Flush toilet for a dog
US Patent No. 6,769,382 [ PDF ]
Issued August 3, 2004
The patent on this toilet for dogs reads almost like a Monty Python sketch really. The Background of the Invention starts by explaining that domestic pets such as dogs provide love and companionship to human beings, but they also create the daunting task associated with, shall we say, “maintenance.” The inventor laments the failed attempts of others to provide an indoor toilet facility for dogs. Can you see the inventor setting up a non-obvious argument here? If others have failed then the invention cannot be obvious, right? I don’t think we need to worry about obviousness for this one though, but I digress.
The patent goes on to explain that because dogs “perform” in various standing positions the doggie toilet must be crafted with this uniqueness in mind. The one thing that the inventor seems to leave out of the patent is how one would get the dog to use the toilet in the first place, which would seem to be the real groundbreaking invention. After all, most of us are not Bruce Almighty and cannot simply snap our fingers and point to the toilet.
While we may be able to poke fun at this invention, quite easily I might add, we should at least take an opportunity to try and learn something from this patent. The thing that jumps out at me is utility; in order for an invention to be entitled to receive patent protection it must be “useful.” This utility requirement for patentability has absolutely nothing to do with what any one of use would consider a requirement that the invention be “useful” in the real world. In order for an invention to satisfy the utility requirement it needs to do what you claim it does. So if you were to invent a cure for cancer, say a hemlock, arsenic, cyanid concoction in a gasoline base and claimed that it would kill cancer cells when ingested this potion would be considered “useful” in the patent sense. The fact that it would kill ever cell in your body, including cancer cells, is not something the Patent Office would concern themselves with. That is an issue for the FDA!
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