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Necessity, it is said, is the mother of invention. Sometimes, however, invention appears to come first. How else do you explain U.S. patent 3984595, an inflatable rug? Or U.S. patent 05356330, an apparatus for simulating a “high five”? As Rutherford Hayes, 19th U.S. president, is reported to have said after first seeing a telephone in 1876: “An amazing invention — but who would ever want to use one?”

It is doubtful the inflatable rug will prove as necessary as the phone. Nonetheless, it earned the blessing of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, along with all manner of strange patents on display at Delphion’s Gallery of Obscure Patents. There, you can find details and images of unusual patents, from the bird diaper to the human slingshot machine, and historical patents, including the air bag, the flying machine and Velcro.

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