Patent: Patents are Forever; What Jobs teaches you from the Grave!

Deceased inventors can also get Patents granted, if the approval process gets drawn out, or when attorneys seek “continuations” – new versions of old patents. And the more lawyers and money an inventor has, the more likely his ghost will rattle on. The estate of Jerome Lemelson, the sometimes-controversial independent inventor who came up with the bar code reader, received 96 patents following his death in 1997 at the age of 74!

And that’s how, since Steve Jobs’ death in 2011 from pancreatic cancer, the former Apple CEO has received 141 patents, the highest number as of now! That’s more than most inventors get during their lifetimes.

Jobs was closely involved in the details of many Apple products, and some of his inventions are still working their way through the US Patent and Trademark Office. A large number of them reflect Apple’s intense efforts to patent every aspect of its products, no matter how small, something Jobs himself encouraged.

A third of a total of 458 patented inventions and designs credited to Jobs have been approved since he died. Jobs’ patent documents are a record of Apple’s history from startup to one of the world’s largest companies. His first patent in 1983, is simply titled ‘Personal Computer’. One of the newest, filed after his death and approved in August, covers the design of the dramatic glass cube that’s the entrance to Apple’s store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

In 2012, Jobs was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He even has his own traveling museum show, “Patents and Trademarks of Steve Jobs: Art and Technology that Changed the World,” most recently appearing at Denver’s Public Library.

One criticism is that on his patents, Jobs’ name often appears alongside a score of others, meaning these inventions or designs were not entirely of Jobs’ making. Instead, Jobs shared credit for what Apple’s more than 80,000 employees did, something some argue to be “fed into his legend as a one-in-a-lifetime visionary.”

Tim Wasko, who developed the interface for Apple’s QuickTime player and the iPod, remembers that Jobs would give feedback on small details, and he’d often end up with a position on a patent. Wasko added, “he had useful comments, suggestions, and it’s worthy of him being on the patent”.

Even as Jobs became ill, Apple’s lawyers kept filing patents in his name every few days, including one for a variation of the Mac’s scrolling toolbar, which was filed on October 4, 2011, the day before he passed away. And Jobs’ name is still getting added to new patents, some of which offer a window on his personal interests, like the 260-foot super yacht, Venus, that he commissioned and helped design. Only this March, a company based on Cape Cod, Savant Systems, listed Jobs as the lead inventor on a patent application covering the idea of using a tablet like the iPad to steer a sea vessel.

I get a good feeling knowing that my work would live on forever, don’t you?