Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


New, Useful, and Non-Obvious

My friend Sharon, who is an excellent patent attorney, showed me this, her favorite U.S. patent. You should hire her![1] She’s really good, even if she does a lot of work for an empire of questionable morals, but is not yet so evil as to have written anything like US Patent 4,646,382, “Lottery Ticket Scraper:”

Many lottery tickets include a backing of cardboard or other rigid stock material, printed indicia thereupon, and an opaque coating over some or all of the indicia. The lottery ticket, of this type, is utilized by the purchaser paying money into the state in the hope that by by scraping the ticket he will regain more money than he paid in. The promise is made is that someone will win millions of dollars. The state, however, is careful to minimize the odds against winning any substantial amount are several million to one. Not withstanding, these enormous odds against winning, the population flocks to the grocery store, the service station, the department store, the all-night liquor store, the drug store, and every other conceivable kind of merchandising operation wherein lottery sales have become a major source of activity. As the frantic lottery ticket purchaser grasps his ticket to instant wealth, he is confronted with a virtually insoluble dilemma–how to scrape the lottery ticket! First of all, one must have an object with a sharp edge.

Read the whole background section of the patent. It’s a stunning interpretation of “useful.”

[1] She insisted I say that before sharing her favorite patent. She’ll read your begging pleas for patent help here, because we respect her privacy, even if (ironically) it makes it hard for her to take advantage of this marketing.

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