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Website of the Week — Obscure and Historic Patents

Time again for our Website of the Week, when we showcase interesting and innovative online destinations. This week we're featuring two related websites that highlight notable American inventions.

At the Gallery of Obscure Patents at, it's an amusing look at some of the more curious products ever awarded a patent.

MELE: "There are some that really range from the very strange or bizarre to some that do look useful. So I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I think the same thing would apply in the invention realm."

Peter Mele is a product manager at Thomson Scientific, the company that runs the Delphion website. Delphion provides full-text patent documents for professional users. He says they devised the Gallery of Obscure Patents as a lighthearted way of introducing users to their product. But it is fun to see that inventors spent time and money to patent such odd innovations as the bird diaper or a biodegradable toothbrush.

MELE: "My all-time favorite is the greenhouse helmet. It's a totally sealed, glass helmet with plants inside, so a person can breathe oxygen that's given off by the plants."

There's also a Braille slot machine, the ever-popular toe puppet, and of course the motorized rotating ice-cream cone.

On a more serious note, and just a click away, is the Gallery of Historic Patents, at, with the original patent documents for some of history's most important innovations.

MELE: "Thomas Edison's initial electric light bulb. The telephone by Alexander Graham Bell. So I think a lot of people can really identify with that, just in terms of, you know, when you think of inventions, certainly they're some of the people that you've heard about, and it's just very interesting as you go through the patent literature where it's actually retrievable."

The American patent system was actually established by our Constitution in 1789, and the country's founders included at least a couple of inventors — Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Patents grant an inventor the exclusive rights to an invention for a set period of time, and Peter Mele says that protection is an engine for innovation.

MELE: "It's providing an inventor the protection for an idea, and of course the object here is typically for commercialization. So it's really to protect that idea and all the costs associated with developing that idea and bringing it to the marketplace."

The Galleries of Historic and Obscure Patents at and provide only partial patent documents for free, but if you want to see the complete patent, we'll provide a link to a free service on our site,