How badly does the patent office err? Gregory Aharonian has made his reputation by lambasting the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) for issuing patents without making a thorough search of the existing literature to determine the novelty of a proposed invention--a key criterion for granting a patent [see "Patent Pamphleteer," December 2001]. Aharonian's Web site, www.bustpatents.com, includes an archive of bad patents, which lists dozens of patents declared invalid by the PTO or the courts.
Scientific American asked Aharonian for his short list of the worst patents ever. What follows is his selection of four "really, really bad patents. Probably not the worst ever," Aharonian notes, "but quite close."
This article was originally published with the title Intellectual Improprieties.