Getting Gobblers

I thought it would be nice to do something Thanksgivingy for Thanksgiving. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, so I just started my search with the word “turkey.” I figured I’d get some bonkers frying apparatus and that would be that.

Friends, I underestimated how deep the turkeyhole goes. There are so many turkey patents…

One thing that you should understand about patents is that everyone thinks of patents as a golden ticket. They think they’ll have their one great idea, get a patent, grow an obnoxious beard, and have a reality show made about them.

The problem is that their “one great idea” is usually incredibly niche, and also usually in a space that’s filled with other solutions to the same problem. That’s because people invent in the fields they are familiar with. If you’re a scientist or engineer, on the frontiers of human knowledge, that means your idea might actually be something significant.

If you’re a turkey hunter, it means you strap a turkey decoy onto your gun and wave it around. To the patent office: https://patents.google.com/patent/US9661842B2!

USP 9,661,842, FIG. 9
HOW DO YOU DO, FELLOW TURKEYS?

Here’s how it works. You bolt this thing onto your gun. Then you attach the decoy to the thing. The thing has a grip that lets you “articulate the decoy,” if you know what I mean.

USP 9,661,842, FIG. 10, annotated
I thought about linking to a video,
but the turkey doesn’t have a great time…

Now, imagine if someone showed up, dressed like an asshole, silently waving a big cutout picture of you. After passing through “denial,” you would arrive swiftly at “anger,” and confront the person. And that’s just what the inventors are betting the turkey will do:

It has been found that the gobbler will often fixate on the decoy failing to notice the hunter even when he is not well camouflaged. In fact, the gobbler will often approach the decoy in an aggressive manner making it much less wary than in a typical hunt where a hunter is attempting to make calls that imitate a hen. 

USP 9,661,842, Abstract
USP 9,661,842, FIG. 3 — Just slap a fake turkey on, and you’re good to go!

Let’s take a look at the claims. Here’s claim 1:

1. A weapon system, comprising:
a weapon;
a decoy articulation system coupled to the weapon;
turkey decoy coupled to the decoy articulation system; and
wherein the decoy articulation system is responsive to user input for articulating at least a fan of the turkey decoy.

At first glance, this patent seems super broad. Generally, the shorter the claim is, the more it covers. But because the claim includes a weapon, the inventor would have a tough time enforcing this against retailers if they don’t bundle the decoy with the weapon itself. And because it specifies that it is a “turkey” decoy, a clever infringer could simply sell the bare “decoy articulation system,” with a variety of decoys sold separately.

Meanwhile, the method claim has a different set of concerns:

13. A method for hunting turkeys, comprising:
approaching a turkey while holding a weapon and a turkey decoy;
coupling the turkey decoy to the weapon by positioning the turkey decoy on a decoy articulation system coupled to the weapon; and
articulating at least a fan of the turkey decoy via the decoy articulation system while the turkey decoy is coupled to the weapon; and
activating the weapon for wounding the turkey while the turkey decoy is coupled to the weapon.

The challenge with this method is that the people who are infringing it are your potential customers. What’s more, how are you going to find out that they’re doing it? And even if you do, what kind of damages can you get from suing them? Claims that target the end user are tough to get value out of.

To their credit, the inventor actually seems have made and sold the things. Most of these types of product fail way before launch. The website (https://changeyourhunt.com/) hasn’t been updated in a while, so who knows if you can still get one. But I wish them the best of luck–it’s a tough business, and I’m glad they’re making it work!

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