February 20 – Big Day in 1872

Posted on February 20, 2014

Toothpick making
On this date in 1872, the first patent was granted for an elevator, AND a patent was granted for a machine that manufactures square-bottom paper bags, AND a patent was granted for a machine that makes toothpicks!
paper bag

Oh, and this same day, February 20, 1872, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City opened!

Okay, so exactly what is a patent?

A patent is a set of rights granted by a nation to an inventor—rights to keep her or his invention exclusive, for a while, in return for making the details of the patent public. Patents are only given for products or processes that solve specific technological problems. You can't get a patent for a clever saying or a song—art, words, music, and the like are covered by copyright law, not patents.

(However, patents and copyright both deal with what is known as “intellectual property.” You have the right to profit from your own original ideas, whether they are electronic devices or novels.)

Notice that the patent for the
game of Monopoly includes
very specific drawings of each
part of the game.
You cannot get a patent for just an idea, by the way. Someone somewhere has probably had a thought like this: “Hey, wouldn't it be cool to have a computer that keeps track of all the food you have on hand, and has a bajillion recipes in memory, and then presents you with a menu with options for the day? And then, after you make your selections, it could control the appliances and heat the food, too! That would be great!” But that someone couldn't take out a patent on such an idea. Instead, he or she would have to actually create the computer, write the computer program, and create the computer/appliance interface in order to do these things. In order to prove that the invention will work, she or he would have to make a technical drawing showing all the parts of the invention, and he or she would have to write a technical report that describes exactly what the invention does, and also HOW it does it.

Notice that patents only protect the specifics of an invention, and only in one particular country, and only for a limited time. People make changes to an invention, improvements on a product or process, all the time, and they often take out a new patent on that improvement.

The Met!

Between Earth and Heaven
by El Anatsui 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is amazing! You can travel from Ancient Egypt and Greece to the modern world and even the future by enjoying the sculptures, tapestries, ceramics, totem poles, paintings, and other art products and artifacts displayed in the Met.

We are reflected in an art piece at the Met.

By the way, notice that the admission prices are only recommendations. As the museum says, “To help cover the cost of exhibitions, we ask that you please pay the full recommended amount.” But if you cannot afford to pay the current recommended fee, $25 per adult and $12 per student 12 and up, you can pay less. The museum person collecting the entrance fee may frown at you, but you will still get in.

Also, the recommended fee for children under 12, accompanied by adult, is FREE!

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