Thomas Edison

Here’s how Thomas Edison protected his bright ideas — all 1,093 of them.
Thomas Edison is widely regarded as the father of the light bulb. But “the wizard of Menlo Park” (the location of his world-renowned New Jersey laboratory) delivered hundreds of other important inventions. Over his lifetime, Edison earned 1,093 patents — still a record number for one person.

Patents protect the ideas and work of inventors, providing an incentive for research and development. They are part of a broad category of legal protection known as intellectual property rights (IPR).

Intellectual property embodies unique work reflecting someone’s creativity. It is all around us — in the form of a miracle drug, a Hollywood blockbuster or a more fuel-efficient car.

Patents are one of three types of IPR. Copyrights protect works of authorship, like movies. Trademarks protect a name or symbol that identifies the source of goods or services (such as McDonald’s golden arches).

Strong IPR protection has many benefits, among them driving job creation and combating fake goods. It also helps entrepreneurs and creative-minded people to stop others from stealing or copying:

  • Things they invent, write or produce.
  • The names of their products or brands.
  • The design of their products or logos.

Establishing and protecting intellectual property rights is an essential job of government. Citizens can play an important role by raising awareness of the issue. The World Intellectual Property Organization has outreach ideas and provides assistance to countries that seek to enact laws on IPR.