TECH BUZZ || PATENT WATCH BY KIRK TESKA
Patented weight loss schemes: There are more than a million.
MECHANICAL ENGINEERING | NOVEMBER 2014 | P.18
with a very uncomfortable looking spring-like
ring coupled to a belt for pulling your tummy
in. Apparently, these obesity belts were pretty
popular back in the day. In obesity belt Patent No.
806,482 (December 5, 1905) the inventor alleges:
“It is well known that by manipulating the body
with a corrugated roller of wood, rubber, or other
firm material the massage effect reduces weight
and flesh. Acting on this principle I provide means
for bringing a series of these rollers into position
on the body, and particularly across the abdomen,
in such a way that the natural movements of the
body will cause the rollers to act both verti-
cally and laterally, so as to subject the body to a
continuous, but mild and yet effective, massaging,
thereby producing the desired effect.”
n STIMULATION Published Patent Application
No. 2013/0096469 (April 18, 2013) states: “It is
the purpose of this invention to provide methods
and systems for non-invasive neuromodulation
of deep-brain targets using ultrasound to treat
obesity and eating disorders.” Medtronic Inc.,
Patent No. 8,538,532 (Sept. 17, 2013), proposes
electrical stimulations delivered to a patient’s
stomach to induce “gastric distention” making
you feel full.
n THROAT MONITORING I like the “E-fit moni-
tor” device of Patent No. 6,135,950. One sensor
microphone is taped to your Adam’s apple, and
a processor inside the wearable unit sets off an
alarm if your swallowing rate is too high.
Will there ever be a safe and effective weight
loss pill, computerized treatment, weight loss
surgery, or other method? After millions of tries
over many years, maybe this is one problem for
which there is no simple solution.
One recent patent for treating obesity is No.
8,272,152 (Dec. 17, 2013) which claims a dieting
process with just two steps: first, eat less, and
second, exercise more. Just kidding.ME
KIRK TESKA is the author of Patent Project Management and Patent
Savvy for Managers, is an adjunct law professor at Suffolk University
Law School, and is the managing partner of Iandiorio Teska & Cole-
man, LLP, an intellectual property law firm in Waltham, Mass.
Engineers solve problems. Sometimes, numerous “solutions” are proposed for a problem, none really works, and the
problem just gets worse.
One example is obesity. I can relate: at my
age, if I miss a single workout during the week,
it seems I gain 10 lbs. If you use Google Patents
and type in “obesity” you will receive over a
million patent results. The following are a few
interesting obesity treatment patent examples.
n MAGIC PILLS Patents for drugs purporting
to treat obesity include amphetamines (
Patent No. 3,369,967 dated Feb. 20, 1968). Noting
the adverse side effects associated with taking
amphetamines, a treatment based on the amino
acid histidine was proposed by the Department
of Health, Education, and Welfare in Patent No.
3,867,539 (Feb. 18, 1975). After the fen-phen
debacle, we should be wary of any diet pill.
n COMPUTER SOLU TIONS An early computerized
weight loss management system is disclosed in
Patent No. 4,951,197 dated Aug. 21, 1990. The
abstract reads: “A weight loss management
system utilizes a computer analysis of a participant’s past medical history, eating habits, body
measurements, exercise level, and taste preferences to provide a menu of a specified number of
calories to maintain a reasonable weight.” That
particular patent is widely referenced including
Weight Watchers Ltd. Patent No. 6,436,036 (Aug.
20, 2002) for its proprietary point value weight
n SURGICAL SOLUTIONS More drastic weight
loss measures include medical operations
where something inflatable is placed in your
stomach to make you feel full. Of the numerous
patent examples in this category, included are
Patent Nos. 4,133,315 (Jan. 9, 1979), 4,899,747
(Feb. 13, 1990), and 4,485,805 (Dec. 4, 1984). An
early gastric band device is disclosed in Patent
No. 4,592,339 dated June 3, 1986.
n COVER IT UP It was a long time ago that inventers proposed different ways to hide obesity.