Patented: History of Inventions

Home Security System

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Episode notes

The patent for the Ring doorbell cites this as the starting point. A Heath Robinson looking design with peep holes, sliding cameras and radio controlled alarms. An invention, and an inventor, ahead of their time.

Marie van Brittan Brown was an African American nurse living in Queens in New York in the 1960s. In 1969 she and her husband received a patent for what is the first modern home security system. It had many of the same fundamental features as the smart doorbells of today. But after the patent and some positive press coverage, nothing happened. No big companies swooped in to help build the system. Marie never became a millionaire.

Who was Marie van Brittan Brown? What was her invention? And why didn’t it take off?

My guest today is Shontavia Johnson, vice president for entrepreneurship at Clemson University and patent lawyer in a former life. Shontavia has been helping to revive Marie’s remarkable story as we will hear, thus allowing us to explore what Marie’s story teaches about who gets to be an inventor.

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