Inventors have been coming up with devices to improve sex for decades. But before Google digitised all the records of the US Patent and Trademark Office to launch their Patent Search feature, if enterprising creators wanted to check whether their ideas were truly original, they had to search the sex patents by hand.
Diagram of inflatable condom from US 4281648 A.
According to Dvorah Graeser at KISSPatent, the situation created problems that played out like the plot of a teenage sex comedy:
…rather than asking for copies of the relevant patents, some of the (perhaps embarrassed) patent attorneys/agents and inventors would just steal the patents to look through them elsewhere — so these patent records kept on disappearing! Other searchers couldn’t see the relevant SexTech patent prior art and the USPTO had to keep on replacing them.
Annoyed by having to recopy all these raunchy patent records over and over again, the Patent Office put all of them into one room so the official in charge of the division could keep an eye on them.
What made it worse is that apparently the Supervisory Primary Examiner was very prim and buttoned-down, so that the searchers found themselves embarrassedly slinking into her office to ask to see “those patents” – and then slinking back out again after doing their search – all with the Supervisory Primary Examiner looking on.