Patent Your Heart Out
Valentine’s Day is upon us. For some, it’s the time of love, romantic gestures, chocolates and flowers. For patent lawyers, it may be a race to the patent office. You might be surprised to learn that Valentine’s Day themed ideas have infiltrated intellectual property law. In fact, the patent and trademark system is full of them.
The most famous Valentine’s Day patent has little to do with the holiday except the shared date. On Valentine’s Day in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray independently raced to the U.S. Patent Office to file for patents on their telephone inventions. As history tells us, Bell made it first—receiving one of the most valuable patents ever issued. Gray, on the other hand, slipped into relative obscurity.
Roses are huge business on Valentine’s Day. Coincidentally, the first plant patent issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) was for a rose. Henry F. Bosenberg, of New Brunswick, New Jersey, received a patent for a climbing rose on August 18, 1931. Red roses are the most often sent flowers on Valentine’s Day. On June 20, 1950, the USPTO issued Plant Patent No. 953 to Fred H. Howard, of Montebello, California, for a hybrid tea rose, described as “rose red, very appropriate for Valentine’s Day.” A more recent patent for a red rose (U.S. Plant Patent No. 11,834) was granted on April 3, 2001 to Benjamin Williams, of Summer Spring, Maryland, for a climbing rose called “Scarlet Star.”
Going to a Valentine’s Day dance? Don’t forget a wrist corsage for your best girl—an invention patented on July 14, 1925 by Ira W. Cunningham of St. Louis, Missouri, as U.S. Patent No. 1,541,923. This new and useful “improvement” in bouquets or “flower-clusters” can be “adapted for display upon the wrist” and includes “a cluster of flowers secured together at their stems, in combination with a wrist-encircling band . . . for fastening about the wrist.” Prom, Snowball, Spree and Homecoming wouldn’t be the same without this invention!
Do you really think Godiva®, Ghirardelli® and Stovers® have the corner market on heart-shaped chocolates? Or Papa Murphy’s on the heart-shaped pizza? Inventor Verlooy Herwig may beg to differ, as the holder of U.S. Design Patent No. 449147 for an ornamental heart-shaped chocolate, issued on October 16, 2001 in time for “Sweetest Day.” On March 24, 2003, William C. Arbaugh II, received U.S. Design Patent No. 491338 for heart-shaped pepperoni slices. Everything can be heart-shaped for Valentine’s Day, including the card and envelope given to loved ones, according to U.S. Design Patent No. 82863, granted on December 16, 1930, to Mahala Wabben.
Speaking of loved ones, on a tad bit morbid note, have you yearned to perpetually store the cremated remains of two or more decedents in a “Broken Heart Urn?” This invention has “multiple chambers in an upper heart shaped portion as well as in a lower portion that also serves as the base whereby multiple remains can be held.” Thanks to inventor Antoine Elhaj, of Sandusky, Ohio, this Romeo & Juliet urn will solve your problem (See, U.S. Patent No. 8,281,466, October 9, 2012).
In this age of Instagram and Snapchatting, the heart-shaped hand symbol, known as the “hand-heart,” has become a common gesture of love among performers, social media aficionados and teenage girls. In what can only be construed as a challenge rivaling Taylor Swift’s 73 trademarks, Google, on October 15, 2013, patented the hand-heart gesture for use with its soon-to-come Google Glass. The user makes a heart using her hands in front of objects in her field of vision, Google Glass automatically recognizes the object, takes a picture, and sends it to social networks as an already “hearted” image. If you haven’t yet heard of Google Glass, don’t worry, you soon will. Glass is a wearable computer (an HMD—head-mounted display) resembling a pair of eyeglasses without the lenses that projects a smartphone-like display to the wearer and is navigated by voice command and a touchpad on the side of the device (Yes, Google did patent Glass).
So no more faffing about with your cumbersome smartphone in Starbucks—just grab your soy chai latte, make a hand-heart shape over it and—voilà—Google Glass will transmit your “hearted” message to Instagram, Snapchat, Messenger or the next social media craze.