How Patents Are Stopping Your Microwave From Being Awesome

from the this-again dept

We’ve seen this many times before, how patents can hold back very useful developments. Notice how 3D printing is suddenly a big thing? It’s not because of any new miraculous breakthroughs, but because some key patents finally started expiring, allowing real innovation to move forward. We saw something similar in the field of infrared grills, which were put on the… uh… back burner (sorry) until key patents expired. Derek now points us to a similar example.

A guy named Nathan Broadbent went out and hacked his microwave with a Raspberry Pi after being inspired by a post on Reddit. Basically, he made his microwave into a “smart” microwave that did a variety of neat things, including:

  • Clock is automatically updated from the internet
  • Can be controlled with voice commands
  • Can use a barcode scanner to look up cooking instructions from an online database
  • There weren’t any online microwave cooking databases around, so I made one:
  • The microwave has a web page so you can control it from your phone (why not), and set up cooking instructions for products
  • Tweets after it’s finished cooking something (See

It’s a nice little example of the cool product hacking going on these days, and is yet another cool example of the Raspberry Pi in action. The folks over at wrote about this last summer and pointed out that Broadbent was putting established microwave oven makers to shame by doing the kind of thing they should have been doing ages ago.

Of course, it’s down in the comments where we get a suggestion as to why we haven’t seen this kind of innovation actually appearing in the market: patents. A guy named Paul Becker notes that he had explored this idea about a decade ago, but realized there were too many patents in the area, meaning that it would be impossible to bring it to market. He notes it’s not an exhaustive list, but here are a few of the patents named:

Not all of those patents are still valid, but those seem to be just ones involving microwaves with barcodes. I’m sure that it would be easy to find patents covering many of the other features that Broadbent included. Just for the hell of it, I did a quick search (very, very quick) and came up with other patents and applications (both in the US and elsewhere) that might also apply — such as this application for a patent on an “intelligent microwave oven appliance.” Or this for an “internet microwave oven.” Or this for a “microwave oven system receiving information through the internet and operating in accordance with the received information.” Or this one for controlling a microwave through the internet. If you look, I’m sure you’ll find more.

Either way, there’s no evidence that Broadbent needed any of these patents (or any patents at all) to figure out how to do any of this, or to even think of the idea or how to execute it. Instead, like most innovations, he was inspired to scratch the innovative itch after realizing how useful something like that might be for himself. And he could do it, thanks to useful tools like the Raspberry Pi, not because of any patent. But anyone who wanted to go out and market and sell such a thing would almost certainly be hit by a variety of patent infringement suits from patent holders who never did the simple thing that Broadbent did: build an awesome microwave.

And that’s why so many people are so concerned about how our patent system holds back innovation (and not just in the software realm). The idea of an internet-connected-anything wasn’t being held back because no one was able to think up the idea, or because they couldn’t protect their idea for 20 years thanks to a patent monopoly, but because the rest of the infrastructure needed to catch up. But, today, it’s easy to build these kinds of things — but we can’t. Thanks to patents… which are holding back, rather than promoting, innovation.

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Comments on “How Patents Are Stopping Your Microwave From Being Awesome”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

There is the possibility that there was confusion between his Smart refrigerator and his Smart microwave about holding vs warming temperatures, and in the middle of that argument, Michael got a long distance call, which caused them both to forgot what they were doing as the call was interesting.

Jimmy59 (profile) says:

Good Article!

Ironically this is the type of reporting that’s needed on Patents!! I still don’t think the general public gets it and comparisons like this are so desperately needed.

You do realize this very website infringes upon about 185 patents? I know it’d be tough to write an article on how you infringed, but the truth is it can also “Keep TechDirt From Being So Awesome” just like every other non facebook/google/microsoft or other tech giant websites.

We’re all doomed by this patent system. Just remember it’s not always wise to assert your patents right away. Make a list of infringers, wait a few years, and then nail them with 3x damages x Years and you have a huge chunk of money coming your way.

Please keep writing these comparison articles!!

Jimmy59 (profile) says:

Re: Anonymous Coward

“This is actually why I don’t develop new software products any more. My products are used in a highly competitive industry and suing over patents goes on fairly frequently. I can’t afford lawyers to defend my business. So far our luck has held but I fear every day.”

