The music world lost a legend Tuesday when Eddie Van Halen passed away after a battle with cancer. Eddie’s band, Van Halen, revolutionized rock music and live performances, primarily throughout the 70s and 80s. Many know the famed story regarding Van Halen’s contractual demands for live concerts, or contract riders. The band allegedly included two unique requests in live performance contracts: 1) a bowl of M&M’s placed backstage; and 2) the removal of all brown M&M’s from the bowl. The terms sound ridiculous, but Van Halen used the terms to ensure that the venue read the entire agreement. That way, the band knew that the venue abided by all of the safety requirements outline in the contract. However, the contract rider issue isn’t the only interesting intersection between Van Halen and the law. Eddie Van Halen is listed as an inventor in one of the coolest patents ever written.
Guitar Legend, Patent Icon
In 1984, Eddie Van Halen filed a patent application for a “Musical instrument support”. The application issued as U.S. Patent Number 4,656,917 in 1987. Eddie invented a pivoting support that attached to the back of a guitar; while acoustic players easily rest a guitar on their laps to manipulate the fretboard, electric players lacked such ability. For largescale rock performances, guitarists constantly seek innovative ways to entertain the crowd through guitar manipulation. For example, Jimi Hendrix used to play his guitar behind his back during solos to show off his incredible skills. In line with such guitar showmanship, Eddie invented his support to rest against the guitarist when the fretboard faces up. In a normal orientation, the support lays flat against the guitar, out of the way of the performer.
Patent Icon, Patent Drawing Phenomenon
However, the most interesting thing about the patent is the main drawing submitted with the application. Most patent drawings are simple in nature. However, true to form, Eddie Van Halen’s patent drawing is a line drawing of Eddie himself using the invention. As a patent attorney, I love seeing unique patent drawings; often, these stem from videogame-based applications. However, there may be nothing better than a patent with Eddie Van Halen as Figure 1.
Rest in peace, Eddie. Our thoughts are with your family, and we’ll keep your memory alive through your music, and your iconic patent.