Human ingenuity knows no bounds. From a skeleton meant to elicit confessions from criminals to a butt-kicking machine to a baby delivery device that shoots the baby out with centrifugal force, these are some actual ideas that actual people have gotten actual patents for. God help us all.
According to the World Intellectual Property Organization’s February 2023 Statistics Database, there were 3.4 million patent filings worldwide in 2021. That’s a 3.6 growth from the previous year.
The “Anti-eating Face Mask” is exactly what it says. It’s for those who can’t resist eating food when it’s in front of them. It even comes with a small padlock.
According to the filing for the “Forehead Support Apparatus,” people who are tired and need to use a urinal may find the time required to stand upright excessively long and burdensome.
Pat on the Back Apparatus
“Pat On The Back Apparatus”
Ralph R. Piro
September 2, 1986
Officially called the Pat On The Back Apparatus, This is exactly what it sounds like, a machine that lets you pat yourself on the back.
It too used a simulated human hand on a pivoting arm. This device would be suspended from the shoulder, and the hand could be manually swung to hit your back.
This is mostly a novelty item, like I could see this at Spencer Gifts or something, but the application touts its psychological benefits, too.
“Most frequently, one who is in need of congratulations or encouragement often tells friends or work associates of his or her feelings and solicits a needed-pat-on-the-back. In the absence of other persons or of persons either friendly or sensitive to one’s needs the individual must resort to raising their arm and hand high into the air overhead and bending the arm at the elbow to allow the hand to gently strike the upper portion of the back. This places one in a somewhat uncomfortable posture and additionally lacks the placement of a pat in the most desired middle portion of the back.”
I love how he’s making this out like it’s a real problem to be solved.
It goes on to say:
“… it has been reported that many wealthy and successful individuals engage in conversations with themselves, that is, they talk to themselves. Such an activity is understandable in view of the often small populace of self-motiviated individuals and in view of the large volume of self-defeatist conversation known to emanate from those of low self esteem.”
So this one little device could raise the esteem of all those in the lower classes and eventually rise up and take their place at the top.
Boy’s Toilet Trainer
The Toilet Toy
March 8, 1955
Rolph E. Henoch
This was patented by Rolph Henoch in 1955 and it’s basically a little device that attaches to the side of a toilet bowl and swings into the bowl to give little boys a target to hit when they’re learning to use the toilet.
Which… I think this may have actually been made, I think I’ve seen things like this before.
I’ve definitely seen little plastic targets you can put on the water or the back of the bowl to give kids something to aim at.
I think the achilles heel for this design is that it has this spinning metal thing with a face on it – you know how you pee on faces.
Because you have to swing it over before you use it. Meaning you have to touch it. That thing’s got pee on it.
The point of this device, according to the filing is:
“…for the instruction and training of young boys to increase the sanitary cleanliness of bathrooms and toilet rooms…”
Yeah, I’m pretty sure a fast-spinning metal plate is just going to fling little pee droplets all over the place.
Plus when you move it to the side, feels like it might drip on the floor.
Also, it’s right at the side of the bowl. Seems like there’s a lot of opportunity to hit the side of the bowl or just go over it. This would splatter so much piss around your bowl.
Hey you know what you could do is just wad up some toilet paper and have your kid aim at the toilet paper. I still do that today.
This is dumb as hell, F Tier.
Chair with bellows
Improved Rocking Chair
The Snake Breath Chair
July 6, 1869
So the guy who patented this is Charles Singer, which that name alone sent me down a rabbit hole.
Because my first thought was, Singer, I wonder if this is the guy who invented the sewing machine, that would be interesting. But no, the guy in invented the sewing machine was Isaac Singer.
So then I started to wonder if maybe Isaac Singer had a sibling or a son named Charles Singer, and he did, he had a son named Charles Alexander Singer, but he was born in 1859 and this was patented in 1869, so he would have only been 10 years old. So, unlikely.
Charles Singer, by the way, was one of twenty six kids that Isaac Singer fathered with 5 different women in 3 countries.
The guy who invented the sewing machine was basically Genghis Khan.
Anyway, about the chair, which has nothing to do with Isaac Singer…
It’s basically a rocking chair with a bellows underneath the seat so that when you rock back and forth, it blows air up a pipe that comes out above your head to cool you off.
