Patents, Pumpkins, and Pageantry: The IP Behind Halloween

As Halloween approaches, C4IP is recognizing some of the inventions that have changed the way we celebrate this spooky holiday! The numerous patents registered for Halloween novelties — such as jack-o’-lanterns and costumes — reveal that creativity and IP rights underlie this holiday’s most important traditions.

Carving frightening faces into vegetables isn’t an American practice — jack-o’-lanterns originated with the Celtic festival Samhain and carried over to the Catholic holiday All Hallows’ Eve, which we know today as Halloween. But over the decades, patent rights have helped American innovators enhance our enjoyment of this holiday tradition.

Inventors have filed approximately 1,200 U.S. patents for numerous devices to aid in carving jack-o’-lanterns, including blades turned with screws, specially-designed cookie cutters, electric knives, and pattern sheets to confer more complex designs. Others have reimagined the concept, creating devices to shape the growth of the pumpkin or making the lantern out of a different material entirely. As early as 1889, inventor George Beidler patented a molded lantern in the shape of a human face that could be made from metal or paper to produce an even more frightening appearance. These many innovations have made jack-o’-lantern carving more accessible and creative — as well as more economically impactful! In 2023, Americans will spend an estimated $843 million on pumpkins for this purpose alone.

Patents are also integral to another Halloween mainstay: costumes. Patents have been granted for costumes that incorporate new functions, such as designs made with lights and materials designed to regulate temperature in different climates. Thanks to the diversity of creative costumes that are now available, Americans are projected to spend a record $4.1 billion on Halloween costumes this year!

Just as in the other aspects of our lives, American inventors’ creativity and dedication, as well as intellectual property protections, have played an invaluable role in shaping our enjoyment of Halloween’s many traditions. Happy Halloween!

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