If reinventing the wheel is ridiculous, being able to patent such a device is even more so. Yet that is what happened in 2001 when patent attorney John Keogh won a patent for a circular transportation facilitation device from the patent office in Australia. He did this to flag up deficiencies in the country's new patenting system. But the problem is an international one and as patent offices are moving from paper records to digital storage it is getting worse, not better.
Striking deficiencies in the way patent offices around the world are digitising their information means that patents could be wrongly granted on thousands of inventions, says Willem Geert Lagemaat, president ofPatCom, the European association of patent information providers.
10:30 03 April 2005 NewScientist.com news service Paul Marks