Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of zipper


  1. "Devices consisting of two opposite series of members adapted to be attached one on each side of an aperture in some article and to interlock so as to close the aperture upon the slide being operated in one direction, or to separate so as to leave the aperture open upon the slide being operated in the opposite direction." Editor's note: we didn't make this up! It's from a 1932 trademark case of the Supreme Court of Canada called Lightning Fastener Co. Ltd. V. Canadian Goodrich Co. Ltd.

Definition of zipper


  • Rhymes: -ɪpə(r)


    1925, to zip + -er. The trade name was registered in 1925 by B.F. Goodrich for “boots made of rubber and fabric,” claiming use of the name since June 1923. No longer a registered trademark.


zipper (plural zippers)

  1. (chiefly US, Australian) A zip fastener.
  2. A pressure-sensitive plastic closure.


  • slide fastener
  • zip (British), zip fastener (British)

Further reading

A zipper (British English: zip or (rarely) zip fastener) is a commonly used device for temporarily joining two edges of fabric. It is used in clothing (e.g., jackets and jeans), luggage and other bags, sporting goods, camping gear (e.g., tents and sleeping bags), and other daily use items.


Elias Howe, who invented the sewing machine, received a patent in 1851 for an "Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure". Perhaps because of the success of his sewing machine, he did not try to seriously market it, and missed out on any recognition he might otherwise have received. Forty-two years later, Whitcomb Judson, who invented the pneumatic street railway, marketed a "Clasp Locker". The device was similar to Howe's patent, but actually served as a (more complicated) hook-and-eye shoe fastener. With the support of businessman Colonel Lewis Walker, Whitcomb launched the Universal Fastener Company to manufacture the new device. The clasp locker had its public debut at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and met with little commercial success.

Gideon Sundback, a Swedish-American electrical engineer, was hired to work for the Universal Fastener Company in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1906. Good technical skills and a marriage to the plant-manager's daughter Elvira Aronson led Mr. Sundback to the position of head designer. After his wife's death in 1911, he devoted himself to the worktable, and by December 1913 had designed the modern zipper.

Gideon Sundback increased the number of fastening elements from four per inch to ten or eleven, introduced two facing rows of teeth that pulled into a single piece by the slider, and increased the opening for the teeth guided by the slider. The patent for the "Separable Fastener" was issued in 1917. Gideon Sundback also created the manufacturing machine for the new device. The "S-L" or "scrapless" machine took a special Y-shaped wire and cut scoops from it, then punched the scoop dimple and nib, and clamped each scoop on a cloth tape to produce a continuous zipper chain. Within the first year of operation, Sundback's machinery was producing a few hundred feet of fastener per day.

The popular "zipper" name came from the B. F. Goodrich Company; they opted to use Gideon Sundback's fastener on a new type of rubber boots (or galoshes) and referred to it as the zipper, and the name stuck. The two chief uses of the zipper in its early years were for closing boots and tobacco pouches. However, it was almost twenty years before the fashion industry began seriously promoting the novel closure on garments.

In the 1930s, a sales campaign began for children's clothing featuring zippers. The campaign praised zippers for promoting self-reliance in young children by making it possible for them to dress in self-help clothing. The zipper beat the button in 1937 in the "Battle of the Fly", after French fashion designers raved over zippers in men's trousers. Esquire declared the zipper the "Newest Tailoring Idea for Men" and among the zippered fly's many virtues was that it would exclude "The Possibility of Unintentional and Embarrassing Disarray."

The most recent innovation in the zipper's design was the introduction of models that could open on both ends, as on jackets. Today the zipper is by far the most widespread fastener, and is found on clothing, luggage, leather goods, and various other objects.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


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