And the nozzle at the end of that pipe, inexplicably, is shaped like a giant snake.
I gotta be honest, this is smart, I like this.
Because this was in 1869, they didn’t have air conditioning or even electric fans so I could see something like this being actually really helpful.
It probably takes more work to rock it than a normal rocking chair though. Which might warm you up more than the giant snake head would cool you off.
Seriously though why the snake? I don’t know. I’ll give it a C Tier.
Device for Waking Persons from Sleep
Device for Waking Persons from Sleep
Face Smash Alarm Clock
April 11, 1882
Samuel S. Applegate
For those who are deep sleepers or have learned to ignore their alarm clocks, then the “Device for Waking Persons from Sleep” may be what you need.
Patented by Samual S. Applegate in 1881, the invention is a light frame that hangs directly over a person’s head while they sleep.
Combined with automatic releasing devices, the frame falls onto the sleeper’s face at a designated time to help them wake up.
It should be noted that the blow should be enough to wake someone up but not cause pain.
And what should be hitting you in the face? Applegate suggests tassels, balls of zephyr, or cork.
So I for one am someone that can sleep through just about any alarm, so this would actually work for me. And I imagine before the day that you could just turn on a light, you might need something like this.
Of course in a lot of places back then, they had loud whistles and bells that would go off in the morning, or you could hire a knocker-up to pelt your windows with rocks.
This is a bit Rube Goldbergian but I guess it would work. Eh. B Tier.
Forehead Support Apparatus
Forehead Support Apparatus
The Urinal Headrest
Patent #6,681,419 B1
Eric D. Page
I’m pretty sure these exist.
Another invention only guys would understand. Don’t worry ladies, yours is on the way.
This is strictly for guys who have had a bit too much to drink at a bar and need a way to steady themselves while they release the poisons.
The filing makes it sound like it’s for people who are especially tired, like you’d use it at home but not a lot of homes have urinals.
But yeah, that’s all it is, a cushion you attach to the wall to rest your head when you’re peeing. I feel like it should have a sensor on it that tells the bouncer or a bartender that you’ve had enough because if you can’t hold yourself up, you sure shouldn’t be driving home.
I don’t know if this is that crazy. It does its job. It’s not that clever. Whatever, B Tier.
Rocking or Oscillating Bath Tub
Rocking or Oscillating Bath Tub
Human Washing Machine
February 6, 1900
Otto A. Hensel
Okay, so I had to include this one because the inventor’s last name is the same as this episode’s writer. No clue if they’re related.
Otto A. Hensel patented the “Rocking or Oscillating Bath Tub” in 1899. As the name says, it’s basically a bathtub with a cover that splashes water on a person.
The tub and your body are covered by a waterproof apron. Your head sticks out of this apron. Springs help rock the tub.
According to the filing, the simple rocking motion will agitate the water with violence against a person’s body “for a purpose well known in the art of medicine.”
It’s a human washing machine basically.
So I see two problems with this, one, you can’t wash your face or hair, two, I’m pretty sure as you shift back and forth that the neck thing might choke you.
You couldn’t pay me to use this thing. E Tier.
Anti-eating Face Mask
Anti-Eating Face Mask
August 17, 1982
Lucy L Barmby
This was invented by Lucy L. Barmby, and I’m sure she had no idea that 40 years later, face masks were gonna be super popular.
She calls it the “Anti-eating Face Mask” so this isn’t meant to prevent the spread of disease, this is to keep people from eating. Which is why it has an actual lock on the side.
It’s a chastity belt for your mouth.
She suggests it could help people on diets but there was a much more specific purpose she had in mind, basically it’s for people who work around food and can’t help putting it in their mouths.
So like chefs and restaurant personnel, or, to quote her filing:
“…the housewife who must frequently cook meals during the day which generally includes the preparation of such fattening foods such as pies, pastries, and the like.”
Is that a real problem? Actually I used to work at a Red Lobster and I probably ate about 10 cheddar bay biscuits a day.
So, crazy… but there are people who get their jaws wired shut to make it so they can’t eat for short periods of time – crash diets and stuff. So maybe there’s something to it?
This is peak 80’s health fad right here.
It kinda makes me wonder if anybody lost weight during the mask-wearing years just because it was one tiny obstacle to throwing something in your mouth.
