Skip to navigationSkip to content
US Patent and Trademark Office
Odd.
PATENTLY RIDICULOUS

The most bizarre drawings in actual patents

Mike Murphy
By Mike Murphy

Technology editor

The drawings in patent applications are no longer the works of art they once were, and it seems that the US Patent and Trademark Office now allows for a fair bit of artistic freedom in submissions. These vague, and sometimes eerie, drawings have led to some strange patents in recent years—someone actually managed to patent swinging on a swing. It’s not just hobbyist inventors, either: Even big tech companies like Apple have been getting away some odd-looking artwork that has been rewarded with patents.

Here are some of Quartz’ favorite drawings from real patents:

A wearable table

US Patent and Trademark Office

There’s not really much else that needs to be said about this patent. Please fasten your seatbelt and return your tray table to its full upright and locked position before going outside wearing this. Also stop smiling like that.

Arm-mounted display

US Patent and Trademark Office

This patent drafter has an interesting idea of what humans look like, and was essentially awarded a patent for an arm rectangle. Unless you’re an American Football quarterback or Leela from Futurama, this probably won’t appeal to you.

A “wearable” drink holder

US Patent and Trademark Office

This terrifying and hand-drawn artwork is for a plush-toy drink holder that wraps around a child. We probably should not be teaching our children to interact with their toys in this fashion. This is how people end up marrying pillows.

Wearable power management system

US Patent and Trademark Office

This is a patent for a wearable system of power outlets, to charge electronics on the go. Beyond the fact that wearing this would make you look like a mid-90s member of the X-Men, wearing something that plugs you into an array of charging devices seems like a terrible, dangerous idea.

Ergonomic television remote control for couch potatoes

US Patent and Trademark Office
US Patent and Trademark Office

This is a patent for a television remote, shaped like a joystick. Because moving your arm is just un-American.

Baseball cap with interchangeable logos for fair-weather fans

US Patent and Trademark Office

In case the game isn’t going well for your team, don’t despair: This patent for a velcro-covered design lets you swap out the logo on a baseball cap.

Gun-shaped remote control unit for a television

US Patent and Trademark Office

This patent isn’t as bad as it is all-American. The US Constitution very clearly states that all citizens have the right to bear arms, including ones that change the TV channel.

Wearable electric field detector 

US Patent and Trademark Office

This patent detects if a power line worker is getting too close to a high-voltage power line that could electrocute him. The design of the device looks fine, but the depiction of the person wearing the device looks, well, a bit shocking.

A wearable computer system from the mid-90s

US Patent and Trademark Office

According to this patent, in the future, we will all be cyborgs with laptop bandoliers.

Eye movement tracker

US Patent and Trademark Office

This patent is for a device that tracks your eye movement as part of an eye exam. Who knows—the next time you go to the optometrist, you may end up looking like a cross between a professional cyclist and Darth Vader.

Portable tree step

US Patent and Trademark Office

This patent isn’t particularly poorly drawn—though why someone needs this contraption when the step stool has already been invented is beyond us—but it’s worth noting that the patent drafter took the time to outline the person and the tree in the patent with a dotted line. Just in case the patent examiner thought they were trying to patent a tree. Or a person.

Digital eyewear

US Patent and Trademark Office

This appears to just be for Benjamin Franklin’s glasses, with dots attached. While the patent has a very detailed drawing of a cross-section of the human eye, there’s no detailed drawing to explain how all the sensors, cameras and microphones are going to fit in something that looks like a regular pair of glasses.

Subscribe to the Daily Brief, our morning email with news and insights you need to understand our changing world.