This Month in IP: November 2023

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 November:

  • 1923: On November 20, Garrett Morgan was granted a patent for a three-position traffic signal, a significant advancement over previous signals. Morgan’s innovation introduced an intermediate caution position, laying the groundwork for the modern “yellow light.” This revolutionary addition profoundly impacted traffic flow and has been credited with saving countless lives. One hundred years later, the United States alone boasts more than 300,000 signalized intersections, a testament to the enduring impact of Morgan’s invention.
  • 1901: On November 4, Henry Ford received a patent for an improved motor carriage, which was vital to the inception of Ford Motor Company in 1903 and the creation of the revolutionary Model T automobile in 1908. Today, Ford’s company is worth more than $41 billion and employs roughly 86,000 workers in the United States. In 2022, Ford sold an estimated 4.2 million vehicles – and has produced America’s best-selling truck, the F-150, for nearly half a century.
  • 1894: On November 27, Mildred Lord received a patent for a washing machine that could be operated via hand-crank. Her invention paved the way for the modern washing machine industry, which has generated an estimated $65 billion in global revenue this year alone. In 2020, over 63 million washing machines were sold worldwide. More than 85% of U.S. households are estimated to own one.
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