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A CASE STUDY OF INOPERABLE INVENTIONS: WHY IS THE USPTO PATENTING PSEUDOSCIENCE? - page 2 / 39

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WISCONSIN LAW REVIEW

I.

INTRODUCTION

A. The Problem of Inoperable Inventions

In 1996, a district court granted the United States a permanent injunction against the Quadro Corporation, enjoining Quadro from selling a class of devices variously called the Quadro Tracker, Golfball Gopher, Trailhook, or Treasure Hunter.1 The marketing literature for these devices claimed that they could detect unseen objects by directing the bearer of the device in the correct direction, much like a dowsing rod acts to conduct its bearer towards water.2 For example, it claimed that the Quadro Tracker was capable of detecting contraband such as illegal drugs and explosives.3 X-rays of the device determined that it consisted of nothing more than a hollow plastic shell with an attached radio antenna.4 Thus, like the classic dowsing rod, the Quadro Tracker was incapable of detecting anything.5 The primary victims of this fraud were law-enforcement agencies, correctional institutions, and school systems.6

Enter DKL International, Inc.7 DKL markets a very expensive, handheld device called the DKL LifeGuard8—purported to be capable of detecting living humans at a distance—to government agencies worldwide.9 Like the Quadro Tracker, the DKL LifeGuard fails to function as claimed.10 Why then is DKL International allowed to market its detectors while the Quadro Corporation is enjoined from selling similar devices? One possible explanation is that the DKL LifeGuard,

1.

U.S. v. Quadro Corp., 928 F. Supp. 688, 699 (E.D. Tex. 1996), aff’d,

127 F.3d 34 (5th Cir. 1997).

2.

Id. at 691-92. “Dowsing” is an ancient practice whereby a person holding

an L-shaped rod or stick attempts to locate a hidden target, usually water. Wikipedia,

Dowsing,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dowsing

(last

visited

Nov.

1,

2006).

Practitioners of dowsing consistently fail to locate hidden objects with greater accuracy than expected by chance when tested under controlled conditions. Id.

  • 3.

    Quadro Corp., 928 F. Supp. at 690.

  • 4.

    Id. at 692.

  • 5.

    See id.

  • 6.

    Id. at 690.

  • 7.

    DKL International, Inc., Welcome to DKL, http://www.dklabs.com (last

visited Nov. 1, 2006).

8.

DKL International, Inc., Products, http://www.dklabs.com/products.html

(last visited Nov. 1, 2006). Models range in price from $6,000 to $15,000. Kendrick Frazier, ‘Human Presence Detector’ Device Fails Controlled Tests at National

Laboratory, THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, July-Aug. 1998, at 8.

9.

See

DKL

International,

Inc.,

Customers,

http://www.dklabs.com/customers.html (last visited Nov. 1, 2006).

10.

See infra Part IV.A.

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