Wednesday whimsies

If you fancy browsing the archives of Scientific American from its first issue in 1845 through to 1909,, you can do so free of charge until the end of November.  This Kat has been learning all about that august title, which actually started its life as a publication monitoring the US Patent Office (click here for more history). According to the publishers,
"Readers can now revisit original reports of Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the telephone [Merpel feels that it should really have been called the Bellophone] and Thomas Edison's invention of the light bulb. Scientific American's complete archive, back to volume 1, issue 1, is now available on To celebrate the completion of the Scientific American archive on, the 1845-1909 archive collection will be free to all to access from 1-30 November 2011. ...
Scientific American founded the first branch of the U.S. Patent Agency, in 1850, to provide technical help and legal advice to inventors. The 1845-1909 collection chronicles major inventions ... highlights include coverage of New York City’s first subway in 1870, a special issue in 1899 dedicated to bicycles and automobiles, and Wilbur Wright’s completion of a three-mile flight at Kitty Hawk, South Carolina. In all, the 1845-1909 collection contains more than 75,000 articles" [the IPKat's a bit jealous: his own archive only contains 6,462 items].
Thanks once again are due to Chris Torrero for unearthing this.

Another Chris -- Stothers this time -- has kept the IPKat in touch with the exciting world of tax loopholes, tipping him off about the UK Government's decision to close, with effect from 1 April 2012, a popular way of buying DVDs, CDs, contact lenses and other goods from Guernsey and Jersey free of Value Added Tax.  The loophole, elegantly named Low Value Consignment Relief, gave the Channel Island traders a 20% competitive edge over their mainland rivals. The European Commission said "stop it!" And that's what's happening now.  More details are available here.

"Accountability is not enough".  No, this isn't another IPKat rant -- it's the title of this year's Brands Lecture, given by Rory Sutherland (immediate past President of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising; Vice-Chairman, Ogilvy Group UK).  This is the eleventh in a series which is magnificently hosted by the British Brands Group. What's it about? Roy's central premise is that marketing needs a new vocabulary if it is to be taken seriously by corporate clients: this new vocabulary should embrace concepts such as signalling, loss aversion, information asymmetry, heurstics and path dependency [Merpel needs some reassurance at this point that she's still on the right blog: she thought the Heuristics was the name of a band. Don't be silly, Merpel, says the IPKat: this is the British Brand Group, not the British Bands Group ...].  It's not yet online but soon will be (the Kat will tell you when!) Meanwhile, you can access the first ten Brands Lectures here.

While on the subject of music, we can expect some sweet harmonies to emerge from the latest parley between some of our favourite IP offices.  According to the European Patent Office website,
"Delegations from the EPO, Japan Patent Office (JPO) and United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are discussing ways to further harmonise their patent systems at the 29th Trilateral Conference on 7 to 10 November in St. Germain-en-Laye near Paris.

... [T]his year's conference looks at areas as diverse as data standards, work-sharing, patent classification and the trilateral Patent Prosecution Highway pilot project utilizing PCT work products (PPH-PCT), with the aim of developing a more integrated, quality-based patent system at global level. ...

"The views and input from businesses to our projects is vital for progress in our harmonisation efforts", EPO President Benoît Battistelli said. "Innovation is a global market, and we need to better align our system with the needs of the actors on this market to secure meaningful patent protection at a high quality level".

The week will culminate in a meeting of the three heads of office on Thursday".
With all this talk of harmonising with actors, the IPKat thinks the delegations must be rehearsing a musical. What will it be, he wonders: The Sound of Music, Guys and Dolls, Seven Claims for Seven Examiners? Says Merpel, so long as those folk who use and pay for the system don't end up as Les Misérables ...

Around the blogs. The 1709 Blog reports that the controversial Meltwater ruling of the Court of Appeal for England and Wales (see earlier Katpost here; ruling slammed by Lionel Bently here) is going on appeal to the UK's Supreme Court. PatLit reports on the demise of the Earth Closet Order, a curious and somewhat anomalous feature of British patent costs awards in discontinued infringement proceedings. In the same weblog Antonio Selas has posted a delicious infographic to depict the allegedly stifling effect which the US Patent Wars are having on Silicon Valley innovation.  IP Finance has this post from Neil Wilkof on the actual and perceived value attaching to event sponsorship, while there's also a link to the eighth in the series of Keith Mallinson's pieces on patents and standards in the smartphone sector. Finally, jiplp offers a Current Intelligence note from the Herbert Smith pairing of Joel Smith and Emily Mallam on TV Catchup, the latest in a line of copyright cases heading for a ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg.
Wednesday whimsies Wednesday whimsies Reviewed by Jeremy on Wednesday, November 09, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. The publishers of Scientific American should be told that the first inventor of the light bulb was an Englishman, Sir Joseph Swan (his son, Sir Kenneth Swan K.C. was chairman of the post war Patents Committee whose report led to the1949 Act). Sir Joseph Swan gave a public demonstration of a working light bulb on 3 February 1879, which was well ahead of Edison's light bulb.

  2. While we're at it, I should point out that Bell did not invent the telephone. See here for more details.

  3. ... and the inventorship of the telephone is'nt that clear either.

  4. What Edison invented was the filament light bulb and the high voltage electricity system to go with it. Dozens of others had made low voltage bulbs with carbon light-emitting elements, but these were not filaments, and required operating voltages that were so low that losses in transmission would have been uneconomic.

    I think that the litigation in the UK set a precedent in that it was the first time that a patent was granted for something that differed form the prior art only in its dimensions: our RPC's unfortunately don't go back far enough to check the actual case.

  5. Post Script: A discussion of the various lamps that antedated Edison's can be found here:

    which reproduces a lecture given in 1913 by an engineer who had worked in Edison's electric lamp laboratory.

    The typical Pre-Edison lamp had an electrical resistance of a few Ohms. Edison's original filament was about 140 Ohms, around two orders of magnitude higher than the then state of the art.

    Photos of, and comments on, a collection of fairly recently-discovered lamps that were exhibits in Edison's patent litigation in the USA are available here:

  6. Thanks to the EU we are now forced to abandon our bright Edison light bulbs and revert to some useless earlier version, which cannot hold a torch to that of Edison.


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