The last time I checked (which was a couple of years ago), I found 979 U.S. patents in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s database that had the word “Christmas” in the title.  Every year at this time, I look at a few of the most interesting ones.

My favorite one this year is U.S. patent no. 5,523,741 entitled “Santa Claus Detector.”  This patent covers a Christmas stocking that contains a light bulb or LED, a battery to power the light, and a hidden switch that turns on the light.  The switch is connected to a pull cord.  When the stocking is hung on the fireplace, the pull cord is positioned across the opening of the fireplace, forming a barrier across the fireplace opening.  After the child has gone to sleep on Christmas Eve, Santa Claus comes down the chimney with his bag of toys and triggers the cord, which turns on the light.  The next morning, the child will see the light on and know that Santa was there! (Or, as the patent describes, the parent can secretly pull the cord and turn on the light.)  The purpose of this invention, according to the inventors, is to reassure children that their good behavior was rewarded by Santa.

Another fun Christmas patent is the “Santa Claus Visit Kit,” U.S. patent no. 7,258,592.  This kit is used by parents to prove to a child that Santa Claus has visited.  The kit includes a stencil to leave boot prints on the floor, a letter from Santa, and a snack item for Santa.  The kit is intended to alleviate a child’s fear that Santa Claus might not leave presents.

There are several patents for fire extinguishers incorporated into Christmas decorations.  One patent covers a fire extinguisher hidden inside the trunk of a synthetic Christmas tree that is activated by a heat sensor.  Another patent is for a Christmas tree ornament that contains a fire-retardant powder.  The ornament pops open when the temperature reaches a certain point, releasing the fire retardant powder and, hopefully, putting out the fire.

My all-time favorite Christmas patent, however, is the “Apparatus to Prevent Pets Climbing a Christmas Tree.”  The need for this invention is not surprising to anyone who has kittens or cats.  As the patent explains, “as is generally well known in the prior art, pets, such as cats, like to climb up the branches of a Christmas tree.  [Duh!]  Oftentimes this will result in knocking some of the ornaments off such tree.  These ornaments may be broken…”  The invention is basically a giant circular screen that clips under the lowest branches of the tree, and is intended to frustrate the climbing felines.  If you have a cat, however, you know that this device will have precisely the opposite effect.  Any cat who sees this big screen will be curious and simply jump up onto it.  The screen will become a staging platform for your cat to explore the tree.  So, I don’t think it will work.  But, actually, who really wants to stop cats from climbing Christmas trees?  It’s way too much fun to watch them perched on the branches, swatting ornaments, and looking embarrassed when they land clumsily on the floor!