’Net Junkie

Shawn "Speedy" Lopes

Wacky patents abound
on the Internet

Have you ever ingested a lungful of cigarette smoke and thought, "Man, this would be great between grilled slices of bread?" Me neither. Why, then, would inventor Stuart M. Stebbings choose to patent the world's first cheese-filter cigarette in 1966? You may not find the answer at, but you will find a long list of equally absurd inventions.

Since 1790 more than 6 million patents have been issued by the U.S. Patent Office, including the telephone, the light bulb, the airplane and the artificial heart. In 1989, Moira and Frank Figone, of Belmont, Calif., were granted a patent for the personal muffler. No, it won't keep you warm during those chilly winter months, but it just might help lower your blood pressure. The foam lining inside this unusual cylindrical device insulates sound so that its user may yell into it without disturbing others. It's touted as a great stress reliever. The deluxe model even features an electronic display to measure the intensity of your screams.

At, we are reminded that Americans haven't quite cornered the market on great ideas. In fact, British inventions such as the photocopier, television, flushing toilet and jet engine have significantly affected our world. There have been, however, other dubious creations from across the pond like the coffin alarm, mustache protector, parachute hat and chicken spectacles, which -- surprise! -- never quite caught on. One inventor was sure he'd hit the jackpot when he assembled a gun helmet for the British army, but was soon discouraged when, during testing, the weapon's recoil broke a man's neck. (Note to self: Never moonlight as an invention tester.)

For more wacky inventions, try, which details a number of off-the-wall patents. Ever thought about designing a device for producing dimples? A hiccup treatment appliance? A bowel movement energizer system? A nonlethal cockfighting system? Well, you've already been beaten to the punch.

Now, if only someone would come up with an apparatus that writes last-minute columns, I could stop searching for "personal mufflers" on eBay.

’Net Junkie drops every Monday.
Contact Shawn "Speedy" Lopes at

Note: Web sites mentioned in this column were active at time of publication. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin neither endorses nor is responsible for their contents.

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