THE labor involved in the examination of applications of patents is great, but there are certain circumstances connected with it which render it pleasant. The examiner is not only abreast of the times in his art but he is in advance of it in many instances bcause the Patent Office generally learns of inventions and discoveries before the world at large. Apart from the consideration of theories which are advanced i n support of new inventions, the examiner also has to meet and successfully refute those theories which have no foundation or which are clearly due to the eforts of the applicant to obtain a patent. The patent law requires that an invention have utility and it is in setting forth the utility and in explaining it that many applicants go astray. This is especially true of the applicant who is prosecuting his own case and who, very generally, is ignorant of the technical requirements. Some applicants in the electrical art can see benefts in the use of their device which never occurred to others; they are enthusiastic over their discoveries and their elemental knowledge is supplemented in certain cases by imagination. Many of these applicants believe that the examiner cannot understand their inventions when the utility is questioned by him and the applicant is called upon for further information. One inventor proposed to make a magnetic belt of a number of batteries adapted to encircle the body, the belt also containing a number of permanent magnets placed adj!cent to the end cells of the batteries so that “each cell would be a pole"; it was also prDposed to provide a vacuum in the belt, “this vacuum or hiatus to be flled with acid.” The purpose of the belt was to furnish magnetic currents to the body, “all the electric currents of the batteries being converted into magnetism.” The number of cells in each battery could b varied at will since “the greater the number of batteries used the greater would be the magnetism until sufcient batteries were added to produce magnetic stress.” The terminals of each battery were to be in contact with the skin, the magnetic currents fowing through the body, the operation being described as follows: “When the belt is applied to the body, magnetism is produced by detached currents of electricity which are alternated and induced through the body according to the laws of inductive difusion and reflex action. This passing of current through the body in this manner produces a sedative and tonic The indispensable tally block. efect; the more the batteries are used the greater will be the magnetic potency and polarity.” The particular function of the “vacuum or hiatus filled with acid” was “to break up the currents that would tend to run around the belt, thereby assisting in forming alternating currents, the alternating currents being held in suspension by magnetic force, the crossing of the alternating currents producing minor magnetic centers in the body, the induced currents produced by the magnets assisting the alterating currents in producing magneto-eletric current." The name magnetic belt was objectea to by the examiner who suggested that electric beli would be a proper term; the inventor replied to this ae follows: “If my magnetic belt makes more magnetism than electricity, then it is ; magnetic belt and is rightly named; if four or more of my batteries in my belt do not make an excess of m!gnetism then it makes nothing; electricity makes magnetism and cannot live without it. Magnetism is a mode of permanent electric force, and it' difers from the other modes of electric force in that the energy it excites in a body is always present, espeCially It the extremities; the extremities of a magnet are called poles, and the properties they exhibit are termed polarity; polarity increases magnetic force; the more poles the more magnetism. When four electric currents are properly arranged in my belt the ceaseless flow of interchangeable inductive alternating currents become supreme in magnetic force and potency. One battery alone in my case makes a direct electric current; but four or a d021en batteries, four or a dozen currents, four or a dozen magnetic fields, detached, having broken currents, and when within an electrical radius of .ne another, producing induction and an amalgamltion of mixed currents which are magnetic by an overcharge of magnetic poles, electric currents, and magnetic felds. An electric current is a stimulant and an exciter and dangerous in cases of fever and heart disease; a mlgnetic current is sedMive and safe in the above cases; this I have experIenced in treating patients and this is another reason why my belt is not an electric belt; but a magnetIc belt is Ihe same as an electro-magnetic belt, and is better understood; magnetism and electricity go together in some proportion anyway, and magneto-electric would suit no better than my original name of “Magnetie Belt.” The inventor probably became muddled as he proceeded in his argument which accounts for the statement that “magnetism' and electricity go together in some proportion anyway." Another invention had for its object the diminishing of sickness and death among women and girls who operate sewing machines. The inventors in this case had spent twenty-fve years investigating the physical and mental laws of health-culture and life forces, the causes of diseased humanity, and the remedies, and for ten years had been observing the many evils resulting from operating on sewing machines. During that space of time they did not fnd one case where the health of the operator remained good, and where the