- View SourceIn case you didn't know, the US patent office and patent law generally are completely out of control. One of the things that still happens is the "submarine patent , " which works as follows.
1 Describe in very general terms something which is obviously desirable but is not yet commercially practical. With patents you don't have to say exactly how things work --- you just say "provide means to" do things. So you might patent a wireless telephone that fits in a shirt pocket long before anyone could actually affordably build one that worked well enough to interest customers. It doesn't seem to matter how obvious the idea is.
2 Nurse your patent application along for decades, if necessary, carefully never letting it become public knowledge, until technology develops enough to make it practical.
3 Wait some more until a profitable industry develops.
4 Quit stalling the patent, let it issue, crawl out from under your rock and sue everybody in sight for infringement. Even if your patent is total crap, some companies are likely to pay you for licenses just because patent lawsuits are so expensive. There are lots of little companies which are basically lawyers preying on industry in this way.
Here's an example that was cited in a recent issue of Greg Aharonian's Patnews newsletter: patent 7,139,591 assigned to DataQuill which some say is "going after every cell phone vendor in the US with crap they did not invent."
Wearable computers can expect the same.