US Patent Office awards patent to herbal snakeoil that "kills cancer"

The USPTO awarded Patent 8,609,158 last December for a mix of "evening primrose oil, rice, sesame seeds, green beans, coffee, meat, cheese, milk, green tea extract, evening primrose seeds, and wine" that "rebukes cancer, cancer cells, and kills cancer" -- the accompanying extract states, "it works." Sounds legit.

This patent’s most obvious flaw is lack of utility – there’s no proof that the invention works. But the system places the burden of proof on the Patent Office, not the person asking for a 20 year monopoly. The examiner likely decided a rejection was not worth the effort – frankly, we wonder whether the examiner even read the application. In a similar case, the Patent Office issued a patent to an applicant whose work was widely known to be fraudulent. (The purported inventor had even spent time in jail for the fraud.) As Professor James Grimmelmann observed at the time: “The USPTO is an armory handing out legal howitzers on the honor system. What could possibly go wrong?”

Magical Drug Wins EFF’s Stupid Patent of the Month [Daniel Nazer/EFF]