Friday, April 24, 2009

Speaking of Patents

That recent patent that was granted reminded of a little Patent Office hacking we did a few years ago.

Ray DuFlon and I filed a patent for a toy top we invented. The top was a "Magic Eight Ball" in that it revealed a yes/no answer when you spun it. It's hard to capture in a photo, but at 1/16th of a second, you get a legible shot -- this says SEND NO REPLY.

Late one night as we finished the patent application, we mentioned to our good friend, patent attorney, and all around great person, Robin Goldstein, that we should add a claim for an additional sensor to tell which direction the top was rotating. With that, we could reveal a different message depending on the spin direction. Of course we immediately started riffing on what hidden, satanic messages could appear when spun backwards.

Robin and I looked at each other and said why not? So there in patent #5791966 you'll find an extra claim:

16. The toy top, as claimed in claim 10, wherein said second predefined group comprises the characters "PAUL IS DEAD".

If you're too young to understand why this is funny, check wikipedia.


  1. Just wanted to let you know I got a good chuckle out of claim 16 while researching possible prior art on a patent. Had to google it and see if anyone else had spotted it! Nicely done. I'm under 40 and still got the joke, but my lawyer's a few years younger and I don't think he got it.

  2. Which means I'll probably get a bill for $280/hour for the time it took him to research it.