History & Examples of Small Invention Patents

The model for the utility patent dates back to German patent law in the 1800’s, and addresses a gap in market for small inventions which were not patentable at the time but were deemed as worthy of patent protection due to their economic value.

Prior to the utility patent designation, the German patent office was only granting patents to inventions which were completely new and highly innovative.

However, the industrial revolution produced a great number of valuable technical solutions which were very simply constructed. These were generally modifications of existing objects and tools which were already in common use.

This model proved to be useful throughout the industrial world and quickly spread to other countries, including the Unites States and other Western countries. The model was most recently introduced in Denmark as late as 1992 and Austria in 1994.

When looking back at the US Patent Office records, one will find a wide variety of curious, small invention success stories. It’s a good bet that even the smallest, simplest items we use everyday are covered by patents which have made fortunes for their inventors.

Because patent law requires that each change made to a patented item be patented as well, many significant inventions like the telephone are covered by numerous patents.

No item is too small, simple or cheap to be patented, and in many cases the simpler items require greater patent protection because they are cheapest and easiest to copy.

A good example of simple design which became a best selling toy is the “return ball”, a simple rubber ball attached to the end of a long piece of elastic. The string is tied around the finger or held in the hand, and when thrown out the ball returns to the thrower’s hand thanks to the recoil effect of the string.

Who invented the air conditioner?

The first electrical air conditioner was invented by Willis Haviland Carrier in the year 1902, just a year after his graduation from Cornell University with a Masters in Engineering.

While working as an employee for Buffalo Forge Company, Carrier designed this machine for the owner of a printing plant who was having trouble printing because of fluctuations in heat and humidity.

The apparatus designed by Carrier helped maintain a stable climatic condition within the plant fixing the owner’s printing woes.

Carrier patented his design of an air conditioner in 1906. He went on to patent many more designs related to air conditioning and gained the title of ‘father of air conditioning’. The term air conditioning, however, was not a brainchild of Willis Carrier. In fact, it was used by a textile engineer, Stuart Cramer, in his patent claim.

Later on, Carrier revealed his psychometric formulae to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). These formulae are used even today in calculations for the air conditioning industry.

Willis Carrier says that he got the idea of an air conditioner while waiting for a train. It was foggy, and he was thinking about the problems of temperature and humidity. By the time the train reached the station, Carrier had a clear understanding of the relationship between temperature, humidity and dew point.

The invention of the air conditioner was just the beginning of a series of achievements for Carrier. In 1915, he established the Carrier Engineering Corporation, a company dedicated to improving the quality of air conditioning. The company, which started with a base capital of $35,000, posted sales of $5 billion in 1995.

Carrier began designing air conditioning systems for industries, and these industries flourished with the new ability to control the environment through their various manufacturing processes. This led to a subsequent increase in the quality of the goods they produced.

In 1924, Carrier changed his focus towards air conditioning for people. After installing an air conditioner in a J.L. Hudson department store in Detroit, and observing the sudden influx of customers, the demand for smaller air conditioning units by stores and movie theatres boomed. He obliged.
In 1928, Carrier launched the first residential air conditioning unit, called the ‘Weathermaker’.

Who invented the internet?

Like electricity, the internet too wasn’t invented by a single person. It is the cumulative result of the concepts and ideas of many different people and organizations, and has come a long way from what it was at the time of its conception.

The idea of an internet was first thought of by the US Department of Defense in 1957 when the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) needed to share their research and technology. Initially this was done by joining their networks using phones.

In 1966, Larry Roberts of MIT designed the ARPANET, which consisted of computers linked over long distances. In 1969, ARPANET opened its networks to other universities and UCLA and Standard were among the first to be a part of their network nodes. By 1973, it extended its network over a large number of universities in the US and had also established a node in London, UK.

During the 1970s the internet underwent several major changes. The very concept of internet was revolutionized by the introduction of packet switching technology, which allowed for faster transmission of data at a considerably lower cost. In addition to that, the development of Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) changed the way data was being transmitted over the internet. This decade also saw the birth of USENET and the UNIX operating system, and in 1976, the Queen of England sent the first e-mail.

In 1982, the TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol) was developed, and is marked as one of the most significant milestones in the history of the internet. Symbolics.com was the first domain name to be registered in the year 1985, and the first virus was reported in 1988.

