Trace the rise of consumer desires through the goods in our beautiful new patent design book
The history of patent law closely tracks the development of industrial production. As Thomas Rinaldi writes in the introduction to Patented: 1000 Design Patents, legislation protecting a good’s aesthetic appearance came into the force in the United States in 1842, as mass-produced goods were finding a significant market, and manufacturers had begun to lobby against “design piracy.”
Of course, not everything produced and protected by this new law met some long-standing human necessity. As Rinaldi writes, “The Patent Office issued just fourteen design patents in the law’s first year. These included designs for a typeface, a candelabrum, cast iron stoves, and a bathtub, a 'corpse preserver’.”
As the years rolled by and America grew richer, more and more goods designed to pleasure consumers, rather than meet more basic needs, found their way into the patent office archives. You can trace many different histories via this brilliant new book, one of which is the development of good for pleasure. Not every item will give consumers quite as much satisfaction as it once did, but each inclusion remains a worthy exhibit in a tale of manufacturing and desire.
The Coke bottle A little over 100 years ago, the Coca Cola company challenged US bottle manufacturers to create a vessel so distinctive that consumers could recognise it in the dark, or broken, in shards, on the street. The team at the Root Glass Company in Terre Haute, Indiana, took up the challenge, and tried to find images of the drink’s key ingredients to serve as sources of inspiration. In the end they stumbled upon an image of a cacao pod – the key ingredient for chocolate, but something that doesn’t appear in the Coca Cola recipe. Undeterred, they worked the ribbed, organic shape into their bottle, won the competition, and created a design classic.
The Rock-Ola jukebox Nominative determinism would suggest that the vending machine mogul David C. Rockola was destined to build up a jukebox empire. However, eagle-eyed readers might have realised that this patent dates from the late 1930s, a good few years before rock ‘n’ roll entered the popular vernacular. Nevertheless, Rockola’s Rock-Ola machines managed to hit that postwar market, and went on to become one of America’s leading jukebox manufacturers, though David himself insisted that any likeness between his name and the kind of music he helped popularise was purely incidental.
The upright hair dryer Egmont Arens, designer of this stalwart of the ladies' salon, was something of a Renaissance Man, publishing works by DH Lawrence and Georgia O’Keefe in a successful print career, while also producing a prodigious number of product designs, for everything from food mixers to boats. Arens created this particular model for the New York cosmetics firm Nestle-Lemur.
The Flying V guitar This angular instrument, known as the Gibson Flying V, has given heavy metal lovers pleasure for decades. However, when the instrument was first introduced by Gibson – one of America’s preeminent electric guitar manufacturers – in the late 1950s, it was something of a flop. Only in subsequent decades did musicians such as Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine help establish this design classic.
The Moka coffee pot The classic, Bialetti Moka stovetop coffee maker dates from the 1930s, and has provided millions of coffee drinkers with an enjoyable, reliable morning cup of Joe. This 1990s version, credited to Bialetti’s current chairman, Francesco Ranzoni, updates the look and feel of the coffee maker, without watering down its powerful output.
For a more pleasurable perusal of designs old and new, order a copy of Patented here.