If You Had The 'Secret' To Winning The Lottery, Would You Patent It?

from the economically-challenging-questions dept

Okay, so this story is bizarre enough by itself, but there’s an odd twist at the end. A husband and wife who held four separate winning lottery tickets claims to have figured out a secret formula for winning the lottery. That seems highly unlikely, of course. There is no formula that can predict totally independent numbers. The four winning tickets all used the same numbers, so there’s no proof that the couple did anything other than get lucky by having the same number they played four different times hit.

However, their lawyer is claiming that the couple is “exploring patent protection.” Want to see a sign of how ridiculous the patent situation has become? If you had figured out the (non-existent) secret to winning the lottery, would you use it to (a) keep winning the lottery or (b) patent it? It’s only in these bizarre times that a couple would even think that (b) would be the more profitable option. Of course, if there really were some secret to predicting independent numbers that the couple had figured out, wouldn’t you think that any lottery commission would immediately change how their lottery worked the second that patent was published?

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Comments on “If You Had The 'Secret' To Winning The Lottery, Would You Patent It?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Ding, ftw!

They got lucky (god knows how many tickets they bought. Presumably these were 4 independent, large-scale $million+ lotteries and not 4 tix for the same one when their numbers hit) and, when people jokingly kept saying, “What’s your secret?” they decided to “invent” one and informertialbookize it.

You’d be surprised what late-nite informertials get away with before they get stopped with a slap on the wrist (and usually altered and continued anyway.)

I recall that long-haired muscle trainer blonde guy selling his own pasta maker, picking up a box of store-bought pasta and saying, “You don’t know what’s in this. Look! Niacin. Riboflavin. What is this stuff?!?!?

eleete (user link) says:

Great Demonstration

It may be greed, however, it’s a great demonstration of how one sided patents can be. There is a system in place that allows these people to possibly receive a patent to hoard money. Not much different than many others that are granted these days. Hopefully this is demonstrated through the courts to congress so they see the error of their ways. One thing is sure, the attorney is guaranteed make money. Looks like he hit the lottery too.

Fushta says:

Re: Great Demonstration

One thing is sure, the attorney is guaranteed make money. Looks like he hit the lottery too.

I was thinking the same thing. The couple is so rich now (supposedly) that the lawyer is cashing in on their stupidity.
Unless, they patent the idea, then license it to other idiots.

Remember, the lottery is a tax on the poor.

Michael Kohne says:

Ways to win...

There are only 3 ways to win the lottery, none particularly good to patent:

1) Get lucky. There’s too much prior art to patent this one.

2) Find, via analysis of public information, a flaw in the lottery’s random number generation. Not good to patent because once you release details, THEY’LL FIX IT.

3) Create, thought illegal tampering, a flaw in the the lottery’s random number generation. Not good to patent because once you release details, THEY’LL ARREST YOU.

So no, this won’t go anywhere. And one more set of morons show their true colors in public.

What else is new?

Emerson says:

Re: Ways to win...

I’m not sure about the state where you play the lottery, but in my state (and in multi-state Powerball) there is no random number generator. They use numbered balls, and they’re floating around in a container with forced air jumbling the balls around. At the proper time, a ball-sized opening is opened, and one of the balls pops into the opening, totally at random.

So that leaves pretty much #1.

Nasch says:

Re: Ways to win...

There’s another way, sort of a variation on 1 but better:

4) Wait until expected returns (jackpot * odds of winning) are greater than the cost of a ticket. Preferably a lot higher. Then buy as many tickets as you can, like thousands. No guarantee of winning, but in the long run you’ll come out ahead. 4a)When choosing numbers, choose round numbers like 10 and 25, because fewer people play those.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Ways to win...

The expected returns of lotteries rarely equal or become greater than the expected losses. That’s lottery principle #1. It could potentially be possible in variable prize lotteries, like Powerball, but only when the jackpot is $150M+. Also, it doesn’t matter if you choose round numbers. The odds of winning have nothing to do with what numbers everyone chooses. Although choosing “common” numbers may lead to prize sharing..I’d worry about winning the jackpot myself first before considering someone else winning with the same numbers.

Anonymous Coward says:

People look at the possibility of patent protection all the time, whether for something groundbreaking or incredibly trivial. This does not mean that an application will ever be prepared because many things are clearly outside the scope of patent law.

In this case, and given the mathematical impossibility of accurately predicting random numbers, this couple will almost certainly be told that their “secret method” is not patentable because of its lack of “utility”.

BTW, the attorney mentioned in the article is not one familiar with IP law, otherwise his comment would never have been made.

Anonymous of Course says:

Maybe Yes, Maybe No

It’s difficult to generate random numbers.
If I remember correctly the winner has been
keeping a record of the numbers for about four
years. Maybe he found a flaw in the process
used to generate random numbers by the lottery
folks? His wife said they bought a lot of tickets
over the years so he’s not claiming to be able
to predict THE numbe. Only that he can improve
his odds.

If I was running a lottery I’d use one of the
radioactive decay generators, or maybe the
lava lamps http://www.lavarnd.org or perhaps a noisey
diode. Nothing that depended on code.

I’m betting it was dumb luck and some lawyer
is trying to profit from the winner though
a clever angle.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Maybe Yes, Maybe No

those still depend on code. Also, they are still pseudo-random. many people state that there really is no such thing as a truely random.

you can develop a method of generating a sufficiently random number with nearly any pseudo-random number generator. also then any flaws could be changed as easily as typing a single character differently.

Anonymous of Course says:

Re: Re: Maybe Yes, Maybe No

I should not have lumped the lava lamps
and radioactive decay device together.

As I understand it the lava lamps are
used to seed a pseudo random generator.
Which does overcome a significant problem.

