An Innovative Independence Day

Independence Day, or the Fourth of July, was established as a U.S. federal holiday in 1941, but Americans have been reveling for centuries beyond, with official celebrations first recorded in the 1700s. Innovation, backed by a strong intellectual property (IP) system, has sparked an evolution in the way Americans observe Independence Day. So let’s explore the IP behind some of our favorite holiday traditions.

Grill out

Any grill master knows that there’s a secret to the perfect burger or steak. Many patent owners have revealed their secrets, allowing the patent system to transform their unique ideas into products we all can use.

The patent behind charcoal briquettes – a staple of the barbecue – dates back to 1897, filed by Ellsworth B.A. Zwoyer. Famed innovator Henry Ford, in collaboration with Thomas Edison, built upon his friend Zwoyer’s patented design, using woods scraps, sawdust, and other waste from his car production plants to manufacture similar briquettes. Later, Henry Ford II sold Ford’s charcoal operation to Kingsford Chemical Company. Today, Kingsford Charcoal is one of the largest producers of charcoal in the U.S.

Chill out

It’s only natural to enjoy a sweet frozen treat once the grill has cooled. In fact, over the July 4 holiday, Americans will buy more than $147.4 million worth of ice cream. These consumers will tell you: ice cream can be difficult to scoop.

In 1970, inventors Wallace Burley and Hrand Muncheryan patented an automatically heated ice-cream scoop “designed to eliminate these troublesome problems by offering a simple construction, durable, and practical device for scooping and dispensing ice cream.” And don’t worry: the heated scoop comes with its own ice-cream-drippings receptacle.

Jump in

After you’ve endured the mandated 30 minutes post-ice cream wait, it’s time for a dip in the pool. A seven-year-old from South Carolina, Davis Bartow, was playing in the pool in his backyard when he realized that he couldn’t fit his different pool noodles together to create a larger raft. With the help of his parents, Davis realized there were no interlocking pool noodles on the market or in the patent system.

So, David and his dad went to the USPTO’s Patent and Trademark Resource Center in Clemson, South Carolina, where experts helped the pair submit a patent application and gain patent protection. Today, you can buy Davis’ interlocking pool noodles, called Link’ems, at Walmart, Walgreens, and Dick’s Sporting Goods stores.

Sit back

Grab a seat! The first U.S. patent for a folding chair was issued in 1855; by the end of the century, more than 355 patents were granted for various folding chairs. From chairs with installable sunshades to chairs with heated seats and backs, you’re sure to find a chair that’s just right.

Look up

Once you’re comfortable, it’s time to watch the show. The fireworks show, that is! The patent system has driven advancement in the firework industry, spurring the creation of safer, more effective fireworks.

This patent protects an apparatus that helps even inexperienced fireworks enthusiasts design a fireworks presentation timed to music. Another patent-protected invention allows consumers to scan a code on fireworks packaging in order to access a video file of the firework ignited, so they can understand the exact size and scope of their fireworks. Another patent, owned by fireworks professionals at the Walt Disney Company, outlines “a new method and system of presenting precision fireworks displays with a decreased environmental impact.”

John Adams famously wrote in a letter to his wife on the topic of Independence Day, “It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” However you are celebrating, we wish you a safe, fun holiday. Happy Independence Day!

Courtney Paul is the manager of communications for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Innovation Policy Center.

Subscribe for updates from GIPC