I stumbled upon a drawing for a patent for “My Little Pony” today, which prompted me to look through Google’s Patent database for about an hour. I enjoy looking at patents—partially because I’m a huge nerd, and partially because they can be helpful. I actually save patent applications that I find amusing, and my little collection came in handy when I took a Patent Drafting class in law school. I had so much fun searching Google Patents that I decided to start posting links semi-regularly to some of the more interesting patents I find. So let’s get started.
Note: None of this is legal advice. It’s just me nerding out and having fun.
This week’s patents are design patents for “My Little Pony.”
All of these patents were issued in the 1980s, and all were assigned to Hasbro, the creators of the “My Little Pony” toy line and subsequent TV show. The drawings depict the horses in the original “G1” style. (The toys are currently in Generation 4, or G4, to coincide with the “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” TV series.) The “Toy Animal” patent shows the figure with hair and eyes, while all the other ones are featureless other than what the base molds would create—the horn, the wings, etc.
Since these are design patents, the terms are shorter than that of a regular patent. The patent terms lasted until the 90s or even into the 2000s. I wondered whether the expiration of the patent coincided with the G2 design for the ponies, and sure enough, in 1997 Hasbro introduced the second generation (G2.)
The Descriptions in these patents also differ greatly from most other patents. Where most patents actually describe the device, method, etc., these patents basically say “look at the drawings.” That’s because these are design patents. You can get away with referring exclusively to your drawing because that actually shows the design you’re trying to patent. Design Patents are more limited than regular patents, too—you have to take extra care to make sure your drawings depict everything you want to patent, because you don’t get protection for things that aren’t included in your design patent application.
So there you go–MLP unicorns and pegasuses (Pegasi?) were, at one point, patented designs. Interestingly, Hasbro lost the rights to a lot of the ponies’ names between G1 and G4–I believe that Applejack is the only G1 name that made it all the way to G4, but I could be mistaken. But that’s a different branch of IP law. 😄