Are workout supplements and fitness gadgets boasting about their “patented” formulas and designs really something special? This article isn’t patented, but will tell you.
Recently I came across yet another workout supplement that tried to tell me about its “unique patented formula,” that supposedly ensured that I would grow into the Terminator (or something close) in no time. Because the formula was patented, the manufacturer of course hinted that only they could offer me the goodness.
That got me thinking: what does it really take to get something patented? What I discovered will make you rethink how much value you put on patent claims:
The “Gas-Fired Missile Launcher”
How about an example from a rather funny, yet probably completely useless patent? I have to thank Joe Schwarcz and his book Brain Fuel for it, where I discovered this example of human ingenuity when researching patents.
I’ll first give you the patent text as filed with the patent office and you try to find out what this is:
A toy gas-fired missile and launcher assembly whose missile is composed of a soft head and a tail extending therefrom formed by a piston. The piston is telescoped into the barrel of a launcher having a closed end on which is mounted an electrically-activated ignitor, the air space between the end of the piston and the closed end of the barrel defining a combustion chamber. Joined to the barrel and communicating with the chamber therein is a gas intake tube having a normally-closed inlet valve.
Yep, so far this sounds like something from the NASA’s drawing boards. But hold your breath (seriously!), because here is what it all comes down to:
To operate the assembly, the operator places the inlet tube with its valve open adjacent his anal region from which a colonic gas is discharged. The piston is then withdrawn to a degree producing a negative pressure to inhale the gas into the combustion chamber to intermix with the air therein to create a combustible mixture. The ignitor is then activated to explode the mixture in the chamber and fire the missile into space.
Yes, it’s a rocket that you supposedly can get to fly by charging it with, well, your discharges of the smelly kind.
Don’t Mind The Patent
Rightfully Joe Schwarcz wrote in his above book that the thing likely wouldn’t propel itself into the air, because the amount of combustible gases humans produce wouldn’t be enough. But, on the off chance that it could happen, the patent was granted.
Next time you see “patented” on a workout supplement or fitness gadget promising you monster abs in four weeks or some such, think of the “flatus rocket.”
Picture courtesy of Jeremy Keith.