You and me both buddy.. we’re not alone. What we need is an elite digital underground of programmers who are stifled and sitting around writing 1+1=2 code because real code is dangerous these days. I only hope this situation gets sorted out.

bshock says:

microwave ovens are terrible, but...

Are patents really stopping microwave ovens from being “awesome.”

I’m still waiting for microwave ovens to be “adequate.”

For instance, why is heat distribution in microwaved food so uneven? Sure, you can claim this is just the nature of microwave ovens, but why does it have to remain that way? Is it physically impossible to build a microwave oven that’s smart enough to heat your food evenly throughout?

For now I guess I’ll just have to follow the instructions on my frozen food and let it sit for a few minutes after cooking. But wouldn’t it be nice if we had a cure for the half frozen/half scalding state of some microwaved foods?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: microwave ovens are terrible, but...

Water distribution and water conductivity in food is difficult to control for a microwave oven manufacturer.

When that is said, tuning down the effect of the microwave oven and increasing preparation time will help a lot on that problem. Water bathing may also help, even though it makes for some really soaked and nasty pizza!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: microwave ovens are terrible, but...

“Is it physically impossible to build a microwave oven that’s smart enough to heat your food evenly throughout?”

I’m sure that it’s physically possible, but it’s probably too expensive to research and/or implement in consumer devices. The uneven heating problem is something that pretty much everyone is used to, and they might not be willing to pay a premium for a microwave that solves it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: microwave ovens are terrible, but...

My parents bought one with pretty even heating in the mid-90s (not perfect, but everywhere on the turntable was near enough the same – the remaining effects were down to the food). That used a wave stirrer to prevent standing waves, which involved a reflective paddle on a small motor at the top of the cavity (behind a plastic panel). (IIRC it was a Bosch, and not a particularly high-end one.)

When that microwave died a couple of years ago, there weren’t any domestic microwaves with that feature (or an electronic equivalent), even the top of the range models.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: microwave ovens are terrible, but...

For instance, why is heat distribution in microwaved food so uneven?

That is because the has an uneven absorption of microwaves, especially as it starts to thaw. The bits that thaw heat up much faster than the bits that are still frozen, and it takes time for heat conductivity to even the temperature out. A heat it a bit, let it all thaw out, and then heat it up fully works better for frozen stuff. (profile) says:

Re: microwave ovens are terrible, but...

Usually, the heat is distributed unevenly because it’s difficult to get the waves to go evenly. This is why they have turntables. Stop putting your food in the center of the turntable where it doesn’t move. Put it at the edge where it moves the most.

It’s not impossible to make a microwave that heats food evenly, they’ve done it. So if yours doesn’t it means that yours is either:

1. old
2. cheap

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: microwave ovens are terrible, but...

My experience is that it is more about the food than the oven when it comes to uneven heating.

The turntable is more about distributing the waves more evenly on the subject. The reason you may actually be correct that the edges are better has to do with the uneven exposure you may find in the center of badly designed microwave ovens.

Heating food evenly would demand more effect or longer cooking times, with longer times being the most effective at solving the particular problem. Thus, solving the problem should be possible in ancient ovens too if you have got the time!

staggart says:

Bait & Switch on Title

Sadly, this article’s title is very misleading. Most of these are not innovations or improvements to the actual purpose/function of a microwave – cooking my food, cheaply and efficiently. The so-called innovations, are, at best, helpful in me setting the dial, and at worse, of no real value (setting the timer from the internet?). When I read the title, I thought to myself “wow, after 50 years, someone has actually made the physics of a proven technology better.” Not a chance. The last one (tweets) is somewhat useful but, again, this was not a patent issue, so another false alarm.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Bait & Switch on Title

While I agree that none of the innovations are ones that appeal to me at all, I think it’s wrong to say that doesn’t make them innovations in the realm of microwave ovens.

