01
Jun
07

Patent Trivia

Six Things You Cannot Patent In The USA

· Laws of nature (eg e=mc2)

· Physical phenomena (eg ice)

· Abstract ideas (philosophies, mathematical formulae)

· Literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works (these can only be copyright protected)

· Inventions which are not useful

· Inventions which are offensive to public morality (you couldn’t , for instance, patent an item if it was only useful as a component of an atomic bomb)

the-patent-office-from-harpers-new-monthly-magazine-1859-giclee-print-c11719953.jpeg

The U.S. patent-office-1859-print

5 Inventors Who Chose Not To Patent

Wilhelm Roentgen- refused to commercially exploit his discovery of x-rays.

Jonas Salk- when asked who owned the patent for the polio vaccine he had developed in 1952, he replied: ‘The people. Could you patent the sun?’

John Walker-declined to patent the matches he invented in 1827, or ‘sulphuretted peroxide strikables’ as the yard-long sticks were described.

Pierre and Marie Curie- refused to patent their process for refining radium. Marie declared that radium ‘is a natural chemical, it is for the people.’

Volvo-the Swedish car manufacturer made its ‘lap and diagonal’ seatbelt freely available to competitors.

Intellectual Property Paradoxes

Patent law seeks to promote economic activity by gaining exclusion rights to inventors. Anti-trust law seeks to promote economic activity by denying the very same rights.

(c) Source- The Ideas Companion by Johnny Acton

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1 Response to “Patent Trivia”


  1. 1 johann
    June 8, 2008 at 3:11 am

    Just a note — you can’t patent things only useful as components of atomic bombs not because they are offenses to public morality, but because the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 explicitly prohibited it. Google “Atomic Bomb Patenting” and you can find more information on why that was the case. (There are actually many components of the atomic bomb that WERE patented, despite that.) There are patents for gas warfare, radiological warfare, poisons, whatever you can imagine.


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