Patents are often quite silly and should never have passed the obvious test. But we can learn from them sometimes. Today I look at a device for exercising your cat...
OK pet owners. Have you ever used a laser pointer as a play toy for a cat or dog? I know I have many times. It is an easy way to make them chase around the room, over obstacles and perform tricks without anything more than a quick flick of the wrist. But do you know that if you did it with a cat after August 22nd 1995, then you were infringing on patent 5,443,036 which claims:
- A method of inducing aerobic exercise in an unrestrained cat comprising the steps of:
- a) directing an intense coherent beam of invisible light produced by a hand held laser apparatus to produce a bright highly focused pattern of light at the intersection of the beam and an opaque surface said pattern being of visual interest to a cat and
- b) selectively redirecting said beam out of the cat's immediate reach to induce said cat to run and chase said beam and pattern of light around an exercise area
So, why is this such a great invention? Well according to Kevin Amiss and Martin Abbott, the co-inventors of this incredible discovery:
Cats are not characteristically disposed toward voluntary aerobic exercise. It becomes the burden of the cat owner to create situations of sufficient interest to the feline to induce even short-lived and modest exertion for the health and well-being of the pet. Cats are, however, fascinated by light and enthralled by unpredictable jumpy movements, as for instance, by the bobbing end of a piece of hand-held string or yarn, or a ball rolling and bouncing across a floor.
The first question that came to my mind was why does this patent apply only to cats? I guessed that someone had already patented it for dogs, but I could not find any such patent. If none exist, then why did these inventors write a patent that was so restrictive I wonder? Why not make it apply to any animal? Of course this has not stopped other people from coming up with improvements on this patent which take the owner out of the terrible task of having to direct the beam of light. On such improvement is in patent application 2008/0011243 A1 which states:
The pet owners currently find difficulty in controlling the pet obesity, which is a growing epidemic. The American Veterinarian Association estimates that an average 44 of pet animals are overweight.
I wonder if anyone is concerned about the additional obesity this will cause in pet owners?
Brian Bailey keeping you covered
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