for simulating a high five; in other words, a mechanical arm that will swing upright to give you some “skin” whenever you want it.
12 Mechanical Help For Hiccups
There’s lots of old wives’ tales for treating hiccups, such as drinking water out of the wrong side of the glass, for example. Inventor Philip Ehlinger decided that he could do better and set about creating his own hiccup treatment. A metal cup is filled with water, while an electrode is attached to the cheek of the hiccups sufferer; the idea being that a small electric shock while swallowing will stimulate the nerves that are responsible for hiccups in the first place. Whether you’re willing to mix electricity and water in the interests of curing your hiccups probably depends on how long they have been bothering you.
11 Fragrant Farts
Farting in public was obviously a major problem for inventors Brian and Myra Conant who, in 2000, came up with the idea of flatulence deodorizing pads. These pads, which were worn rather like sanitary towels only a little more towards the rear, were made of an activated charcoal cloth, which basically sucked in the entire odor from your embarrassing public farts. The invention, however, didn’t solve the problem of hiding the tell-tale noise! Perhaps the most bizarre thing about this patent is that this product has now been mass produced and is currently on sale across the US and Europe.
10 Death Watch
Everyone has seen those quizzes online, where you answer a few questions about your family and your current eating, drinking, and smoking habits, and then an algorithm works out what date you’re going to die. Just a bit of fun, though, if you consider that kind of thing as amusing or interesting. David Kendrick would have loved this quiz, given that in 1991, he submitted a patent for a life expectancy timepiece. It was a watch that would actually count down how long you have left on this earth based on key pieces of information about your age, social demographic, and family history.
9 Bad Hair Day
Bad news for Donald Trump. His signature comb-over hairstyle (does he really think that no one has noticed?) was actually patented all the way back in 1975 by “inventors” Frank and Donald Smith. The Smiths’ patent, “Method of concealing partial baldness,” was accompanied by a series of sketches that could easily have served as a ‘How To’ guide for The Donald’s barber. The detailed instructions included guidance on how long the hair needed to be before it could be combed over (3 to 4 inches) and that the hair should be combed over from both sides and the back in an alternating pattern for maximum coverage.
8 Portable Bath Capsule
What do you buy someone who has everything? Perhaps a portable bath capsule would do the trick, an unusual invention patented in 1970 by inventor Allen Mignon. Actually, the flexible sheath he invented, which sealed the user inside apart from an opening for the head, was really designed for those who are bed-bound to enable them to get a proper wash and even to get a therapeutic massage from the jets of water as they entered the device. Yet somehow, it didn’t even take off, even in hospitals or care homes, and the dream of a portable bath capsule for all patients died away.
7 Brain Buzzer
This was not an implement of torture, although it may well have been picked up by arms manufacturers after the patent expired. The brain buzzer, patented in 1998, was a device that was supposed to help people stop falling asleep at inopportune moments. Boring meeting? Simply bite down on the vibrating wand and allow it to deliver a little jolt of electricity to your tired mind, all without disturbing your colleagues unless they find yelps of pain disturbing, of course. It was also recommended to school pupils and college students to help keep them awake for a night of studying, according to the Japanese inventor.
6 Banana Bodyguard
This is another case of a crazy patent, which somehow made it into reality. These days, you can actually buy plastic cases for your bananas, especially if you are taking one to school or work and don’t want it to get too brown and squished. How manufacturers know how straight or bendy to make it is a mystery, and perhaps the inventor of the original banana protector, Stewart Partridge, who filed his patent in 1929, would know the answer. Partridge’s original design was nothing like the kooky plastic bananas you can buy in the shops today. His was just a plain cylinder with a gap at the top where the stem was secured.
5 Gerbil Shirt
Dogs get to go for walks, cats have their freedom, and pet rabbits get to run about in the garden enjoying fresh air. What about the poor gerbils, which are destined to spend their lives in a cage, or just run around the front room in a plastic ball? One inventor decided that enough was enough for the poor mistreated small mammals and eventually patented the gerbil shirt, an actual item of clothing covered in the plastic tubes from the stacking housing systems for gerbils and hamsters, which allowed the wearer to take their beloved pets wherever they went.
Imagine the scene where it’s a hot summer’s day perhaps spent at a barbecue with friends and you are all enjoying a cold bottle of beer, which at least, starts off cold. Give it a few minutes sitting in direct sunlight, and it will soon be as warm as British lager. That’s where the beerbrella comes in, a bizarre invention patented in 2001 by three apparently beer-loving men. The beerbrella attaches to your bottle and shades its contents from the sun. It can be angled as necessary, and the inventors even note that the beerbrella could be branded with the logo of your favorite tipple.
3 Finger-Mounted Stealth Fly Swatter
Forget about conventional fly swatters. In 2009, the finger-mounted stealth fly swatter was patented. And while this may seem a bizarre invention at first glance, if it works, it could change picnics forever! Instead of having to move to reach for the fly swatter, which usually just disturbs the offending creature, meaning you have to start your hunt all over again, the finger-mounted device is always there ready to go at a moment’s notice. What’s better is that it doesn’t even interfere with you holding a book or a drink, although swatting while holding a glass of wine may take a little practice.
2 Thumb Sucking Inhibitor
Thumb sucking, most kids do it and most parents tear their hair out trying to get them to just stop. One husband-and-wife inventing team patented their own device in 1948, which aims to stop children from sucking their thumbs by covering the offending digit with a hard plastic sheath. Not as comforting and soft to suck as your thumb, and while it is fairly easy to attach, it uses the same techniques as a Chinese finger trap to hold it in position so that older toddlers will also be frustrated in their efforts to get their thumb back in their mouth.
1 Wind-Assisted Bike
Lance Armstrong may have used illegal drugs to win the Tour de France, but perhaps he should have used a wind-assisted bike instead if he wanted to gain an advantage over his competitors. The “sail attachment for bicycles” was invented all the way back in 1899 by Rudolph Sorensen. Yet strangely, we don’t see any wind-assisted bicycles on our roads today. To be fair, the attachment looks more than a little unwieldy and appears to prevent the cyclist from being able to clearly see the road behind him—more of a problem on the 21st century roads than at the end of the 19th century.