Obscure Patent: Magnetic therapy device

Bi-axial rotating magnetic therapeutic device
US Patent No. 6,648,812 [ PDF ] [ HTML ]
Issued November 18, 2003

This device varies magnetic field intensity by rotating a single magnet about two axes at the same time.  This could be a legitimate, real invention, if only it were claimed as a human amusement device, or a device for sucking money from desperate individuals in search of a cure.  The problem is that it has been claimed as “a therapeutic magnetic device.”  That being the case, the invention must be useful for its claimed purpose, otherwise a utility rejection under 35 USC 101 and an enablement rejection under 35 USC 112 should issue.  The patent itself addresses this by explaining that books have been written supporting the efficacy of magnetic therapy.  What the patent fails to point out is that books have also been written about alien abduction and the fact that man never really landed on the moon. 

For those interested, do a Google search on magnetic therapy.  The consensus is that there have been no legitimate scientific studies to prove magnets can be therapeutic.  In fact the FTC has taken action against companies claiming magnet have medical value.  A Baylor study is frequently sited for support, but the researchers were apparently pro-magnet and the study results have NEVER been reproduced.  Sounds like the definition of junk science, but who is the patent office to question something that has been written in a book?

In reality, the reason that a patent like this gets issued is because the patent examiner is actually doing their job as the law requires.  The patent process is an ex parte process, which means that the applicant works with a patent examiner and there is no adverse party to object to what the applicant says.  This is very different than a litigation where there is one party on one side and another party on the other side with the judge in the middle.  The patent examiner gets to hear only one side, and therefore it is not surprising when you see an examiner believe the applicant.

Moreover, the patent examiner is required by law to take what the applicant says at face value.  An objection can only legitimately be issued when the examiner has a reason to believe that the invention cannot be patented.  In this situation there is real concern about whether this invention actually works, which means it has no utility in patent terms.  So if the examiner rejects because the invention does not work and then the applicant comes forward with evidence that it does work the examiner can only accept that evidence.  The examiner cannot call in witnesses, hold hearings or otherwise independently try and prove the invention does not work.  Thus, when the examiner is following the law, if an applicant submits evidence that an invention does work then the examiner should accept that the invention does work. 


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One comment so far.

  • [Avatar for Dr. Hiram A PAz]
    Dr. Hiram A PAz
    September 17, 2013 09:27 am

    Respectable Gene Quinn: I know that you are a very prestigious Patent Attorney, but unfortunately it seems to me that you are a very bad Physiologist. You are trying from the point of view of law, to do a very risky scientific assumption. I’m a PhD in Medical Physiology, which has been working for more than 30 years with the physiologic effects of pulsed magnetic field. I can tell you that they actually work, and that they can cure many ailments. The point is that the facts are only accepted if they match the interest of the “Big Dog” . The probe is that recently the FDA approved the NEUROSTART for Trans cranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). If this were mine patent for sure it were not awarded, and probably I would be accused of Quackery or Fraud. I think that our people and the people of all around the world deserves that good things, the ones that actually could them to recover their health were available at a reasonable prize. Sincerely Yours: Dr. Hiram A Paz PhD