Jim Delligatti, the creator of the Big Mac, McDonald’s signature food, an assemblage of two beef patties, sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onion between sesame buns, died last week. McDonald’s initially resisted the idea of this hunk of fast food as its other products – a hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries and shakes – were doing well.

Delligatti, a franchisee of the company, introduced it in his outlet in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, in 1967. Demand zoomed and the Big Mac made it to the national menu in 1968. The company said Delligatti received no payments for the idea.

There are many inventors and ideators across the world who did not patent their inventions or were not paid for them. The inventor of the karaoke, Daisuke Inoue, even received an Ig Nobel Peace Prize, for “providing an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other”, says the Ig Nobel website. He did not patent the machine, reportedly because he did not see it becoming the global success that it did, but he did later patent a pesticide to fend off the pests that ruined the electronics inside it.

Douglas Engelbart invented the computer mouse when he was working at the Augmentation Research Centre Lab in SRI International, California. He applied for a patent in 1967 – for a wooden shell with two metal wheels – and was awarded one in 1970. He did not get any royalties for it. SRI, which held the patent, licensed the mouse to Apple, but the patent ran out by the time it was commercially available with the Mac, in 1984.

Tim Berners-Lee, the computer scientist who invented the World Wide Web, is on record as saying, “I was just taking lots of things that already existed and added a little little bit,” when asked about a patent. If he had demanded a fees, he said, there would be no www, but lots of small webs instead.

Mikhail Kalashnikov, a Soviet Army soldier who invented the AK-47 rifle, reportedly had no regrets about not patenting it. He is quoted as saying that in mid-20th century Russia, they worked for a socialist society, for the good of the people. He said he regretted how it became popular among criminals and terrorists. Incidentally, Mozambique has the distinction of putting the AK-47 on its flag, as a symbol of the war of independence.

Compiled by Sravanthi Challapalli