Does anyone know the reason why this patent was filed and granted? In what way might this game have qualified as non-obvious and novel to the examiner?

What is claimed is:

  1. A method of inducing aerobic exercise in an unrestrained cat comprising the steps of:

    (a) directing an intense coherent beam of invisible light produced by a hand-held laser apparatus to produce a bright highly-focused pattern of light at the intersection of the beam and an opaque surface, said pattern being of visual interest to a cat; and

    (b) selectively redirecting said beam out of the cat's immediate reach to induce said cat to run and chase said beam and pattern of light around an exercise area.

  2. The method of claim 1 wherein said bright pattern of light is small in area relative to a paw of the cat.

  3. The method of claim 1 wherein said beam remains invisible between said laser and said opaque surface until impinging on said opaque surface.

  4. The method of claim 1 wherein step (b) includes sweeping said beam at an angular speed to cause said pattern to move along said opaque surface at a speed in the range of five to twenty-five feet per second.

  • Cats can excersise by themselves…
    – bjb568
    Jul 13 '15 at 23:03
  • @bjb568 Yes, so can humans. And yet we still have gyms full of patented exercise equipment. Jul 18 '15 at 23:55

Unfortunately, the patent system is far from perfect. That's a big part of why we're here.

At the core of the patent examination process are people: people tasked with searching through the world's literature. In every language. From all time. It's definitely possible for things to slip through those cracks.

In a case like this, and this is a pretty famous example in the community, it could have been any number of things:

  1. An examiner just couldn't find anything written that fit their bar for what was:
    • Non-obviousness: if they couldn't find documentation that proved that someone having ordinary skill in "the art" (which in this case may be a bit of an over-reach) couldn't have reproduced this particular method from previously known methods without undue experimentation.
    • Novelty: if they couldn't find anything that matched the claims exactly.
  2. An examiner wasn't familiar with the practice, and honestly thought it was novel. Especially if the examiner was new to a culture where this was popular, they might not have been exposed to this before.
  3. An examiner who decided to just have fun. I like to think it wasn't this one, but remember: it's just people. Someone easily could have seen that this was done as a joke, known it wouldn't hold up against anyone, and just granted it for fun.

I'm sure there are resources out there that talk about this specific example and the motives, and perhaps even cause of grant, behind it, but I'd hazard the guess that it was probably filed either in gest, or as an example of the flawed system.

In reality, though, something like this would be thrown out pretty quickly once it hit the courts, in the very unlikely case that the filer behind this patent actually intended to enforce it.

If you find other patents or applications that fit obviousness or a lack of novelty like this, feel free to post them here on Ask Patents under the tag so that we can help avoid some of these edge-cases where the system really does fall short.

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