When a Patent Launches Into an Empire

Famous patents all began with a vision. Entrepreneurs start with an idea and sometimes that leads to a shift in a better direction when the original idea doesn't work. Some startups stick with their original plan and become successful from there. 

Pinterest began as an app for shopping in 2009 called Tote and shifted into a massive idea-sharing site. Beginning as a website to encourage consumer communication and reviews, Groupon grew into today's most popular deal-finding site and app.

The original patent that a company files sheds light onto its first commitments as a startup and often the values or vision the company continues to strive towards, even in stardom. 

A few of the most well-known companies to begin or to gain their success with a patented invention include:

  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Pinterest
  • Apple
  • Dropbox
  • GoPro
  • Groupon


Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, both alumni of MIT, filed a patent mapping out a system of file sharing and folder synchronization over a secure network. Now known as the widely used Dropbox, this system uses version control to make the newest record of a file always available. Dropbox played a pivotal role in the beginning of this new age of open file access.


In 2005, Ashar Aziz laid out his plans for computer and network security in a patent. From there, the previous engineer for Sun Microsystems saw his business, FireEye, take flight. 

The vision first detailed in his patent later became the FireEye Malware Protection System, which was the startup's featured product. Eight years later, FireEye became a publicly traded company on the stock market, leading to its growth into an empire.


An engineer named Sam Wen filed several patents at once in 2010 with a well-planned strategy for the launching of Square.

These patents led to the ability for small companies or independent sellers to make their products available for more than just cash payment and to manage their income more easily. Square allows anyone to buy or sell almost anything by swiping a credit card on a smartphone. 


Facebook, the site that opened the floodgates of social media and led technology into a new age of information sharing, didn't actually get its privacy summary patent approved until six years after the site launched. 

Privacy settings now allow users to have a great deal of control over what information certain people can and cannot access. An individual user's settings create a privacy summary as detailed in the patent that co-creators Mark Zuckerberg and Chris Kelly filed.


In 2005, Elizabeth Holmes filed a patent for an invention of a patch worn by patients that provides ease for drug administration, blood monitoring, and dose adjustments. The hopes in this patent were for quicker diagnosis and therefore treatment of disease. 

Although this was her first patent, it led to Holmes becoming the youngest female to appear on the Forbes 400 list in 2014.

Since this first patent, Holmes would go on to apply for many more, including an invention in 2007 for a way to diagnose the fatal and dangerous flu virus quickly. Holmes' company, Theranos, has since become a leader in the medical technology market with an estimated value of around 10 billion dollars in 2014. 

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal from 2015 discussed issues with development and delivery within the company's operations, leading to a downward trend in the company's value. 


Nicholas Woodman, CEO of GoPro, wanted to find a way to allow individuals to share and keep memories of their adventures.

In 2004, this inventor filed his first patent for a harness that would keep a camera secured safely to the adventurer's body. This allowed the user to record even the most active of hobbies, such as surfing or mountain biking, without the worries of losing the device.  

In 2009, GoPro developed their own durable cameras to go along with the harness for a full package. The release of this product led to the company's growth into a successful brand, known for capturing life's most exciting times. 


This famous search engine has now become its own verb. If a person is told to "google" something, he or she knows exactly what to do. 

The company's success is partially owed to Larry Page, who filed a patent in 1998. His invention used a formula to rate web pages based on the number of other pages that linked to the same page. This led to higher quality searches and more user satisfaction. 

If you need help developing a patent, post your legal need to UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.