50 Fascinating Facts Concerning Patents

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26Frequency Hopping Technology

The 1930s starlet Hedy Lamarr invented a technology to stop Nazis from jamming Navy torpedoes, but the idea was rejected until 1962 and only implemented during the Cold War. Her frequency hopping technology has now become the basis for modern Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth.

27. Rudolph Hass, the man who grew and patented the original Hass avocado tree, didn’t make very much money despite its success as most people bought one single tree and then grew vast orchards from cuttings. He only made $5000 from his patent and remained a postman his entire life.

28. In 1851, when the refrigerated ice machine was patented, the large ice-importing industry ran a smear campaign against the technology, calling it immoral.

29. Only 10 Scouts have ever earned the invention merit badge, which required obtaining a patent for an invention. It was discontinued in 1915, and it is the rarest badge out there.

30. On the LEGO model of the Back to the Future time machine, the destination date is set to January 28, 1958, the patent date for the 1st LEGO brick.

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31Antonio Meucci

Antonio Meucci was a poor inventor who created a working prototype of a telephone years before Alexander Graham Bell but lost his patent due to not being able to pay a $10 fee to keep the caveat.

32. Nat Sherman Tobacco Company introduced plastic-tipped cigars to the industry. While the government never granted them a desired patent on the idea, they bluffed away any competitors for 32 years by putting “Patent Pending” on the packaging.

33. The official inventor of the fire hydrant is unknown because its patent was lost in a fire.

34. The dumpster was patented in 1935 by the Dempster Brothers. The first front-loading garbage truck that made use of dumpsters was called the Dempster Dumpmaster.

35. The University of California at Davis is one of the largest breeders and patent holders of strawberry varieties in the world.

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36Match Stick

John Walker created the match stick by accident in 1826. He was scraping a mixture of dried chemicals off of a stick in his hearth and it caught fire. Against the advice of friends, he did not patent his idea, leading to others greatly profiting off of his invention.

37. In the mid-1800s, France gave out a crucial patent in photography for free as a gift to the world, except for Britain. France required them to pay.

38. US Patent and Trademark Office has the ability to suppress patents that it deems are dangerous to national security. As of 2012, over 5300 patents have been suppressed and Congress wants to give the USPTO broader powers to limit inventions that could damage the economy.

39. There was a 20-year patent on mini-games during loading screens of computer games that only expired in 2015. This is why all loading screens weren’t interactive until then and usually only contained flavor or lore text.

40. There exists a patent for a nuclear-powered drill that heats up the tip of the drill to high enough temperatures to melt rocks and create a glass-coated tunnel.

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41Aerial Photography

Wilhelm Neubronner used pigeons to deliver medications from his pharmacy. When neighboring villages received their own pharmacies, his son patented the invention of aerial photography by attaching cameras to the pigeons.

42. Alexander Cumming was an inventor who was the first person to patent a flush toilet in 1775. Cumming included an s-trap in the design to prevent sewer gasses from entering the building through the toilet. Modern toilets still incorporate this design.

43. Patent trolls cost businesses $29 billion a year in direct losses and account for almost 2/3 of patent lawsuits. Companies that have to pay patent trolls reduce R&D spending, by an average of $211 million and invest in legal representation at the expense of technology development.

44. Musician Neil Young not only used to own a part of the Lionel LLC model train company, but he also helped design the Lionel Legacy control system and his name is on seven model train-related patents.

45. The US Patent Office building was the only major government building to survive the British burning of Washington D.C. during the War of 1812. Superintendent Dr. William Thorton persuaded the British that they’d be destroying the shared intellectual record of mankind if the patents were burned.

46Single Click Purchase

Amazon owns the patent for purchasing things with a single mouse click.

47. The Super Soaker was invented in 1990 by NASA engineer, and Air Force Veteran Lonnie George Johnson who describes himself as a “part of a small group of African-American inventors whose work accounts for 6 percent of all U.S. patent applications.”

48. Henry Bessemer, the engineer largely credited with the invention of modern steel, also invented or contributed to embossed postage stamps, long sheets of plate glass, military weapons, and a method for extracting sugar from sugar cane. He eventually earned nearly 130 patents.

49. The inventor of the fidget spinner surrendered the patent in 2005 because she could not afford the $400 fee to renew the patent.

50. In 1965, a patent was filed for a “birthing apparatus” which would spin pregnant women around at as much as 7Gs until their baby flung out from the centrifugal force.


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