Patents as spoils of war
What happens to patents during war time? A 1944 article in JPTOS [26 J. Pat. Off. Soc'y 623 (1944) ] is titled "Enemy Patents Seized..." The article notes that the "Alien Property Custodian" was granting non-exclusive licenses on these seized patents.
The 1946 article SECRETS BY THE THOUSANDS includes the text:
The German Patent Office put some of its most secret patents down a sixteen-hundred-foot mine. shaft at Heringen, then piled liquid oxygen, in cylinders, on top of them. When the American Joint Intelligence Objectives team found them, it was doubtful that they could be saved. They were legible, but in such bad shape that a trip to the surface would make them disintegrate. Photo equipment and a crew were therefore lowered into the shaft and a complete microfilm record made of the patents there.
And is the public doing anything with these one-time war secrets? It is – it is eating them up. As many as twenty thousand orders have been filled in a month, and the order rate is now a thousand items a day. Scientists and engineers declare that the information is "cutting years from the time we would devote to problems already scientifically investigated." And American business men...! A run through the Publication Board's letters file shows the following;
The Bendix Company in South Bend, Indiana, writes for a German patent on the record player changer "with records stacked above the turntable." Pillsbury Mills wants to have what is available on German flour and bread production methods. Kendall Manufacturing Company ("Soapine") wants insect repellent compounds. Pioneer Hi-Bred Corn Company, Iowa, asks about "interrogation of research workers at the agricultural high school at Hohenheim." Pacific Mills requests I. G. Farbenindustrie's water-repellent, crease-resistant finish for spun rayon. The Polaroid Company would like something on "the status of exploitation of photography and optics in Germany." (There are, incidentally, ten to twenty thousand German patents yet to be screened.)
Also: Operation Paperclip