Dampatch: 2 – Walter Patch

Patent

Walter Patch is a genius but no one knows it, least of all, Walter himself. Walter is always thinking of new ideas and inventions but he ignores them for a while until eventually someone else comes along and thinks of them. Having said no one knows he is a genius well, there is one person who does and it is not in his interest for anyone else to know this fact, but more of this later.

When it came to nature giving out good looks, Walter must have been busy that day and turned up late for his share! He is not what you might call ugly but he is strange looking. Most men go bald in the middle of their heads and have hair around the sides, not Walter; he is bald all round his head except for a patch of thick hair the size of a DVD in the middle of his head. He also has a bulbous red and blue nose that tended to dominate the rest of his face, so much so, that people who know him couldn’t tell you what colour eyes he has or whether he has thin or thick lips because whenever they talk to Walter, they always talk to his nose! If you must know, Walter has fleshy lips and sky blue eyes that peer at you shyly from behind round-rimmed glasses. His high cheekbones act as a ledge for his glasses and a basket for his substantial nose, just like a dog basket might do for a large bulldog. Having said all of this, Walter’s is a kind looking face almost to the point of being innocent. Finally, Walter contributed negatively to his general looks by being the World’s worst shaver who left clumps of unshaved bits all over his face and razor cuts and nicks in the areas that he managed to shave.

Walter, or Walt as he is sometimes called by his work colleagues, is not lazy; he is just absent minded and forgetful. He even has his name discreetly sewn into the inside of his only jacket underneath the name of the tailors who made the suit. Whenever he forgets his name, he quickly opens his jacket and reads it out to whoever is asking for it. This caused him some embarrassment on a number of occasions when he introduced himself as Austin Reed!

Before that, Walter had devised a word association system to remember his name, which worked some of the time but, it failed badly on many more occasions. His word association system works as follows: Walter sounds like water so instead of Walter, use Colour as in “water colours”, or Fall as in “waterfall”, or Baby as in “water baby”. Next, you take “Patch” which can be associated with Cabbage as in “cabbage patch”, or Work as in “patchwork”, or Private as in “private patch”. You then take two new words to make a memorable phrase. Ignore the phrases that don’t make sense like “Fall Private” and pick a phrase that does like “Baby Cabbage”. Now, you have a memorable phrase that will help you remember your name.

Or not! Unfortunately, this system led Walter to interesting new names, which had little or nothing to do with his real name. Walter got himself into all kinds of bother when wrongly decoding the phrase by filling in forms or introducing himself as “Cute Vegetable”, or “Toddler Green”! Besides, he concluded that remembering Baby Cabbage was as difficult as, if not more than, Walter Patch.

Walter’s mother died when he was five years old and his father, a maths teacher at the school across the road from their house; did the best he could for Walter until he too died when Walter was in his late teens. Walter’s father confused paternal love with giving. He showered his son with books on every occasion imaginable from birthdays to Christmas and Easter. As a result, Walter grew up lacking the love of his parents but overwhelmed by maths, science and technology books. To be fair though, Walter was brought up to be polite, hard working, contented with what life had to offer and totally lacking in ambition. Walter didn’t feel too bad about his father dying. He didn’t hate his father; they just had very little in common and even less to talk about. So his father’s death hardly made any difference to his life and he was able to adjust almost immediately.

Now fast approaching his 50th birthday (14 October 2009), Walter is still single. He is not shy with women. Walter is not brave with women. In fact, Walter is nothing with women. Sure, Walter did go out with a couple of girls in the past. On both occasions, they asked him out and being a polite person, he agreed. Both girls found him courteous, gentle, generous and extremely boring so, they never bothered to see him again and Walter didn’t mind at all.

When he finished his A-Levels with 6 straight A grades, Walter couldn’t see the point in going to university because he already knew everything about the subjects that interested him. He therefore decided to work near the things he loved most; he applied and got a job at the British Library as a Third Assistant to the Deputy Chief Librarian, Designate. His job had no particular structure; he just did what he was told by the Second Assistant. In the 12 years he worked there, Walter met the First Assistant only once when they were queuing up at the newspaper kiosk outside the library. To the best of his knowledge, Walter never queued up for a newspaper behind or in front of the Deputy Chief Librarian, designate or otherwise. As for the Chief Librarian him/herself, Walter thought it would be easier to pump into the Queen of England pushing a supermarket trolley! In fact, he doubted the existence of a Chief Librarian.

