In re Speas (Fed. Cir. 2008)
In a short non-precedential opinion, the CAFC affirmed the PTO’s rejection of Speas patent application as both non-enabled and lacking utility. The application claims:
"all devices and systems which operate in such a manner as to violate the second law of thermodynamics as it is currently understood.”
The CAFC briefly described operation of an embodiment:
‘According to the specification, the invention raises a ferrofluid out of a reservoir by a magnetic column into a mass. The ferrofluid then escapes a "gradually decreasing magnetic field which holds it up against gravitational force" and is drawn away via tubular element by a capillary force aided by Brownian motion. At the end of the tubular element, drops of this ferrofluid accumulate and drop back into the reservoir below, spinning a wheel along their downward paths. Thus, the movement of the ferrofluid imparts mechanical energy upon the wheel. Speas claims that because this ferrofluid is moved and adds energy to the paddle wheel "without input into the system other than ambient thermal energy," it is proof that the second law of thermodynamics is not inviolate – an object of the invention.’
- Although this type of case is fun to read, it also provides an interesting lesson — that the patent office has tools to reject inadequate patent applications on their merits without resorting to broad exclusions of particular subject matter.
- Speas is the inventor of several issued patents covering more practical applications such as an internal combustion engine and an adjustable bicycle drive mechanism. His home of record is in the town of Haiku on the island of Maui.