There’s a piece today in the Washington Post about how, when viewed microscopically, a cat’s tongue is seen as a perfectly-designed untangling hairbrush, which makes sense given how much time a cat spends licking its fur. The piece ends by stating, “[this research] could bring a cat-tongue-style brush to a hair salon near you. Noel and colleagues are applying to patent their 3D tongue, and they’re planning to talk about possible uses with professionals in various fields — including the beauty industry.”
It’s possible to obtain patent protection on a hairbrush. See, e.g., US 8,627,537, which protects a detangling hairbrush that has been generally well-received, at least if youtube reviews are truthful. And pre-Myriad/Mayo/Alice, I would have assumed that it’s possible to obtain such protection even if such a hairbrush was based on a phenomenon observed in nature.
But in the post-Mayo world? Be careful how you claim your new brush. Avoid telling the public how your invention is based on something found in nature (oops, too late for the people mentioned in the WaPo article). And hope that your patent, if you ever get one, doesn’t come before Justice Breyer, who is short on both patent sense and hair.