This one's a bit old, but Boing Boing
just pointed us to the incredible story of a guy named Larry Proctor who was able to get the USPTO to patent some yellow beans he picked up in Mexico
. Yes. Really. You can read the patent (5,894,079) here
. Thankfully, it was (finally) invalidated last year, but was around for about nine years -- during which time the patent holder basically was able to put a tax on imports of such beans to the US from Mexico:
Yet Proctor actively enforced his patent. At one point, the patent-holder's US$0.6-claim on every pound of yellow beans sold in the United States caused a steep decline in exports of such beans from Mexico to the USA, according to Mexican government sources.
The Boing Boing link points to the story of the USPTO rejecting the patent, but there actually is an update. Just a few weeks ago CAFC also ruled the patent as invalid
, noting that Larry Proctor didn't actually do anything special, other than plant some beans he'd picked up. But, none of that stopped 10 years of being able to tax or ban every shipment of these beans into the US. Even beyond the question of why it took 10 years to dump this patent, you have to wonder how a patent on a bean got approved in the first place. Another proud moment by the USPTO.