Sunday, August 12, 2007

Publishing: in journals and in patents

Relevant to an earlier post(Scientific Publishing), Ron Katznelson points out the paper by M. Bregonje in World Patent Information suggesting that patents' share as a first information source increased 8-10% per decade between 1980 and 2000.

One might want to know the absolute share, and one might want to know how to count "first information source."

Separately, it is easy to comply with the patent rules AND to obtain rapid journal publication. The story of publishing the transistor discovery, recounted in Foreseeing A Not Obvious Future, Intellectual Property Today (September 2004) is instructive:

Because of the national security implications of the transistor, Bell Labs felt obliged to notify the military. While waiting for that release (On June 23, Ralph Bown gave a presentation to a group of military officers and the release ef-fectively came in June 1948 when the military failed to classify the transistor), Bardeen and Brattain sent a letter about their invention to the Physical Review, but asked for the publication to be delayed. n9 As to the name "transistor," Bell Labs actually had a vote on naming the device of Bardeen/Brattain/Shockley, and a copy of the "ballot" of May 28, 1948 is available on the internet ( An application for Shockley's device was field on June 26, 1948, and matured into US 2,569,347. The invention of the transistor was disclosed in a public presentation in New York City on June 30, 1948, and Ralph Bown, director of research at Bell, demonstrated the transistor in a telephone handset, with a radio, and with a television. The New York Times had a small mention of this in "News of the Radio" on page 46 on July 1, 1948 (a copy is available on the internet at reyer/regency/NYTimes.jpg); the New York Herald Tribune was more prescient than the Times, saying that "engineers believe it will cause a revolution in the electronics industry!"

Endnote 9 of the IPT article: The submission date of the letter to Physical Review (1948, 74, 230) is June 25, 1948, which is after the cip filing of Bardeen/Brattain (June 17) but before the filing of Shockley's patent (June 26). Shockley is acknowledged in the Physical Review letter. Compare this behavior of Bardeen/Brattain (patent application first, then submission of paper) to that of some Berkeley inventors as reported by Lawrence Busch in footnote 28.

IPBiz notes that the Bardeen/Brattain journal publication, submitted AFTER the CIP filing, appeared in print LONG BEFORE the patent did. IPBiz notes that the Bardeen/Brattain device was significantly different than the Shockley device. Separately, distinct patent applications of Bell Labs on transistors submitted in this time period were rejected over Lilienfeld's 1930 US patent, which effectively disclosed a field effect transistor. In an interesting irony of history, in April 2000 in the journal Science (Science, 2000, 288, 656), Jan-Hendrik Schon of Bell Labs reported a realization of a field-effect device that allows switching between insulating and superconducting states. Schon's work was subsequently found to fraudulent, but Schon's first citation was to J. E. Lilienfeld, U.S. Patent 1,745,175 .

Separately, in 2004, in footnote 29 of 71 U. Chi. L. Rev. 129, it was suggested that the inventors of the transistor anticipated a use for hearing aids and therein did not foresee the full scope of their invention. There were several problems with footnote 29, which to this day in 2007 have never been corrected.

First, the citation within footnote 29 in the article in the University of Chicago Law Review to the article by Carol Haber in Electronic News has confused the issue number of Electronic News (2018) with the page number (46). Thus, the citation itself is mechanically wrong.

Second, there is no support whatsoever in the Haber article for what the inventors of the transistor did, or did not, think of the uses for the transistor. The Haber article mentions discussion of the transistor in an article by the New York Times: "The invention of the transistor was not front page news but a tiny item in a weekly column "News of Radio" buried inside a 1947 edition of the New York Times. The device, the article predicted, 'might be used to develop better hearing aids for the deaf.'" Thus, there is no support in the cited reference for a lack of understanding of the scope of the invention by the inventors, the reason for which the reference was cited. The footnote should have failed cite-checking for both of these reasons. [Parenthetically, there is also a potential issue with the mention of the year 1947 in the Haber article as opposed to the year 1948; the transistor was not named until 1948 and there was a news blackout by Bell Labs until June 30, 1948.]

As can be seen from the IPBiz text above, the likely date for the Times article is July 1, 1948.

The above is further evidence for the proposition that one simply cannot believe what is in law review articles, even those of prestigious law schools.


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