Google Chairman Eric Schmidt once noted that the patent system, originally designed to protect inventors, had degenerated into a swamp of lawsuits and creativity-killing delays. "These patent wars are death," he said in a 2012 chat at New York City's 92nd Street Y. "Everyone can find a prior art for everything. So the new trick is to get judges to block devices country by country. It's bad for innovation" [source: Ngak].
That aversion makes it all the more remarkable that Google has become one of the most prolific applicants for patents around. MIT Technology Review reported in 2013 that Google's brain trust of scientists and engineers was winning about 10 patents every day that the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office is open for business. Indeed, the company has become one of the top 10 patent recipients in the U.S. [source: Regalado].
Technology Review theorized Google quietly changed its view on patents to protect its Android operating system for mobile devices, after seeing the way that Apple did the same when it introduced the iPhone in 2007.
Many of its patents cover Android, as well as the search engine technology and other services that have been Google's bread and butter. Others have to do with game-changing future gadgetry that the Internet giant is developing, such as driverless robotic cars. But Google's innovation machine is also churning out even edgier innovations, many that might leave you scratching your head.
Here's a sample of 10 of the weirdest patents that Google has sought in recent years.