Artist and engineer Alexander Reben has written an algorithm that exploits the convoluted US patent system in order to mess with patent trolls—people and organizations who file for patents on trivial concepts without any intention of building a product, then extort money from those who actually make things.
His project, All Prior Art, posts ideas for “inventions” to prevent people from filing patents they’re not going to use. According to US patent law, if there’s “prior art“—in this case, a previously published version of the idea—no one can file a patent on it. He’s posted 4.2 million such ideas and counting.
Says Reben, “The real purpose of the patent system is to reward innovation and help protect people who put in a lot of time and money testing and doing R&D.” He hopes to address this with his fake ideas.
The algorithm pulls from the entirety of current US patents and mashes together random phrases and sentences, so the inventions are quite often meaningless.