19 Times People Tried To Claim Absurdly Basic Ideas As Their Own

07/18/2014 07:37 am ET | Updated Jul 21, 2014
  • Harry Bradford Associate Editor, HuffPost Business and HuffPost Small Business

There are plenty of people who deserve the credit they received for a brilliant idea. Think of Eli Whitney and his Cotton Gin or C.L. Fender and his electric guitar. We can all agree these guys should be recognized for their contributions to the world.

But claiming ownership of the sun? Now that's a little extreme. Yet all the time, people and companies come forward trying to claim that they deserve exclusive ownership of the most basic of concepts. We're talking about things like toast, people.

So we tried to find the most ridiculous things people have tried to patent, trademark or just try to claim they legally owned. The results confirm what you probably already knew: People will try just about anything to make a couple extra bucks.

  • 1 Pyramids
    U.S. Patent Office
  • Is it possible to patent one of the wonders of the world? In a manner of speaking, yes. In 2002, inventors Daniel Thomas Dudek and Pamela Rene Heard successfully filed a patent on "burial structures providing space for multiple human remains" that "gives lasting, beautiful and reverent surroundings for the deceased." Above is the drawing included in the application. Look familiar?
  • 2 Pi Symbol
    BeholdingEye via Getty Images
  • Brooklyn-based apparel company Pi Productions Corp. may have successfully trademarked its logo -- a pi symbol followed by a period -- but the company was roundly criticized when it issued a cease-and-desist letter to custom t-shirt design website Zazzle over its use of the symbol.
  • 3 "You're Fired"
    JEWEL SAMAD via Getty Images
  • Following the success of NBC's "The Apprentice," Donald Trump attempted to trademark the show's infamous catchphrase. Thankfully for bosses everywhere, he was denied, but not for the reasons you may expect. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office actually deemed the expression too similar to "You're Hired," the name of a trademarked educational board game.
  • 4 19-0
    Rob Carr via Getty Images
  • In one of the greatest patent jinxes of all-time, the NFL's New England Patriots attempted to trademark 19-0, in reference to 2008's nearly perfect season. Whether the trademark was approved or denied quickly became irrelevant when the team ultimately lost the Super Bowl -- and its perfect season -- to the New York Giants.
  • 5 "Stealth"
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • "Intellectual property entrepreneur" and patent troll Leo Stoller trademarked the word "stealth" back in 1985. As a result, he's fought court battles over the word with Northrup Grumman, K-Mart and Colombia Pictures, among others.
  • 6 "Glass"
    Justin Sullivan via Getty Images
  • Google applied for a trademark of the word "glass" in 2013. The application was denied on the grounds that the word was "merely descriptive" rather than "distinctive." Um, yeah.
  • 7 "That's Hot"
    Charles Sykes/Invision/AP
  • During the heyday of Paris Hilton's fame, she won a lawsuit against Hallmark over the use of her 2000s TV catchphrase "that's hot," which is not hot.
  • 8 BANANAS
    loops7 via Getty Images
  • Fashion stylist Rachel Zoe successfully trademarked the catchphrases "BANANAS" and "I DIE," preventing an artist from creating t-shirts using them. Dead.
  • 9 "Candy"
    PHILIPPE HUGUEN via Getty Images
  • Candy isn't always so sweet. Makers of the mobile game Candy Crush Saga attempted to trademark the word "Candy" to stave off competitors in 2013 before ultimately abandoning the effort the following year. The company still does have a trademark on the word in the European Union, however, and has gone to court over the use of the word "saga."
  • 10 "Footlong"
    Nicole Goksel, AOL
  • In 2013, Subway unsuccessfully attempted to trademark the word "footlong" in reference to its sandwiches. And no, the decision had nothing to do with separate accusations that the footlong sandwiches aren't actually 12 inches long.
  • 11 Heart-Shaped Hand Gesture
    GERARD JULIEN via Getty Images
  • Seems like just about everyone wants to claim ownership over the heart-shaped hand gesture. Google has reportedly applied to patent the gesture for use with Google Glass. In the U.K., soccer player Gareth Bale (above) has attempted to trademark the gesture for a line of apparel.
  • 12 Mc - Anything
    Stephen J. Boitano via Getty Images
  • McDonald's has a mostly successful history of going after competitors who use the prefix "Mc-" in their names, but it did lose one trademark battle in 2009 with Malaysia's McCurry, according to Business Insider.
  • 13 Toast
    Izaphoto via Getty Images
  • A patent application filed in 1999 claimed to be a "method of refreshening a bread product by heating the bread product to a temperature between 2500° F. and 4500° F." Hmm, sounds an awful lot like toast doesn't it? Albeit, really, really hot toast.
  • 14 "Orange"
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Syracuse University applied to trademark the word "orange" in both 2004 and 2006 and it appears they were successful, according to the school's website. Other trademarks registered by Syracuse? "SU" and "Orange in the Apple."
  • 15 "Face"
    David Ramos via Getty Images
  • Facebook successfully trademarked the word "face," essentially preventing other tech companies from using it. It also has reportedly trademarked other words including "Wall,” “Facepile” and "FB," although it remains unclear if it has been successful preventing other companies from using the word "book."
  • 16 Smell Of Strawberries
    blueenayim via Getty Images
  • Eden Sarl, a Paris-based perfume and clothing company, tried and failed to trademark the aroma of strawberries, claiming they all smelled the same. The proposal was rejected after the review board determined that "different varieties of strawberries produce significantly different smells."
  • 17 Kissing
    George Marks
  • Romance publisher Harlequin attempted to patent “The Essential Romantic Kiss” in 2011. The patent application described kissing as a "a method by which two people can reciprocate their romantic feelings towards one another in a manner that deepens attachment, provides pleasure and promotes physical and emotional well-being." While technically accurate, it's not the most romantic description.
  • 18 The Sun
    Nastco via Getty Images
  • Spanish woman Angeles Duran claimed ownership of the sun after registering it as her property with the local notary public. She claimed herself "owner of the Sun, a star of spectral type G2, located in the centre of the solar system, located at an average distance from Earth of about 149,600,000 kilometers.” Her attempts to charge a fee for those using the sun, however, seem to have been less successful.
  • 19 Patents
    U.S. Patent Office
  • Yep, if the whole world of patenting and trademarking wasn't meta enough for you, both IBM and Halliburton have filed patent applications that essentially boil down to patenting patents themselves. Does your head hurt yet?

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