Celebrity Invention: Yakov Smirnoff's Waterproof Clipboard

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for celebrityinvention.jpgSome celebrities aren't just pretty faces. A few of them are also touched with that Yankee prowess for tinkering and invention. In this weekly series, we introduce you to the Patents of the Rich and Famous. And maybe you learn a little bit about how patent literature works along the way.

Inventor: Yakov Naumovich Pokhis, a.k.a Yakov Smirnoff

Known For: Back when the Soviet Union existed, Yakov Smirnoff was funny. A Ukranian-born comedian, Smirnoff capitalized on Soviet-American relations for his sets. Smirnoff would act like a clueless other world immigrant, adjusting to his shiny new country.

After the Soviet Union fell, Smirnoff's act managed to survive. (Sort of.) His work lives on at his comedy club in Missouri and through cultural references, like as seen in this Family Guy clip:

Invented Apparatus: "Device for writing

yakov_EDit.jpg

It's not just any writing device, but it's one specifically intended for writing in a shower:

The present invention relates to a device for writing in a shower or the like. More particularly it relates to such a writing device which has a support and a plurality of sheets arranged in a stack.

Now, it's not that Smirnoff has invented a way for you to write musings in your Moleskin while you bathe. No, no. Really, his patent consists of a suction device that attaches to a shower wall, which will hold a stack of "water-resistant" sheets, allowing the bather to write on a vertical surface:

A carrier to be written on, said carrier being attached to said front surface of said support and including a plurality of sheets in form of a stack such that each of said sheets can be written on and successively removed from said stack after writing, said sheets of said stack being composed of a water-resistant material which does not deteriorate under the action of water and permits writing on said sheets

His invention attaches vertically to the shower wall and holds sheets of "paper," which can be easily maneuvered while under the rushing water.

Rationale Behind Invention:  You would expect Smirnoff, a writer of comedy, to think up such a device to increase his productivity. He'd never lose a second of his day, not even to keep up his basic hygiene. But no: Smirnoff invented the shower writing stand for public health reasons:

Devices of the above mentioned general type are known in the art. They possess some disadvantages, namely that they cannot be used in condition of a water flow for example in a shower, since the sheets are not water-resistant, water can penetrate between the sheet and cause the growth of bacterial organisms, they are inconvenient to handle by a user in the above-mentioned condition. It is therefore believes to be clear that the device of the known type can be improved to eliminate the above specified disadvantages.

Unlike other devices for composing while bathing, Smirnoff's stand for writing in the shower reduces growth of bacterial organisms.

Off-Label Uses:  There are probably other fun things you would like to do in the shower, but you can't because you don't have the proper stand. Like, balance your checkbook. Or organize your Rolodex. Get on that, Smirnoff.

Future Directions: Who writes using a pen and paper anymore? Let's upgrade this device to a waterproof iPad with a suction-able stand.

Peruse more Celebrity Inventions.

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Rebecca Greenfield is a writer based in Brooklyn. She was formerly on staff at The Atlantic Wire.

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