I also take issue with saying things like “of no real value”. What is valuable depends on your needs and desires. Something of no value to you can be extremely valuable to someone else. I think Twitter is a great example of this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Get on with the butter up, Mike. Next, I suppose you’ll tell us how “great” it is that (GOOGLE owned) Nest wants to integrate cameras with their thermostats, and how hooking said combo up to the internet would just be “nifty”…

But, then again, you’ve still not covered GOOGLE’s acquisition of either Nest *or* Dropcam…

Anonymous Coward says:


Actually, what they’ll do is gather as much data as they possibly can, serve it up on a silver platter to the Feds, as they do now, while pretending to be at odds with them (again, as they do now). Note also, using a supposedly encrypted home video-feed for “targeted advertising” necessitates monitoring said feed.

There isn’t a reasonable individual under the sun that would allow for that if it were made known to them.

Furthermore, there is no dichotomy between “Big-Data” and “Big-Brother”. In the end, the later is privy to the former’s data. Methods are irrelevant when the end result is the same.

John Fenderson (profile) says:


While no article has been written devoted solely to that angle, Techdirt has certainly not ignored those acquisitions as you seem to be implying. These aspects have been discussed in articles about Nest here.

I wouldn’t say that your ignorance of that is a delusion — it’s simply not knowing. However, your extrapolation of what this means does flirt with delusion: you have a preset opinion of what Techdirt is all about and read your own biases into the spaces “between the lines”. That’s projection.

Anonymous Coward says:


Your straw-man is on fire. Far be it from me to imply Mike is ignorant about any aspect of Google. My assertion was, and remains, acquisitions that were widely reported about elsewhere were not covered here, and for no other reason than because Mike thought they might be interpreted in a negative manner. His assumption is correct.

Additionally, I have no “preset” opinion about TechDirt per se, although Mike has certainly demonstrated patent favoritism towards Google… ad nauseam.

Sequence of events are key. As such, I will not comment about your pseudo ex post facto application of “extrapolation”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Is it a foregone conclusion that “anyone who wanted to go out and market and sell such a thing would almost certainly be hit by a variety of patent infringement suits”?

Presumably, if the patents are valid and applicable, the idea is that the inventor/marketer will go ask those patent holders for licenses. Hopefully the patent holders will be savvy enough to grant a license with reasonable terms that won’t prevent the application from going to market…and hopefully the patent holders won’t steal the application ideas for themselves or for some other manufacturer/marketer they’ve partnered with.

teka (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That is so backward and wrong.

We’ve gone from “patents protect the original inventor so they have a chance to bring their invention to market (while also placing the details of the innovation in a public database for anyone to use eventually)” to “Someone making something new or even just improves, with no help from vague legalese patents, has to pay rent to everyone who managed to get a legal monopoly claim on some permutation of ‘microwave’ ‘smart’ ‘internet’ or ‘technical term'”

This does not help progress.

Jimmy59 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The problem here could also be that the patent holder wants you to Cease and Desist without any licensing. If you refuse, they sue. Therefore, MONOPOLY is in effect and nobody else can produce this badass microwave. It happens… more than you can imagine, and most CEASE AND DESIST settlements do the following:

1) NON-Disclosure (Squashing First Amendment Rights)

2) NON-Compete – Can’t assist anyone or produce any products in that entire field of invention that comes anywhere near a microwave or you’ll be sued again (Obvious, some even enforce WORLDWIDE NON-COMPETE)

3) Patent NO-Challenge Clauses – Agreements often try to impose no challenge clauses on the defendant stating them or anyone working for or related or known to them cannot legally challenge a patent through the USPTO. The Second Circuit Court holds that No-Challenge Clauses are unenforceable – yet it’s still going to cost you a ton of money to have this proven in court.

4) They usually also stick clauses where you can’t file a countersuit or take any further action against the plaintiff.

So… the above agreements are usually signed “Under Duress” due to the total one-sided court systems and nature of Patent lawsuits. These types of situations are on the radar of the Federal Trade Commission under Anti-Trust and Anti-Competitive.

The drawback to this whole situation is INNOVATION IS STIFLED when these monopoly patent holding fucks don’t want to share their so-called abstract idea patent rights and crush competition – even though they could be extracting licensing fees, they sometimes use patents as swords to completely kill competition, thus allowing them to fix prices in the industry.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

A lovely hypothetical explanation. I look forward to your research into how many cease and desist letters have been filed against anyone with respect to microwave ovens.

Cease and desist “settlement”? If you cease and desist, none of the other things you list would be in effect, because you stopped doing whatever you were supposedly doing.

