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A Pittsburgh Intellectual Property Hall of Fame: Patents

Included: processes, machines, manufactures, and compositions of matter – things that may be patented, per Section 101 of the United States Patent Act.

Not included: “things that appeared first” in Pittsburgh, such as the motion picture theater, the gas station, and broadcast radio station, or “things that were allegedly invented in Pittsburgh,” but were not patented by Pittsburghers, such as the Ferris wheel. The first steel “Ferris wheel” was built in Chicago by a Pittsburgh resident, George Ferris, but it was not patented by him. A New Jerseyan, William Somers, obtained a patent in January 1893 for a vertically-mounted “roundabout.”

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Dr. Luis von Ahn is often credited with the invention of CAPTCHA and developed reCAPTCHA, both widely-used security technologies, and received a number of related patents.

Dr. Eric Beckman and Dr. Jason Smith invented a biodegradable adhesive now marketed as TissuGlu. They received U.S. Patent No. 8,182,647 in 2012.

George Blaisdell and George Gimera received U.S. Patent No. 2,032,695 for a “pocket lighter” in 1936 and assigned it to the Zippo Manufacturing Co. in Bradford, PA.

Dr. Michael Mauldin invented and patented a search technology that became the basis for Lycos. He received U.S. Patent No. 5,748,954 (1998).

The Slinky, produced in Hollidaysburg, PA since 1964, was first patented by Richard James as “Toy and Process of Use,” U.S. Patent No. 2,415,012 (January 28, 1947). The Slinky is in the National Toy Hall of Fame.

William “Red” Whittaker‘s robotics work has profoundly shaped modern robotics. He has a large portfolio of patents for robotics technology, including U.S. Patent No. 5,005,658 (1991), for an “orthogonal legged walking robot.

George Westinghouse‘s automatic air brake revolutionized the railroad industry. U.S. Patent No. 88,929 disclosed the first compressed air brake. His first automatic air brake patent was U.S. Patent No. 124,405 (1872). U.S. Patent No. 360,070 (1887) disclosed the transformative “triple valve” system.

Pittsburgh resident Alfred Cralle invented the ice cream scoop and received U.S. Patent No. 576,395 for it in 1897.