The radioactive decay type random number
generator generator that I’m familiar with
does not seed a pseudo random generator.
The time between clicks is a random number.

Anonymous Coward says:

They "wheeled" a set of numbers, not rocket science

Years ago I played the lottery using a wheeled set of numbers, playing many combinations of a smaller set of picks. This explains why they had 4 winning tickets in that lottery. They didn’t have all of the winning numbers, but enough to get some decent prize money. This is prior art and not patentable. You can get lottery wheels online for free.

Pseudonym (profile) says:

Re: They

That was my first thought, too.

For those who are curious, “wheeling” is using combinatorial covering to play multiple tickets (or “lines” as they’re apparently called in lottery-speak) in such a way that it probabilistically minimises your worst-case losses.

Let’s suppose, for sake of argument, that there are exactly 50 million possible combinations, and you decide you are going to buy exactly 50 million tickets. The optimal strategy is to buy 50 million distinct tickets, because then you would be guaranteed to win. The key point is that there is an optimal strategy (and in this case, it’s unique); if maximising your chances if winning is what’s important, all other strategies are worse.

“Wheeling” works on the same idea, only with fewer tickets. You might, for example, buy enough tickets so that all pairs of numbers are covered by at least one ticket (hence the term “combinatorial cover”). This guarantees that no matter what numbers are drawn, you are guaranteed to have at least two correct.

Note that wheeling is not a “way to win the lottery”. Rather, it’s a method for turning average-case behaviour into worst-case behaviour. You will never do worse than some bound that’s limited only by the amount of money you’re willing to spend. (Which is, of course, less than the amount of money you’re likely to win, but such is life.)

Incidentally, the problem of designing (or even counting) minimal combinatorial covers is an open mathematical problem. If they’ve solved it, they should write it up; there’s a PhD in combinatorics with their names on it.

jonnyq says:

I’ve often referred to the love of patents as the “lottery mentality”. By “lottery mentality”, this is what I mean.

Some people believe that the true method of success is to find a windfall for little work. People write songs on the hopes of writing the one song that sells millions. People patent products on the idea that a slightly novel addition to an existing idea should win them millions. People sue at the drop of the hat thinking that they really /deserve/ millions of dollars because they spill hot coffee on themselves, or because their children are exposed to a boob. People applaud the success of those who win on reality shows. I’ve even heard people refer to this as the “American dream”. They think that winning the lottery, winning a game show, or getting rich off of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer /is/ the American dream.

So, it comes as no surprise surprise to me that someone with the “lottery mentality” would try to patent a method for winning the lottery…

Norm says:

I know of a case not unlike this.

A company in Maine which makes Water Cooled Loads (you would attach a transmitter to it where the antenna goes while working on transmitter) refused to patent the mathematical formula it used in building the unique device. There were some other companies who would blatantly copy their design, but still the company would not patent their product and thus reveal their formula.

Thom says:

for some

the lottery may be a tax on bad math. For others the lottery is very cheap entertainment. Some people spend tens, hundreds, or even thousands of dollars on a a few moments to a few hours of entertainment. Others spend a couple dollars on powerball tickets every now and then and spend hours to days giddily dreaming of what they’d do with that money should they win. If the latter group understand the odds and get as much entertainment from their expenditure as the former then why is their choice any worse?

Anonymous Coward says:

Secret process for picking winning lottery numbers:

1) Go to package store, buy PBR
2) Get free entry form from local package store
3) Drink PBR
4) Circle numbers on form according to your birthday, anniversary date, and today’s date.
5) Pay $1 and enter form
6) Drink PBR
7) Realize that your lottery ticket cost you $3.99 and the humiliation of drinking PBR
8) Hope that the numbers on this weeks lottery match your birthday, anniversary, or the date you drank PBR.
9) Repeat until your birthday comes up in lottery numbers.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

The Macrovision Approach

They could do a similar thing to what Macrovision did: not only patent their technique, but also get patents on all the ways they can think of to bypass that technique. Then when the lottery commission tries to change the way the numbers are drawn to defeat the number-predicting technique, they can sue.

Reggie says:

Re: rigged lottery games

Think about This for a moment,before every draw there is enough time for the lotto people to run the computers to see what numbers HAVE NOT been played,(probably takes about less than a minute with there main computer)then they have different ball sets with powdered metal dust in them,and they pick the numbered balls that Don’t have powder in them,and they turn on a magnet under the ball table that holds the balls down at the bottom of the ball machine,and the numbers that weren’t picked go to the top(no powder in them)(watch one of the draws sometime you’ll see most of the balls dance around toward the bottom of the machine)..I say all lottery games are fixed……

kevin cookk says:

auto mega power ball picker

I have the system that is a guarantee with patent pending (the multi state lottery lawyer in georgia do not want to see or talk to me anymore about my method. they know it will change the odds of the mega and power ball games, which they would not be able to alter the games makeing my product useless. They know it makes those games more player friendly. I am trying to market it to all the lotto retailer at this time. Which could make lotto retailer win more of the jackpots and other profits from my product.How do I get a book deal or infomercial on this 100% guarantee product money back if it doesn’t work no joke. Can an attorney or anyone in this field reply to my phone 562-260-0454 or email if can help me get this product to the players.9 because the lottery don’t want it out i have the system. Please help me help the players.

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How to win lottery

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real tips

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lottoal (profile) says:

If You Had The 'Secret' To Winning The Lottery, Would You Patent It?

I find this scam about Dr Atosimhe and other scams like this all the time. You are spreading nonsense pure and simple. Total con job; this post is to scam someone out of their cash. Dr Atosimhe can’t help anyone cause to don’t exit, go get a job and stop trying to get something for nothing!

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