I find this interesting and I like searching for this kind of information to do articles on.
I found an article written by Jim Boyd who writes for the Register-Guard a newspaper out of Oregon. Henry Phillips who lived in Portland, Oregon patented the Phillip head screw in 1934. The screw has the plus sign shape recessed in center of the screw head. The Phillips company licensed its designs to manufacturers but never actually made screws.
Frank Phillips, the son of Henry, said "The American Screw Co. of Providence, R.I decided to engineer an economical way to punch the Phillips recess into screw heads". The American Screw Co. advertised that Phillips screws speeded up assembly lines because they could be used with power drivers that might slip and mar an expensive finish if used with a normal slotted screw. They were touted as being self-centering, allowing one-handed driving, with heads that would not break off.
John Souza, A Phillips Screw Co. Vice President, said the original Phillips screw design has been in the public domain since the company lost the ability to enforce the Phillips trademark in the 1950's. That means the company can no longer control the quality of Phillips screws being made. Foreign companies buy used punches from American manufacturers and then use them to punch out thousands of additional, less crisply detailed recesses in their screws.
WRITTEN ON JUNE 12, 2015, BY