The upcoming arrival of 26 April heralds one of the most important celebrations in the field of industrial and intellectual property. For the year 2022, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) dedicates this special day to young minds, celebrating children and young people under the age of 35 whose inventiveness astonishes the world.
Talented children and young people have undermined history with their innovations. Besides proving that creativity knows no age, this sends out a message of hope that it is possible to make a positive change in the world.
This edition of ABGstories will bring us through some well-known inventions that have made an impact on society even before their respective creators entered into adulthood.
Those brilliant little ones
The older generation has often underestimated the ingenuity of children due to their lack of maturity and experience. Fortunately, many parents promote the potential they see in their children.
This is precisely the story of Mark Houghton, a British patent attorney, upon witnessing the talent of his son, Samuel Thomas Houghton, who as a mere 3-year old, became intrigued while watching his father clean the family backyard using two types of broom. Samuel’s instinct led to him joining two broom handles with a resistant elastic rubber band, thereby bringing about his patent “A sweeping device with two heads” (GB 2438091) in seconds.
Mark Houghton filed the patent with the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) in 2006, with Samuel being accredited as the sole inventor and applicant. Samuel was 5 years old when the patent was granted in 2008. He still holds the record for the Youngest Inventor to this day.
Little prophets in their own territory
Family members are not always the inspiration behind the inventions of young creators. In India, Hridayeshwar Singh Bhati had wanted to follow the footsteps of his idol, Stephen Hawking. Hridayeshwar invented the world’s first 6-player circular chessboard (Design No. 238319)* at a tender age of 8. This feat earned Hridayeshwar two titles: the Youngest Indian Patent Proprietor and the World’s Youngest Patent Proprietor with Disability.
Hridayeshwar suffered from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a degenerative disease that led to cardiac arrest when he was 18 years old. However, Hridayeshwar’s legacy both in terms of talent and symbolism will live on.
Back on a happier note, let’s meet another child prodigy, this time in the area of toys, an absolute favourite among little ones. This is the story of an American child, Robert Patch, who created a toy truck which can be readily assembled and disassembled from a prototype made with a shoe box, bottle caps, and nails.
Robert’s patent (US 3091888) was granted when he was 6 years old, making him the youngest patent proprietor in North America.
Fun fact: whether it was nerves or the eagerness to play with his creation, or the simple fact that he had not decided on his signature, little Robert signed the grant awarded to him in 1963 with an “X”.
Young minds, eternal ideas
Long before the arrival of social media, several teenagers became eternal influencers because of their creative contributions.
Louis Braille is among the most influential and revolutionary young minds who, at 15 years of age, changed the life of millions of visually impaired people forever.
In 1824, inspired by Charles Barbier’s dot-based non-verbal code, Braille invented the raised letter reading system we know today. Ironically, Braille’s very first raised letter reading system was made using the same awl that blinded him.At the age of 3, the French educator was left with a blind left eye following an accident involving an awl in his father’s workshop. Unfortunately, the injury led to an infection that ultimately spread to the right eye, leaving Braille completely blind when he was only 5 years old.
Louis Braille did not patent his typographical method, rather he disclosed all the characteristics of this method in his book, Method of Writing Words, Music, and Plain Songs by Means of Dots, for Use by the Blind and Arranged for Them, published in 1829.
It should be mentioned that, although the usefulness of Braille’s creation is unquestionable, many patent laws today would not consider it an invention if the way of contemplating said method is limited to defining it only as a way to present information, thereby obviating the relevant technical aspects which allow information to be perceived through touch.
For those who think fashion came from Instagram reels or stories, meet Chester Greenwood who, at the age of 15, was only thinking about how to protect his ears from the cold.
In 1873, with the help of his grandmother, who was in charge of sewing pieces of fabric and leather to the wire of the prototypes, the American teenager filed the patent for the invention, which he eventually christened earmuffs. His patent was granted in 1877 (US 188292) and earmuffs have become a fashionable winter item all over the world from that moment on.
If you still think that teenagers are a selfish bunch who only think of themselves, take note of the patent (US 8563030) belonging to the tween, Mallory Kievman.
Entitled “Singultus (persistent hiccup)-stopping article and composition”, Mallory’s peculiar invention in the form of a lollipop aims to improve general well-being. The lollipop has a pleasant taste and helps to stop persistent hiccups.
Finally, this edition of ABGstories ends with a tale, which proves that the one who laughs last, laughs best.
In 2008, a teenage girl, Sophie Trelles-Tvede, used a phone cord to tie up her hair before heading to a party. Upon realising that the cord neither left marks nor any damage on her hair the next day, Sophie was inspired to create her own line of hair accessories.
For months, Sophie endured mockeries and condescending looks from everyone she discussed her idea with. Ten years and four patents (US 10405629) later, Sophie is now the one having the last laugh as the CEO of her company, Invisibobble.
Obviously, everyone here is top-class, but not all the top-class people are here. Alexander Graham Bell summarised it well when he said that “listen to the children for they may have ideas we have never thought of”.
Happy World IP Day to everyone young and old!
*Consult Design No. 238319 by typing the Applicant name at: https://search.ipindia.gov.in/DesignSearch/