A patent for an automatic firearm. Credit: Hmaag / Wikimedia
America’s patent system isn’t too user-friendly. And the Patent Office is. Plus, if you actually get an idea patented, you might become the target of a . Alex Reben wanted to throw a bone to the little guy... so he drew on his background in robotics, math, and art to create something that just might troll the patent trolls.
- Essentially, Reben built an algorithm to spit out millions and millions of new ideas, pulling words from the existing US patent corpus. He created what’s called “prior art,” which can be essential in helping an inventor apply for a patent. According to Reben, his work, “should count as prior art, since it is an idea that’s been put together and publicly published.”
- An example: let’s say you wanted to patent a kneesock with a heater inside, and a patent troll said they had the market on all heated clothing. If one of the ideas that Reben’s algorithm spat out described heated clothing “that section of your patent that they were trying to come at you about would be seen as prior art already.” And, theoretically, the patent troll’s suit wouldn’t come to anything.
- It turns out, getting an algorithm to generate ideas leads to some pretty wacky stuff. One of Reben’s favorites is, “an adult diaper with temperature regulation built in [which] also included a hood.”
- , “All Prior Art,” which has over 40 million ideas.
- Reben doesn’t just create millions of ideas, he also builds .
- This American Life .