Weird Laws

Sometimes I receive a writing assignment that makes me stop and wonder, “Where do I start on this one?” Sometimes the assignment is a little more apparent and soon reveals a clear starting point. Then, there are other times that the topic can be a little daunting, mainly because there is just so much information. I have a feeling that is what Weird Law will end up being. After all, there are more attorneys in the than there are people in some countries. And we keep turning out more every year.

The concept behind this column is simple. I’ll be digging around, using my classified sources and looking beyond the Courtrooms to find those law suits and legal situations that make you stop and look twice, maybe even three times. I’ll be looking for jury verdicts that make your jaw drop, criminal activity that makes one stop and shake their head, government action that makes you wish you could keep your tax dollars and anything else in the legal arena make you realize that stupidity is perhaps one of the most common mental disorders in the world today. With all of the attorneys in the world today, it’s not too hard to see that there should rarely, if ever, be a lack of topics.

So let’s dive in.

One of the most interesting areas of the law where the weird and bizarre are almost common is the area of patent laws. Patents protect inventors from competition and other infringement on their inventions. Federal law allows for inventors to complete an application and have a patent for their invention issued to them. The problem is the inventions don’t really have to be logical or even practical even though the invention must be new and non-obvious. At least that is what they are supposed to be.

For instance, those that love a good fight between gamecocks, and I am not talking about the South Carolina Gamecocks, recently an application for a patent was made for “non-lethal gamecock sparing equipment.” The idea is that the birds would be fitted with special protective vests, their claws and beaks would be covered and whenever the bird was pecked or scratched with a talon, the special vest would transmit a signal to a scoreboard. Instant humane cock fights. According to the description of the patent on the web site of the United States Patent office, the invention would allow for the blending of the cultures. It seems certain Latin American and Asian cultures are really into this sport; however, in most of the this sport is illegal. The thought is that with a non-lethal fighting system, everyone can be happy. I can see a great secondary market for advertisers on the vest and maybe even designer cock fighting vest made by Polo or Tommy Hilfiger.

One of the frustrating things many people experience when looking at new inventions, is the, “Why didn’t I think of that?” phenomena. However, no matter how inventive or how unique things are, the patent holder for the “Animal Toy” has to take the prize in this category for the one invention that perhaps everyone will wonder how they missed being the first to file for a patent. The Animal Toy is an “apparatus” to be used as a toy that can be fetched, carried or chewed upon. By way of description, it resembles a branch. It will even float. Now, I am an attorney and not a scientist, but I think what they are describing here is a stick. This makes me wonder if I should try to patent the “Organic Counter Flotation System.” I also call it a rock.

Crime is a problem. We all have to deal with it and all suffer one way or the other from it. However, from time to time, criminals show just how stupid they really are. While this doesn’t tend to make crime any less of a problem, at least the dumb criminals out there give us something to laugh at.

For instance, two brothers in

Oklahoma
showed that they would never get their feet wet when they walked out of their gene pool. The boys, while out for a stroll, passed some police officers eating lunch and commented that the officers might feel more at home with some doughnuts. Side note here – first rule of criminal activity. Don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself. Well, the brothers were off to the local Wal-Mart to steal a stereo. A short time later, with their newly thieved stereo in a Wal-Mart shopping cart, the would-be brain surgeons walked back past the same police officers who stopped them, recognizing them from their earlier comments. When the two couldn’t give a consistent story on where they got the stereo, a phone call to Wal-Mart confirmed the robbery and won the boys a free ride in a police car.

Sometimes stupid criminals even make allies of bitter rivals. Earlier this month in

Atlanta
, three people, including one employee of Coca-Cola were arrested by the FBI for trying to sell the secret formula for Coke to Pepsi. It seems that an employee of Coca-Cola approached Pepsi and offered to sell the secret Coke formula. Pepsi called Coke and dropped a dime on the employee. Coca-Cola called the FBI who set up a sting. Coca-Cola even thanked Pepsi for helping out. The employee who was going to sell the secrets was a random administrative assistant so it makes one wonder if the secret formula for Coke is just posted by the water cooler at the Coke factory.

It’s no surprise that lawyers are to thank for a lot of the just plain silly legal disclaimers and warnings that we have to deal with these days. One law suit will scare a company into slapping warning labels on everything they manufacture or sell in an effort to protect them from yet another law suit. While warnings and other cautions on products are generally quite helpful, some of them are just a bit much.

For instance, a popular electric router for carpenters carries the warning, “This product is not meant to be used as a dental drill.” I certainly hope my dentist isn’t moonlighting as a cabinet maker.

A baby stroller warning cautions, “Remove child before folding.” I guess that the children riding in the strollers would be thankful.

Overeating is a big problem in our country, but is it really necessary for printer toner cartridges to caution, “Do not eat toner”?

Perhaps the most interesting warning is found on a bottle of drain cleaner. The warning says, “If you do not understand, or cannot read, all directions, cautions and warnings, do not use this product.” This generally defies comment.

So that is it for our first installment. If you run across any weird legal news, message me through Associated Content and I will do my best to get it in the column. In the coming weeks, we will look at law suits, strange courtroom escapades and other events that make us happy that our judicial system is there when we need it.

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