In 1821, Thomas Jennings became the first African-American to hold a patent. He invented ‘dry scouring’, a method for removing dirt and grease from clothing that would lead to today’s dry cleaning.
The first patent for an electronic cigarette was already filed in 1963, but inventor Herbert Gilbert never found a company willing to mass-produce his invention. His device works the same way as modern e-cigarettes, “containing a liquid that was warmed by a battery-powered device, creating a vapor that a person inhaled”.
The man who patented the ouija board has a ouija board headstone.
Even though Benjamin Franklin is credited with many popular inventions, he never patented or copyrighted any of them. He believed that they should be given freely and that claiming ownership would only cause trouble and “sour one’s Temper and disturb one’s Quiet.”
MIT lawyers did not patent turn-by-turn in-car navigation in 1989 because “This will never happen.. because the insurance companies won’t allow it”.
Abraham Lincoln patented a mechanism to lift boats over shoals and obstructions, making him the only US president to hold a patent.
In 1965 a machine was patented to deliver a baby using centrifugal force. The machine would spin you until the baby came out, and it would be caught in a net.
Sony has a patent on making viewers yell product names out loud to end TV ads.
When the leading emergency asthma medication Albuterol’s patent expired, the patent holding pharmaceutical companies lobbied to have their own inhalers banned based on environmental issues, allowing them to file a new patent, and continue to monopolize the market.
In 1936 a patent for a “flying saucer” called Aerodina Lenticulara was applied for. The same inventor is also credited by some with the world first jet in 1910. In 1905, he also built a missile-aeroplane for the Romanian Army.