New Way To Build A Snowman: Patented!

from the the-following-is-not-a-joke dept

In showing the ridiculousness of the patent system, there are a few patents that stand out that get cited pretty often. Among them are Patent #6,004,596 on making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without the crust, patent #6,368,227 showing a method of swinging on a swing sideways and patent #5,443,036 explaining a method for “exercising a cat” by pointing a laser pointer and “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.”

I think we may have another one to add to that list. Prisoner 201 lets us know that the USPTO, in their infinite wisdom, has granted a patent on building a snowman. Because, lord knows, without that, no one would have any incentive at all to make a snowman. I will admit that the patent does discuss a rather different way of making a snowman, involving “snow spheres.” But I do wonder if this is the proper use of the patent system. Anyway, go ahead and check out patent # 8,011,991 for inventor Ignacio Marc Asperas of Melville, NY, which is technically for an “Apparatus for facilitating the construction of a snow man/woman.” The patent itself declares: “The following is not a joke patent. Its completely serious and is a serious undertaking to obtain a patent.”

I don’t know. Something tells me that when you need to declare in the patent itself that it is not a joke patent… chances are… it is. I have to say that the description part of the patent is a fun read that made me laugh out loud multiple times. Here’s the opening paragraph:

The history of the snow man or snow woman is unknown. But, I have to say this. Whoever the first person was to think to form snow into a human figure was a genius. For untold years thereafter, children and adults alike have been thrilled and received joy in making and watching others make snowmen, err women. You know what I mean. At any rate, what is remarkable is that no one has ever thought, or at least reduced to practice, a way to make snow people easy and fun. I have done an abbreviated patent search and there is nothing relating to the subject of creating a snowman. Unbelievable since it is so much fun and considering the effort involved. But, if no one has thought of it, well, no one has thought of it.

My favorite line from the description may be the following:

[W]e are living in the 21st century now. We have created the Internet. China is getting ready to send a person to the moon. And we invented silly putty, perhaps one of the all-time greatest inventions a big kid ever invented. Can’t somebody build a better snow man?

Later, he wonders if his snowman will be “as revolutionary” as the wheel. Either way, whether you like the patent system or not, this is a pretty fun patent to read, and the description part explains a lot more than the almost unintelligible claims on the patent, with this one being the main one:

1. A building component apparatus for facilitating a construction of a snow man/woman, comprising: a spherically-shaped body that provides an interior structure of the snow man/woman that has an outer surface and an interior, the interior substantially lighter than when the interior is filled with snow; an adhesion surface provided on the outer surface of the spherically-shaped body that substantially increases the ability of the outer surface to adhere snow to the spherically-shaped body; wherein, the spherically-shaped body and adhesion surface form a building component for facilitating the construction of the snow man/woman; and a generator that generates an electric charge, the electric charge coupled to the outer surface.

Anyway, with winter approaching for many of us, please be careful in building any snowmen using this approach. You may be willful infringers. I’m sure patent system supporters would tell you to go out and come up with your own damn way of building a snow man, you damn copycats.

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Comments on “New Way To Build A Snowman: Patented!”

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53 Comments
Richard (profile) says:

Re: A truly new method of making a snowman

During the miner’s strike in Britain (winter 1984) Some pickets were on duty outside a powerstation. They built a snowman that blocked the road – the police came along and demolished it by drigving a Range Rover through it.

The next day the miners built another snowman in the middle of the road – only this time they built it around a bollard!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Noticed how you used the word “chubby”…when in doubt of your own arguments fling insults eh?

In doubt? Hardly. I use insults because Pirate Mike has them coming. Look, I know chubby is a smart dude. From time to time he writes something that strikes me as genuinely insightful… sometimes even brilliant. That’s why I give him grief about writing FUD like this that panders to the intellectually challenged. He’s better than this. Or at least, he should want to be.

Gracey says:

Re: Re: Re:

[How do you make a snowman using dry snow?]

Uh, dump a bucket of water on a pile of dry snow. Yay…snow for a snowman.

Okay, yes he obviously had to go to some work and testing to set up something like the method used in the patent, but this is not something most people would even consider doing.

On the other hand, I live in a place where there is more than enough snow during the winter to build a suitable snowman…thousands of them, without worrying about dry snow. How would he know which method you used?

So even though the patent may actually have some validity, it does seem a little on the silly side. How is the patent even enforceable in terms of use? People build snowmen, mostly kids. Is this guy going to deconstruct every snowman that “might” have used his patent?

He’d be better of patenting the “kit” along with the method. Then he can sell the “kits” with the instructions and be all set.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Actually, I think this is a completely valid and interesting patent. And amusing. It’s a patent for a device (and a pretty ingenious one), not a method, so he is in fact patenting a “kit” of sorts.

He didn’t patent “building a snowman.”

Besides, there is nothing illegal or infringing about doing something on your own that someone else has patented. You just can’t sell it, that’s all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Mike, all kidding aside, this is exactly the basis of a very valid patent, and also proves that there is more than one way to accomplish an end result. While you are trying very hard to play the humor up, the reality is that it is using a unique method, I don’t think very many of us have considered using electricity to build a snowman.

Too bad that you can’t see it for what it really is, proof that your objections to the patent system are mostly unfounded.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You are correct. It’s actually a very interesting deal because on the surface, it seems like nothing, but in reality, is actually a fairly complex method that, even someone skilled in the art of making a snowman might not immediately grasp, because it goes against common wisdom in snowman making.

