1 million

On Aug. 8, 1911—121 years after the Patent Act of 1790—Francis H. Holton of Akron, Ohio, received the first million milestone patent for an improvement to traditional air-filled tires. The application says his invention is intended to take the place of the pneumatic tire currently in use, making tires more durable and puncture resistant.

2 million

Joseph Ledwinka of Philadelphia was issued a patent for “Vehicle Wheel Construction,” a pneumatic tire for rail cars, on April 30, 1935. Ledwinka, who immigrated to the United States from Vienna in 1896, developed an improvement whereby tires were mechanically secured to the rim to prevent slippage and movements between the tire and wheels during acceleration and deceleration.

3 million

Kenneth Eldredge of Palo Alto, California, was issued a patent on Sept. 12, 1961, for an Automated Reading System designed to improve the efficiency of data-processing machines. The patent was assigned to General Electric. The system converts human language into machine-readable language.

4 million

On Dec. 28, 1976, Robert Mendenhall of Las Vegas received a patent for a “process for recycling asphalt-aggregate compositions.” Two years earlier, his company re-made a one-mile stretch of interstate highway by making use of the same materials used in its first paving—the first time anyone had done it.

5 million

University of Florida researchers Lonnie O. Ingram, Tyrrell Conway and Flavio Alterthum were issued a patent on March 19, 1991, for creating a means to use E. coli bacteria to produce ethanol. The inventors said the new bacteria can convert virtually all kinds of sugars, making it possible to extract fuel from almost anything produced by plants: grass clippings, wheat stalks, cardboard, grocery bags and newsprint.

6 million

Society’s reliance on handheld devices was front-and-center when Jeffrey C. Hawkins and Michael Albanese developed a method of synchronizing files between computer systems, such as a desktop and handheld computer. Hawkins and Albanese are listed as the inventors on the Dec. 7, 1999, patent; 3Com Corp. is listed as the original assignee.

7 million

On Feb. 14, 2006, DuPont senior researcher John O’Brien was granted a patent for inventing polysaccharide fibers that mimic the quality of cotton. The invention frees textile manufacturers from relying on the seasonal harvest of cotton plants.

8 million

Robert J. Greenberg, Kelly H. McClure and Arup Roy were issued a patent on Aug. 16, 2011, for a “visual prosthesis” for people who have gone blind due to retinal degeneration. Among the patent’s claims are an apparatus that includes a camera, video processing unit and retinal stimulation system, as well as a method for limiting the power consumption of the visual apparatus.

9 million

On April 7, 2015, Matthew Carroll of Jupiter, Florida, was issued a patent for a “windshield washer conditioner” that collects rainwater from a car’s windshield and recycles it for cleaning the windshield. He first filed for the patent more than three years earlier.