The Toothpick Patent Highlights Ageless American Entrepreneurialism
John Rizvi Miami Patent Attorney

Prof. John Rizvi, Esq.

An Old, Simple Idea With A Modern Creative Twist  & Patent


Inventors, if I had to ask you what commercial product is in 96% of our homes and used 30 billion times per year what would be your answer?

If you answered salt or paper clips you guessed wrong. However, if your answer was the common toothpick, bravo, you nailed it!  As a champion of small ideas I like to focus on patented products that conform to one of Einstein’s famous quotes:


 Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.  

​What then, could be more elegant, more simpler, than the toothpick which is regarded as the oldest instrument for dental cleaning in the world? 

Toothpicks in Brazil

The Jungle

Considering its universal use through the ages, one may consider it a difficult tool to patent or innovate.  Yet in the 19th Century, that is precisely what an American entrepreneur, Charles Forster, proceeded to do in the jungles of Brazil.  Here he observed indigenous tribes crafting their own version of the toothpick from Orangewood.

Forster realized a gap existed in the marketplace for a disposable wooden toothpick that could be manufactured through the use of a machine.  Nothing like this existed in the United States or Europe where toothpicks tended to be handcrafted and produced ornamentally.     

As he used the Brazilian toothpicks to clean his teeth he clearly saw a non-obvious and novel incantation of the ageless toothpick which could make him millions.

While the concept was simple, its construction was less so, largely because he needed to invent the technology to produce the new toothpick.   In addition, the inventor had to identify a plentiful and suitable wood in the United States to use in the endeavor.   

Other challenges existed but like most small American inventors I come into contact with on a daily basis, he knew how to solve problems.   He turned to the shoe industry where huge strides had been made in factory automation including shoe pegging machines that were used to peel logs into narrow strips of veneer.

Inventor, Value Partnerships!

Shoemaker and toothpicks

Partnerships are often the key step towards overcoming technical hurdles and turning an idea into a manufacturable, patented product.     In Forster’s case,  he turned to Charles Freeman, a savvy mechanical expert in shoe pegging machines to unlock the blueprint for constructing the disposable toothpick.


Five key steps were taken by the partnership in a relatively short period which hurtled them towards success.  Inventors should heed their progress as they can be applied to solving modern day challenges attached to startup costs, design, manufacturing and of course, intellectual property protection, including design and utility patents.  

​Step 1:  Material selection

The first step centered on using white birch wood from Maine to compose the toothpicks.  They were in rich supply on the Eastern seaboard and even had a pleasant odor.      

Step 2:  Site of Production

Forster realized that he had to keep startup and running costs as low as possible. To do this, he decided that the first toothpick mills should be built in Maine as close to the trees as possible.

Step 3:  Breakthrough Design

The third step, involved fine-tuning the look and feel of the toothpick itself. It had to have a functional and pleasing aesthetic without compromising the goal of automation.   When the first toothpicks emerged from the machines, they were too flat for the pair’s liking.  They realized that the evolution of the toothpick hinged on a new approach: a round version tapered to a point – almost like a wooden missile.    By compressing, polishing and smoothing the toothpick’s surface with their new machine, the inventors produced a highly pleasing innovative design. 

Step 4:  Asymmetrical Marketing

Yet the new design posed a marketing problem for Forster. In fact, it's a common one for many small, independent inventors:

How to educate and entice the American marketplace to accept and embrace a new approach to toothpick consumption? 

Later inventors like Valerie Carbone and David Cogswell would court the Home Shopping Network to get their product in front of mass markets. 

Arthur Fry, the famous “intrapreneur” at 3M tested his Post-It Note® via internal departments who developed an addiction to the yellow sticky notes, presaging its massive adoption in the American marketplace.   

How They Sold The Slinky®

Richard and Betty James, co-inventors of the iconic Slinky®, persuaded Gimbel’s Department Store to sell a small inventory of Slinky’s to customers over the Christmas period.   

Lackluster sales almost killed the Slinky®, until Richard James decided to come down to the store and give a demonstration.  Within hours the Slinky® sold out and eventually became one of America’s best-selling toys of all time. 

About The Slinky® Patent

James had to a take a few risks to fund his toy idea, including the initial patent.  Read more about his journey - click the link below!

Forster took a decidedly different and controversial approach to the inventors described above, which I may not necessarily agree with.  However, I do admire his gumption!

 He hired people to ask for toothpicks in stores.  

omg toothpicks

When the shopkeeper or restaurateur acknowledged he had none, the imposters would raise an uproar and declare their incredibility that the owner could be so lax.  Shortly thereafter, Forster and his crew would magically appear with toothpick inventory in hand to help the perplexed business owner rectify the situation.

step 5: the bulletrpoof patent

John Rizvi's Mastermind Group

The industrious inventors knew they had masterminded an entirely novel line of toothpicks that would reshape the post-culinary experience. The technology and processes had to be protected with a patent to ensure they could lock in 20 years of exclusive monopoly rights.

This would allow them to dominate the marketplace and ensure no competition could steal their idea and reap the rewards. The granted patent appeared under Charles Freeman’s name and witnessed by Forster.

The patent claimed a new article of manufacture - a wooden toothpick compressed to a rounded form and tapering point. The patent examiner was left in no doubt as to the utility of the application, which included drawings showing the rounded, compressed, and tapered toothpicks, replete with a smooth and polished veneer. In those days, inventors were forced to include early prototypes in applications to ensure a successful patent filing. That all changed in 2013 when the United States Patent Office (USPTO) moved to a First Inventor To File model which no longer required a working prototype to secure patent protection.

