How to patent a perpetual motion machine
10 December 2014 by Michael Downing
What are perpetual motion machines?
A perpetual motion or over-unity device is a hypothetical machine that continues indefinitely without any outside intervention or external source of energy. It consists of a machine that, once set in motion, will continue in motion without ever stopping and without the influence of any further forces required to keep it going. A great example would be a pendulum that, once started, never stops. Because of friction and other sources of energy loss such a device is in fact impossible, as it violates the first or second laws of thermodynamics. Even with a theoretically perfect machine, with 100% efficiency, it is only possible to get enough power out to power the machine itself. In the real world, though, there will always be some inefficiency to manage, such as friction and the load of the machine itself, which means that it is impossible to get full efficiency. A more advanced form of a perpetual motion machine is a device that actually produces useful energy that we could harness for other purposes, as well as keeping itself running. Such a device would have an output energy which was more than the original input. This is even more impossible!
Why is it so difficult to obtain a patent on a perpetual motion machine?
After all, why would it matter if someone was granted a patent for a perpetual motion machine? A patent stops third parties from using the invention that it describes; if that invention is impossible, then the third parties are being stopped from doing something that is impossible to do. Most people don’t mind being told they are not allowed to do an impossible thing. Patent Offices seem to find perpetual motion patents embarrassing, though, and are keen to avoid granting any.
The laws of physics and nature tell us that it is impossible for a machine to produce more energy than it consumes, which is the point that Patent Offices use to reject such applications. A machine that does this is characterised as a perpetual motion machine and when claimed as such it is ordinarily and routinely rejected by the UK Intellectual Property Office. The rejection provided by the Patent Office for a claim that relates to a device capable of producing more energy than it consumes is a utility rejection, which is based on the certainty that an invention does not have an industrial application if it is not capable of ever working.
With the enormous amount of new proposals from inventors that believe they have solved the mystery of perpetual motion the Patent Office and the Courts have made an official policy that when it comes to dealing with the applications they now require a working model.
The United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office has a specific practice on perpetual motion; Section 4.05 of the UKIPO Manual of Patent Practice states: Processes or articles alleged to operate in a manner which is clearly contrary to well-established physical laws, such as perpetual motion machines, are regarded as not having industrial application.
The patent process of a perpetual motion machine
When it comes to a perpetual motion machine the production of a working prototype is the only way the Patent Office would ever issue a claim for a device claimed as being able to produce more energy than it consumes. It is the only non-life sciences invention that still requires the submission of a working model.
The prototype will then be thoroughly tested and if the output is more than the input then a perpetual motion machine has been achieved and you can move forward through the patenting process. It is worth noting that even if a patent is granted, it does not mean that the invention actually works, it just means that the examiner believes that it works, or was unable to figure out why it would not work.
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