Holiday Horror Series: Part 1- Could You Patent Christmas?!

by Weintraub Tobin

The holidays are upon us.  Given that everything seems to be protected by intellectual property rights, could someone protect Christmas?

The most likely candidate to try to patent Christmas would be Santa Claus.  But (assuming all other issues are addressed), could Santa Claus really patent Christmas? Assuming that Santa Claus invented Christmas, then perhaps he could! U.S. patent law provides patent protection for pretty much everything. Under the patent laws of the U.S. and most foreign countries, the first person to invent something may file a patent application seeking a patent for that invention. Unlike most foreign countries, however, U.S. law provides a one-year grace period in which a patent application can be filed after certain types of public disclosures by the inventor.

So, maybe Santa Claus could file a patent application in the U.S. if he was the first to invent something that has not been publicly disclosed in the last year.  Of course, there may be no one else claiming to have invented Christmas, so it might not be much of a problem. And, because Santa has been operating in secret for hundreds of years, there cannot have been any public disclosures.

Santa might even be able to patent the method he uses to deliver gifts to every child all around the world on Christmas Eve.  His method might be treated as a business method, which could make it more difficult to patent, even though it is not really a “business.”

What other kinds of Christmas inventions could someone patent?  The United States Patent and Trademark Office lists over 980 U.S. patents with the word “Christmas” in the title.  These patents cover items like Christmas lights, decorations, Christmas tree stands and turntables, antler apparatus, Christmas tree watering devices, fire extinguishers, and many other things.  My personal favorite is the “Apparatus to Prevent Pets Climbing a Christmas Tree.”  The need for this invention is obvious if you have ever had kittens or cats around your Christmas tree.  The patent states: “as is generally well known in the prior art, pets, such as cats, like to climb up the branches of a Christmas tree. 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. Based on my experience, however, this device will have precisely the opposite of its intended effect. Any cat who sees the screen will climb up or jump onto it.  And, anyway, who really wants to stop cats from climbing Christmas trees?!  It’s too much fun to watch them perched on the branches and swatting ornaments (and to see their embarrassed looks when they land clumsily on the floor)!

What about a new type of Christmas tree?  Trees (and all plants) are patentable, as long as they are new and developed by humans, not discovered in nature.  In fact, a flying reindeer would be patentable (if it was created by humans), as living organisms can be patented.

How about a new nose for Rudolph — one that allows Santa to turn it on remotely from the sleigh?  The nose could be patentable, as could the software that runs it.

New designs for Christmas stockings and ornaments?  The designs for these objects (separate from the objects themselves) are patentable as design patents.  A design patent offers less protection than a utility patent and has a shorter lifespan, but it does protect against designs that are substantially the same as the patented design.

Maybe Santa could protect signature laugh (“Ho, Ho, Ho!”) or his red suit.  The phrase could be trademarked, just as business names and logos, as long as Santa uses it in commerce and was the first to use it.  The red suit might be protectable as a trademark or possibly as trade dress, or more likely as a design patent.  Unlike a patent that expires, however, a trademark has the advantage of lasting indefinitely.

What about your favorite Christmas carol?  The traditional carols are now in the public domain and belong to everyone, but any new song (lyrics and music) is protected by copyright as soon as it is created.  Unlike a trademark, copyright protection only lasts for the life of the author plus a specific number of years.

How about Christmas cookies?  Or that special eggnog recipe? Recipes can be protected and are usually best protected as trade secrets, provided that they are not easily reverse-engineered.  (Think how long Coca-Cola has been around, and it’s still a secret.)

Of course, the most important thing about Christmas is not what can be protected under the law, but the spirit of giving and sharing the holidays bring.  So, have a wonderful holiday season and may the New Year be filled with peace and joy!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Holiday Horror Series on December 2nd. 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Weintraub Tobin | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Weintraub Tobin

Weintraub Tobin on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.