While an application needs grounding in reality, the ideas behind them can be unproven. As some high-profile patents from the government show, just because an innovation is currently fiction doesn’t disqualify potential applications.
The U.S. Navy has a slew of patents that aren’t in action today because the ideas behind them are highly theoretical. But that didn’t stop them from filing a patent application, then moving ahead with testing.
A patent doesn’t cover an idea but rather an actual machine or process. In this case, an aerospace engineer with the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Dr. Salvatore Cezar Pais, put forth the blueprints for some novel creations. His work focused on machines that could create and control vibrations of electrically charged matter to produce electromagnetic fields that can be harnessed for energy.
Fantastical ideas like an inertial mass reduction device could allow for faster than the speed of light travel, or a high-temperature superconductor could provide clean energy for the whole planet.
The Navy even went so far as to follow through on a high-energy electromagnetic field generator. For a little over half-a-million dollars over three years, the Navy attempted to create the machine, but the testing ended without success.
While Dr. Pais’s ideas are theoretical and not eligible for a patent, the machines and processes he invented are within reach and acceptable for an application. Lofty concepts can be early steppingstones toward amazing advancements, and inventors can get protections for their work even if they can’t yet prove their effectiveness.