Does this man look familiar? He should.

Does this man look familiar? He should.

This week we celebrate one of the most important patents ever to cross a USPTO examiner’s desk.

The patent describes a process for a producing a material we use nearly everywhere – our homes, our cars, our offices, our hospitals – we even use it in space!

It’s one of the most abundant materials on the planet, and it is infinitely recyclable.

But, without the work of one brilliant young scientist, its full potential might never had been realized.

Do you know what it is? Continue reading “The True Story of a Boy Wonder Who Totally Changed the World”

firstflightThe Wright Brothers built the world’s first successful airplane. On December 17, 1903, the brothers made the first powered flight in North Carolina. The flight last for only 12 seconds with the aircraft only ever reaching a height of 20 feet off of the ground. Still, the flight was ground breaking.

This flight led to the Wright Brothers filing for a patent in 1903. They drafted their first patent application themselves and could not demonstrate a working aircraft. They were denied a patent and the US Patent Office suggested that they work with a patent attorney. Friends referred them to Harry A. Toulmin in Springfield, Ohio.

Toulmin assured Wilbur Wright that he would be able to secure a broad patent that would provide great protection for their invention. On January 22, 1904, Wilbur Wright hired Toulmin to help them with their patent. Toulmin suggested that instead of attempting to patent the entire plane the patent should protect the method of flight control. The flight control method included wing-warping and the three-axis system which controlled the aircraft in forward flight. Continue reading “The Wright Brothers Patent Wars”

“…The way out is not to slash and burn, it’s to innovate.”
– Steve Jobs

This week we mourn the loss of one of the greatest innovators of our time.

Steve Jobs, founder, long-time CEO, and chief creative genius behind all things Apple passed away Wednesday at age 56.

In his lifetime, Jobs brought us new ways of experiencing technology life that we likely may not have thought of on our own. In fact, the Man Behind the Mac has been named on some 313 issued patents. That’s excluding any applications that may have failed to make the cut and whatever countless other innovations he may have influenced that were never patented.

Even more amazing is the variety of items he had his hands in designing over the years. Steve Job’s design patents cover everything from the iconic round mouse and the packing for the iPod to the glass stairs in Apple Store.

Here are just 5 of Job’s most interesting creations: Continue reading “Steve Jobs, A Legend in Innovation”

Question from Douglas:

I use a ballpoint pen nearly everyday, who invented it?


The first ballpoint pen patent, 392,046, was issued to John Loud on October 30, 1888. Loud was a leather tanner and needed a writing device to assist him with marking leather and cloth. Regular fountain pens were unable to perform the tasks Loud needed. The new ballpoint pen worked well on tough surfaces, but was too rough for use of paper. The pen was never commercially produced.
View Loud’s patent here.

Irritated with how often he had to fill his fountain pen with ink, László Bíró, wanted to invent a better writing product. Bíró realized the ink used for newspaper printing dried quickly without smudging. He wanted to create a writing device that would dispense ink with the same qualities as the newspaper ink. László and Georg Bíró created the first commercial ballpoint pen. The brothers filed for a British patent on June 15, 1938. They also filed and received US patent 2,400,679 on May 21, 1946. The pen had a few kinks. However, thanks to a creative marketing strategy, the ballpoint pens were popular, especially among the British Royal Air Force.
View Bíró’s patent here.

Statue of Liberty PatentDid you know the subject of America’s most famous design patent wasn’t actually designed by an American?

On February 18, 1879, French sculptor Auguste Bartholdi received US Patent D11,023 for a statue design – one he called, “Liberty Enlightening The World.”

You know her as The Statue of Liberty. She stands tall on her pedestal on Liberty Island, a beacon of hope for Freedom seekers the world over.

But, did you know the greatest symbol of American Opportunity almost didn’t happen due to a lack of funding? It’s true!

Auguste Bartholdi was commissioned in 1876 – the year of the American Centennial – to create the statue as a gift to America; it would be a symbol of friendship between France & the US for everyone to see. France would raise the money to build the sculpture, and America would handle the pedestal.

Simple, right?

Not really.

Even with Bartholdi’s patent – which he got specifically to allow him to create and sell replicas of Lady Liberty as a fundraising effort – France still had trouble finding enough public support. It took numerous auctions, art exhibits, lotteries and theater events were used to raise the needed funds from their end.

Construction of the statue began in 1875 and was not completed until nine years later in 1884. Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the designer of the Eiffel tower, planned the skeletal framework for the statue. A larger-than-life representation of the Roman Goddess Libertas, Bartholdoi used two different women as models. The face is said to be a likeness of his mother. His wife posed for the arms and torso of Lady Liberty.

Liberty Enlightening the World

Liberty Enlightening the World

Meanwhile, America was having her own bit of funding problems. That is, until Joseph Pulitzer’s shame campaign against the wealthy and middle class alike spurred enough interest to finally fund the pedestal in 1885, just months before the statue – which had been shipped from France July of 1884 – arrived in New York.

So finally, on June 19, 1885, the world’s single, most powerful symbol of Freedom arrived in America in 350 pieces packed into 214 crates. They were reassembled in their place on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor. On October 28, 1886, before thousands of spectators, President Cleveland dedicated the Statue of Liberty on the now-named Liberty Island.

Lady Liberty stands 305 feet and 1 inch tall from its base to the tip of the torch and weighs 450,000 pounds. Each year over 3 million people visit the statue that has welcomed immigrants to Ellis Island since 1892.

Statue of Liberty

Benjamin Franklin was more than one of America’s most beloved Founding Fathers. He was also the first major American inventor. In 1748 at the age of 42, Franklin retired from his career as a printer to turn his attention full time to studying biology and physics, pursuing his curiosities about the world.

Here are just six inventions we can attribute to one of America’s most beloved founding fathers:


1. The Lightning Rod

Franklin is most famous for his experiments with electricity. Franklin was not the discoverer of electricity but rather he spent time learning about its properties. He was aware of the dangers of electricity and lighting. He used the concept of electric ground to investigate electricity and lighting. This concept led to the invention of the lighting rod. A metal rod was attached to the high point of a building. A metal cable attached to this rod ran down the side of the building and into the ground. When lighting struck the rod, the electricity ran down the cable and into the ground, preventing damage to the building.

2. Bifocals

Franklin was curious about life. This curiosity along with the physical needs of himself and his family led to some of his other inventions. By the age of 40, Franklin needed to wear two different pair of glasses. He had a pair for reading and a pair for nearsightedness. Always switching between the pairs was a hassle. To save himself the trouble, Franklin cut the lens of both glasses in half horizontally. He attached the top of his nearsighted glasses to the bottom of his reading glasses. These were the first pair of bifocal glasses. Continue reading “Famous Inventors: Benjamin Franklin”

Levi StraussIn 1853 at the height of the California Gold Rush, everyday items were in high demand and short supply in San Francisco. A 24-year-old German immigrant, Levi Strauss, left New York and made the journey to California to join his older sister and brother-in-law in running their dry goods store. Upon his arrival, a prospector asked Strauss what he had brought. When told that Strauss had brought canvas for tents and wagons, the prospector told him that he should have brought pants.

Levi Strauss had the canvas made into pants. Miners liked the sturdy pants but complained that they tended to chafe and the canvas material never became soft and comfortable. Once the supply of canvas was gone, Strauss began using a thick fabric made in the French town of Nimes known as serge de Nimes. This name would eventually be shortened to denim. Continue reading “Making History: Levi Strauss Patents His Iconic Jeans”

Harry Houdini PatentHarry Houdini was born in Budapest, Hungary, to a Jewish family. Houdini began his career as a trapeze artist and was later renowned as a magician and an escape artist. He astonished audiences by escaping from handcuffs, straitjackets, and prison cells.

Houdini also held a patent for a style of diving suit. The innovation was granted U.S. Patent Number 1,370,316 on March 1, 1921. The object of Houdini’s diving suit was to allow a diver to get out of the suit while submerged. This helped the diver swiftly and safely escape and reach the surface of the water. It also allowed a diver to don his suit without assistance. This was accomplished by being formed in two halves, with a locking joint in the middle. The diver could reach this joint and release it, and then escape from the suit. Continue reading “Making History: Harry Houdini Patents a Diving Suit”

mark twain scrapbook
Mark Twain’s most lucrative book was actually blank. Twain was a lover of scrapbooks and was often seen carrying one with him. Growing tired of working with harden paste and losing the glue, Twain set out to make a better type of scrapbook. In June of 1873, he received Patent #140245 for improvement in scrapbooks. His scrapbook pages were self-sticking. Thin strips of glue were printed on the pages to make updates neat and easy to do. Continue reading “What was Mark Twain’s most profitable book?”