World-renowned musician Les Paul, whose invention of the solid-body electric guitar transformed popular music in the 1950s and 60s, died on Aug. 12 at the age of 94. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2005.
Mr. Paul held at least two patents related to electric guitars. The first, which is mentioned in his NIHF bio, was issued in 1962. (US 3,018,680) The second, US 3,725,561, was issued ten years later in 1973. Both have been cited in numerous patents over the last forty years.
Many musicians have followed Les Paul's example and patented inventions. Eddie Van Halen, co-founder of the 1980s mega-band Van Halen, has two patents (US 7,183,475 and US 4,656,917) and a design patent for a guitar peghead, US D388117. And in 1993, Michael Jackson patented (US 5,255,452) a special shoe that would allow a wearer to lean forward beyond his or her center of gravity, thus creating "an anti-gravity illusion".
I'm the librarian for research services in the Engineering and Science Library at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. I've been working with patent information since 1991, including seven years at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. I believe that the dissemination of patent information is a public good and should be promoted, especially in the education of science and engineering students.