One of the items making the rounds on the HamRadioHelpGroup mailing list is this video on the Sea Water Antenna:
At first, I thought, “What a novel idea!” Of course, as the Bible says, there’s nothing new under the sun. PA1AP noted, “Reinventing the wheel I would say. There is prior? art for this and cannot be patented, they should do a little more homework and look around before making such claims… google for ‘Ionic Liquid Antenna’.”
I did just that and found a few interesting references. Apparently, N9ZRT did much of the early work on this type of antenna, and his work is online. In March 2005, some researchers published an academic paper on this topic. Unfortunately, you have to pay for this paper. Another good article can be found on the Highfields (UK) Amateur Radio Club website.
Someone from SPAWAR, the research center that produced the video, replied that in their opinion, this design is unique in that it uses a pump to produce a column of water to form the antenna. This feature makes it patentable. I’m not a patent attorney, but they may have a point here. At any rate, I’m guessing that hams should still feel free to experiment with the antenna.