Great innovators have revolutionized the way society operates. Many brilliant minds have shared their inventions with the general public, instead of keeping them secret. Before the advent of patents and trademarks, these innovators remained susceptible to dishonest individuals who wished to steal their ideas. Patents grant intellectual property rights to an inventor who files one with a governing body, such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Patents exclude others from producing, using, or selling a design filed under the name of an inventor. The same concept applies for trademarks, which protect a word, name, symbol, or device used in the trade of goods and services. Trademarks distinguish these goods and services from those produced or offered by others and prevent others from using a similar mark; however, it does not restrict others from selling similar goods or services. Therefore, inventors should register their product and name with the appropriate governing bodies to protect their intellectual property rights.

Many patents and trademarks have literally changed the world for the better. Some inventors have succeeded enough to renew their intellectual property rights while others have failed to renew them. Once a patent or trademark expires, it becomes available to any interested parties who wish to use the design or mark in their entrepreneurial pursuits. Fortunately, this has led to improvements in previous designs. While many patents have changed the world, not every patent has proven itself valuable. In fact, there are weird and wacky designs that never make it into production. These are great for a good chuckle, but the patents that enable us to communicate from further distances, travel to foreign lands, and save lives from diseases deserve to receive attention to create a better future for us all.

  • Gallery of Obscure Patents: Delphion introduces a compilation of obscure patents, including an anti-eating face mask, body squeegee, inflatable rug, bird diaper, temple-less eyeglasses, and eating utensils that resemble chopsticks.
  • Weird and Wacky Patents: Brown and Michaels introduce a series of weird and wacky patents.
  • GB2289222 (A): Intestinal Gas Collection: A device designed to collect flatus gas from human and animal subjects.
  • Patently Absurd: A collection of absurd patented inventions based in the United Kingdom, including a glove that allows couples to hold hands during the winter, a ladder that allows spiders to climb out of a bathtub, a horse-powered minibus, and an umbrella-hat for those who don’t want to hold one up with their hands.
  • The Weirdest Patents in the World: The Huffington Post covers the weirdest patents in the world, including a motorized ice cream cone, a doll urn, and a waking device designed to strike a person with a soft blow without causing physical pain.
  • Totally Absurd Inventions: A website hosting an archive of absurd patented devices in America, including a dimple drill, snake walker, gerbil shirt, brain buzzer, and bulletproof buttocks.
  • The Hall of Innovation: A webpage that discusses how early innovators endured ridicule only to have their ideas adopted decades, and even centuries later.
  • Ten Patents That Changed the World (PDF): The original patents to these inventions have expired; however, they revolutionized the way the world operates. These inventions include the cotton gin, sewing machine, telephone, light bulb, barbed wire, machine gun, transistor, xerography, automobile, and the airplane.
  • 1894-96 First Transmitter: First Patent: Guglielmo Marconi experimented with the application of Hertzian waves to transmit messages over long distances. He patented his system of telegraphy using Hertzian waves on June 2nd, 1896.
  • The Patents and Trademarks of Steve Jobs: The Smithsonian Institute addresses the far-reaching impact of Steve Jobs’ entrepreneurship and innovation, including the Apple trademark, iMac G3, iPod Classic, and the iPhone.
  • How Ammonia Changed the World: Fritz Haber, a German chemist, patented ammonia on October 13th, 1908.
  • Inventions that Changed History (PDF): An extensive document that details important inventions that changed the face of history, including the printing press, magnifying lenses, rockets, submarines, photography, anesthesia, engines, airplanes, dynamite, the light bulb, and more. It also addresses the patents that led to new improved inventions that modern society has come to love today.