Obscure Patent: Homeopathic X-ray

Bi-digital O-ring test for imaging and diagnosis of internal organs
US Patent No. 5,188,107 [ PDF ] [ HTML
Issued February 23, 1993

This is an oldie, but a goodie!  When I first profiled this patent back in 2003 I wrote this:

“I am almost at a complete loss as to how to describe this patent. This one absolutely must fall into the WHAT WAS THE EXAMINER THINKING category. Perhaps this is more indicative of an examiner in need of an issuance in order to make their quarterly bonus. In any event, this invention (if you can call it that) relates to a method for imaging an internal organ of a patient. In order to overcome the prior art problems associated with harmful radiation, the inventor has devised a method through which the patient and health care provider create an O-ring using thier index finger and thumb. The patient and health care provider entangle their finger/thumb O-rings and then hover them over the part of the patients body that needs to be imaged. I guess the thought is that the electromagnetic radiation running through all of us will somehow beam through the patients body and result in an image being produced on a film. This patent seems to be living proof that utility is no bar to patentability whatsoever, unless you claim a perpetual motion machine, which by the way might well be more believable than this so-called invention.”

As it turns out, one of my close personal friends was the supervising examiner in the Art Group that issued this patent.  As you can probably imagine I have had many conversations about this particular patent with him.  What I picked up on when I first wrote about the patent was one particular part of the invention, but the main part of the invention is a diagnostic tool.  The patent examiner, a fellow that I am told was extremely technically sophisticated, did not personally believe that this invention would work.  He issued appropriate rejections and then the inventor submitted affidavits of so-called experts to say that it did work. 

Because our patent system is an ex parte system (which means that there is no adversarial party in the ear of the patent examiner) the patent examiner by law is required to take the word of the inventor when affidavits are filed.  The patent examiners simply have no ability to challenge the veracity of what they are told.  So although the examiner didn’t believe what they were told they did the right thing legally.  There was even an internal review after this application issued and the result was to say that the examiner did exactly what the law requires, despite the fact that this patent is completely unbelievable.  Perhaps no other story I can tell shows just how desparately we need changes in procedure and law at the Patent Office.

In any event, here is what the Patent Abstract summarizes the invention to be:

A method of imaging an internal organ of a patient for purposes of medical diagnosis, where a patient forms an O-ring shape with one of hands by placing the fingertips of his thumb and one of his remaining fingers together and a sample of tissue of an internal organ is placed on the patient’s other hand, and the patient’s internal organ is non-invasively externally probed with a probing instrument. The internal organ is the same type of organ as that of the sample. Simultaneously a tester attempts to pull apart the O-ring shape by means of the tester placing his thumb and one of the remaining fingers of each of his hands within the O-ring shape of the patient to form interlocking O-rings and pulling the thumb and the finger of the patient apart due to an electromagnetic field of the tissue of the sample interacting with an electromagnetic field of the internal organ being probed and this interaction is detected by the ability to pull apart the O-ring shape thereby permitting imaging of the boundaries of the internal organ being probed.

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