ENERGY AT WORK
for an invention entitled Improvements in or connected with selfdriving power machines wherein oscillatory motion is transformed into rotary motion, which happened to describe a perpetual motion machine. The patent examiner was of the view that the application be refused on the ground that it was impossible to work the invention from the description in the specification and that the results alleged to be obtained were contrary to known laws of mechanics.
The findings were appealed and during the hearing the applicant expressed willingness to file a working model to prove his case. Nothing was heard from the applicant or his agent after the original hearing. It was assumed the applicant was unable to construct the apparatus and the appli- cation was subsequently rejected.
In terms of South African law it is a requirement, as in the TS Patents case, that a complete specification shall sufficiently describe, ascertain and, where necessary, illustrate or exemplify the invention and the manner in which it is to be performed.
In the case of a perpetual motion machine, the description of the invention cannot fulfil this requirement. If the invention cannot be worked, how on earth can it be useful?
In addition to being rejected on the grounds of section 36 (1)(a), it should be argued that perpetual motion machines should be rejected on the ground of having no industrial applicability. It is for this reason, and to prevent continuous cases relating to perpetual motion machines, that the relevant provisions were adopted.
There are other inventions that are also considered contrary to well established natural laws, but perpetual motion machines are the most common. Innovators and inventors will continue to work on inventions in what seems to be a dead-end field, but the pursuit of the impossible in terms of our understanding of the laws of physics and nature is particularly alluring to many. It will be a continuous uphill battle to obtain a patent for a perpetual motion machine, even with a working prototype.
In the end, however, many patentable inventions could be discovered in the search for perpetual motion. Perpetual motion may be impossible now, but we never know what the future may hold.