by Dennis Crouch
Profs. Sarah R. Wasserman Rajec and Andrew Gilden recently posted a draft of their new article “Patenting Pleasure.” If you cannot discern the topic from their title, Prof Nicholson Price has also just published a review essay titled Illegal Sex Toy Patents. Price describes the “central tension” from the article:
Because of the utility doctrine, patentees must say what their inventions are for—but because US law has been generally quite hostile to sex and sex tech, pleasure patents have to say they are for something other than, well, pleasure. In the heart of the piece, Rajec and Gilden carefully catalog these descriptions over time, revealing a changing picture about what sorts of purposes were considered acceptable sex tech—at least, in the eyes of the USPTO.
Price. Some amount of obfuscation will be familiar to patent attorneys today across various fields. Although not illegal, most patents avoid detailing the core invention — what really is the improvement over the prior art. Likewise, some patent attorneys will have walked the tight-line between the patentability disclosure requirement and client-interest in keeping certain trade secrets. Some patent attorneys are hard at work attempting to beat the PTO’s AI system that routes patent applications to the various art units (some of which are seen as more favorable than others). Many are also trying to figure out ways to patent inventions that are close to the abstract-idea line without sending the case back to the inventors for more inventing. Perhaps all of this goes along with traditional core roles of attorneys — advocating and keeping secrets.
In any event, Rajec-Gilden do not include any of the patent drawings and should be safe for reading on the train.