In the year 1990, Tim Berners Lee, a scientist at CERN, gave birth to the concept of hypertext, i.e., a method by which documents could be linked to each other over networks. This led to the invention of the World Wide Web (WWW).

In the 90s, applications called browsers were developed to help surf the Web in a convenient way. And with that the internet was born.

Who invented electricity?

No one invented electricity. Rather, it was discovered. Even so, its discovery cannot be attributed to any one individual in history, but as a culmination of the research of various scholars spanning many eras.

The first mention of electrical use was in the year 600 B.C. in Greece. A man named Thales of Miletus discovered that rubbing fur would make certain objects attract each other. On further experimentation, Thales was able to generate sparks using amber.

In 1600 A.D., an Italian physicist Giralamo Cardano studied the basic properties of electrical power and magnetism. His theories were elucidated by his colleague, William Gilbert, who wrote about various substances and their electric properties in his “De magnete, magneticisique corporibus”.

Gilbert went on to coin the term ‘electricity’ from the Greek word meaning amber. He was also the first to use the terms magnetic pole, electric force and attraction.

Later in the same century a German scientist, Otto von Guericke invented the electrostatic generator, a machine that produced static electricity. Experiments conducted with this device and a few similar ones that followed led to a number of conclusions, like the existence of charge in both negative and positive forms, which greatly contributed to the study of electricity.

In 1747, Benjamin Franklin, following his famous experiment with the kite, concluded that electricity “flows” and has a fluid-like property that is composed of particles. He also invented the lightning rod and proved that lightning was electricity. It was also discovered that static electricity could be converted into current.

These conclusions and the subsequent contributions of scientific greats like Alessandro Volta, Andre Ampere and Georg Ohm led to inventions like the capacitor, the anode and cathode, and the battery.

This was followed by a series of inventions, discoveries and hypotheses related to the theory of electricity. People who made a great impact on the electrical theory during this time were Thomas Alva Edison, George Westinghouse, Samuel Morse, Nikolas Tesla and Alexander Bell.

Their inventions like the light bulb, electric motor, telegraph and the telephone changed civilization in ways unimaginable.

As you can see, no one individual can be credited for the discovery of electricity. It was the combined efforts of all these great thinkers and scientists that helped man discover and manage this very important natural resource.

Who invented the Telephone

The telephone was invented in a race between two great inventors; Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray. Both had individually designed a device that could transmit speech signals electrically, that is, a telephone. However, it was Bell who managed to patent it first. This lead to one of the most epic legal battles over an invention, which ended with the court ruling in favor of Alexander Bell.

Alexander Graham Bell, born in Edinburgh, Scotland on March 3, 1847, was an inventor, scientist and philanthropist, and is credited with the invention of the telephone. Bell first conceived the idea of the telephone at his summer house in Brantford, Ontario, and went on to create a working model in Boston, Massachusetts.

The telephone was born out of his research that was aimed at improving the telegraph system. Bell was trying to devise a more efficient system, which he called the ‘harmonic telegraph’, in which multiple messages could be sent at the same time and over the same wire by using different pitches for different message signals. During his experiments with the harmonic telegraph, he accidentally discovered that the twanging sound of a spring could be heard over his telegraph system. It was only after this incident that Bell began working on a device that could transmit speech signals electronically.

It was on March 7th, 1876 that Bell spoke the first words into his device to his assistant Thomas Watson who was in another room: “Mr. Watson, come here- I want to see you”.

Recently, it was discovered that though Alexander Bell was the first person to patent the design of a telephone, the idea did not originate with him. It was a poor Italian immigrant, by the name of Antonio Meucci, who actually invented the telephone.

Meucci, a mechanical genius born in Florence, Italy, had designed a device very similar to Bell’s telephone, which was demonstrated in New York in 1860, a full 16 years before Bell took out a patent on his telephone. Meucci could not afford a definitive patent for his “teletrofono” and Bell, who shared a laboratory with him, is said to have stolen the idea and patented it as his own.

Meucci sued Bell on the grounds of fraud and was close to winning the legal battle that followed. However in 1889, Meucci died and so did the legal action. It was only in 2001 that the US Congress, under the pressure of Historians and Italian-Americans, recognized Antonio Meucci as the Father of Modern Communications.