The Christmas spirit has always served as a great source of inspiration for all types of professionals, whether in Arts or in Science. In this last field, its imprint has been as significant as it has been essential to ensure that our celebrations are not lacking in detail. Enjoy our festive patents assortment.
White Christmas, Enlightened Christmas
The tradition of decorating houses with a touch of green in winter dates back to the times of the ancient Egyptians and Romans. In those days, perennials were symbols of fertility, prosperity, and protection from evil spirits and diseases.
Fashion evolved. In the 16th century, the Christians Germans appropriated the pagan symbology of the winter solstice in the sixteenth century and established the tradition that continues to this day: using a tree as the decorative epicentre of the Christmas season. Upon their Teutons arrival in America, the Teutons brought the practice with them.
The passage of time revealed that the custom was neither environmentally friendly nor safe – as candles adorned the trees.
In the late 19th century, the trend began to shift. In 1882, Edward Hibber Johnson, an American engineer, borrowed the patent for the light bulb (US 223898) from his partner Thomas Alva Edison in order to decorate his tree at home. For days, the wiring with 80 lights in white, red, and blue was the talk of Manhattan.
Right after that, the Vice President of the Edison Electric Company became the Father of electric Christmas tree lights both inside and outside the boundaries of the Big Apple.
Even the White House, presided over by Grover Cleveland, imitated Johnson during the Christmas of 1885. Years later, the New York engineer patented a wiring structure for electric light (CA 35426).
Again, time proved that, no matter how well polished, incandescent bulbs were not the pinnacle of safety either. A new, more reliable and cost-effective twist would come nearly a century later, when James R. Biard and Gary Pittman disclosed the inner workings of the first LED in their 1966 patent (US 3293513). That seed has allowed trees and nativity scenes of various shapes and sizes to shine brightly today as never before.
Parallel to electrical advancements, the first decade of the 20th century saw the introduction of trailblazing ecological alternatives. Sucha is the case in the proposal of Mary C. Crook, an inventor from Nebraska and the first woman in history to patent a fully artificial Christmas tree (US 994248).
Mary filed for the patent on February 13, 1911, and it was granted on June 6 of the same year. The cheaper and more ecologically friendly alternative swiftly gained popularity in society, and it now has millions of followers.
From a lighting malfunction to a snow globe
Christmas does not have a monopoly on mystery or miracles. The history of innovation is littered with gadgets created by chance and whose ownership still remains ambiguous. That is the case of the “snow globe”, for example.
According to some, medieval alchemists created the distinctive decoration. Others attribute its debut at the international exposition held in Paris at the end of the 19th century. Moreover, others, such as the Austrians, credit Erwin Perzy I with the invention, dating his first globe about 1900.
Perzy was a surgical instrumentation mechanic whose discovery was largely due to chance, since he was attempting to improve the production of cold light in some bulbs. In his early experiments, he manipulated glass balls filled with water, inserting various substances into the liquid, such as glass shavings or semolina, to increase reflection. The swaying of the particles reminded him of a snowfall.
Days later, having already veered from his original goal, the Austrian would add a model of a church into the sphere, resulting in the first snow globe. By chance, he built one of Austria’s longest-running family enterprises, now run by the third generation.
There is no trace of Erwin Perzy’s initial Viennese patent, although it appears in the State of the Art part of related product registrations, such as US 2015/288914A1.
The American Joseph Garaja had more boldness when it came to patenting snow globes. The enhanced assembly between pedestal and globe is the main draw of the first US patent (US 1741692), which was granted in 1929.
The commercial side of Christmas has turned it into a showcase where the most traditional and cutting-edge coexist. However, the classics always prevail. Here are two nice examples.
When the weather turns the gatherings into a thick white layer of relaxation, we go back to the basics to slide down the snow. The more impatient resort to plastics, while the handiest are inspired by patents such as US 1334, which belongs to the first sleigh registered in the United States.
Sweets get all the attention when it comes to sitting at the table at this time of the year. Among them, nougat reigns supreme as the true king of kings. This delicacy, which has been a part of Spanish cuisine since the Middle Ages, received its first Royal Privilege in 1867. Miguel Iglesias y Obiols left a pioneering “Machine meant to crush almonds, coconut, and other components for the development of nougat, marzipan, etc.” for posterity. ES 4280
More than 70 patents protect the nougat industry by 2021 (product, manufacturing processes, types of machinery and packaging, etc.). According to data from the Spanish Sweet Association, the sector invoiced over 291 million € in 2020, with more than 45% of manufacturing shipped to other countries.
We finish our eclectic menu with that dessert. We wish you a lovely holiday season where the only contagious thing is joy and the only thing that resembles a virus is the brother-in-law on duty.