Bizarre patents are more common than people think. When the USPTO, the United States Patent and Trademark Office, issues a patent, the invention must be nonobvious, novel, and useful. Useful doesn't always mean commercially viable, so some of the inventions submitted for patents are really strange.

Why Do People File Weird Patents?

Some companies and individuals want to make lots of money by filing a large number of patents. They don't spend the money on marketing or manufacturing most of them, but the wide variety of patents gives them an easy way to sue others. If another person or company tries to patent or sell a product that's already patented, the first entity to submit a patent could be eligible for a settlement. That way, they can profit from an invention even if someone else makes and sells it. 

The Requirements for the USPTO to Issue a Patent

Any possible utility lets an invention meet the USPTO's standard for usefulness. Patents must be novel or new, so no one can get a patent on a product that's very similar or identical to another patented product. People also can't patent obvious items that others have been using for years, like firewood or a rock.

Examples of Bizarre Patents

Most of these bizarre inventions haven't gotten past the patent stage, but someone thought they could be useful in the future. Here are some of the strangest patents submitted:

  • A vibrating tattoo from Finnish phone manufacturer Nokia would alert you when your phone rings.
  • A kissing shield patented in 1995 protects people from germs when they kiss by using a thin membrane that stretches over a heart-shaped frame. It folds for easy storage and it's attached to a handle for quick use, so it's perfect for politicians who kiss babies.
  • An anti-eating face mask patented in 1982 looks more like a prop in a horror movie than an accessory for a child. Cup-shaped mesh fits over a kid's face to let him breathe without allowing him to eat. However, there's no way to keep a child from just taking off the contraption.
  • A plastic arm for giving high fives was patented in 1993. The patent said it should improve the mood and coordination of users.
  • With a portable nuclear shield, you can protect yourself from the apocalypse by digging a hole and spreading the device over your head. Of course, a nuclear attack won't give you much time to dig a hole.
  • The patented Flat-D Flatulence Deodorizing Pad is made from activated charcoal to filter stinky farts.
  • With the Life Expectancy Watch, you can check the estimated time until your death. It could remind some people to enjoy every moment of life, but it would probably be a bit depressing for most folks.
  • Frank and Donald Smith patented the Method of Concealing Partial Baldness in 1975. By dividing your hair into three sections and using the technique to comb it, you can try to fool people.
  • The Snake Walking System lets people walk (or slither) their snakes like dogs.
  • Lazy or busy people, especially college students, might like disposable boxer shorts. They were patented on April Fool's Day in 2003.
  • A patent for a bird diaper includes an enclosed pouch for droppings and openings for the wings and the tail.
  • An automatic bed maker with mechanical arms could save you a little time in the morning. However, it uses too much space to be practical for most people.
  • A club or bar might use the Urinal Forehead Rest, a place to rest your head in front of a urinal. That way, guys who have been drinking and partying will be less likely to fall over when trying to use the restroom. Just using a bathroom stall would be much easier.
  • The Emoticon Keyboard includes a keyboard with emoticons and abbreviations instead of letters. There's also a processor, a driver, and special software to create the emoticons on your screen.
  • Users of the Instant Face Lift apply transparent or skin-colored anchor bands to their scalps with surgical adhesive and then pull the straps tight for a lifted look.

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