Fumbling Flights and Patent Rights!

History has been replete with some really crazy patents, some that could send you rolling on the floor laughing. Let’s start off with a few, back in March 1995, a patent was issued for “A funnel that helps women urinate accurately!!.” In May 2003, a patent was granted for “Pierced Glasses!!”, these glasses were intended for use with the idea that people would never have to lose their glasses again once these glasses were “pierced” to the face. In October 2004, a patent was issued for “A giant pyramid-shaped tomb!” that’s right; someone actually patented one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The best patent among the list in my view, was for an “Apparatus for facilitating the birth of a child by centrifugal force” I am so glad to have not been born using this apparatus and I am sure you are too!
Recently, another patent sent me into tears of laughter, not so much as because of what the patent was for but instead for the comments and reactions that people were found giving with regard to this patent. Recently Zodiac Seats France, a division of Zodiac Aerospace filed a patent at the International Bureau, WIPO for a new space-saving design for passenger seats in the economy section.
The invention is pretty simple, in the words of the patent specification filed by the company “[0007] Conventionally, the seats  are positioned at the same longitudinal position within the cabin, so that space needed at shoulder and arm area is limiting on passenger comfort. ,
[0008] Thus, in certain cases, it may be desirable to increase cabin density while also creating seat units that increase the space available at the shoulder and arm area by creating an overlap in the shoulder areas of the adjacent seats.
[0010] According to certain embodiment’s of the present invention, a seating arrangement comprises at least one row comprising at least one forward-facing seat and at least one aft-facing seats are arranged adjacent to one another so that a shoulder space on one side of the at least one forward-facing seat overlaps with adjacent shoulder space of the at least one aft-facing seat”
Original patent text available here
The patent basically says that instead of traditional rows of seats, the new design would require passengers to sit in alternating front or rear facing seats. This means that, if you are facing the front of the plane, the people to either side of you would be facing the tail of the plane, and most likely staring at you for the duration of the flight!
These diagrams illustrate the design of seating sought to be patented by the company; Figure 1 shows the top view and Figure 2 shows the side view of the seating arrangement. [source –espacenet]
Blogs and tech sites have been abuzz with comments regarding the new proposed design. There are multiple issues and concerns regarding the new design. While the new design makes leg room available, the shoulder room is compromised, which is to say that the inconvenience is the same, but the mode of inconvenience and area of inconvenience are changed, there is no provision for reclining which suggests that the travel must be completed sitting in an upright position. Many people have also rightly questioned the safety of such a seating in case of an emergency. With increasing safety standards being established everyday in the aviation sector, this new design seems to mock the issue of safety! For instance the invention would have to qualify the criteria of  the seats capability of withstanding 16g forces in the event of a crash, the passengers’ ability to evacuate quickly, to name a few.  Some of the comments regarding the new design include suggesting the company to introduce – standing travel, as in a bus or train. This snapshot of the comments should be sufficient to tickle your funny bone.
In conclusion, even if the patent for this absurd design is granted, any company that does implement this patent is bound to lose some customers. Given that there has been an increase in the airfares every now and then, if the company provides such a design and does not lower the fare, it is certainly bound to lose the economy class passengers.
The views presented in this blog are that of the authors alone and do not represent the views of the organization in any way.
Authored by Gaurav Mishra.