Source Code: Your daily look at what matters in tech.

source-codesource codeauthorMike MurphyNoneWant your finger on the pulse of everything that's happening in tech? Sign up to get David Pierce's daily newsletter.64fd3cbe9f
×

Get access to Protocol

Your information will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

I’m already a subscriber
Power

It's the most wonderful time of the year — even for patents

Santa's getting ready to deliver presents, hopefully with this drone.

It's the most wonderful time of the year — even for patents

A 21st century Santa.

Image: USPTO

Merry Christmas and happy holidays! This week's patent roundup is a special holiday-themed edition. We're giving Big Tech the week off for the holidays and focusing on some of the zanier patents that have been granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for this joyous season. Some are tech-related, and some are just … pure Christmas.

Hopefully this Christmas Eve, as you curl up with some eggnog in one hand and your phone in the other, before you drift off to dream of sugar plum fairies, you'll find a Christmas miracle or two in here.

And remember: The companies file all kinds of crazy patents for things, and though most never amount to anything, some end up defining the holidays.

Santa drone

It wouldn't be a patent roundup without some drones, even on Christmas. This patent, awarded in time for the holidays in 2017, is for a drone shaped like Santa, his sleigh and what I'm guessing is Rudolph. It's just a design patent, so we don't get any details on how this drone works, but it looks like a wonderful, Christmassy toy rather than something more Santa-sized. That'd be a great way to keep the kids believing in Santa a little longer, though, if one of those went buzzing by your window.

Santa Claus welcome kit

This seems like an amazing grift. Instead of keeping up the facade of Santa by just putting out some cookies and milk, you can use this store-bought kit! Yet more work for overstretched parents at the holidays. It comes with a diorama of a living room that the parents set up, a fake letter from Santa and a pretend boot-print to place on the floor. The kit also tells you to put the snack on the diorama, take a bite out of it after Junior has gone to bed and to fill out the letter from Santa. Seems a bit like overkill, but maybe that's just Christmas.



Santa detector

Yet another invention devised to fool children about where their presents come from: This one feels a bit … unnecessary? It's a light-up device that can hide in a stocking that parents can turn on to announce that Santa has come. The device could even possibly play a Christmas carol. But you know what would more easily tell kids Santa came? All the presents under the tree.

Christmas tree fire sensor and extinguisher

This one actually seems pretty useful, albeit very difficult to set up. Many people have unfortunately witnessed the danger of a dried-out Christmas tree sparking a house fire, and this patent builds upon past inventions to create fire detector and extinguisher systems. The homeowner would have to snake spray hoses up the length of their tree, and attach them to a box that holds a fire extinguisher and a system for communicating with emergency services if it detects fire. That could well prevent someone from losing their entire home, but would definitely require a lot of effort to get this set up (and taken down after New Year's) when you could just buy a fake tree and some pine-scented spray.

Automated Christmas tree waterer

But if you have your heart set on a real tree, this patent might help. One of the main reasons Christmas trees become so dangerous is that everyone forgets to water them after they're brought home, which dries them out, and they turn into a giant, decorated piece of kindling. This patent is for an automated tree waterer that you can just set and forget. You fill up the large water jug that's connected to the tree base, plug in the water pump and let osmosis do its job for the length of the tree's time in your house. Just don't forget to fill up the jug or it's all for naught.

There's also this patent for a similar device that will yell at you through a speaker if your tree's water level gets too low, which seems like a useful addition.

A rotating Christmas tree

You probably can't use this patent in conjunction with the last one, though. Apparently the creator of this invention didn't think the ornate decorations most people put on their trees were enough to truly celebrate the holiday. "Traditional Christmas trees are inserted in a base and cannot revolve or turn," the patent says. "Flashing of lamps alone is monotonous and lacks the effect of animation." I guess that's true, though I personally haven't ever thought, "You know what would really jazz this Christmas up? If my tree rotated on a stick like the meat at a kebab shop." But to each their own.



Electronic wreath with scent generator

Have you ever wanted to have a light-up wreath, but not wanted to deal with dead needles? This might be the solution for you: It's a patent for a wreath-shaped object with electric lights and a heating element for "volatile aromatic liquid" — basically a wreath-shaped vape for pine-scented oil. I wouldn't recommend putting any other substances in there, though.


A bauble head

"I said I wanted a bobble head for Christmas."

"Yeah, a bauble head."

"Bobble."

"Bauble?"