As an amateur inventor, Walter finally left the British Library when he came across a job advert in the London Evening Standard inviting applicants interested in becoming Patent Office trainee examiners. The Patent Office was a few minutes away from the British Library so; Walter walked over and applied in person before he had a chance to change his mind. Walter was very surprised to be offered a job and he accepted it even though it paid less than his current position at the British Library.

The Patent Office shared their offices at Southampton Buildings in Chancery lane, London with a government department called “Secretaries of Bankrupts & Lunatics”. You must bear in mind that this department dealt with people who were either bankrupt or lunatic but not both! To the best of my knowledge, the government is yet to create a department for dealing with both challenges simultaneously. No, this department is responsible for looking after the assets of people who become broke or go mad. Both the Patent Office and the Secretaries for Bankrupts & Lunatics functions were growing very fast, possibly due to an outbreak of inventions, business failures and madness. To give both departments more room, the government decided to relocate the Patent Office to Newport in South Wales.

Walter loved his job and never considered leaving the Patent Office so, despite the fact that he had never been to Wales in his life, he did not hesitate in selling his flat in Streatham Hill and relocating to a nice 3-bedroom house in Maesglas Crescent on the south western outskirts of Newport, which is within 10 minutes walking distances from the new Patent Office building in Tredegar Park.

Now, when you invent or design something new (there is no point in inventing something old, is there?), you can register it in your name to stop others from stealing your idea. So, you get an application form, you write the name of your invention or design and give detailed description and diagrams to explain what it is and what it does. You then send the application to the “Patent Office” and they decide if what you have invented is really new and if it is explained clearly enough. This is to stop people from just sending an application stating: “I have invented a car that runs on juice” or something ridiculous like that. You have to prove your claim and you have to explain what kind of juice your amazing car runs on. If you don’t and they let you register your invention so badly, then sometime in the future when someone really invents a car that runs on say carrot juice, you could come along and say “hang on, this person has stolen my invention!” which wouldn’t be fair on our carrot juice vehicle inventor, would it?

As a “Patent Examiner”, Walter’s job at the Patent Office is to check applications and decide if they are acceptable applications, rubbish applications, or need more details. This may sound like an easy job and it is, for Walter Patch that is. Walter knows and remembers every invention that ever was. Which is weird when you think about it because here is a man who can’t remember his own name or if he had lunch or not but he remembers tens of thousands of inventions, just like that! When an application is handed in, Walter examines it carefully and writes in the special box on the form which says “official use only – Leave blank”, that the application is “Accepted”, “Rejected” or “MIR” which means “more information required”.

Every application must be entered on the Patent Office computer system and any additional documentation such as diagrams must be scanned and attached to the application. No matter what happens to the application, it can never be deleted from the system, which makes the Patent Office database full of mishmash of ingenious, clever, weird and down right stupid applications.

If an application is accepted, Walter types “Accepted” in the special box and issues a letter to the applicant to inform him/her of the success of his/her application. The letter would say something like:

24 January 1987

Dear Mr Cloggs,

I am pleased to inform you that your application for the “Compact Automated Nasal Excavator System, C.A.N.E.S” has been approved by the Patent Office.

As of the date of this letter, you and your nominated business associates will have the sole rights to the manufacture and distribution of such a product throughout the United Kingdom. Good luck!

Yours Sincerely

 

Walter Patch (Patent Examiner)

If the application is rejected, he enters “Rejected”, together with a reason for the rejection, and issues an apology letter to the applicant. The letter would say something like:

13 March 1988

Dear Mrs Waste,

I regret to inform you that your application for the “SquareAbout” has been rejected by the Patent Office.

The Patent Office feels that as a traffic management idea, the roundabout is already in existence and your invention of a Square About works very much on the same principles, except for the shape being square instead of round. Therefore, your invention is deemed to be “not unique”. Good luck.

