When protecting a name becomes a hot issue

We have Scottish chemist and physicist, Sir James Dewar, to thank for inventing the vacuum flask. In 1892, while researching cryogenics in his lab, he worked out how to hold liquefied gases inside a container at a stable temperature.

Glassmakers, Burger and Aschenbrenner, developed and commercialised the design – transforming it from something scientific and industrial, into the everyday household item that keeps hot drinks hot or cold drinks cold.

From 1910, the American Thermos Bottle Company got on board. They reckoned using ‘thermos’ in their marketing copy would act like free advertising. But despite eventually trade marking the term in 1923, their attempt to sue another company in 1962 for selling bottles marked with ‘thermos’ didn’t pay off. The judge ruled that because they had been careless in their earlier efforts to generalise the name ‘thermos’ other companies could now freely use it – leaving them with only the right to the capitalised version – ‘THERMOS’.

An explosive fact
Sir James Dewar joined forces with Sir Frederick Abel, our founders’ (Charles Abel) eldest brother, and invented cordite.