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Patently absurd

Paul Brislen, Editor. 15 August 2018, 7:10 am

Patents are a source of much amusement and occasionally some horror, particularly in the tech world.

While some are truly innovative, and can lead to huge improvements in technology and the lives of those who use them, some patents are clearly rather odd, pie in the sky, hopeful attempts to cash in on the work of others or even of half-baked dreams that seemingly occur during a fever.

And then there are others that really are quite alarming.

Google has its own share of patents on all manner of thing - it's latest is "A method and system for automating work pattern quantification" which seems pretty straightforward until you read that it will deliver "the process of quantifying work patterns and provides feedback on worker focus". That's right, the next Google app might tell your boss you're "slacking off".

Amazon has also famously been granted a patent over the "one-click" shopping experience, which surely must beg the question of what is patentable and what is simply a series of instructions (such as sheet music or software) and has also gone down the path of managing workers with its vibrating bracelet. Staff in the giant Amazon warehouses will be guided towards goods they need on a shelf via a bracelet that buzzes as the user moves the hand in the right direction, much like the kids game of "getting warmer". But as a byproduct it also lets management know when you're taking too long to get stuff done. No word yet on whether it will up the dosage and give you a bit of a slap if you're really playing hooky.

New Zealand has, thankfully, avoided the trap of software patents but these real-world contraptions are still on the books and may be coming to a warehouse, or computer, near you.


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