Ho, Ho, Ho and Fa-La-La-La-La: Christmas Patents

A lot of people have gotten patents for things related to Christmas. Here are some of the most interesting ones I’ve found.

There are a number of patents intended to help parents convince children that Santa has been there. One of these is U.S. patent no. 5,523,741 for a “Santa Claus Detector.” This patent covers a Christmas stocking that contains a light bulb or LED, a battery to power the light, and a hidden switch that turns on the light. The switch is connected to a pull cord. When the stocking is hung on the fireplace, the pull cord is positioned across the opening of the fireplace, forming a barrier across the fireplace opening. After the child has gone to sleep on Christmas Eve, Santa Claus comes down the chimney with his bag of toys and triggers the cord, which turns on the light. The next morning, the child will see the light on and know that Santa was there! (Or, as the patent describes, the parent can secretly pull the cord and turn on the light.) The purpose of this invention, according to the inventors, is to reassure children that their good behavior was rewarded by Santa.

Another one used by parents to prove to a child that Santa has visited is the “Santa Claus Visit Kit,” U.S. patent no. 7,258,592. The kit includes a stencil to leave boot prints on the floor, a letter from Santa, and a snack item for Santa. The kit is intended to alleviate a child’s fear that Santa Claus might not leave presents.

There are several patents for fire extinguishers incorporated into Christmas decorations. One patent covers a fire extinguisher hidden inside the trunk of a synthetic Christmas tree that is activated by a heat sensor. Another patent is for a Christmas tree ornament that contains a fire-retardant powder. The ornament pops open when the temperature reaches a certain point, releasing the fire retardant powder and, hopefully, putting out the fire.

Lots of people have patented Christmas tree stands, probably because there is a great need for one that is stable and holds the tree straight. One such patent is U.S. patent no. 10,123,646. This tree stand includes a tarp inside it so the tree can be tipped out of the stand onto the tarp when it is ready to be discarded. It’s a combination of a tree stand and a tarp, so it takes two perfectly useful things and turns them into one (in my opinion) not-so-useful thing. It looks too complicated to be practical: it has a hinged, pivoting collar, spurs, a rotating wheel and cylinder, baffles, a cable, restraints, screws, a foot pedal, and a rolled-up tarp. All of this makes the tree stand far more difficult than necessary. I think the simplest way to take down a Christmas tree is just to take it out of its stand and carry it outside.

Another patent that seems to take an ordinary task and make it more complicated is U.S. patent no. 10,121,127, entitled “System and Method for Processing Group Gift Cards.” This is software that can be used to manage the purchase of a group gift. For example, when you and your friends want to chip in to buy another friend a birthday present, someone collects the money from the others and buys the gift. I don’t know what is so time-consuming or complicated about this, and I don’t find it to be a problem. But the inventors of this invention came up with a solution, so they must think there is a problem. So, instead of using the old-fashioned method, you can use their software, which is shown in 30 figures and described in 78 columns of text. Perfectly simple.

One more overly complicated patent is for a pie-baking dish. This pie plate allows you to make a pie with horizontal layers instead of vertical ones. Standard pie plates can be used to make a vertically layered pie, such as a cheesecake. All you do is place one layer of ingredients on top of another layer. A pie with horizontal layers is a pie with concentric circles of ingredients. It is much harder to make this kind of pie. Gravity works against horizontal layers. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a pie with horizontal layers. But, in case you want to try making one, these inventors have designed a pie plate to help make it easier. The pie plate has inner walls to keep the horizontal layers separate and inner heating channels with vents to cook all of the layers evenly. I’m not sure how many of us would use this kind of pie plate, but it might be fun to try.

There are some patents that do not describe complicated inventions. One such patent is a design patent for an artificial Christmas tree. I’m not a fan of artificial Christmas trees, but a lot of people have them. U.S. design patent no. D832,133 shows a geometrical tree that has a central pole and layers of horizontal slats around the pole arranged as branches. The problem with this patent is that it would be fairly easy to design around by changing the arrangement of the layers or the number of slats. Design patents only protect the specific design shown in the drawings; as such, they provide less protection than utility patents. But, design patents can be very valuable if the specific design is likely to be copied.

My all-time favorite Christmas patent, however, is the “Apparatus to Prevent Pets Climbing a Christmas Tree.” The need for this invention is not surprising to anyone who has kittens or cats. As the patent explains, “as is generally well known in the prior art, pets, such as cats, like to climb up the branches of a Christmas tree. [Duh!] Oftentimes this will result in knocking some of the ornaments off such tree. These ornaments may be broken…” The invention is basically a giant circular screen that clips under the lowest branches of the tree and is intended to frustrate the climbing felines. If you have a cat, however, you know that this device will do exactly the opposite. Any cat who sees this big screen will be curious and simply jump up onto it. The screen will become a staging platform for your cat to explore the tree. So, I don’t think it will work. But, actually, who really wants to stop cats from climbing Christmas trees anyway? It’s way too much fun to watch them perched on the branches, swatting ornaments and looking embarrassed when they land clumsily on the floor!

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