Posted: December 22, 2015

By John Sullivan and Ray Angers

During the holiday season, we at Chipworks sometimes divert our attention from leading-edge microelectronic technologies to more festive themes. This year we focused our patent analytics capabilities on Christmas and were surprised to find a wealth of patents tied to the holidays. 

A database patent text search for the term ‘Christmas’ returned thousands of publications filed globally over the years. We soon realized that our simple search cast the net a bit too far. In addition to the subject areas that we were expecting (lights, ornaments, trees, and Santa), a quick review showed we had also captured intellectual property (IP) on DNA sequencing (by the way, nice work Dr. Christmas). We also caught several hundred patents related to the oil and gas industry. It turns out, a Christmas tree is an assembly of valves, spools, and fittings used for an oil or gas well and named for its crude resemblance to a decorated tree. Crude is right. This is not something we typically look at here at Chipworks and certainly not something we would want in our living rooms to put presents under. 

We filtered out the non-festive IP and fed the results into the KMX patent visualization tool, part of our Chipworks Patent Analytics services (US granted patents and applications only). The result is familiar to regular readers of our blogs. Each dot in the landscape represents a patent grant or application grouped based on sophisticated text algorithms. Topographical peaks denote key concepts, with the top three most frequent words for each peak shown. We’ve kept patents filed all the way back to the early 1900s, long expired, but which still make for some interesting reading.  

At a high level, we see that the majority of these patents are related to lights and trees. Tree-stands, a constant source of holiday stress, figure prominently in the mixNeed something to keep the cat out of the tree? Check out US8230812 Apparatus to prevent pets climbing a Christmas tree. Worried about the tree catching fire(certainly a concern back when candles or incandescent lights were used for decoration)? US3773111 Fire extinguishing apparatus provides a solution to those settling their brains for a long winter's nap. We kept plant (USP) patents in the landscape for the benefit of our office plant caretaker. He usually doesn’t appear too interested in what we are up to when he does his weekly watering rounds, but maybe a review of the current state-of-the-art in Christmas cactus varieties will change that. (Tony, Ruscus plant named 'christmas berry' has numerous glossy and bright red-colored fruits – USPP16680.)

To the dismay of many, it’s looking like it will be a green Christmas here in Ottawa this year due to the unusually warm temperatures. US5412888 Assembly for producing artificial snowfall may help those who may be missing the snow.

We asked ourselves, how much IP is directed at Santa himself? Not much as it turns out. Perhaps inventors don’t want to mess with a good thing. However, there were a few that revolve around how to simulate a visit from Santa. See, for instance, US20060116049 Kit for simulating a visit by Santa Claus and US7258592 Santa Claus visit kit. Both of these patents talk about how to stage your house to make it appear to a child that there was a visit from Santa (that is just mean). These patents, however, would not stand up in light of 35 U.S.C. § 101, the utility requirement of a patent, because everyone knows SANTA CLAUS IS REAL!! Unfortunately, there will always be non-believers who do not acknowledge the journalistic integrity of the New York Sun as Virginia did. For those of you, there is US5523741 Santa Claus detector that discloses a means to detect when the big man fills up your Christmas stocking. So, whether you believe in Santa or not, you need to err on the side of caution and prepare your house for the big night. Leave some milk and cookies out and of course don’t forget about the sleigh’s engines. Be sure to leave some treats for the reindeer too. You can use the apparatus described in US2002012808 Santa’s Reindeer Food.

Warmest wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a very happy and prosperous New Year.