Great books—books that change the way we see the world, books that spur us along our paths as people and cultures—are, in their way, patents. They are innovations made manifest. They are ideas that are claimed by an author on behalf of the rest of us. They are cultural products that concern themselves, when they are at their very best, with hammocks.
The artist and developer Sam Lavigne has taken these connections to a delightfully logical conclusion. Over at github, he posted a program that renders texts—literary, philosophical—as patent applications. “In short,” Lavigne explains, “it reframes texts as inventions or machines.”
So! Kafka’s The Hunger Artist becomes “An apparatus and device for staring into vacancy.” Heidegger’s The Question Concerning Technology becomes “A device and system for belonging to bringing-forth.” And—my personal favorite—The Communist Manifesto becomes “A method and device for comprehending theoretically the historical movement.”
Read more. [Image: Sam Lavigne]
The lifting of intellectual property barriers will lead to a rise in competition and a huge drop in price.
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. (And one of many such garments for which patents have been filed.)
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 the patent 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.
"Bifurcated junction" has never and will never be funnier than in this context.
In 2008, Google applied to patent a system that analyzes the environments surrounding mobile phones — temperature, humidity, sound — by way of sensors embedded in those phones. The technology would be mainly used, Google said in its filing, for (yes) “advertising based on environmental conditions.” It would provide another information layer, beyond quaint little GPS, that would target ads based not just on users’ immediate locations, but on their immediate environments. So, the filing noted, detections of hot weather could serve up ads for air conditioners; or, inversely, winter coats. Or the phone sensors might detect, say, the distinctive sounds of an orchestra being tuned, and combine that information — the user is at a concert — with location data and local events data to figure out which concert the user is attending. And then serve ads (for nearby restaurants, orchestral CDs, local violin teachers) based on that intel.
Cool, no? And also totally creepy?
Well. This week, Google was granted its patent. The firm has officially patented background noise. (And also: cold. And also: warmth.)
These might be moot points, anyway. There’s no indication, as yet, that Google has plans to implement the “environmental condition” technology, GeekWire points out. But it bears repeating nonetheless, both as a whoa and as an insight into how the firm is thinking about the role it’ll play in our digital future: Google has patented background noise.
And all for the purpose of serving you ads.
[Image: A rendering of Google’s latest patent. Note the lines: “environmental condition” and “ad server.”]
Alexis Madrigal takes a look at an early sketch of Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, 135 years after he patented it:
At first, Bell holds back the most exciting part of his idea. He details how electrical impulses could be converted into “vibrations of different pitch” without necessarily saying, “You talk in this end and it comes out the other end of a wire!” But by the third page of his patent filing, you sense he bubbled over, permitting himself one paragraph to think about the awesome implications of what he’d done
Read the rest of the story at The Atlantic