Abstract ideas are not patentable. The Supreme Court just said so, again. The USPTO just came out with new examination guidelines that say the same thing. Don’t try it.

Jimmy59 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yes, CEASE AND DESIST Settlement agreement in lieu of full blown litigation for patent infringement. Kinda defies all logic, but if you don’t sign this agreement, we’re going to sue your ass off and cost you millions or bankrputcy, either way you’re going down.

I know this sounds trivial over a microwave oven. In fact most microwave patents are now part of the public domain and free use. However, all that needs to be done is filing a new patent under business methods to regain control over the “Method of cooking food through a box with a window” (yes, I intentionally made that sound stupid because that’s how stupid patents are these days) and then sue everyone who uses a microwave and produces a microwave, to include restaurants, gas stations, households and on and on and on….

The impact this could have on Patent-Infringing End Users is also frightful. Seriously, end users can be sued by the masses and this is also used as a scare tactic to get businesses to cough up licensing fees on now patented public domain knowledge or to cease and desist.

The USPTO will grant you a patent on just about ANYTHING these days and it’s becoming more and more evident as we discover them. All you need is the money to pay to play and it’s yours!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Actually, the USPTO said that business methods, which were pretty much dead after the Bilski decision, could be patented, but the method had to be something more than the application of stuff that people do all the time. In other words, there had to be something, you know, INVENTIVE in the method.

While it does seem like the USPTO issues bad patents, the reality is that relatively few patents are ever challenged, though there are now TONS of ways to challenge a patent. While the success rate in getting claims cancelled or limited is relatively good, more than half of all patents challenged survive this process with one or more claims either intact, or amended.

It does not take many bad patents to make the vast majority of patents look bad.

hank roberts (profile) says:

As Ray Bradbury said about writing

The patent system, like Bradbury’s writing, exists not to promote the future but to delay it.

Consider: we’ve been people a hundred thousand years or so.
We’ve had agriculture about fourteen thousand years.
We’ve had bronze about five thousand years
We’ve had steel about three thousand years
We’ve had aviation a couple of centuries
We’ve had rocketry and computers within living memory

At the rate the rate of change is increasing, it’s clear:

The Patent System is the only thing holding off the Singularity!

Jimmy59 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There’s the problem. Let’s say I held a patent on:

“The method of applying the color blue to a canvas with other colors to make up abstract art”.

Now… I could go sue any artist who uses the color blue. Yeah this sounds funny, but look up Klein Blue and you’ll see.

So with this patent that is obviously for “Using the color blue in artwork” I could sue literally anyone who uses blue, an offset color of blue, or better yet, sue someone who uses any derivative of color that uses blue at it’s core because it’s a derivative of Blue, or at least I say it is.

All it takes is “I believe you infringed upon my patent” to initiate a multi-million dollar threat against another person or company, even though I know deep down my patent is bullshit, I could still use it to distort the claims, overbroaden them as much as I want, and then extort money for unsuspecting artists.

So that leads us to the extortion bit… Regardless of what a patent truly claims it only takes one scumbag thug of a patent lawyer to draft a hateful extortion “Demand Letter” to you to make you realize the gravity of this threat. If you respond, and don’t give them what they want, you’ll be served with a Federal Lawsuit for patent infringement and there’s NOTHING you can do to get this parasite off your back except pay outrageous licensing fees – even though you know deep down this patent you’re being sued over is completely horseshit.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Obvious patents

This is also a perfect demonstration with the problem of patenting “obvious ideas”. The article lists four separate patents for; Becker makes five; and Broadbent brings the total to at least six.

There was also a fairly involved discussion of this somewhere about a year ago, in which I was involved (I can’t find it, unfortunately).

So it is obviously a very…obvious…idea.

So what does obvious really mean? I thought it meant that any reasonably intelligent person could propose the same solution.

But the US PTO seems to take the position that, “An idea is not obvious if it would not occur to your average cedar post.”

Anonymous Cowherd says:

Those features make a microwave AWESOME…

…if by “awesome,” you mean “loaded with fancy gimmicks for showing off.”

The barcode scanner thing might be useful to some people, but putting such features on the microwave when a phone or tablet would be much more convenient to use is just stupid. None of the other features have any real-world practical use at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You said what I was thinking. If patents were truly keeping your microwave from being awesome, which sounds like a straw man argument that could never been proven, then those innovations would already be in a patent, which I doubt very seriously.

