Thursday, June 23, 2011

Is the advertising for the Segulah Ring patently false?

Again, a different segulah ring
Over at Rationalist Judaism, Rabbi Natan Slifkin has a chart comparing features of the One Ring and the Segulah Ring, side by side. One such comparison is that while the One Ring "[c]annot be manufactured by anyone other than Sauron", the Segulah Ring "[c]annot be manufactured by anyone other than Mr. Avraham Leib Schwartz". I'd like to elaborate on this point a little bit in this post.

I understand the desire to keep a monopoly on the Segulah Ring. And some such monopolies have historically had their place. There is an idea of hasagas gevul. So a yid found a parnassa selling a silver segulah ring to a believing public, and wants to protect that parnassa.

As part of the advertising on the website (now down) for the segulah ring was a patent claim:
Additionally, it should come to your attention that Mr. Ahraham Leib Schwartz was granted the patent to manufacture this segulah ring; no one else in the world is allowed to manufacture it at this point in time. Copying it would be against secular, as well as, religious Jewish law, and legal and / or rabbinical action will be taken in the event someone is caught committing such a transgression. Nor could any help from the segulah be expected when doing something of that nature against it.
Also importantly, despite being mentioned after everything else, the ring cannot be lent to anyone else other than a very immediately close relative – wife, husband, and children. It is certainly to be kept in mind that no help could be expected from a ring that has been borrowed from a non-immediately close relative – cousin, uncle, and aunt – or from a friend.
The clear intent in both paragraphs is to dissuade copying, or passing along the ring to others. In this way, Mr. Schwartz maximizes his profits, eliminates competition, and increases his customer base. It seems  (to me at least) telling that he is willing to use claims about it efficacy or lack thereof to discourage people from doing this -- 'nor could any help from the segulah be expected... kept in mind that no help could be expected.' Some might interpret this as evidence that he is deliberately scamming people, and is willing to take advantage of people's gullibility towards that end. The more charitable interpretation is that he honestly believes it, as a result of honestly believing that anyone encroaching on his business or not compensating him for the segulah he brought to the fore is acting unscrupulously.

I wonder about his claim to having a patent. Forget that this is a magical / mystical thing, not a scientific invention. The big problem is this: Patents are for people who invent something, not for people who simply put into effect something that has existed for a while and has been implemented for centuries. He openly admits that his basis if Reb Yoel Baal Shem's segulah ring, which he faithfully implemented.

That is, when it comes to patents, there is an important consideration called Prior Art, which:
in most systems of patent law,[2] constitutes all information that has been made available to the public in any form before a given date that might be relevant to a patent's claims of originality. If an invention has been described in prior art, a patent on that invention is not valid.
This is pretty basic patent law. That which makes his segulah a genuine segulah is that same thing that invalidates his patent application.

As part of the application procedure, he had a requirement to disclose any prior art:
In the United States, inventors and their patent agents or attorneys are required by law to submit any references they are aware of to the United States Patent and Trademark Office that may be material to the patentability of the claims in a patent application they have filed. The patent examiner will then determine if the references qualify as "prior art" and may then take them into account when examining the patent application. If the attorney/agent or inventor fails to properly disclose the potentially relevant references they are aware of, then a patent can be found invalid for inequitable conduct.
Meanwhile, looking at patents (which is data made public) under the name Avraham Schwartz yields nothing. Looking under Abraham Schwartz yields 28 hits:
PAT. NO.Title
15,906,104Full-TextCombination air conditioning system and water heater
25,837,547Full-TextFlow cytometer calibration method
35,450,190Full-TextComposition, method and apparatus for providing a coded hidden identification on a selected printable item by a coded printing composition
45,380,663Full-TextAutomated system for performance analysis and fluorescence quantitation of samples
55,314,824Full-TextMethod of setting up a flow cytometer
65,093,234Full-TextMethod of aligning, compensating, and calibrating a flow cytometer for analysis of samples, and microbead standards kit therefor
75,089,416Full-TextMethod of use of non-fluorescent particles to determine fluorescence threshold of a flow cytometer relative to the autofluorescence of samples
85,084,394Full-TextMethod for corrective calibration of a flow cytometry using a mixture of fluorescent microbeads and cells
95,073,498Full-TextFluorescent alignment microbeads with broad excitation and emission spectra and its use
105,073,497Full-TextMicrobead reference standard and method of adjusting a flow cytometer to obtain reproducible results using the microbeads
114,918,004Full-TextMethod of calibrating a flow cytometer or fluorescence microscope for quantitating binding antibodies on a selected sample, and microbead calibration kit therefor
124,868,126Full-TextMethod of calibrating a fluorescent microscope using fluorescent calibration microbeads simulating stained cells
134,857,451Full-TextMethod of compensating and calibrating a flow cytometer, and microbead standards kit therefor
144,828,984Full-TextComposition, synthesis and use of simulated cells
154,774,189Full-TextFluorescent calibration microbeads simulating stained cells
164,767,206Full-TextCalibration method for flow cytometry using fluorescent microbeads and synthesis thereof
174,767,205Full-TextComposition and method for hidden identification
184,714,682Full-TextFluorescent calibration microbeads simulating stained cells
194,699,828Full-TextFluorescently labeled microbeads
204,699,826Full-TextFluorescently labeled microbeads
214,698,262Full-TextFluorescently labeled microbeads
224,689,307Full-TextFluorescence microscopy sample mounting method and structure
234,609,689Full-TextMethod of preparing fluorescently labeled microbeads
244,600,389Full-TextDental restoration method and composition therefor
254,593,980Full-TextMicroscope assembly for magnetic specimens
264,589,873Full-TextMethod of applying a hydrophilic coating to a polymeric substrate and articles prepared thereby
274,247,358Full-TextMethod of growing single crystals of alpha aluminum phosphate
284,043,860Full-TextMethod of growing single crystals of neodymium pentaphosphate
But none of them have anything to do with a segulah ring. Maybe it is filed under a different name than the ones I searched for. So what is this? Is this a false claim to having a patent, or did he file the patent falsely?