functions of the body were undisturbed after operating a sewIng-machine for a short time; in the words of the inventors, “six months generally developed alarming symptoms.” While admitting that sewing maohines must and will be used, “we positively assert that girls and woman are sacrifced in this way"; the discovery whioh led to the invention was “that the electric forces of the system, in connection with the iron treadle and steel plate, are the ever-growing source of trouble in operating sewing machines.” From many experiments the inventol's explained the source of trouble a follows: “It is the electric current created by the frIction, and the feet of the operator in contact with the iron treadle, and the hands with the steel plate. The treadle of the old spinning-wheel Nas wood; consequently there was no waste, and no cold feet. The wooden sandal naturally becomes warm from the system, and it being porous, and an element conducive to nature, it will assist the forces of the body and the friction produced does no harm. We have operated sufciently to report from experience, and we know it is not the physical force needed to run the machine which leads to the alarming symptoms; neither is it the motion, as the motion under proper conditions would be benefcial. We consider rubber just as objectionable as Jron and have seen many cases of disease from rubber coming in contact with the physical system." The invention consisted in making the sandals which were connected to te treadle of the machine of wood, the feet being positioned in the sandals by means of leather straps, together with a wooden plate on the top of the machine and adjacent the needle and on which the operator's hands would rest while running the machine. This case is a good example of an exception to the rule that mere ohange of material does not amount to invention, since the humanitarian object of the invention and the untold benefts which would follow its use carried dignity. Another inventor devised an attaohment for tele Mirrors in fork and knife handles. phones and submitted a description which was not clear to the examiner; upon being asked for further description the inventor replied as follows: “This instrument will work the minute central inserts the plug and therefore it enables a person to come to the 'phone before the same rinl's." Persons wIth excessive abdominal weight may reduce the same if they will make use of a device which exhibits much ingenuIty in its manner of use; the corpulent one has himself strapped to a frame which extends down his back, there being a handle attached to the frame. He then lies down with his face to the foor and the frame and himself are rocked back and forth, the protruding mass of !dipose forming an excellent fulcrum. The production and use of such an invention is a boon to humanity; the person of excessive weight may bring himself to size adapted to ft into the ordinary chair while those about him can use the space to which they feel entitled. The 'Prevention of collisions between railroad trains has ofered and still ofers a fruitful field for inventions. Whenever a person of prominence or authority travels over a railroad it is the general practice to have a pilot train precede the one in which he is riding; of course this is a departure from the general run of things and how to accomplish the same degree of safety with less trouble has prompted many ingenious minds. One patentee discloses a novel method, the invention involving the use of a pilot having telescoping members connecting it with the front of the locomotive. In the event of a train coming in the opposite direotion on the same track the pilot ,ill collide with the other train or wIth a similar pilot connected thereto, the result being that the telescoping conneoting members slide into each other, such movement resulting in closing the throttles and setting the brakes. The utility of the pilot is increased by providing a bell thereon together with an automaton for striking it; while the pilot is mechanical in its operation it is ftted with electrical devices which are actu ate d thereby which justifes the title “electric pilot." A good part of invention is directed to small articles which may serve a variety of uses; these a r t ic I e s of manufacture are gotten up to sell at a small price and it is difcult to classify them. In most instances nothing just like them has ever been produced and the applications for patent are based in many cases on the purposes which the inventors intend to be served by the devices. A man devised a tally block and submitted an application for a patent; the block was in the form of a hollow cube, one sWe being provided with an opening for holding a piece of chalk or a pencil in order to keep count in a game of cards; the suits of a deck of cards were indicated on four of the sides, the block being turned into position to indicate the trump; one side was provided with a pocket whioci could perform 458 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN November 18, 1911 a variety of functions; another side was fitted with a movable index and a wries of numbers in order to facilitate keeping the score. While the block was intended primarily for use in a game of cards the inventor set forth in his specification a multitude of uses as follows: “Besides the above mentioned convenience to a card player who uses my tally block for which I pray to obtain a patent, I claim it to become a constant companion to present humanity and countless millions to come. The man of business will carry it in his coat pocket and rejoice