Escalator: Stairway to Genericide

/ / Escalator: Stairway to Genericide

Did you know that escalators were actually built as a mode of entertainment than for convenience at first? Who would have guessed that a machine could one day propel staircases on a conveyor belt which either go in an upward or a downward direction? Today the “escalator” is everywhere, an integral part of modern architecture, from airports to malls. Interestingly enough, The first patent related to an escalator-like machine was granted in 1859 to a Massachusetts man for a steam-driven unit. Modern-day elevators as we see them were invented by Charles Seeberg in 1897. He then partnered with the Otis Elevator Co. to produce the first commercial escalator in 1899. 

Henceforth, the term ‘escalator’ was coined by Seeberg as well. It is derived from the Latin term ‘scala’ which means steps. In 1910, Otis bought Seeberg’s patent and the trademark and inevitably dominated the escalator business for decades. Popularity is both a boon and a bane. The widespread and commonplace use of the term ‘Escalator’ led to the USPTO declaring it to be a generic term. Otis lost its proprietary right over the terms henceforth and all moving stairways since then are known as escalators.

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