Re: Problem? (@ Mage)
It's precisly "to be fair" that they accept most patents.
If an examiner rejected a patent that was clearly guff that would be un-American, a faceless bureaucrat crushing the poor lone inventor just because he felt like it.
Instead they are (were - the rules recently loosened a little) only allowed to reject patents that had clear prior-art listed in a patent in the same specific category as the invention.
The idea is that, in a democracy, the technical merits of the patent would be decided by 12random jurors in East Texas rather than by an expert patent examiner.
You could literally patent the wheel if there wasn't an existing US patent on it. One US company famously patented using tumeric as an anti-septic about 3000years after a Sanksrit document recommended it - their claim was that the original inventor hadn't patented it.