Although many associate outdoor wonders such as Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, and the Badlands with South Dakota, the state also has a rich history of innovation.  In 2013, South Dakota set a state record for patents with 129 utility patents, which was up 60% from the previous year. Famous inventors from South Dakota include Ernest Orlando Lawrence, Waldo A. Ross, Robert P. Stahl, and more! A few widely known inventions from the Mount Rushmore State include the following:

The Cyclotron

The start of the Cyclotron began in 1929 by Ernest O. Lawrence. Lawrence was born in 1901 in Canton, South Dakota. In 1932, Lawrence was granted the patent for his invention, Method and Apparatus for the Acceleration of Ions, or cyclotron U.S. Patent No. 1,948,384. The cyclotron invention is described as:

A method and apparatus for the multiple acceleration of ions. The invention is based primarily upon the cumulative action of a succession of accelerating impulses each requiring only a moderate voltage but eventually resulting in an ion speed corresponding to a much higher voltage.

A cyclotron is a particle accelerator that accelerates charged particles outwards from the center along a spiral path. The particles are held in place in a spiral trajectory with a magnetic field. Cyclotrons were the most powerful particle accelerators until the 1950s. Cyclotrons were mostly used for nuclear physics experiments. Lawrence worked on the famous Manhattan Project and received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1939 for his work on the cyclotron.  Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California and the element “lawrencium” are named after Lawrence. 


The Armored Motor Car

Waldo A. Ross of Sioux Falls, South Dakota had useful improvements in armored motor cars. He patented the improvements in 1920  U.S. Patent No. 1,333,446. The improvements made by Ross are described as:

A motor car of this character in which an armored housing is so constructed that it can be placed upon the chassis of the ordinary motor vehicle and fully protect the working parts of the car and also the driver and the gunner.Another object of [this] invention is to provide a motor car of this character in which a revolving turret having a gun mounted therein is so arranged that the gun can be pointed in any direction and having a seat so, mounted in the turret that the operator of the gun, sitting on the seat will be in a line with the gun, no matter in which direction the gun is pointed and the car is tilted.

These improvements were designed to make the armored car safer and more effective. The patent also details another objective which is “to provide a light, cheap, and effective armored car.” Armored cars such as these were mostly used by the armed forces.

The Ejector Seat


Russell A. Pohl and Clyde L. Pritchard both of Sioux Falls, South Dakota were granted the patent for “Pilot Aerial Survival System” on July 29, 1969, U.S. Patent No. 3,458,161. This ejector seat includes a canopy as well as a heater so the user is able to sustain altitude and control their descent, making it is easier for them to choose a suitable landing area. These improvements made the canopy more like a hot air balloon than a true ejector seat.

It is an object of ‘the present invention to provide a balloon with improved features which make it possible to carry a man aloft on an altitude controlled flight for a predetermined extended length of time and wherein the balloon is constructed of a lightweight relatively inexpensive material which is reusable, and is not susceptible to damage by cutting or contact with sharp objects or rough surfaces.

Suiter Swantz IP understands the innovative spirit of South Dakota and is proud to be an anchor tenant in the South Dakota State Research Park.

Suiter Swantz IP is a full-service intellectual property law firm, based in Omaha, NE, serving all of Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota. If you have any intellectual property questions or need assistance with any patent, trademark, or copyright matters and would like to speak with one of our patent attorneys, please contact us.