I guess I shouldn’t be shocked that Mike is in such a rush to slam the patent system that he didn’t bother to actually read it. I guess I am not surprised that his minions are falling for his crap too on this one.

The Incoherent One (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I have been making snowmen in the Sierra Nevada for years with my kids. Most of the snow at the cabin(less the first or late spring storm) is very dry powder and does not lend itself to making snowmen easily, but alas my kids and I figured it out years ago.

Does this patent meant that I should be careful of posting my dry snowmen on my facebook page since I may fringe on this morons patent?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You are correct. It’s actually a very interesting deal because on the surface, it seems like nothing, but in reality, is actually a fairly complex method that, even someone skilled in the art of making a snowman might not immediately grasp, because it goes against common wisdom in snowman making.

I guess I shouldn’t be shocked that Mike is in such a rush to slam the patent system that he didn’t bother to actually read it. I guess I am not surprised that his minions are falling for his crap too on this one.

Exactly. This patent is actually clever, and the state of the art of snowman making has been advanced. Of course, Pirate Mike has to FUD this out. Sadly, it’s all he knows.

Gracey (user link) says:

Uh, could somebody explain the instructions? Geeze if a kid had to follow those to build a snowman…where’s the fun?

Let’s see…make a snowball, roll in snow. Pile two or three on top of each other. Voila. Snowman.

What the hell does that guy’s instructions say?

While it may be “valid” how many people would use that method to build a snowman? Certainly no kid I know would be interested, and neither would most adults. Half the fun is in the snowballs.

There’s plenty of ways to build a snowman…using electricity isn’t high on my list of “must dos”.

One of our local groups built a snowman using a lot of recycled plastic lunchables containers…I’m pretty sure they didn’t patent it. Anybody want to take a stab?

Randy S (profile) says:

Tainted PB&J

“Patent #6,004,596 on making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without the crust”

It seems that Smucker’s stole this idea for their Uncrustables!! The dirty jelly conglomerate can’t even leave the poor PB&J alone. Something needs to be done about this travesty. I can’t even think straigh, this makes me so upset. I guess I will go out back and swing sideways!

Karl (profile) says:

Yeah, I don't think so...

Anyway, with winter approaching for many of us, please be careful in building any snowmen using this approach.

Having just read the patent, I can say with confidence that the chance of anyone “using this approach” is zero.

You have a kind of skeleton that looks like a snowman, then use a continuous electrical charge on its surface to make the snow stick to it.

Basically, you’re creating a Snow Terminator. Except instead of threatening you with an Austrian accent, it zaps your kids every time they touch it.

It’s not so much a stupid patent, as it is a stupid idea.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Yeah, I don't think so...

It’s not so much a stupid patent, as it is a stupid idea.

It is kind of stupid, but that doesn’t mean the patent system is stupid–which seems to be Pirate Mike’s point. As long as the criteria of Title 35 are met (101, 102, 103, 112, etc.), then a patent should issue. If the invention is stupid, that’s for the market to decide, not the law. You’d think an ivy league-educated guy like Mike’d understand this, but I’m guessing he was in the bottom half of his class.

tebee (profile) says:

But why did he do it ?

I fail to see anyway making a better snowman is going to lead to life of fame and riches – or even how he is going to make any money this invention at all.

So why did me go to the effort and expense of doing this ? Is it for the notoriety of having patented something or is like the people who join Mensa because they have not done anything with their lives.

Or is it just that I’m missing some wonderful business opportunity that he has the vision to see?

Grey Ferret says:

Re: But why did he do it ?

I don’t think you understand how the patent system works. He isn’t trying to make money off an invention. That’s not what patents are about. He’s planning to make money off the patent itself. The invention is nothing more than a means in which to to obtain the patent.

Now that he has been granted the patent. And thanks to the ridiculous nature of it, a bunch of free publicity as well. He may now look at opportunities to either sell or sue. There are plenty of trolls out there amassing arsenals of patents who may be interested in buying his patent. Or, there may be someone out there (think winter entertainment park, or cold-climate research facility, or whatever) that may come up with a similar idea independently which he will now be able to sue.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: But why did he do it ?

I fail to see anyway making a better snowman is going to lead to life of fame and riches – or even how he is going to make any money this invention at all.

Oh, I dunno. Priced right, I’d absolutely buy this! Maybe $20/sphere would be about right, if the spheres were large. I’d have great fun building 10′ tall snowmen.

I think that’s the appeal. As the patent application says, this is a toy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Dry snow doesn’t stick well enough to make snowmen. Giant snowmen are hard to make because the snowballs are huge.

What do these two problems have in common? We’ve been solving them for decades by putting a basketball in the freezer then blowing it up tight, misting it with a sprayer, rolling it in the snow, and repeating over and over again.

Kudos to the guy who posted the Calvin and Hobbes snowmen link. Totally opened my mind. I’m going to have a ton of fun with snowmen this winter!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Fill in the form and pay the money!

There is no form to fill out. There are requirements that must be adhered to in preparing a patent application for submittal, but the content of virtually every original patent application (I say “original” because a patent application can for various reasons later be divided into a plurality of applications…though all would expire on the same date as the original as a general rule) is unique because one always starts with a blank sheet of paper. In fact, experience informs me that a patent application is easily one of the very most difficult legal documents to prepare because there is no “boilerplate” language one can simply lift from a “form book”.

There are quite likely things much more lucrative than a business built around apparatus helpful for making a snowman or other snow figure, but long ago I learned that what seems almost certainly a loser in the marketplace sometimes surprises even the most ardent cynic.

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