The History of the Velcro Patent
The Velcro company developed hook and loop fasteners over 60 years ago, and it represents one of the most innovative inventions of the 20th century. The history of the VELCRO ® Brand and its invention is a fascinating story that has made a wide range of products and services possible.
Who Invented Hook And Loop?
George de Mestral, the inventor of hook and loop fasteners, was interested in bringing innovative new ideas into the world from an early age. The Swiss-born inventor brought his first creative design to life when he built, and patented, a toy airplane at the age of 12. De Mestral’s idea for hook and loop came to him with some inspirational help from nature.
De Mestral first conceptualized Velcro after returning from a hunting trip with his dog in 1941 in the Alps. He noticed several burrs were stuck to his clothing and his dog’s fur, and decided to look at these burrs under a microscope. He could see several tiny hooks on the ends of the burrs that would catch on most any thread or hair, and thought he had a great idea for a replacement for the zipper.
How Did He Create The Design?
He decided to take his idea to Lyons, which was a center for weaving at that time, where he managed to make a functioning prototype out of cotton. However, the cotton wore out quickly, leading de Mestral to search for a sturdier fiber. He found that nylon proved to be a suitable material after he discovered that, when sewn under infrared light, the nylon created perfect loops.
This was a great success, but he was still left to determine how to fabricate the hook side. One day, he used some shears and snipped the tops of the loops of his prototype. This created hooks that would match up perfectly with an identical, uncut, section of loop. Now he had a functioning product, and a method of design. Then began the most arduous part of this entire process: mechanization.
It took de Mestral eight years to mechanize the weaving process to create the loops, and another year to create the loom that would trim the loops after weaving. It took him ten years to create a fully functioning mechanized process to create his invention, and in 1951, he submitted his idea for patent in Switzerland, eventually being granted that patent in 1955. He expected high demand and opened up shops to sell his new product, Velcro.
Velcro was developed as a portmanteau of the French words velours, or velvet, and crochet, or hook. De Mestral opened shops in Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, and, by 1957, the United States, eventually selling 60 million yards per year.
De Mestral tried unsuccessfully to update his patent, which expired in 1978, and eventually sold the world license for Velcro, living off of the royalties and profits from his Swiss factory.