This Month in IP: January 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 January:

  • 1967: On January 3, Harry Thomason received a patent for technology to heat and cool a building using solar energy. Thomason’s invention is widely considered a critical development in the creation of home solar energy systems. Today, approximately 28 million American households use solar power, and the fast-growing market for residential solar panels has been valued at nearly $40 billion.
  • 1880: On January 27, Thomas Edison received the patent for his electric lamp, which famously paved the way for widespread use of electric lighting. The average house in the United States today contains approximately 50 light bulb sockets. In 2022, the global market for electric lighting was estimated to be worth over $122 billion.
  • 1857: On January 20, William Kelly received a patent for a blast furnace that could efficiently manufacture steel, which facilitated the industrial revolution in the United States. According to current estimates, the U.S. steel industry ranks fourth in the world in total production and directly supports over 130,000 jobs. In addition, steel’s importance to infrastructure and ubiquity in consumer products means that it generates almost $3 trillion in economic output and supports almost 100 million jobs worldwide.
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