Taking this a step further, let’s say that a manufacturer had an awesome invention (not idea; ideas are abstractions that are not patentable), something that would, for example, reduce noise in your microwave oven by 50%. Is Mike saying that NO ONE WOULD MAKE SUCH AN OVEN? Seriously? Given the intensity of competition in this field, where there are literally dozens of manufacturers, it seems to me that it would be incorporated into an oven somewhere to try to be different from the other manufacturers. But, it doesn’t happen.

The fact is that the margin in microwaves is non-existent, so non-existent that people don’t sue each other for infringing microwave oven patents – there is no money there. What is really holding back making your microwave oven “awesome” is someone taking the time to come up with new innovations that someone will actually buy, and use.

I remember buying a Sears microwave back in the 1980’s (yes, the 1980’s) that had a database of recipes built in, with a novel-length manual listing the contents of the database. The built-in processor had lots of storage room so that you could program your own recipes. Included in the programming capability was power levels, pauses, and times. You could even begin with one of the existing programs and modify it. This microwave oven did just about everything except wash its own dishes.

The problem with this “awesome” microwave? The features were lovely, but we discovered that 99% of the time the microwave was used to reheat food, boil water, or make popcorn. We, and probably 98% of most people who use microwaves, discovered that while awesome was interesting, we didn’t need or want awesome. We wanted a box where we could push a start button and reheat food. Period.

Is innovation in microwave ovens being held back by patents? It seems highly unlikely. Evidence would come from lawsuits, and after searching for 20 minutes, I found one, in China, between a South Korean manufacturer (you know, a company that actually makes an inventive product) and a Chinese company that was COPYING, not “innovating,” the South Korean microwave. The Chinese company has alleged that the South Korean patents were “obvious.” I wonder what the Chinese court will make of that?

In any case, innovation in the cell phone market continues to explode in the presence of HUGE lawsuits between multiple players. Given the near absence of lawsuits in the microwave oven environment (well, excluding one for $181,000 dollar – gasp, gasp, in China), where is the “stifling” and holding back of innovation?

Please, if you are going to allege that patents are causing climate change, can we at least have a vague prima facie case the really leads to that possible conclusion rather than “Oh, he won’t do it because he’s afraid of patents.” My daughter won’t go in the basement because she’s afraid of spiders. That does not mean that the spiders are dangerous, just that they are there.

Jimmy59 (profile) says:

First to File - Not First to Invent

Another major problem here is the AIA went to a “First Inventor to File” not “First Inventor to Use his Brain and Invent” method of filing for patents, which in turn overthrows a megapool of prior-art called “The Internet” which itself has been patented over and over.

What this means in simple terms: It doesn’t matter if it’s YOUR idea or not, as long as you’re the first person to run and file a patent on any method, any idea, you get the credit – even if it’s something that has existed for 100’s of years.

So before you go sharing your ideas with any VC just remember they can string you along while they are secretly filing a patent on your idea and TAKING YOUR HARD WORK AND MONOPOLIZING ON IT, then give you the boot, or even sue you for your own ideas!

Defensive patents my ass – this is pure American Greed! Hey there’s a TV Show called American Greed, can’t wait to see future episodes on Patent Trolls…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: First to File - Not First to Invent

First to file is still supposed to be limited by non-patent prior art, but the USPTO only seems to consider previously filed US patents when assessing prior art, and then only with a very narrow interpretation. Unfortunately the US seems to want to keep on exporting its rotten IP laws around the world, and is finding no shortage of idiots and traitors to help them do so.

Anonymous Coward says:

I agree with the premise of patents holding back innovation 100%, but I can’t help but lmao at the idea that a microwave that tells the internet everything I eat and when I eat it is innovation. A local DB for bar codes would be cool though I guess; all the other features seam kinda silly. I’ll keep my dumb appliances, thanks.

“Or they’ll send mildly annoying targeted advertising to their users. One or the other.”

Or they’ll monetize it, and it’s data in every way possible- like they do with all their products, as they are beholden to do for their shareholders.

Sorry, but I have to agree- Techdirt IS conspicuously lacking articles that offer any real hard hitting critique of google.

