The Best Patent Rejection You'll Ever See (Featuring Borat)

It is not often that United States Patent and Trademark Office makes a funny. The understaffed and oft-maligned agency is tasked with helping inventors capture the value that they create while stopping copycats and other parasites from patenting things that already exist. They are not known for a sense of humor in pursuing this thankless, impossible assignment.

Which brings us to this patent application for a "scrotal support garment," first filed in February of 2008 by Donald Quinn of Bristol, TN. (And one of many such garments for which patents have been filed.)

scrotal_615.jpg
If you are a big fan of Sacha Baron Cohen, you may recognize the form of this suit from the 2006 movie, Borat, which featured Cohen cavorting in a similar outfit near the beginning of the movie. Well, according to Stewart Walsh at IPWatchdog, a patent examiner recognized the garment, too, and rejected Quinn's application on the basis that the garment already existed. The examiner even included an annotated still of Cohen wearing the swimsuit in the rejection letter.

Prior_Borat_NFR-2.jpg

"Bifurcated junction" has never and will never be funnier than in this context.

Walsh used this example as a jumping off point to discuss how patent examiners could use evidence from outside the patent literature. "An invention cannot be patented if there has been a public disclosure of said invention prior to the date of filing," Walsh explains. "This application for a scrotal support garment serves as a great example of rejection through non-patent literature. When you apply for a patent, the examiner can use any information available to the public to reject your application - not just patents. In this case... a picture of Borat."

It's worth noting that this is not only coming up in silly patent cases. Part of Samsung's recent response to an Apple patent suit over the iPad was to argue that Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey prefigured Apple's tablet.

"The moral of the story is this," Walsh concludes, "prior art comes from strange places sometimes." Strange places such as the bifurcated junction on Borat's swimsuit.
Presented by

Saving the Bees

Honeybees contribute more than $15 billion to the U.S. economy. A short documentary considers how desperate beekeepers are trying to keep their hives alive.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Technology

Just In