Yours Sincerely

 

Walter Patch (Patent Examiner)

If more information is required, he enters “MIR” together with an explanation and sends a letter to the applicant explaining what other information required for the application to be accepted. The letter would say:

9 November 1993

Dear Mr Vague,

Thank you for submitting your application for the “Electronic Nose Picker”. In order for us to assess your invention appropriately, we require further information from you. Can you therefore complete the attached application form, making sure you cover the following:

  • Does the word “picker” imply “selector” or “remover”?
  • Please make sure that your description clearly states that your invention is either a nostril cleaner or a cosmetic aid to help people select the most appropriate nose for their face shape.
  • Please provide diagrams that describe the invention in sufficient details to the level where a working model maybe built from the descriptions and diagrams provided.

Failure to provide the above information may lead to the rejection of your application. Good luck.

Yours Sincerely

 

Walter Patch (Patent Examiner)

There are many other patent examiners in the Patent Office who do a similar job but they have to use the computer to look up all similar inventions to compare them to the application before making a decision. Normally, this takes the average trained examiner at least 4 hours to complete the checks, some times they take days if the invention is particularly complex, while Walter can do it within 15 minutes flat!

Because of his unique talents, Walter has been doing this job for over 18 years now and has had only one promotion when they dropped the word Trainee from his title, but had no effective change of responsibilities. Other examiners who are less capable than him have been promoted over him and they are paid much more than him. That never bothers Walter who loves his job as it is, thank you very much. His own supervisor, Adam Newsence is 10 years younger than him and knows very little about inventions and inventors but he is good at talking about himself and taking credit for things; that’s why he is now Walter’s Supervisor. Whenever Adam Newsence is stuck, he goes to Walter and asks for his help, Walter always helps him and Adam goes off and writes a report to his boss, the Senior Supervisor, telling him about how he personally solved the problem, which pleases the Senior Supervisor so much, he gives him a bonus. Walter gets nothing, but he doesn’t mind.

Since the age of 10, Walter Patch has invented hundreds of things and in spite of the fact that they were very clever; none of them were ever developed. Here is a sample of the things Walter Patch invented but never registered and some of which, I am sure you will notice were subsequently invented by someone else:

  • The Nobaggie – In 1979, Walter invented a bag-less vacuum cleaner
  • Doors – 1980, a computer operating system that allows you to navigate between various applications by walking through doors labelled with the names of applications
  • GNU (Global Network Utility) – 1981, a means of accessing information from public databases via personal computers using telephone lines
  • Textile Phone – 1982, a wireless hand held phone that can be used to make calls but to also send and receive text messages
  • Featherbag – 1983, a car safety feature that comes into operation in the event of a crash by filling the inside of the car with goose and duck feathers
  • Kneetop – 1985, a small personal computer that can be placed on your knees to operate
  • Handtop – 1987, a compact personal computer placed on one hand and operated with the other
  • EarPod – 1990, a personal, high quality music system which is very compact and can hold hundreds of tracks of your favourite music
  • Niagara – 1992, a pill that helps the male user to perform better in the bedroom!
  • TummyTop – 1996, similar to the Kneetop but can be used when lying in bed or slouching on a sofa by placing the small computer on your tummy and the screen rotates in relation to the position of your head
  • 1998 – Smart Finger, a tiny microchip is implanted under the skin of your finger. The chip can be programmed to hold your personal details including your telephone number, address, date of birth, blood type, etc. You can also download your bank details and use it to draw cash or pay fro goods at the shops. All you have to do is stick your finger in a hole, which has a microchip reader. Walter is still working on this idea because he is yet to solve the problem of when you lose your finger or your whole hand in an accident. Also thieves might start chopping peoples’ fingers off instead of picking their pockets!
  • 2000 – CarCom, a car-to-car communication display system on the back windscreen or the side windows which allows the car driver to send messages to other car drivers while on the road.

As you can see, many of these examples were subsequently thought of by other people who went ahead and invented them under different brand names. Walter never felt bitter about that. He never even thought to himself that his own version would have been better. He just accepted the situation as “ah well, well, well, that’s life I suppose” and went on to work on his next invention.

Don’t get me wrong; Walter Patch is a happy and contented man who has no complaints about anything. He never lets little irritations like being overlooked for promotion or missing out on inventions get in the way of his thinking about the next new idea.

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