Retro Patents turns famous inventions into art you can buy

A fun little side project-cum-startup from two of the founders of Soundwave, the social music company acquired by Spotify, wants to turn patents into art. Launching today, Retro Patents lets you buy prints of famous patents to hang on your office wall, or at home, if that’s your thing.

The patent prints for sale include games consoles, such as the original Nintendo Gameboy and Sony PlayStation, mobile devices, including the Apple iPhone and original BlackBerry, and more ubiquitous inventions like the humble calculator or computer mouse. Each patent has been designed and printed using HDR ink-jet technology on Ultra Premium Luster Photo Paper with a basis weight of 180 gsm.

“When we set up Soundwave, we were always looking for inspirational art to decorate our homes and offices. We thought founder quotes and motivational posters were interesting but a bit played out,” explains Retro Patents’ Craig Watson.

blackberry“We preferred to focus on the spark of inspiration around a product. We used to find early screenshots of successful startups (Instagram, Evernote etc) and print these out and laminate them by hand! It was a good way of reminding us that every great company started out with a basic idea and not to get bogged down in all the other distractions that often get in the way of scaling out a startup”.

But Watson says it took a trip to Copenhagen with Aidan Sliney (both are co-founders of Soundwave) and their respective wives, who now make up Retro Patents’ four founders, before the new startup idea was born. It was in the Danish capital city that they came across a boutique design shop that had an old Harley Davidson patent in the window.

“We really liked the minimalist look to it and remembered how we’d used early product prototypes for inspiration in the past. On the trip home we started brainstorming how we could apply this to the tech and gaming world which we both know and love,” he says.

And so it was that Retro Patents was set up to scratch an itch. At first, the team were just printing patent artwork to hang on their own walls, “but we kept getting asked by friends to send them copies. After this happened a few times we felt like others might also enjoy them so we built the patent art website which you see today”.

calculatorBut do patents really make good art? “I’m obviously biased but I really do think patents make good art,” answers Watson. “It’s a fun contrast mapping classic inventions onto a contemporary design. We’ve also tried hard to keep the prints as minimalist as possible so that the focus is on the product itself. There was a temptation to include too much information (like a patent itself) but we’re really proud of the final result and the quality of the prints”.

To get your own custom patent print, just visit the Retro Patents site, choose your favourite design, the size that you want, and complete the checkout process. The startup says it ships worldwide, with an estimated delivery time of 3-7 business days.