So, it might work? But I can’t see anybody actually using it. C Tier.
March 17, 1998
Delores Gray Wood
So we have the mask for people who can’t stop themselves from eating, this is for those super horny people who can’t stop themselves from kissing.
This was filed in 1995 by Deloris Gray Wood and it’s basically a thin, flexible membrane with a frame. So you can kiss people without touching them.
You place the shield under your nose so your lips, cheeks, and chin are covered before going in for a kiss.
Why is this needed? According to Wood, it’s for parents who are afraid their children will catch AIDS/HIV at school or the playground.
So… Dumb people.
It’s got this little divot at the top for your nose, which also just happens to make it look like a heart. Because kissing.
So if you practice safe sex you can also practice safe kissing. She also points out another use case.
“It can be used especially by a politician who kisses babies.”
That would go over well. No bad optics there.
I could see this at Spencer Gifts as a gag gift or something like that. But it’s pretty dumb. D Tier.
Cat On A String
January 11, 1916
Hugh Huffman, Earnest J. Peck
From that, now let’s talk about just flinging a cat around on a string.
Don’t worry, it’s not a real cat.
This invention is basically a scarecrow. It’s meant to scare birds away.
Cats catch birds, birds are scared of cats, so this is meant to trick birds with a fake cat.
But to make the cat move around, they suspend it from a string and tie it to a wind gauge so the wind can blow the cat around.
So it’s not just a cat, it’s a flying cat. That’ll do the job.
Actually crows are supposed to be super smart. The fact the cat is flying might be a giveaway for them. I’ll say D Tier.
Rolling Hull Boat
SPHERICAL ROLLING HULL MARINE VESSEL
Jan. 20, 1976
Alessandro O. Dandini
This was an idea for a boat that was basically two prop planes attached to a giant ball and the ball spins to move them both forward.
Apparently there’s room inside the ball for cargo, which seems like it would be difficult to get in and out…
And wouldn’t you have to make sure both of the cabins have the exact same amount of weight to keep it from tipping to one side or the other?
This does everything worse than everything else. F Tier. I’d make it a G Tier if there was one.
Clock For Keeping Time At A Rate Other Than Human Time
The Dog Watch
Patent # 5,023,850
June 11, 1991
Rodney H. Metts, Barry D. Thomas
Not a watch dog. A dog watch.
On one hand this is a silly gag gift, a watch you put on a dog that obviously doesn’t know how to read it but on the other hand, it’s kinda sad.
The actual name of this patent is Clock For Keeping Time At A Rate Other Than Human Time, and that’s the actual gag here, the patent is for a clock that can be programmed to keep time as an animal experiences it.
So like they every year is 7 years for a dog, which is not a linear correlation but I’ll save that for another time, so this clock would basically take normal time and divide by seven.
And I guess the clever thing here is you can program it to work with any animal, and they list the average ages of animals in their patent from goldfish up to elephants.
For example, seahorses and rats live an average of three human years; pigeons 35 live three and one-half years; goldfish and hamsters live five human years; hogs, 9 years; dogs, 11 years; cats, 18 years, beavers, 12 years; lobsters, 15 years; bats, lions, and horses live 20 years; dolphins live 25 years; brown bears live 47 years and polar bears live 33 years; gorillas 40 live 45 years; alligators, 50 years; elephants, 60 years;
and giant tortoises, 100 years. All ofthese have a corre- sponding multiple to relate to them to human time.
So, you know, if you have a pet elephant, you can give it a watch.
But the real point of this invention, as it says in the application, is to give pet owners perspective of the true value of the time they spend with their pets. Which is something I try not to think about.
I didn’t expect this to make me so sad. C-Tier, because it makes me want to cry.
So there you have it guys, that was a lot of patents but this just scrapes the surface. I mean there are 11 million plus patents in the United States alone. That’s a lot of room for crazy.
Plus think of all the ideas that someone sat down and figured out but never patented because they thought it was too crazy.
But I feel like this is a fascinating insight into the human imagination. That even on silly, novelty ideas, people took the time to do the engineering and work it out.
And it’s that kind of creative thinking that every once in a while produces a breakthrough that changes the world. For every quantum computer, there’s a Monkey Ball dropper. And I think that’s beautiful.