Maybe this is how the conversation played out that led to this fine piece of holiday headwear. Or maybe someone really just wanted a hat shaped like an ornament. Perhaps we'll never know, but I'm so glad that someone felt compelled to make this, hire lawyers and seek out a patent for it.

Christmas food

There are, unsurprisingly, a lot of patents about food items related to Christmas. A few of my favorites: Santa-shaped and candy-cane-shaped pasta (for all your Christmas-themed mac and cheese bakes); constructable reindeer pastries (I guess you bake the pieces and put them together to make Donner and Blitzen?); and this terrifying corncob thing that looks like a gaunt Santa face, for some reason:



Santa baseball cap

For when it's Christmas time, but you're still worried the sun might get in your eyes as you pick off a runner stealing second. Just don't try to wear it backwards.

Does Elon Musk make Tesla tech?

Between the massive valuation and the self-driving software, Tesla isn't hard to sell as a tech company. But does that mean that, in 10 years, every car will be tech?

You know what's not tech and is a car company? Volkswagen.

Image: Tesla/Protocol

From disagreements about what "Autopilot" should mean and SolarCity lawsuits to space colonization and Boring Company tunnels, extremely online Tesla CEO Elon Musk and his company stay firmly in the news, giving us all plenty of opportunities to consider whether the company that made electric cars cool counts as tech.

The massive valuation definitely screams tech, as does the company's investment in self-driving software and battery development. But at the end of the day, this might not be enough to convince skeptics that Tesla is anything other than a car company that uses tech. It also raises questions about the role that timeliness plays in calling something tech. In a potential future where EVs are the norm and many run on Tesla's own software — which is well within the realm of possibility — will Tesla lose its claim to a tech pedigree?

Keep Reading Show less
Becca Evans
Becca Evans is a copy editor and producer at Protocol. Previously she edited Carrie Ann Conversations, a wellness and lifestyle publication founded by Carrie Ann Inaba. She's also written for STYLECASTER. Becca lives in Los Angeles.

As President of Alibaba Group, I am often asked, "What is Alibaba doing in the U.S.?"

In fact, most people are not aware we have a business in the U.S. because we are not a U.S. consumer-facing service that people use every day – nor do we want to be. Our consumers – nearly 900 million of them – are located in China.

Keep Reading Show less
J. Michael Evans
Michael Evans leads and executes Alibaba Group's international strategy for globalizing the company and expanding its businesses outside of China.
Protocol | Workplace

Apple isn’t the only tech company spooked by the delta variant

Spooked by rising cases of COVID-19, many tech companies delay their office reopening.

Apple and at least two other Silicon Valley companies have decided to delay their reopenings in response to rising COVID-19 case counts.

Photo: Luis Alvarez via Getty

Apple grabbed headlines this week when it told employees it would delay its office reopening until October or later. But the iPhone maker wasn't alone: At least two other Silicon Valley companies decided to delay their reopenings last week in response to rising COVID-19 case counts.

Both ServiceNow and Pure Storage opted to push back their September return-to-office dates last week, telling employees they can work remotely until at least the end of the year. Other companies may decide to exercise more caution given the current trends.

Keep Reading Show less
Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.
Protocol | Workplace

Half of working parents have felt discriminated against during COVID

A new survey found that working parents at the VP level are more likely to say they've faced discrimination at work than their lower-level counterparts.

A new survey looks at discrimination faced by working parents during the pandemic.

Photo: d3sign/Getty Images

The toll COVID-19 has taken on working parents — particularly working moms — is, by now, well-documented. The impact for parents in low-wage jobs has been particularly devastating.

But a new survey, shared exclusively with Protocol, finds that among parents who kept their jobs through the pandemic, people who hold more senior positions are actually more likely to say they faced discrimination at work than their lower-level colleagues.

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Protocol | Enterprise

Alphabet goes deep into industrial robotic software with Intrinsic

If it succeeds, the gambit could help support Google Cloud's lofty ambitions in the manufacturing sector.

Alphabet is aiming to make advanced robotic technology affordable to customers.

Photo: Getty Images

Alphabet launched a new division Friday called Intrinsic, which will focus on building software for industrial robots, per a blog post. The move plunges the tech giant deeper into a sector that's in the midst of a major wave of digitization.

The goal of Intrinsic is to "give industrial robots the ability to sense, learn, and automatically make adjustments as they're completing tasks, so they work in a wider range of settings and applications," CEO Wendy Tan-White wrote in the post.

Keep Reading Show less
Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

Latest Stories