When the name of your blog is Patently Jewish and someone sends you a book titled Kosher Patents, it doesn’t get much more on topic than that. The book starts with a very good description of the patent process and how one goes about obtaining a patent. It’s written by Adam Diament, a patent attorney in California. (I’m a patent attorney in New Jersey.) It’s a very jewish field in general, including a good number of Torah observant patent attorneys. Another runs the ‘12:01am Tuesday‘ blog. Another was the former head of AT&T’s patent department who also happened to train me. Finally, yet another that I worked with a few years ago on litigation introduced himself to me in synagogue two weeks ago … it turned out we’ve been going to the same place on Friday nights for quite some time. Patent attorneys aren’t the most social bunch.
Anyway, that’s enough digression for now. Mr. Diament’s book then proceeds with a disclaimer about bad patents and the examples are really mostly the sort of thing for a coffee table. I got through the entire book in one sitting. It’s not very technical … just a picture each invention, what is the Jewish issue it’s trying to solve, and what the patent is for. Some are serious … like Maneshevitz’s matzah baking machine dating from the 1910s, but most are on the silly side of things. For example, a wand that you hold next to an LED light on a menorah to turn it on simulating lighting with a candle. Most are more on the silly side of things somewhat akin to another book, “Patently Silly.”
A great many of the inventions simply aren’t kosher at all. (The author usually points out the problems with the patents according to Jewish law, although I believe he is mistaken about a lack of source for fish not being eaten with meat.) There are various inventions to be able to turn on and off lights on the Sabbath, but most of them are totally invalid according to Jewish law, except in emergency situations when you’re probably better off just flipping the switch. Though I did like one – it was a cover to hold down the switch in your refrigerator so the light stays off when you open the door (we just don’t keep a bulb in our refrigerator). Many a ba’al teshuvah (loosely used today to describe someone who returns to Judaism from a more secular background) has a story about the first time they had to do that while staying at a relative’s house. Good times Dad, good times.
So in summary, it’s a good book to open discussion. Personally, I keep two pictures in my office – one is a stick figure cat drawn by Mark Cuban, and the other is a picture of my family and kids. Both do wonders to calm down nervous / paranoid inventors and paradoxically help us get down to business.