Inspiration Through Patents

It has been said that objects tell great stories, and great stories inspire. Caterpillar’s portfolio of early patents and other mechanical drawings communicate how ideas can become reality and inventions can be fun! Our employees have a long history of inventions going all the way back to our two predecessor companies, Holt and Best.  In fact, our earliest patents date back to 1871. 

Our oldest patent was for a grain separator, 1871

Many of our patents started from a simple idea. In fact, some of the best ideas started as drawings on a cocktail napkin. 

Sketch of a Cat® dozer by former chairman C.L. Best, 1944

Other unique ideas might start with inspiration from a beloved family member. C.L. Best, our first chairman, sketched a duck decoy for his granddaughter when she asked him to, “invent something.”

C.L. Best duck decoy sketch, 1948

In the late 1800s, our patents would have been filed with a wooden handmade scale model.

Holt combine harvester patent model, ca. 1890

Many of our patents have revolutionized the earthmoving industry. These include patents related to the development of early track-type tractors, diesel engines, the high drive, and remote-control technology, just to name a few. 

High drive track-type vehicle patent, 1974

Some of our patents are quite simply fun; including a patent for a washing machine!

Washing machine patent, 1877

For over 100 years our patents protected the inventions that have provided sustainable solutions for our customers around the world. Today, Caterpillar has over 10,000 active granted patents.

Holt Caterpillar patent plate, ca. 1920

Over 100 years of Caterpillar innovation at its best!  View a sample of our historical engineering drawings going all the way back to our two predecessor companies Holt and Best – including our legendary Caterpillar Sixty.


From the Vault

Each week we open our vault to share stories of our people and products over the last 90+ years.

Explore Our History

Innovation at Caterpillar

Caterpillar employees have turned their passion for product development into innovations that create customer value and make the world a better place.

See How We’re Innovating