Friday, May 04, 2007

Wikipedia blows a big one

Notice that Wikipedia writes of Edison's U.S. patent 223,898: Edison continued to improve this design and by Jan 20, 1880 had U.S. patent 223,898 for a lamp that could last over 1200 hours using a carbonized bamboo filament.

IPBiz to Wikipedia: try reading US 223,898 and see if you find the word "bamboo."

Google patents has 223,898 here. [PatentMonkey does not seem to have it.] See results of searching for "bamboo" on Google.

Curiously, GizmoHighway (not Wikipedia) gets the story right: Edison and his team did not find a commercially workable filament (bamboo) until more than 6 months after Edison filed the patent application. As to 223,898, all wikipedia had to do was read the patent (advisable since they cited it), but apparently that was too much for wikipedia. The same information could have been learned from the various court cases surrounding the Edison patent (and the patents of competitors).

An exercise by Nature had revealed numerous errors in both Wikipedia and Britannica, but among 42 entries tested, the difference in accuracy was not particularly great: The average science entry in Wikipedia contained around four inaccuracies; Britannica, about three.

GizmoHighway also talks about the work of Swan: Swan received a British patent for his device in 1878. Swan reported success to the Newcastle Chemical Society and at a lecture in Newcastle in February 1879 he demonstrated a working lamp that utilized a carbon fibre filament. The most significant feature of Swan's lamp was that there was little residual oxygen in the vacuum tube to ignite the filament, thus allowing the filament to glow almost white-hot without catching fire. From this year he began installing light bulbs in homes and landmarks in England and by the early 1880s had started his own company. Gizmo also notes: In Britain, Swan took Edison to court for patent infringement. Edison lost and as part of the settlement, Edison was forced to take Swan in as a partner in his British electric works.

Moving to the year 2007, one wonders how Edison would have fared in the US with the new guidelines of KSR v. Teleflex in place. Was a carbon filament "obvious to try" to generate incandescent light?

Google also has a copy of US 821393 to the Wright Brothers. Note closely that application filing date of March 23, 1903, about nine months BEFORE the powered flight at Kitty Hawk. Given that "ailerons" were a known wing element BEFORE the Wrights, was the Wright's invention "obvious to try" on March 23, 1903?


Post a Comment

<< Home