Bare-breasted Minoan bull leapers… patented!

I took a day off yesterday to work in Bedford Library on edits to the second book in my series: The Reality War – City of Destruction. In a heated exchange of dialogue (in my book, not in the library), I decided it would make sense for one of the characters to draw reference to the famous bull leapers of the Minoan civilisation. We’re talking around 1,400BC on the island of Crete. The most notorious aspect of bull-leaping is the bared torsos of the young athletes performing the leaps, and, yes, the bare breasts rule applies to the female athletes too.

Bronze Age fresco from palace of Knossos

Naturally, I looked this up on the internet when I got back. I had the notion that the emphasis on bare-breasted girls was possibly more a reflection on the interests of the original (male) archaeologists, and that the evidence of what actually went on was altogether more ambiguous. Turns out I was right (for example, see this article from — of all places — Strange Horizons).

The questioning of the accuracy of history is a theme that appears repeatedly in book2. After all, the characters are waging a reality war; they have time machines, which they use to reduce the probability of rival realities coming into existence. The character mentioning the scantily clad leaping girls comes from a human timeline obsessed with remembering the past in an attempt to anchor it. Shame they don’t always get their history correct.

The astonishing find for me was to discover that someone has applied for a US patent for a Modern Minoan Bull Leaping Game. I’m not making this up! You can see a pdf of the patent application here.

All credit to the patent applicant (I can’t quite bring myself to write inventor here). I’m not knocking the guy for having a go and registering this.

bare breasted girl leapers

Even the bull is unclothed!

I’m still shaking my head in disbelief about this. But I have a smile on my face. Here are a few reasons why:

  • When I worked for ICI, a major British chemical company, I sat at the same desk as our patent expert. The language she used was very formal legalese, as you would expect. The language in the bull leaping patent is very different, and refreshingly so: a mix of purple prose, clear English, and the sort of laddish informality that you might expect when guys get together to watch the game over a few beers.
  • I studied UK patent law at university. This is a US patent application, and boy, is it different. This would never be granted in the UK. Where’s the ‘inventive step’ as UK patents require? The whole point is it’s doing something that maybe people did thousands of years ago. The differences from the Minoan original (or a supposition of what that might have been like) are that modern Minoan bull leaping features advertising, and TV coverage (which would not pass the ‘non-obvious’ requirement.)
  • Actually, there is a genuine difference, although it was so vague I didn’t think it actually had any meaning. The applicant argues that his Modern Minoan Bull Leaping teaches us about sacrificial love (agape), and is not sullied by money (except for the patent applicant and event organiser) or by competition (except that the patent is designed to prevent competition).
  • The applicant reveals his true clothes (sorry, mate, couldn’t resist that) when the patent encourages the audience to wear diaphanous clothing, which would be ‘fair game for broadcasting (claim 10). And finally, of course, all participants in the game must expose their ‘naked torsos at all times’ (claim 18).

I said I’m not knocking the guy who is trying to patent is invention, and I meant it. Here’s why: I’m actually intrigued to see what this would look like on my TV screen. Let’s hope his patent is approved.

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About Tim C. Taylor

Science fiction publisher and author of the bestselling Human Legion series. I live with my wife and young family in an English village. I am currently writing full time, when I'm not roped into building Lego.
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2 Responses to Bare-breasted Minoan bull leapers… patented!

  1. timctaylor says:

    That’s a brilliant series. One example of where it will be a long time before the eBook compares favourably with the stunning photography in the paper book. Mind you, it’s a wrist-killer to hold. There’s also a great illustration of what bull leaping might have looked like in the out-of-print edition of Usborne’s Illustrated World History, which I remember getting one Christmas in Farnborough when I was about ten.

  2. Hi Tim – there’s a lovely example of a bull-leaper in the BBC’s A History of the World in 100 Objects, presented by honey-voiced Neil McGregor – here’s a link. http://bbc.in/Ao16Rv.
    Nothing about breasts though.

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