There is a lot that can be learned by looking at the simple and stupid. This is one of those. A great example of a method patent...
I have talked about design patents quite a bit lately. Basically a design patent protects the look and feel of something. It doesn’t have to disclose how it would be built or used. That would be a utility patent. There are several kinds of patent that differs only in the way it is worded. One such wording is a method patent. As you can probably guess, this type of patent only describes how you would do something, the steps you might take but does not declare how something is built. Let me show you a very simple example that at the same time is quite absurd. That way we can laugh and learn at the same time.
The patent in question is number 6368227 and titled “Method of swinging on a swing”. This patent issued in 2002 and kind of goes along with a comment on a recent article saying that it makes it clear that the patent office only looks at technical papers or other forms of printed materials in order to apply a novel and non-obviousness test. The abstract states “A method of swing on a swing is disclosed, in which a user positioned on a standard swing suspended by two chains from a substantially horizontal tree branch induces side to side motion by pulling alternately on one chain and then the other.”
And for those who rightly state that the only part of a patent that really says anything important are the claims – here are the claims in their entirety.
1. A method of swinging on a swing, the method comprising the steps of: a) suspending a seat for supporting a user between only two chains that are hung from a tree branch; b) positioning a user on the seat so that the user is facing a direction perpendicular to the tree branch; c) having the user pull alternately on one chain to induce movement of the user and the swing toward one side, and then on the other chain to induce movement of the user and the swing toward the other side; and d) repeating step c) to create side-to-side swinging motion, relative to the user, that is parallel to the tree branch.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein the method is practiced independently by the user to create the side-to-side motion from an initial dead stop.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein the method further comprises the step of: e) inducing a component of forward and back motion into the swinging motion, resulting in a swinging path that is generally shaped as an oval.
4. The method of claim 3, wherein the magnitude of the component of forward and back motion is less than the component of side-to-side motion.
So, the next time you get on a swing and decide to go from side to side, you had better obtain a license first – otherwise you could be taken to court! The good news is that the inventor says that licenses are freely available from the inventor upon request. Better get one of those licenses!
Brian Bailey – keeping you covered
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