The charms of the patent office archives—and the hilariously insane inventions they contain—are well-known. But is it possible that a few of those failed entrepreneurs were actually onto something? New York lawyer Martin Galese thinks so—and he’s resurrecting the ghosts of patents past by offering 3D models of them online.
Galese, who works as a software patent lawyer when he’s not sifting through forgotten inventions, runs a Tumblr called Patent-able. There, he posts drawings and CAD models of objects that were once patented but now exist in the public domain. It turns out that expired patents make up most of the eight million patents registered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. More than six million are now public domain, making up a vast but ignored trove of inventions ranging from the funny (a fancy hat holder from 1907) to the legitimately useful (learning chopsticks).
In addition to the Tumblr, Galese is building a library of his discoveries on MakerBot’s Thingiverse community, where you can download a 3D model and print it out on your 3D printer (or use Shapeways). “They’re really works of art,” he told The New York Times today. “You’re holding the 19th century by way of something that was produce in the 21st century.”
Besides doing justice by the ghosts of past inventors, Patent-able serves as a creative outlet for Galese. As a litigator on high-profile patent cases, he’s seen the worst of what can come from the endless patent wars between technology companies. But he’s also a huge fan of the patent office itself, which he describes as “the original Thingiverse,” a symbol of American ingenuity. Patent-able lets him articulate that outside of his work—and meanwhile, the rest of us get to appreciate such gems as this cutting-edge flower vase. Check out a few of our favorites below. [The New York Times]
Hat holder. This 1907 contraption helped elegant ladies hold onto their hats.
Pot scraper. A "cutting edge 1875 pot scraper" is among the favorites on Galese's site. "Be it known that I, URIAS CRAMER, of New Philadelphia, in the county of Tuscarawas and State of Ohio, have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Pot-Scrapers," writes the inventor behind the device.
Chopsticks holder. A 1960s invention that helped those new to chopsticks learn their subtleties.
Combination pen holder and book mark. Needs no explanation.
Follow Patent-able on Tumblr here.