to be in position to meet any emergency; a hole in his pocket does not bother hrm as he can carry his loose change in the tally block; the sponge in the pocket can be changed at will and can contain the perfume which will permeate his clothes. Walking about the street his nose is apt to offer a good landing place for partides of soot; the li ttle mirror of the tally block w i I I ke e p him from looking at it x-eyed and spitting on his hand-k e l chie f; the sponge will perform that duty. No fear of footpads, as a corner of the tally-block on the top of his head, with a gentle pressure, will make quite an impression. Coming home. baby cutting teeth and crOE , will change into a smiling miracle when papa pulls out the tally block and juggles with it, its attention being riveted the pain is gone. Coming home late from lodge meeting, and the key being about one inch out of his reach on the transom, the tally-block is as good as a step-ladder. In case wifey thinks she heard a noise in the cellar, or wants him to look at the gas meter, the tally block answers the purpose of a candle holder. It is a handy receptacle for studs, buttons, pins and chewing-gum. To a poet with inspiration or those who want to keep record of a dream and write in the dark,- nothing takes the place of the tally-bloek. In shaving the mirror can be placed at proper height; the window in a street ear can be raised a little to let in fresh air by using the block as a rest. Instead of applying the tongue to moisten the backside of a postage stamp, the sponge will do it without the fingers coming in contact with it. No crowding in a street car, as a block in your side coat pocket nakes it uncomfortable for your neighbor to sit on it. The fisherman no longer bends himself into an undignified position to quench his thirst, and the cart driver has something to block a wheel. Anybody can elevate himself by standing on the block to get a peep at a passing procession. It can be used as a pen-wiper, as a_ paper weight, as a receptaele for pens; a book can be placed therewith in the proper angle for reading when so desired and pages turned by dampening the fingers with the sponge. "It can be put to use to measure with by having a measure marked on the side of the block or by knowing the size of the block and turning it a required number of times. The house-wife will use it, saturating the sponge with turpentine and pack it away with the clothes to keep the moths out of them, or will use it as a block to darn stockings on. The orMor will place it before himself on which to mark his subject-matter and turn the block as he progresses in 'his speech. The lawyer uses it in his speech to the jury to illustrate on what side of the house the murder was committed. The reporter uses it when he is short of paper, and the undertaker when he nnds that the head of the corpse has not the proper elevation. As a novelty, my tally-block contains a dictionary full of them. The foregoing uses of my invention, I mainly draw attention to in order to show its varied practical utility." Some inventors can see the “beautiful” in their devices along with certain other advantages as the following will show: a man invented a concrete fence-post especially adapted for use on farms, the object of his invention and the accomplishIent thereof being set forth as follows": “The object of the invention is to provide a fence-post which in addition to its usual function of protecting the- farmer's fields against trespassing animals, also protects said fields by encouraging the little birds to come to the fields and destroy various forms of insect life tbat are injurious to the husbandman's trees, fruits and crops. I accomplish the foregoing object and the further object of gaining for the toilers on treeless fields the inspiring, uplifting and encouraging companionship of the singing 'angels of the air,' by providing a fence-post which serves as a harbor, refuge, home and drinking (ountain for a family of birds. The fence-posts studding the boundaries of a field in large numbers will, accordingly, furnish a large numrer of homes for the birds and in a large measure take the place of boundary trees used as fence-posts as harboring places for birds.” The fence-post was provided wit_ a drinking cup which would receive some water during rainstorms; the post was also provided with a large opening which was lined with a water-proof material to serve as a nest. There is not much relation ordinarily between a table knife and a mirror, yet a mirror may be appreciated under some circumstances as the following will show: “This invention relates to certain new and useful improvements in mirrors for table implements, ard the object of the invention is to provide a table implement with a mirror suitably secured in the handle, so that the user of the implement may have ready at hand a mirror for the purpose of inspecting the teeth in the mouth or the mouth or other portions of the face generally at any time desired. The invlntion is particularly designed for use in connection with table implements such as are used in restaurants, cafes, or other public eating establishments. Oftentimes a patron of a restaurant finds the need of a mirror to discover a substance which has become lodged in the teeth, or for the purpose of determining whether the lips be entirely clean after eating certain foods. It is not only inconvenient, but embarrassing oftentimes as well, for such patron to ask for a mirror to be used at the table. In my device, however, the mirror being in the implement used by the patron during