How To Swing

How To Swing

Primary sources exposed and explained.
June 28 2006 6:22 PM

How To Swing


Looking back from the 22nd century, future historians will marvel at the current era's obsession with extending intellectual property rights well past any reasonable limit. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the United States Patent and Trademark Office's determination to grant a patent to even the most absurd claims  that cross its desk. Four years ago a patent attorney in Minnesota named Peter Olson demonstrated this by submitting the following patent  in the name of his five year-old son, Steven. The patent was granted. Read it and weep.

(To read the footnotes below and on the following seven pages, roll your mouse over the passages highlighted in yellow.)


Peter Olson's son, then five years old.
This technique is, of course, nearly as old as childhood itself. Parents usually discourage it because it can cause you to crash into the child in the next swing, which isn't very nice.

Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His  book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.