Friday, January 14, 2011

Perusing Google Patents

Technology is moving along at an alarming speed. Just a few years ago a librarian at the Boston Public Library showed me a link to the US Patent and Trademark Office website so I could look up patent reports online. Together, the librarian and I recorded the patent numbers of every patent listed under Peter Hoogerzeil, my 2x Great Grandfather, and then we looked through the volumes of books in the PTDL at BPL (that’s the Patent and Trademark Depository Library at the Boston Public Library) to find each patent application. Then we carefully photocopied each one as we found it. It took hours!  The librarian assured me (at that time) that this was much faster than any other way of doing patent searches.

Then, last summer I wrote a blog post about using the online database at  to search for patent numbers by the name of the inventors. At that time, once you had the numbers, you could input them to see images of the patent applications. Check out the blog post here at and you can see that the process was still a big laborious, but better than my previous search.

Last week, on Deb Ruth’s blog “Adventures in Genealogy”, I read about the new Google Patents website at . Now by just entering Peter Hoogerzeil’s name into the search box, I can pull up all the patent images with one click. I can also find all the other inventions up to now that have referenced his original patents in the 1800s and turn of the century. For example, in 1906, Peter Hoogerzeil of Massachusetts patented an amusement park ride for a giant see-saw. In 1950, Charles J. Jugans of New Jersey patented an “Excercising Toy” referencing Hoogerzeil’s original patent and three other patents. Even more interesting, one of Hoogerzeil’s chimney lamp patents from 1899 was used by the famous Coleman Company in 1984 for a new camping lantern! And one of Hoogerzeil’s 1890 patents for a sliding door in an icebox was used in 1994 by Daewoo Electronics of Korea for a new type of refrigerator.

How fun to see that Peter Hoogerzeil’s inventions are still relevant in today’s world! It is very interesting to think that my Great-Great Grandpa’s tinkering turned out to be so useful! The Google Patent search is very easy to use, and it will also make any inventions by family or ancestors pop up in your regular Google searches. All the patents from the 1790s to those “recently issued in the past few months” are available on this search engine.

For fun, I also looked up my first cousin, umpteen generations removed, Benjamin Franklin, and I was surprised to see that he had no patents recorded on the Google Patent website. I used the regular Google search and pulled up this quote from Benjamin Franklin “as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.” This is why he had no recorded patents of any kind with the US government, even though he was a prolific inventor of all sorts of gadgets and household items.

For more information:

Please see Deb Ruth’s stories about Google Patents here at “Treasure Chest Thursday- Google Patents” and “Treasure Chest Thursday – Steffy Patent”  at

The quote from Benjamin Franklin comes from A Benjamin Franklin Reader by Walter Isaacson, Simon & Schuster, 2005

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. I love Google Patents, it is full of the most weird and wonderful thing, isn't it? Love the ones you picked to rite about!