Martin Galese, a 31 year old New York patent lawyer, is sifting through millions of expired patents and converting his favorites into 3D printable files. Then he's uploading his creations to Thingiverse where anyone can use them. "I'm looking for the cool, weird, and the surprisingly useful in the greatest repository of public domain prior art ever created, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office," Galese wrote on his blog.
So far, Galese has resurrected patents that include a portable chess board, a self-measuring bottle, a pot scraper and a flower stand among other things. He's especially interested in reproducing patents from the 19th century. "If you look at the figures in older patents, the 19th century patents are really beautiful. They're really works of art," Galese said. When you recreate them, "you're holding the 19th century by way of something that was produced in the 21st century."
As a high-profile software patent lawyer, Galese is very familiar with the legal aspects of working with patents. "The basic idea of a patent is that you get a limited period of exclusivity in exchange for public disclosure of your invention," Galese wrote. "But what good is that public disclosure sitting in the specifications of 8,000,000+ patents?"
There are more than eight million patents listed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today, but only about 2.1 million are still in effect. That leaves just under six million ideas within the public domain. Galese hopes that his work will encourage people to see the patent office as a place to go for a nearly limitless source of ideas. As Galese says, it's "the original Thingiverse."
If you want to keep up with Galese's work as he releases new objects you can follow him on Tumblr. If you'd like to try your hand at printing some objects Galese has already converted to 3D you can find them all on Thingiverse.