This Month in IP: February 2024

Innovation requires IP. Without a strong patent system, innovation does not happen at scale. Virtually every invention of impact is patented, as exemplified by these historical examples from the month of February:

  • 1916: On February 8, Charles Kettering received a patent for the first self-starting automobile engine, a technology that has since been universally incorporated in modern vehicles. The global market for automotive engines is today estimated at a massive $395 billion. Over 80 million motor vehicles were sold in 2022, and more than nine in 10 American households own at least one.
  • 1878: On February 19, Thomas Edison received a patent for the phonograph, which made audio recording and playback possible for the first time. The device, which evolved into what we know now as a record player, remains popular today: over 43 million vinyl records were sold in 2022, continuing the 17-year growth of vinyl album sales. Additionally, Edison’s invention paved the way for the broader recorded music industry, which was estimated to be worth over $26 billion in 2022.
  • 1871: On February 14, amputee James Hanger received a patent for the first prosthetic leg with flexible joints at the knee and ankle. This innovation formed the basis for his company, Hanger, Inc., which is valued at over $730 million, employs 5,600 workers nationwide, and treats 1 million patients Overall, the global market for prosthetics and orthotics is estimated at $6.5 billion.
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