On a more important note- wth is this about ‘first to file’ somehow eliminating prior art? how did I miss that? is it retroactive? how could that even work?!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Short answer- the USPTO has kept all its lousy practices WRT looking for prior art (i.e. not checking anything but the patent database, and then not looking very hard, hence all the “X on the Internet” patents), but now you don’t even have to provide any evidence that you invented it until you sue someone (when they can still argue that there was no inventive step, or that prior art existed).

David Cortright (user link) says:

Tried and true irrelevant patent technique

Take new emerging technology X and indiscriminately apply it to a host of existing items to create Techno-franken-hybrids that have not been thought through for base usefulness let alone feasibility.

Reminds me of this anecdote from “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman”:

—“Is this Professor Feynman, of Cornell University?”
—“That’s right.”
—“This is Mr. So-and-so from the Such-and-such Aircraft Company.”

It was one of the big airplane companies in California, but unfortunately I can’t remember which one. The guy continues: “We’re planning to start a laboratory on nuclear-propelled rocket airplanes. It will have an annual budget of so-and-so-many million dollars . . .” Big numbers. I said,

—“Just a moment, sir; I don’t know why you’re telling me all this.”
—“Just let me speak to you,” he says; “just let me explain everything. Please let me do it my way.”

So he goes on a little more, and says how many people are going to be in the laboratory, so-and-so-many people at this level, and so-and-so-many Ph.D’s at that level . . .

—“Excuse me, sir,” I say, “but I think you have the wrong fella.”
—“Am I talking to Richard Feynman, Richard _P_. Feynman?”
—“Yes, but you’re..
—“Would you _please_ let me present what I have to say, sir, and _then_ we’ll discuss it.”
—“All right!”

I sit down and sort of close my eyes to listen to all this stuff, all these details about this big project, and I still haven’t the slightest idea _why_ he’s giving me all this information. Finally, when he’s all finished, he says,

—“I’m telling you about our plans because we want to know if you would like to be the director of the laboratory.”
—“Have you _really_ got the right fella? I’m a professor of theoretical physics. I’m not a rocket engineer, or an airplane engineer, or anything like that.”
—“We’re sure we have the right fellow.’
—“Where did you get my name then? Why did you decide to call _me_?”
—“Sir, your name is on the patent for nuclear-powered, rocket-propelled airplanes.”

And I realized _why_ my name was on the patent, and I’ll have to tell you the story. I told the man, “I’m sorry, but I would like to continue as a professor at Cornell University.”

What had happened was, during the war, at Los Alamos, there was a very nice fella in charge of the patent office for the government, named Captain Smith. Smith sent around a notice to everybody that said something like “We in the patent office would like to patent every idea you have for the United States government, for which you are working now. Any idea you have on nuclear energy or its application that you may think everybody knows about, everybody _doesn’t_ know about: Just come to my office and tell me the idea.”

I see Smith at lunch, and as we’re walking back to the technical area, I say to him, “That note you sent around: That’s kind of crazy to have us come in and tell you _every_ idea.” We discussed it back and forth–by this time we’re in his office-and I say, “There are so many ideas about nuclear energy that are so perfectly obvious, that I’d be here all _day_ telling you stuff.”


“Nothin’ to it!” I say. “Example: nuclear reactor . . . under water. . water goes in . . . steam goes out the other side . . . _Pshshshsht_–it’s a submarine. Or: nuclear reactor . . . air comes rushing in the front. . . heated up by nuclear reaction . . . out the back it goes . . . _Boom!_ Through the air–it’s an airplane. Or: nuclear reactor . . you have hydrogen go through the thing . . . _Zoom!_–it’s a rocket. Or: nuclear reactor . . . only instead of using ordinary uranium, you use enriched uranium with beryllium oxide at high temperature to make it more efficient . . . It’s an electrical power plant. There’s a _million_ ideas!” I said, as I went out the door.

Nothing happened.

About three months later, Smith calls me in the office and says, “Feynman, the submarine has already been taken. But the other three are yours.” So when the guys at the airplane company in California are planning their laboratory, and try to find out who’s an expert in rocket-propelled whatnots, there’s nothing to it: They look at who’s got the patent on it!”

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