Santa Claus: A Patent History

Fig. 1 from U.S. Patent No. 2,635,383.

Fig. 1 from U.S. Patent No. 2,635,383, titled Santa Claus Bank.

It is that time of year once again where we take time to celebrate the end of a year and usher in the beginning of the next year. For many people, our family included, end of year rituals and family gatherings begin with the celebration of Christmas and the anticipated arrival of Santa Claus sometime during the late evening of December 24th.

No other holiday is quite like Christmas in terms of the anticipation, not to mention the colossal magnitude of the commercialization of the holiday. According to the National Retail Federation, holiday retail sales are expected to come in at approximately $680 billion in 2017, with consumers saying they will spend an average $967.13 this year on holiday shopping. Indeed, holiday spending dwarfs all other holidays.

There is no doubt that Santa Claus contributes greatly to the staggering 2017 predictions for holiday spending. With that in mind, and being a patent attorney, I wondered what patents I could find with Santa Claus in the title. I was able to find a total of 24 patents with the name Santa Claus in the title; 4 being U.S. utility patents and the rest being U.S. design patents.

Some of what I initially located were classic Santa patents, including the Santa Claus Detector (U.S. Patent No. 5,523,741) and the Santa Visit Kit (U.S. Patent No. 7,258,592), which always seem to be referenced by patent aficionados at this time of year.

 

Santa Claus Detector

Fig. 1A of U.S. Patent No. 5,523,741, titled Santa Claus Detector.

I also uncovered a patent titled Santa Claus Bank issued in 1948 (U.S. Patent No. 2,635,383), a Santa Claus like decorative object that is made up of flexible, fillable bags (U.S. Patent No. 5,458,932) and a design patent covering a nativity scene decoration that including both Santa Claus and Rudolph (U.S. Design Patent No. D587,161).

Fig. 1 of U.S. Patent No. 5,458,932

Fig. 1 of U.S. Patent No. 5,458,932, covering a Santa Claus like decorative object.

Surely there must be older U.S. patents mentioning Santa Claus? Indeed there were, but just not with Santa Claus in the title.

The earliest mention of Santa Claus I could find in an issued U.S. patent dates to U.S. Patent No. 276,586, which issued on May 1, 1883, and is simply titled Toy. This patent covers a novel device to be applied to pictures of faces or busts of toys having faces. The patent explains the device is for the amusement of children a Christmas time.

From U.S. Design Patent No. D19161.

Another early patent that mentions Santa Claus issued in 1889 (U.S. Design Patent No. 19,161), and is titled Design for bag, which looks a lot like a stocking that depicts “the pictorial representation of St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus, carrying on his back a miscellaneous assemblage of toys.”

Indeed, most of what I found when searching for Santa Claus patents were either design patents, patents on toys or figurines in the shape of Santa Claus, such as U.S. Design Patent No. 17,042 or U.S. Patent No. 1,805,156.

Of course, there are also the patents that do not specifically and directly relate to Santa Claus, but mention him by name, such as U.S. Patent No. 2,536,407, titled Christmas stocking hanger, which relates to ornamental supports designed for holding stockings suspended from a mantel so they can be filled by Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

Fig. 1 of U.S. Patent No. 2,536,407

Fig. 1 of U.S. Patent No. 2,536,407, , titled Christmas stocking hanger.

There is even a patent application filed on March 12, 2001 on a kit for supplying reindeer food to Santa’s reindeer (U.S. Patent Application No. 20020128081), which includes reference to the kit being capable of similarly supplying food to the Easter Bunny during his annual visits as well. Unfortunately, this application was later abandoned.

Indeed, it seems that there is a long tradition of inventors seeking patents on various items inspired by or relating to Santa Claus himself. And unlike many other celebrities, no doubt owing to Santa’s jolly nature, he seems perfectly comfortable with inventors using his name and likeness as they invent toys, figurines and other gadgets that are useful for conjuring up the loving spirit of the man during the holiday season.

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  • [Avatar for Paul Cole]
    Paul Cole
    December 22, 2017 11:00 am

    May I be the first to wish all readers a happy Christmas and a patent-eligible new year.