Maybe someone else can find out more information on this, and I should stress that IANAL (I Am Not A Lawyer), but as far as I can make out, he does not have a patent and any patent he would have had would be invalid.

All in all, this makes his claims rather dubious, and makes me view the rest of his claims with suspicion. (Even though I would have viewed them with great suspicion anyway.)

If it were possible to patent such things, then I really should patent Chai Rotel mashke and saying parshas haMon on Tuesday of Beshalach, and collect royalties. (Or, for that matter, for bris milah, shechita, and tefillin and collect royalties.) That would be a true segulah for wealth.


S. said...

Also search here

silver +ring, etc. Yields nothing. Kabbalah yields almost nothing, and "Baal Shem" only yields the name of a street in Israel on someone's patent.

That said, many people blur the lines between patent "pending" (or applied for) and patent "granted." I'm not sure how up to date Google's patent search is, and it's conceivable that a patent really was applied for. It's also possible that it was applied for somewhere besides the United States. Micronesia, perhaps?

Garnel Ironheart said...

You are taking this thing waayyyyyy tooooo seriously!

S. said...

I disagree. The information countering it must be out there, because very often fraudsters (intentional ones and unintentional ones) point to the fact that they are unopposed as a positive proof that they are legit.

And how can someone who doesn't know better be machria if he doesn't learn there's another side? In my opinion these posts fulfill a great to'eles.

Garnel Ironheart said...

I understand your point, S, but here's my counter-point: those who believe in this will ignore rational objections. It doesn't matter how much we mock or how many concerns we point out, they'll still think "Yes, but they just don't understand how a real segulah works".
Me, I want a LOTR ring of power. That's the kind that makes a difference, well that and a million orcs under arms being led by a menopausal balrog.

joshwaxman said...

but that's why this objection grants the legitimacy of segulos, but points out side problems.

after all, rav shternbuch's response about his haskama was that he was in favor in the general sense, but does not necessary endorse the specific implementation of this.

part of the requirements (as per the advertisement) are that this ring must be of 'pure silver, crafted by G-d fearing Yidden in purity.' *if* (and i stress the word deliberately) the person behind this can be demonstrated to be misleading people for material gain, then perhaps people will not fall prey to this specific hokum, at least.


S. said...

>I understand your point, S, but here's my counter-point: those who believe in this will ignore rational objections.

Right, except not everyone will. There are a lot of very sincerely frum people who aren't especially inclined toward mysticism, it's just that they happen to believe that kabbalah is true tradition, the nistar of the Torah, and that professing to accept anything a rabbi, rebbetzin or otherwise seemingly frum person tells them is Judaism is, in fact, Judaism.

I would count someone in my immediate family as one of these types of really, really sincere and really, really frum hamon amers (not my wife, r"l, in case anyone is wondering). Although I would not and do not burst said relative's bubble on a regular basis, she just wants to be frum, not to believe dumb stuff. She is open to gentle and respectful clarification about things which she doesn't know very much about.

I realize this is a different perspective from Josh's, but my point is that it's not quite the lost cause you make it out to be. Sometimes all you really need to do is explain to someone how something isn't the 14th ikkar. Not realizing that, they may be afraid to disregard something, not out of a fear of bogiemen in the dark, but simply because they have an abundance of faith and just want to be religious Jews.


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