On October 6, 2020, we lost Eddie Van Halen, the lead songwriter and guitarist for American rock bank Van Halen. While his memory will live on through his music and fans, his contributions to performing arts are also memorialized in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), where he is listed as the inventor of patent number 4,656,917.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) defines a patent as “an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem.” Intellectual property protections are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8, which reads, “[The Congress shall have Power . . .] To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
The USPTO’s website offers a variety of methods for navigating issued patents, images of patents, and patent applications. Researchers can do simple or advanced searches through USPTO filings. I used these resources to find the above patent, as well as the other four patents Mr. Van Halen owned.
Specific, advanced searches on the website work best with Boolean operators. For researchers who are unfamiliar with these advanced search techniques, the website offers recommendations for using these functions. If you would like to learn more about patent laws and legal resources, I suggest checking out our Patent Law Beginner’s Guide.
To illustrate the database’s capabilities, I did a few searches with random topics that came to mind. Since I am a dog owner and it is getting colder, I did a quick search for issued patents and images, using the terms dog and outfit. The search retrieved 142 results, including a patent for an application that dog owners can use to find suitable clothing for their pets, with diagrams. (Tip: To flip through the patent’s pages, toggle the gold arrows on the left side of the screen.)
Pacific Northwest sports teams were also on my mind when I tested some advanced searches. For example, searches for the phrases “Marshawn Lynch” and “Seattle Storm” yielded patents mainly related to fantasy sports and sports wagering. A subsequent search for patents held by an inventor named Russell Wilson provided results that I am fairly confident are unconnected to the Seattle Seahawks starting quarterback (unless he is a virologist in his free time).
If you find anything interesting when researching patents through the USPTO, please share it in the comments below. Happy searching!