To celebrate America turning another year older, we are highlighting a few American innovations that make celebrating Independence Day so enjoyable.

The Fourth of July marks the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the birth of America. Initially, this meant celebrating freedom from tyranny and the opportunity to govern ourselves, but it has also come to be associated with everything from hot dogs, fireworks, and hot summer days to the actual American Dream itself—the ability to better ourselves, become whatever we want to be, and perhaps make the world a better place for those that come after us. In whatever way you choose to celebrate Independence Day, it’s certain that without innovation, America would not be what it is today.

The Modern Charcoal Briquette

Many folks celebrate the Fourth of July by grilling food with friends and family. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “Grill Master,” chances are you’ve tried a food that was made using charcoal.

In 1897, Ellsworth B. A. Zwoyer created and patented the first modern charcoal briquette (U.S. Patent No. D27,483). While there are many kinds of charcoal briquettes used today, Zwoyer was the first inventor to patent the charcoal briquette as an alternative to fuel.

Zwoyer’s accomplishments were eventually overshadowed by those of Henry Ford who began making charcoal briquettes from scraps of wood leftover from his facilities. (Ford’s early automobiles were made of wood from his lumber operations in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula). The Kingsford Product Company began selling the briquettes in the 1920s and continues to be one of the most popular charcoal brands used today.

Independence Day Innovations - Charcoal Briquette Patent

The Weber Grill

George Stephen Sr. is credited as the first inventor of the charcoal grill. Stephen, a welder at Weber Brothers Metal Works, primarily welded spears together to make marine buoys.

In 1952, Stephen split a buoy in half to make a dome-shape. He then welded legs on the lower half and fabricated the top half with a more shallow hemisphere. Holes were also added to allow the flow of oxygen needed to maintain a fire. Thus, the iconic Weber grill was born.

In 1959, the Weber Brothers Metal Works was acquired by Stephen Sr. and fifteen years later he was granted U.S. Patent No. 3,330,266, for the Barbecue Vessel. While Weber grills have significantly advanced from the disassembled marine buoy, they continue to sell and manufacture the classic charcoal grill.

Independence Day Innovations - Weber Grill Patent


There’s no denying that the Fourth of July can be a day of extreme summer heat. Whether you choose to spend this Fourth of July indoors or brave the summer heat, chances are you’ve used a variation of the following sunscreen patents and trademarks.

The earliest forms of sun protection were varieties of plant extracts. Ancient Egyptians used extracts of rice, jasmine and lupine plants, while early Greek civilizations used olive oil.

One of the first popular sunscreen products was invented for the United States military by Florida airman and pharmacist Benjamin Green in 1944. Green’s patented “Red Vet Pet” was described as a sticky, red substance similar to petroleum jelly. Green created Red Pet Vet to help protect soldiers from the hazards of overexposure to the sun during the height of World War II in the Pacific tropics.

His patent was eventually acquired by Coppertone, which later improved and commercialized the substance and marketed it as brands like “Coppertone Girl” and “Bain de Soleil” in the early 1950s.

Independence Day Innovations - Coppertone Girl Trademark

The Super Soaker

If you find yourself getting pelted with water by kids this Fourth of July, you can thank Nuclear Engineer Lonnie G. Johnson.

In 1982, Johnson invented the Super Soaker® while working on a heat pump invention for NASA. When he saw water shoot across the room from a hose that he had attached to a sink, he thought it would be “neat to develop a high-pressure water gun.”

While Lonnie G. Johnson is most known for his invention of the Super Soaker®, he is not a toy-maker by trade. Johnson is a nuclear engineer who worked for NASA and the U.S. Air Force.

When Johnson was interviewed about his invention of the Super Soaker he said,

“I knew that if I could create something simple that anyone could appreciate, the revenue from that invention could fund future passions of scientific innovation and entrepreneurship.”

It took Johnson more than seven years to bring his water gun prototype to market, but the Super Soaker ended up generating more than $1 billion in sales.

Independence Day Innovations - Super Soaker Patent


Like many Independence Days before it, this year’s celebrations will undoubtedly involve a pyrotechnics display. Fireworks have been astounding audiences across the globe for centuries since their creation in China over 2,000 years ago.

One of the earliest U.S. patents for fireworks is U.S. Patent No. 494,438, “Fireworks Torch,” which was granted on March 28, 1893. This invention was an improvement to produce a better flame and less smoke.

A few years later, a patent was granted on December 5, 1899, to Albert Lutz for Toy Fireworks, U.S. Patent No. 638,416. The intention was to create a more child-friendly firework that would emit no flame but still exhibit “pyrotechnic effects.”Independence Day Innovations - Toy Fireworks Patent

In more recent years, inventors for The Walt Disney Company developed U.S. Patent No. 5,339,741. The patent for “Precision Fireworks Display System Having a Decreased Environmental Impact” was issued on August 23, 1994. The invention launches “projectiles, such as fireworks, which explode in the air into a pyrotechnic display.” This system produces fireworks that display images such as an outline of Mickey Mouse’s head.Precision Fireworks Display System Having a Decreased Environmental Impact Patent If you find yourself wondering about the intellectual property behind your Independence Day celebration, you can email your questions to We’re also active on Facebook and Instagram.

However you choose to celebrate, we here at Suiter Swantz IP wish you a safe and happy Fourth of July!

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