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Come With Us and You Will See, This Our [IP] of Halloween

Posted by Isabel Fox | Oct 29, 2022 | 0 Comments

The spookiest time of year is here! Halloween brings to mind candy, costumes, scary movies, and haunted houses. But did you know that intellectual property (IP) also plays a large role in celebrating this holiday? The most obvious examples of IP's involvement in Halloween can be found in the generalized, knockoff costumes that pop up this time of year – think “Evil Midweek Cutie” instead of “Wednesday Addams” or “Blue Gnome Father” instead of “Papa Smurf.” These imitation costumes are a result of copyright and/or trademark protection that prevent companies from unfairly benefiting from IP that is owned by others. Some IP owners may choose to license out their copyrights and/or trademark rights to manufacturers of seasonal goods like Halloween costumes, Christmas tree ornaments, or the like.

Though possibly less obvious than trademark rights and copyrights, patents also play a role in Halloween. Grab your favorite candy, take a peek at the wrapper for any indication of IP protection (Reese's we're looking at you and your note that “The orange color is a registered trademark”), and enjoy the following list of ten festive patents to get you in the mood for the season.

1. Starting off all the way back in 1890, we have U.S. Patent No. 433,732 issued to F.O. Horstmann for a “Masquerade Suit.” Who knew the “skeleton suit” dated back so far?

2. Up next, we have a “Halloween Portable Container” issued as U.S. Patent No. 7,594,669 to Linda Acosta in 2009. This inventive device comprises a candy container located on a frame with wheels and a handle for pushing or pulling. The container can have any number of festive shapes including a pumpkin (as shown), or a “witch, ghost, monster, vampire or werewolf.”

3. Another candy receptacle was patented in 1999. The “Halloween Backpack,” issued as U.S. Patent No. 5,878,931 and invented by Deborah Morphet, is a hands-free receptacle for kids with a chute that extends above the wearer's shoulder to accept candy and funnel it into the main backpack portion. The backpack can even include a “fanciful design” of its own, as shown in the drawing.

4. A third candy container was patented in 2015, though this one takes a more traditional form than the previous two discussed in this article. U.S. Patent No. 9,022,595 for an “Illuminated Halloween Candy Container,” invented by Brandon Schilling and Gary Wood, comprises an inner container and an outer container with a series of LEDs designed to give a glowing effect to the candy container. The container can also include a media player to emit recorded sounds.

5. The next in our roundup of Halloween patents is a “Chemiluminescently Illuminated Costume Safety Mask,” invented by Stephen Palmer, William Palmer, and Frank Commisso and issued as U.S. Patent No. 6,832,392 in 2004. The mask utilizes “liquid, viscous liquid, or solid chemiluminescent reagents” held in specific cavities of the mask to create a glowing appearance. The mask may also include passageways to allow the liquid reagents to flow through the cavities of the mask.

6. A jack-o-lantern is a key figure in decorating for Halloween, and methods and devices for creating jack-o-lanterns are the subjects of several patents. First up, we have U.S. Patent No. 6,342,175 for a “Method of Carving Shapes in a Pumpkin Shell,” issued in 2002 to inventors Barry Brown, Cheryl Stoughton, Sandra DeVore, and Michael Hennessey. This patent covers a pumpkin carving kit including a “scoop and scraping tool,” a festively-shaped “cutting die” with serrated edges for piercing the pumpkin skin, and a “striking tool for driving the die into the pumpkin shell.” Effectively a combination of a cookie cutter and a serrated knife, this is one of those inventions that makes you say “why didn't I think of that?”

7. In a similar vein, inventor Tom Barber patented a “Pumpkin Carving Spoon with Nested Knife” in 2015. U.S. Patent No. 9,061,429 covers a scoop and knife combination, where the knife is stored within the handle of the scoop. Both the knife and the scoop can have serrated edges, as shown in the drawing. (Bonus: the year before getting the utility patent, this invention was patented in U.S. Design Patent No. D709,741.)

8. Once your pumpkin has been adequately carved into a jack-o-lantern, you'll need a way to illuminate your design. Candles can be messy and dangerous, so maybe you would prefer an electric lighting unit such as the “Pumpkin Illumination Stake” of U.S. Patent No. 7,237,922. This device, invented by Paul Cayton and patented in 2007, comprises an “elongate lighting element” designed to be inserted into a pumpkin. The device also includes a decorative handle and a switch for operating the lighting element.

9. Jack-o-lanterns aren't the only option for Halloween home décor. A design patent was issued in 2020 for “Halloween themed serveware” showing a container with some spooky design elements. U.S. Patent No. D876,889 issued to inventors Glorie Forliti and Anna Bofinger and is assigned to Target Brands, Inc., so you may still be able to find this item at your local Target.

10. Closing out our list of Halloween-related patents is a device not specifically designed for Halloween, although its ability to create a spooky environment has made it a staple in haunted houses. In 1958, inventors William Tenney, Scoville Knox, and Paul Frank were granted U.S. Patent No. 2,857,332 for a “Machine for Producing Dispersions of Liquids in Air or Other Gases for the Production of Fogs.” Their device represents an improved version of a “fog machine” which they claim was lighter and more portable than previous fog machines, and didn't rely on the same kind of complex equipment as previous designs.

How Gallium Law Can Help

The above list was crafted not only to be entertaining, but also to illustrate that all sorts of inventions may be patentable. If you have an idea that you think may be eligible for patent, trademark, or copyright protection, please fill out this Contact Form or call us at 651-256-9480 to schedule a meeting.

*The information provided in this article is not legal advice and should not be relied on as such. The content of this article is for informational purposes only and is meant as a starting point in your search for answers to your legal questions.

About the Author

Isabel Fox

Isabel Fox is a registered patent agent and has been with Gallium Law since 2018. Her practice largely revolves around utility and design patent prosecution; including conducting patent landscape searches, drafting patent applications, and responding to Office Actions issued by the USPTO...


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