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"The little-known stories behind well-known inventions"

The verdict is in on these ridiculous inventions          By Paul Niemann

[May 10, 2007]  If the patent office ever decided to create a blooper reel, these inventions would probably make the cut.

These are real inventions that the inventors actually thought would succeed -- as opposed to ideas that never made it to the drawing board, such as a submarine with a sunroof, an inflatable dartboard or a helicopter with an ejector seat (think about it).

To get maximum enjoyment out of this story, try to imagine what these inventions would look like. If they were on the market -- and trust me, they're not -- you could purchase them in order to "not keep up with the Joneses." Here are the nominees...

8. The keg head -- This 9-inch mini keg sits on the sports fan's head and comes complete with a spigot for dispensing any type of drink. It's ideal for the fan who doesn't want to leave his seat for fear of missing a great play.

7. The toilet tank aquarium -- I love inventions that are so descriptively named, because it's pretty easy to figure out what this one would look like. Have you ever asked yourself, "Now, why didn't I think of that?"

6. The parachute hat -- This one would work just as you would picture it to work -- if only it would work. It was probably intended as a way to escape a burning building... OK, now it makes perfect sense! The parachute hat comes to us from England, and I sure hope they don't have any plans to export it. Unless they export it to France.

5. A helmet fitted with a rifle -- This is another contraption dreamed up by those clever British. The recoil broke a guinea pig's neck during the experimentation phase. Unfortunately, the guinea pig was a real person.

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4. Eyeglasses for chickens -- This one isn't as far-fetched as it sounds, because chickens have been known to poke at each other's eyes.

3. Training pants for dogs -- We'll leave this one alone.

2. Tricycle lawn mower -- Some things were just meant to go together... like a clock and radio, or chocolate and peanut butter, but not tricycles and lawn mowers.

And the "winner" is...

1. The bird harness -- Like each of the inventions above, this is a true story. This story is so bizarre that it would be impossible to make up. A lady put a bird harness on her bird and took the bird to the park, only to see it get spooked by the sound of flying ducks, who were spooked by a dog. The bird -- while attached to the bird harness -- flies to a nearby tree and gets stuck. As the poor little bird tries to escape, he accidentally hangs himself.

How is it possible that any of these inventions could receive a patent?

In order to be granted a patent, an invention must meet three criteria: It must be new; it must be "unobvious" to people in that particular industry; and it must be useful. Each of these inventions could be considered new and unobvious, but it's hard to imagine how they can be considered useful.

[Text from file received from Paul Niemann]

Paul Niemann may be reached at

Copyright Paul Niemann 2007

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