Are Rajinikanth’s Methods Patentable?

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This post was first published on July 27th, 2011.

Patentability of process inventions has always been interesting and controversial. We have earlier reported that the methods of performing yoga, massaging, walking on water and so on are patentable. After reading some of these posts, one of my colleagues (seemingly a big Rajinikanth fan) was curious about the patentability of Rajinikanth’s methods and hence this post.

Let us begin with the basics. As per the Indian Patents Act, any process or product is patentable if it meets all patentability requirements. All methods are therefore patentable unless they are expressly excluded under Section 3, which provides a list of non-patentable inventions. Non-patentable methods include medical methods, business methods and so on.

Now, moving to the Super Star, Rajinikanth. All of us who watch south Indian movies know him very well. He is a great entertainer and has more than one trick up his sleeve in every movie. His tricks range from lighting a cigarette in the air to swirling his glares before wearing them. Let us consider the process of lighting a cigarette in the air for our analysis purposes. In one embodiment, his process includes the following steps:

  • holding the cigarette  between the index and middle finger;

  • Tossing the cigarette in the air at a ninety-degree angle;

  • Lighting  a match stick; and

  • Throwing the match at an angle of impact on the tip of the cigarette.

Each step, of course, has multiple embodiments.  Such a method would definitely be patentable if the angles can be pre-determined along with time. However, if the said method is dependant on mental steps or requires a person to exercise his mind in order to get the right angle to light the cigarette, the process will be hit by the mental steps doctrine, which will preclude patentability.

This process is no different than a method of performing yoga or massaging and is not expressly excluded from patentable subject matter. It may be argued by some people that such an invention does not satisfy industrial applicability requirement, especially with respect to repeatability by a person with ordinary skill, but the art can definitely be mastered with practice. Repeatability is of course not a problem for someone like Rajinikanth, who is a perfectionist.

Any thoughts …?

Authored by: Dr. Kalyan C. Kankanala

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