Of Cats and Lasers: A Patently Absurd Tale

Stephen R. Wilk

If you can’t get a patent for putting an eraser on the end of a pencil, how did someone get one for using a laser pointer to play with a cat?



When people talk about abuses of the patent system, one example they often point to is patent 5,443,036, granted August 22, 1995, and titled “Method of Exercising a Cat.” This patent essentially states that you can use a handheld laser to cast a spot of light on an opaque surface so that your cat will chase it. It does not explain or cover the device itself, nor does it apply to the laser built into a mechanism that redirects it. The patent merely applies to the idea of using a laser to play with your cat.

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