Home » Patents » Prior art in strange places: The Beano, Donald Duck and 2001 as prior art

Prior art in strange places: The Beano, Donald Duck and 2001 as prior art

Keltie LLP

K2 IP Limited

About IPcopy

IPcopy is an intellectual property related news site covering a wide variety of IP related news and issues. We will also take the odd lighthearted look at IP. Feel free to contact us via the details on the About Us page.

Disclaimer: Unless stated otherwise, the contributors to IPcopy (the "IPcopy writers") are patent and trade mark attorneys or patent and trade mark assistants at Keltie LLP or are network attorneys at K2 IP Limited. Guest contributors will be identified.

This news site is the personal site of the contributors and is not edited by the authors' employer in any way. From time to time however IPcopy may publish practice notes, legal updates and marketing news from Keltie LLP or K2 IP Limited. Any such posts will be clearly marked.

This news site is for information purposes only. Information posted to this news site is not legal advice and should not be taken as such. If you require IP related legal advice please contact your legal representative.

For the avoidance of doubt Keltie LLP and K2 IP Limited have no liability as to the content of IPcopy and any related tweets or social media posts.

Privacy Policy

IPcopy’s Privacy Policy can be viewed here.

Prior artA conversation seen on Twitter the other week got me thinking about prior art originating from strange places. We’re all used to receiving patent literature or conference papers as prior art. Sometimes if you’ve “pitched the invention wrong” you might even receive a Wikipedia page as prior art but what’s the oddest prior art you’ve seen in a patent or other IP related case?

How about 2001: A Space Odyssey? Or The Beano? Or a Donald Duck comic? Believe it or not, these are actual sources of prior art as we’ll see below.

2001: A Space Odyssey

The most recent example dates from 2011 when Apple and Samsung were deep in the middle of their multi-jurisdiction patent and design spat. FIling its opposition to Apple’s preliminary injunction against four Samsung products, Samsung went deep with its prior art search. Into deep space that is with a reference to the film 2001 and in particular a still image of crew members Bowman and Poole eating while watching two “iPad” like devices. The relevant clip is below and the actual opposition brief can be seen here (see page 12 of the PDF for the still from the film).

Donald Duck

An official document on this story eludes me but the story revolves around Danish inventor Karl Krøyer who filed patent applications relating to a method of raising a sunken ship by filling it with buoyant bodies fed through a tube.

Patent applications were filed in the UK (GB 1070600), Germany (DE1247893) and the Netherlands (NL 6514306) but the story goes that although the UK and Germany allowed the patents, the Dutch patent office raised an objection based on a Donald Duck comic strip from 1949 called The Sunken Yacht. In the story a ship is raised by filling it with ping pong balls. The panel in question from the comic can be seen here. [Update: IPcopy reader Giuseppe Colucci has contacted us and provided a copy of an article he wrote a while ago on this subject that includes an extended version of the comic panel in question. This article, which is in Italian, can be accessed here.]

The Beano

Back to the UK for our last example and a patent application from 1983 for “an entry signal system for pets” (GB2117179).

Ding Dong! Fido calling...

Ding Dong! Fido calling…

During prosecution of this application the Examiner cited The Beano No. 2015, page 1 after allegedly seeing his son reading the comic book at the breakfast table! The front page of the issue in question can be seen here (look at the top right panel and then compare it to the Figure above).

In this case the reference to the Beano actually appears on the front page of the published patent application!


However, it seems that the Beano citation was either not used by the Examiner or successfully argued against by the Application as this patent granted!

Has anyone seen any other examples of prior art that have come out of left field? I seem to recall hearing a story about a patent application for aircraft carrier launch ramps that attracted some odd prior art but I can’t find any reference to it online.

Mark Richardson 12 February 2015

1 Comment

  1. Wolfgang says:

    Dear Mark,
    congratulation, great stuff. When it comes to odd prior art don’t forget James Bond. See the documents cited in UK Patent application GB 2273053, breathing apparatus… Best regards from Munich.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: