Patents can be a strange brew.
Mixed in with all the high-tech devices, life-saving inventions and world-changing technology are a bunch of really strange things. From the thoroughly strange to the completely unnecessary, each of these patents was once the brainchild of a human being.
Now, you always knew humans were strange, so why would you think the things we think up would be any different?
1: Method of Swinging on a Swing
Remember your parents pushing you on a swing when you were a kid? Well, this is nothing like that. Nothing like that, you hear?
Go on and read the patent; it explains the whole "pumping" method you were probably taught as a child (old school) and even goes on to describe twirling around in the swing (mere child's play).
Luckily, we now have an innovative, fresh method for those who have tired of the old swinging ways. So what is this groundbreaking method? Well, it involves - get this - tugging on the left, then the right, chain of a swing to move from side to side.
It's something you've probably seen 10-year-olds do before - perhaps you yourself once swung from side to side on a swing.
Yes, it's a little untraditional, but groundbreaking? In need of a patent? "A new method of swinging on a swing," promises this patent, "would ...represent an advance of great significance and value."
Well, who are we to argue?
2: Anti-Eating Face Mask
What could possibly make resisting those fresh-baked cookies easier?
How about locking your face in a cage? That's right, a cage.
The anti-eating face mask makes it near-impossible to sneak a piece of food in through the cup-shaped mesh around your mouth, but still allows you to breathe. Well, that's a relief.
Sounds like something a militaristic, sadistic diet camp director could only dream of. Just imagine how much better your body could look, if only you were willing to lock your face inside a ridiculous-looking mask.
Somehow, the face mask, which was patented in 1982, hasn't quite taken off. Can't imagine why.
3: Flatulence Deodorizing Pad
Passing gas, farting, cutting the cheese.
There are a lot of euphemisms out there for something that usually smells quite foul ... but now, with the patented Flat-D flatulence deodorizing pad, your farts don't have to stink!
That's right, you can throw away the Beano.
Fart to your heart's content and no one will know, as the activated charcoal pad absorbs and filters the air, saving those around you from an awful fate.
Already, the Flat-D products have a strong customer base, with some very flatulent, very happy clients claiming it has changed their lives. No doubt.
4: Comb-Over Patent, aka "Method for Concealing Partial Baldness"
It's perhaps the most common solution to the baldness problem, yet who knew that the good old-fashioned comb-over had such precision and method to it?
The specific methodology for a sexy, three-way comb-over is detailed enough that it has been patented since 1977.
The process is simple, really: first, you divide your remaining hair into three sections, then comb it across your head, then look really, really silly.
It's been working that way for at least 30 years now. In 2004, the father-son team who designed the original even won an Ig Nobel prize for their work.
5: Kissing Shield
Imagine wearing one of those plastic film CPR shields the next time you share a kiss with your significant other.
What, you say?
The point of kissing is to actually touch another person, to share an intimate experience? Nonsense! This kissing shield protects against all forms of cooties - and, what's better, a subsequent patent includes instructions for games you can play while wearing the kissing shield.
Now you can finally join in all those rounds of spin the bottle, resting assured that you won't be in any way contaminated or grossed out by your partner.
6: Thumb-sucking Inhibitor
What on earth could stop a kid from sucking his or her thumb?
How about covering that thumb in a good, thick metal casing that's attached to a bracelet.
You could make it adjustable, to custom fit it, and make sure it's thoroughly secured, to make it harder to get off. It's like a miniature, portable prison for your thumb -- or, better off, for your thumb-sucking child's thumb.
Because, really, stopping your child from sucking his or her thumb is worth the social humiliation that will surely come once they start wearing their new, oh-so-attractive anti-thumb-sucking ring/bracelet combo.
7: Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, Crustless of Course
What is it about sandwiches? Recipes are always closely guarded secrets, but with sandwiches, it gets official.
Don't even try to put a crustless peanut butter and jelly on your restaurant menu. That patent, specifically for a sealed PB&J sandwich, belongs to a subsidiary of Smuckers, the jelly giant that makes Uncrustables sandwiches.
Back in 2001, that meant tough luck for a small Michigan company that had the same (not terribly original) idea.
Maybe that's where McDonalds got the idea to file their "Method and Apparatus for Making a Sandwich" patent.
It even has a lovely flowchart explaining when you should apply the condiments and reminding you to retrieve any necessary cold garnishes.
It's groundbreaking, if nothing else, for its ability to make something so simple, so complex.
8: Pantyhose 3x
Don't you just hate runs in your stockings?
Carrying around a spare pair can be such a hassle, but now, with these three-legged pantyhose, you don't have to, since there's already a spare leg attached!
Now, when you get a run in one leg, just rotate out of the old and slide on into the new, fresh leg. Some might argue that in the time it takes to remove your leg from the old, torn stocking leg and place it in the new, flawless stocking leg, you could have changed into a whole new pair.
There's also the question of where to stash that pesky extra nylon appendage… but, really, the most obvious question is: the way panty hose run, does this set have too many legs, or too few?
9: Gerbil Shirt
Haven't you always wanted to be a walking, talking gerbil maze? Well, who hasn't.
They run around the cage, burrowing, chewing up all those tissues, mating, running and - well, actually, that's about it.
This gerbil shirt lets you be a part of your small rodent's fun-filled life by encasing you in a vest with plastic tubing, so those little guys can just scamper all over you for the world to see.
But don't limit yourself to just hamsters and gerbils.
Snakes like it, too!
Let them slither all around you as you shop at the grocery store! Hey, look, at least if you ever see someone wearing one of these vests, you'll now what's going on.
Don't say we didn't warn you.
10: Banana Protective Device
It's important to protect the things you care about with special cases. A padded bag for your laptop, a plastic case for your iPod, maybe a briefcase for important documents … but what about your fruit?
Have you really thought about how to protect it?
Specifically, we're talking about one easily bruised, strangely shaped yellow fruit. That's right, it's the banana.
Until now, there hasn't been a special case designed to cater to the banana's unusual needs.
Those packing lunches have always depended on the thick yellow casing that nature gave the banana to get the job done, and far too often, they've been left with brown, bruised, smelly bananas.
Thank God those days are done. At last, the banana doesn't have to go naked anymore.