In 2009, Marion Davis of Randallstown, Maryland got a design patent for this “Nativity scene decoration including Santa Claus and Rudolph”.
Jason Alexander Williams didn’t mess around when it came to killing rodents. His ‘animal trap’ (patented in 1882) shot them dead:
My invention relates to an improvement in animal-traps; and it consists in the combination of a suitable frame upon which a revolver or pistol is secured, a treadle which is secured to the front end of this frame, and a suitable spring and levers, by which the firearm is discharged when the animal steps upon the treadle, as will be more fully described hereinafter.
The object of my invention is to provide a means by which animals which burrow in the ground can be destroyed, and which trap will give an alarm each time that it goes off, so that it can be reset.
And his invention didn’t just kill rodents. Williams noted:
This invention may also be used in connection with a door or window, so as to kill any person or thing opening the door or window to which it is attached.
Claude Davis of Melbourne, Florida obtained a patent for this curious device in 2000.
The gadget attached to bathroom doors. Whenever someone turned the handle to open the door, the gadget would spray their hand with dye. This, reasoned Davis, would encourage people to wash their hands, to remove the dye. He imagined his invention might be useful in restaurants and hospitals that have “statutory type hygiene requirements to have their staff and employees clean their hands after using restroom facilities.”
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.