Toothpick Patent

​Chasing Profits

With bulletproof patent protection in place, the pair could now focus exclusively on marketing and selling the disposable, wooden toothpicks.    Forster’s marketing approach paid off with the toothpicks gradually assuming a new status in the marketplace. 

John Rizvi Miami Patent Attorney

Picking Away At Big Profits!

"It became customary for diners and families to use the toothpicks at fashionable eateries.   Over the next few years they would exceed 500 million sales per annum making their Maine location the “Toothpick Capital of the World”.   

Prof. John Rizvi, Esq. //  Board Certified Patent Attorney


A New Generation Of Toothpick Inventors

Today competition for market share is tough with competitors guarded about how they design, and manufacturer modern versions of the wooden toothpick.    

Yet creativity abounds in this sector with a bevy of new entrepreneurs following Forster’s example in spotting gaps in the marketplace.

cbd toothpick

This includes IgniteCBD, which is slipstreaming the loosening regulations in the Cannabis industry to launch CBD-infused toothpicks. “Our toothpicks are able to deliver up to 100% of the active ingredients in a unique 'everything old is brand new again' form factor,” said the startup.

CBD Toothopicks

Another entrepreneur also believes the toothpick is due for a style comeback.

Peter Smith is banking on bygone era of #coolness associated with film stars nibbling on toothpicks, including James Dean and George Clooney, to attract attention to his whiskey-infused toothpicks that include Bourbon and Single Malt.  His startup, Daneson, sells a range of premium-flavored toothpicks that retail for as high as $32.  

Whiskey Infused Toothpicks

Inventor, Take The Gap!


Perhaps the greatest lesson we can take from Forster and some of the later toothpick inventors mentioned above, is the need to constantly re-examine the conventional wisdom around us and realize that new incantations of existing products are always possible.  

And, perhaps necessary.  

What’s more, protecting your idea with a patent makes complete business sense especially now that the USPTO operates under a First to File framework for inventors.   

This Golden Age of Inventing we live in means there are always new ways to express old ideas with creative twists, which could reap large profits if you spot a gap in the marketplace.   

If you have a simple idea and wish to launch it, always consult a patent attorney to lock in early intellectual property protection.

It will give you the confidence and launchpad upon which to potentially reshape an entire industry – even one as old as the toothpick sector.


The Inventor's Mastermind


A Community for Inventors Seeking Strategies & Techniques for Patenting & Bringing Ideas to Market. It’s growing daily! Hope to see you inside!

John Rizvi's Mastermind Group

Inventor Inspiration

The Patent Professor® Makes the Inc. 5000 List of Fastest-Growing American Companies!
I think it’s safe to say, without fear of contradiction, that 2020 has been one wild year! This is especially[...]
John Rizvi, Esq. – The Patent Professor® Interviews Inventor Anne Brewer
I had the pleasure of interviewing Anne Brewer, the inventor of the Wallabox®.Anne shares her story and journey as a[...]
John Rizvi, Esq. – The Patent Professor® Interviews Serial Inventor Robin Palmer
Robin Palmer is a Broadway star turned serial inventor. She is the inventor of My Wake UP Call® Motivational Alarm[...]
John Rizvi, ESQ. – The Patent Professor® Interviews Inventors Dennis and Mary Lou Green
Dennis and Mary Lou Green is an inventing power couple that has created and sold 50 different products, generating over[...]
John Rizvi, ESQ. – The Patent Professor® Interviews Product Developer Sef Chang
Sef Chang joined my "Ask The Patent Professor®" webinar as a special guest on July 10th.Sef is a successful product[...]
The Prosthetic Patent that Revolutionized the Medical Field
Before Hanger, Inc. grew to be a leading provider of "orthotic and prosthetic patient care," it was merely an idea[...]
How Razor® Reinvented the Skateboard
Some of the best inventions are simply re-inventions of ideas that have worked in the past. They come back around,[...]
Did New U.S. Military Branch Lose Rights to Secure Trademark Against Netflix Show?
It's a race to space! Well, to trademark that name actually. The new branch of the military, Space Force -[...]
There’s No Such Thing As the Garage Inventor
Photo Credited To:’s No Such Thing As the Garage InventorEverything that we see today started off as an idea[...]
A Tidal Wave of Ventilator Innovation (And Patents) Breathes Life Back Into Pandemic Battlefront
“I work as if I were going to be the next person to need a respirator. I share in the[...]
Art of the Kickstart Podcast Interview: Pitfalls and Mistakes Inventors Should Avoid and How to Protect Your Idea.
Inventor, Loose Lips Sink Ships!Why You Need To Be So Careful About Who You Share Your Idea With.The initial path[...]
3 Eco-Friendly Inventions that Make the World Better
World Intellectual Property DayBehold, The New Generation of Eco-Friendly Inventors! For the past 20 years, on April 26, World Intellectual Property[...]
My Client Gerard D’Offay Invents a New Patented Marine Product Using LEGO® and Paddleboard Inflatables as Inspirational Fuel
Gerard's Patented Floating Docking System Clicks Together Like LEGO® It Effortlessly Floats on Water Using Inflatable Technology Seen In the[...]
How to Leverage Quarantine and Isolation to Help Patent an Idea
How Solitude Compels Us to Act upon Our IdeasUnleash Your Creativity While Working From HomeFor the past week, companies, both[...]
Inventor, What Is Your Turmoil Inspired Product?
Inventor, Think Outside the BoxDuring Moments of Crisis, New Ideas are Born!Despite an uncertain and unstable world situation and economy,[...]
Categories: dental, featured, home, patents