received a patent in 1921 for a diver's suit. His diver's suit was
meant to allow a deep-sea diver to remove the suit by himself if he
was in danger. While Houdini could escape from just about any type
of device, he realized that others could not.
Comedian Danny Kaye
received a patent in 1952 for a toy that used one mouthpiece to
simultaneously unfurl three blow-out paper snakes used at birthday
Steve McQueen was awarded a
patent on the bucket seats used in his Ford Mustang in the 1968
Actress Julie Newmar,
who wore a skin-tight outfit in her role as Catwoman in the old
"Batman" TV series, patented ultra-sheer, ultra-snug pantyhose. She
appeared in the recent movie "To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything,
Love Julie Newmar"; on TV in guest appearances in "Bewitched," "The
Beverly Hillbillies" and "Star Trek" in the 1960s; and most recently
in "Melrose Place."
Celebrity mom Christie Brinkley
created a set of educational blocks for kids.
Director Steven Spielberg
received a design patent in 1998 for a switch used on mobile camera
Musicians Eddie Van Halen and
Harry Connick Jr. also received patents on their inventions. Van
Halen's patent was for a hands-free guitar support, while Connick
received Patent 6,348,648 last year for his method of displaying
written music on computer screens. "It basically eliminates
old-fashioned sheet music," said Connick.
What do celebrities know about
inventing that the rest of us don't?
It's not that difficult to get a
patent. In fact, it reminds me of the true story of a man who wanted
to prove that almost anyone could become a
Kentucky Colonel if he had
good credentials. So he sent in an application for his dog and, sure
enough, his dog became a Kentucky Colonel.
[to top of
second column in this article]
While getting a patent is not as easy
as becoming a Kentucky Colonel, it does require three steps:
Step 1. Create something that is new,
useful and non-obvious to the average person in the industry.
Step 2. Conduct a patent search to
determine if a similar product has already been patented. If there's
no previous patent that would prevent you from obtaining one, then
you write the application. It is possible to do this on your own,
but most people choose to hire a patent attorney.
Step 3. File the application with the
patent office. The average cost, including attorney fees, is around
$4,000 for an individual inventor or small company, while the fees
for a large corporation are much higher.
Here's an example of what is meant by
"non-obvious" in Step 1: The person who invented the Philips
screwdriver was able to get a patent because the second groove --
the one that set it apart from a regular screwdriver -- wasn't
obvious to the average person. But it would now be impossible to get
a patent on a screwdriver with three grooves because it would be an
among inventors to create products that relate to their particular
area of expertise. You probably noticed that each of our celebrity
inventors created products that relate to their craft. And while
it's not difficult to get a patent, fewer than 2 percent of the 6.5
million patents that have been issued since the patent office opened
in 1790 have produced a profit for the inventor. That's worth
considering the next time you come up with a great new idea.
Paul Niemann is a contributing author
to Inventors' Digest magazine, and he also runs
building websites for inventors. He can be reached at
Copyright Paul Niemann 2003
column in LDN:
"Did Rube Goldberg ever invent anything worthwhile?"