How Do Funny Patents Happen?

Funny patents happen because a patent can be granted for any invention that follows these rules:

  • It has to be inventive and original.
  • It cannot be an obvious invention (something that anyone can come up with, such as patenting the use of a butter knife to spread butter).
  • It must be useful with the potential of being manufactured or used in an industry; it can't be too abstract.

These requirements actually leave a broad window for inventions. As long as an inventor can prove the potential for usefulness, he or she can obtain a patent. The invention doesn't necessarily need to be a product one may purchase at a store. 

With such basic rules, inventive minds can go a little crazy. 

A large majority of business startups end up failing within the first year. When you see the following list of ridiculous inventions, that statistic makes sense. 

Most of the really crazy ideas never go beyond the conceptual stage, so they are never actually produced. The United States Patent and Trademark Office reports that only 0.2 percent of ideas are actually feasible for marketing and producing. 

Here are some of the funniest patents to come through the patent office recently.

Thong Diaper

The thong diaper, patented by Mary Maalouf, caught the attention of "Saturday Night Live," which featured it in one of its skits. This idea was granted a patent in May of 2007, but it cannot be purchased in any stores yet. 

Outdoor Pet Potty

The idea for a flushable outdoor toilet that connects to the sewer system for pet waste was patented in 1974 by Kenneth Brown. There now exist several variations on the idea. However, the Powerloo is a popular version available for purchase. This resembles a human toilet in its functionality and directs solid pet waste into your home's septic system. 

Body-Attaching Glasses

These frameless glasses attach to your body using piercings. Patented in 2003 by John Rose, these are now sold as Pierced Glasses and are available for purchase. 

A Kissing Shield

Meant to go along with a game that would teach kids to avoid cooties and sexually transmitted diseases, the kissing shield was patented by Deloris Wood in 2004. The shield and the game have yet to be made available for purchase. 

Nicotine-Infused Coffee

This coffee drink offers a few options for addiction. Patented by Stephen Fortune Jr. in 2004, nicotine-infused coffee was meant to satisfy all the addictions in one piping-hot cup of joe. This invention is not available in stores, but electronic cigarettes can be purchased with coffee flavoring in the meantime. 

Edible Business Cards

Make a lasting impression with edible business cards, ideal for businesses specializing in tasty treats. This idea was patented in 2004 by Leonid Kofman. They are now available for purchase from Kofman's company and Chocolography.

Body Cavity Applicator

Ronald Shippert patented a device that allows an individual to insert an object into any body cavity in 2004. This particular body cavity applicator is not available for sale, but a suppository insertion device is a close second. 

Living Magic 8-Ball

The beloved Magic 8-Ball takes on a new form with a living version patented by Richard Bruce Bernardi II in 2004. A plant will either grow through the Yes or No hole to provide an answer when you've planted a seed and asked your important question. Stores are not yet selling any versions of the living Magic 8-Ball.

One-Person Seesaw

For introverted outdoor fun, Dale and Michael Boudreaux patented a one-person seesaw in 2005. These are not yet available for purchase, but keep an eye out at the playground. 

Rock Paper Scissors Card Game

This game takes the classic hand signal game to the cards. Patented in 2005 by Robert Simmons, Jr., "Rock Paper Scissors: The Card Game" is sold online by Jax Games.

Magnetic Rings That Grant Eternal Life

In 1999, Alex Chiu invented and patented magnetic rings he believes will extend human life. These rings use the magnetic field running through your body to improve the circulation of blood and electric currents, effectively increasing your metabolism to prevent aging.

Obtaining a patent, even for a more practical invention or idea can be difficult. But patent lawyers prove to be an exceptional resource. 

If you need help with a patent, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.