eating, may be used by him or her for the purpose indicated substantially without attracting any attention and is always ready for such use at any time desired." An inventor is always obliged to submit a sheet of drawings illustrating his invention, if the invention permits illustration; some arts, especially that relating to tomb-stones, offers an opportunity to the inventor to set forth his thoughts. One inventor, who was something of a poet as well, set forth the following inscription: "Here lies Windell, An inventor by trade, This monument you see Is an invention he made; A curious fact, It has sometimes been said, That he made it while living, But enjoys it while dead.” Another inventor devised a picture frame to be placed on a monument which was to contain a photograph of the deceased; the frame had I movable cover on which was the following: “Look at me then cover my face." Another very practical device was a chewing gum locket; the inventor's object in setting forth his construction to the world was, “to provide a locket of novel form and construction for holding with safety, cleanliness, and convenience for use, chewing-gum, and which may be carried in the pocket or otherwise attached to the person, the improvement consisting in the provision of an anti--corrosive lining” in the locket. Such an invention was undoubtedly of great value to chorus girls since. it offered a ready means of cutting down one item of expense. When an examiner picks up a pew case for examination he never can tell what the examination is going to bring forth; each case invalves the application of an idea which the applicant believes to be new; the idea may be impractical or may have the highest degree of utility and it is this determination, which in some cases amounts to uncertainty, that lends attractiveness to the work. Claims to an invention may be rejected by an Examiner upon proper references, which may be former patents or publications of any sort. The citation of some references is very often objected to by an applicant who holds that the reference does not disclose the invention he claims. An applicant for a patent on a concrete chimney replied as follows to a rejection, the applicant probably being correct without really knowing it: “Solomon said, there is nothing new under the sun; consequently it is only a combination of old things that gets patented.” In another case the inventor delivered himself of the following: “No one can tell what is the nature of the bars shown in the patent, and anticipation is not to be deduced from such nebulous disclosures; the prophet Nahum (Nahum 2:4) said, 'The chariots shall race in the streets, they shall jostle one another in the broad ways; they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings,' and some Patent Office attaches might be found to contend that the modern motor car was anticipated thus, and, while this Examiner would. doubtless appreciate the error of their ways, it is almost as far fetched an anticipation as the one ironically cited above.” Some applicants amend their cases hurriedly and follow out the suggestions of the examiner without consideration of the point raised; in one case an examiner believed that a specification could be improved and he wrote the applicant as follows: “Page 2 of the Specification, line 3, 'slotted' should be deleted;” the applicant replied, “Page 2, line 3, cancel 'slotted' and insert 'deleted' in lieu thereof." A Hot Summer in Europe LAST July was the beginning of a period of excessive heat over western Europe. The Weekly Weather Reports of the British Meteorological Office, after the first week of the month, noted “unusual” or “very unusual” warmth in nearly all sections of the British Isles. The latter notation predominated, and this means that the excess of temperature was such as does not occur more often, in the long run, than once in twelve years. More significant than the readings of the thermometer was the unprecedented fact that members of Parliament discarded their coats and transacted weighty business of state in their shirtsleeves. In London, the month was the warmest July for at least forty years past. In France, a remarkable period of unbroken sunshine prevailed, accompanied by excessive heat. It is stated that not a single cloud was seen at Paris from July 2nd to July 24th. A maximum temperature of 102.2 (Fahrenheit) was recorded at Rauen on the 22nd. The hot weather continued, with but slight interruptions, up to the middle of September. On August 9th a maximum temperature of 100 deg. F. was recorded at Greenwich Observatory-the highest ever observed at that institution. The heat was accompanied by drought, a water famine being experienced in many parts of England, where from July 1st to September 12th the rainfall (as measured at Greenwich) was but 30 per cent of the normal. The Lancet, discussing this unusual weather, finds that it was a serious factor in the recent strikes, :;0 irritating was it to the temper of the people. From the Alps come reports of dangerous avalanches caused by the melting snow and ice. It is said that ice centuries old and probably never before seen by man was exposed to view under the burning sun. Small glaciers disappeared and large ones shrunk. Although complete discussions based on accurate observations are not yet available, it appears certain that the summer of 1911 will go down in history as one of the most remarkable in the records of meteorology.
This article was originally published with the title "The Funny Side of Invention" in Scientific American 105, 21, 457-458 (November 1911)