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<   No. 2698   2010-06-16   >

Comic #2698

1 Adam: So what time travel myth shall we bust first?
2 Jamie: Given we have a time machine, it doesn't matter what order we do them.
3 Adam: What about the story that there was a huge queue of inventors lined up to patent time machines on the day the US Patent Office first opened in 1790?
4 Jamie: We could check that by searching patent records.
4 Adam: That's no fun!

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This is the premise of the Cheapass Games game U.S. Patent No. 1.

Building a time machine and then going back in time to be first in line to patent it on the day the U.S. Patent Office first opens for business, that is, not patent searching, which would be no fun as the premise of a game design, believe me. Anyone who has ever done any patent-related work will appreciate the gag in today's comic.

U.S. Patent number 1 is in fact held by a guy named Samuel Hopkins, for his invention of an improved method of producing potash. The patent was signed by President George Washington himself. In fact, you can see the historical document yourself.

So I guess whoever will have invented a time machine didn't in fact get the bright idea to go back and patent it...

EDIT: For those who think patenting a time machine is a silly idea, I give you US Patent Application 20080281766 and US Patent Application 20090234788. Alas the inventor apparently didn't get the idea of using his invention to get an earlier priority date.

Oh, and yes, there are plenty of good, logical, practical reasons why patenting your time machine in 1790 is not actually a great idea. Primarily, (a) patents expire, and (b) in order to have a patent granted you have to provide a description of how your invention works, sufficient for someone else to build a working version. So by patenting your time machine, you effectively give away the secret of time travel, which is probably much more valuable if you keep it secret.

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Last Modified: Wednesday, 16 June 2010; 03:11:02 PST.
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