Innovation is the engine that drives the economy. People who invent new and desirable products create value, growth and wealth. So it’s appropriate that Ford Motor Company and one of the most desirable cars in automotive history, Mustang, were honored yesterday at the National Inventors Hall of Fame inside the US Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Virginia.

To showcase its history, Ford created a special display for the Intellectual Property Power exhibit that fuses the front of a 1965 Mustang to a 2015 Mustang. This hybrid Mustang, along with other displays in the exhibit celebrate the history of intellectual property and illuminate its role in American progress and culture. The Mustang display recreates the interior of both cars exactly and is designed to highlight the role patents play in technology and product improvements over the decades. It calls out various patents in the current vehicle, as well as those in the Mustang.

Interestingly, when the first Mustang was created, the project was so intense that Ford didn’t even bother to file for many design patents they should have. According to Chris Danowski, Ford director of technology commercialization and intellectual property licensing, “Everything moved so fast in the design and run-up to production of the original Mustang that there were no styling patents issued back then.” It wasn’t until after over a million Mustangs were sold in 18 months that Ford went back and filed to protect the styling features that make a Mustang a Mustang.

That’s not to say they didn’t employ several functional patents. The car used more than 100 patents Ford had earned, including features we take for granted now like a rear-seat speaker, a power convertible top and the self-canceling turn signal.

In contrast, the 2015 Mustang debuted with 36 styling patents and says Danowski, “has many unique functional patents for things like the airbag structures, 911 Assist® and so many other technologies baked right in.”

All of these patents are illustrated in the display, crafted by Classic Design Concepts, which combines about 60 percent of the driver’s compartment of the original Mustang and about 60 percent that of the 2015 car. The left side consists of a reproduction 1965 left-hand-drive Mustang licensed for modern production by Ford and built to the same specifications as the original car – in itself an example of the licensing benefits of intellectual property. The other side is a right-hand-drive 2015 Mustang that is sold in England and other countries. 

Visitors to the museum can sit in either side of the car and directly compare features and styling details; From the AM radio, roll-up window, vent air window, and optional retractable color-keyed and seat belts available in 1965, to the working touch screen display in the 2015 model. Some patents and other intellectual property will be displayed on accompanying monitors with accompanying audio. Visitors will also be able to hear how the V8 engine in the original 1965 Mustang sounds compared to a 2015 Mustang V8 engine at idle.

The National Inventors Hall of Fame is located at 600 Dulany Street, Alexandria VA. It’s open from 10 to 5 on weekdays and 11 to 3 on Saturday. For more information you can visit their website or email them at museum@invent.org.