Saturday, April 11, 2009

Edison and the light bulb

An IPBiz commenter wrote:

i'm a Chinese undergarduate, your blog is very interesting and helpful.since i can not find your email ,i have to use the "comment" to ask some questions about edison's patent here,i am sorry but still hope that you can help,you may find them veey childish even ridiculous, first: edison got the 223,898 patent Jan,1880 and then the patent was ruled invalid in 1883,right? then he got around six years in litigation and finally got the patent valid 1889,right? Second, suppose i got them all right above, can a patent in litigation be used to against others? the edison company sued some other companies in 1885 and one of the claimed infinged patents was 223,898,but then the patent was invalid ,how can they do that Third, this may fall out of your expertise,but what exactly 223,898 patented? the improvememt on the process of making Filment or a whole new filment . Fourth: Chiese students have long been taught that Edison invented "electric light", i know he was actually improved that ,but are there any differences between "electric light " and "electric incandescent light" or " incandescent light" when we talking about edison's inventions?

Relevant prior posts on IPBiz -->

How badly Jaffe and Lerner misunderstood the light bulb story

More Edison and the light bulb

New York Times: Edison's light bulb not essentially original

See also LBE's Edison as a Patent Troll, or Where is California Going in Stem Cell Research? , which includes:


Although not widely discussed, the application for Edison’s famous US Patent No. No. 223,898, granted January 27, 1880, was involved in an interference with competing inventors Sawyer and Man and Edison lost on the contested point.

Following up, the successors to Sawyer and Man challenged Edison’s patent. The basic claim of Edison read: An electric lamp for giving light by incandescence, consisting of a filament of carbon of high resistance, made as described, and secured to metallic wires, as set forth. The trial court noted that Edison “was the first to make a carbon of materials and by a process which was especially designed to impart high specific resistance to it; the first to make a carbon in the special form for the special purpose of imparting to it high total resistance; and the first to combine such a burner with the necessary adjuncts of lamp construction to prevent its disintegration and give it sufficiently long life.” The trial court also noted, somewhat
cryptically, “There are many adjudicated cases in which it appears that the inventor builded better than he knew; where a patent has been sustained for an invention the full significance of which was not appreciated by the inventor when it was made. In the case of the Bell telephone patent there was great room for doubt whether the speaking telephone had been thought of by Mr. Bell when he filed his application for a patent, but the court said: ‘It describes apparatus which was an articulating telephone, whether Bell knew it or not.’” Edison’s patent survived. A problem with the court’s analysis is that the distinctly long life of Edison’s filaments arose from the use of bamboo, which was not disclosed in Edison’s patent.

In a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, the relevant patent of Sawyer and Man, asserted against the interests of Edison, did not survive. The first claim of U.S. Patent No. 317,076 (related to patent 205,144 ) read: An incandescing conductor for an electric lamp, of carbonized fibrous or textile material and of an arch or horseshoe shape, substantially as
hereinbefore set forth. The Supreme Court noted: “It is admitted that the lamp described in the Sawyer and Man patent is no longer in use, and was never a commercial success; that it does not embody the principle of high resistance with a small illuminating surface.” Getting to the broadness of the Sawyer/Man claim, the Supreme Court stated: “But if woods generally were not adapted to the purpose, and yet the patentee had discovered a wood possessing certain qualities, which gave it a peculiar fitness for such purpose, it would not constitute an infringement for another to discover and use a different kind of wood, which was found to contain similar or superior qualities.” The court further noted that Sawyer/Man “made a broad claim for every fibrous or textile material, when in fact an examination of over six thousand vegetable growths showed that none of them possessed the peculiar qualities that fitted them for that purpose. Was everybody then precluded by this broad claim from making further investigation? We think not.”

The court noted that Edison “found suitable for his purpose only about three species of bamboo.” After discussing the amount of work Edison did with bamboo, the court asked: The question really is whether the imperfectly successful experiments of Sawyer and Man, with carbonized paper and wood carbon, conceding all that is claimed for them, authorize them to put under
tribute the results of the brilliant discoveries made by others.”The court brought up the “infringement if later, anticipation if earlier” argument: “if the patent were infringed by the use of any such material, it would be anticipated by proof of the prior use of any such material.”

**In passing, one should also note the coverage by the New York Times on Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, which reproduced Lincoln's text, followed by Democratic governor Seymour's remarks. [The Chicago Times wrote: "The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States." ]


Of the comment below, there are not necessarily good answers to the questions posed. Arguably, US Patent No. No. 223,898, granted January 27, 1880, was not enabled as to the properties of filaments from carbonized bamboo, which was patented later. LBE had researched this topic earlier, but learned an academic was doing a major paper criticizing Merges/Nelson, who (among other things) did not understand the Edison matter. But the (non-patent lawyer) academic did not understand the Edison matter either. LBE will likely do a paper on this, along the lines of the paper on the transistor. Both sagas negatively impact on the New York Times.

WHAT THE STORY OF THE INVENTION OF THE TRANSISTOR TEACHES US ABOUT 21ST CENTURY PATENT PRACTICE [picked as one of the best IP papers of 2008 and being republished in 2009]

Separately, of no relevance to the above, but a comment on 2009-->

Best Places to Get a Part-Time Job which includes the text

“If you’re going to work part time, it’s best to work at places that consider part-time workers as integral to their success,” says Bob Nelson, president of Nelson Motivation, a benefits consulting firm. “For example, at Starbucks part-time workers hit the core of their organization, and because of that they’re going to be taken care of.”

For Edison the lightbulb was an integral part of a bigger plan, a plan that did not work out commercially. Starbucks may go the way of Edison's DC current.

***Of Lemley, and foreseeing inventions, from the IPBiz blog of September 2004 :

In addition to his suggestion that the inventors of the transistor anticipated uses only in hearing aids, Mark Lemley (based on previous statements by Nathan Rosenberg of Stanford University) suggested that Marconi only foresaw applications in radio involving a transmission from one point to one point.

A basic problem with this is that it conflates the business model of Marconi (which did involve point-to-point transmissions called Marconi-grams) with the technical understanding of Marconi. This issue is somewhat like the improper practice of limiting the claims of a patent to the commercial embodiments of the patentee (e.g., Rawlplug Co. v. Illinois Tool Works, Inc., 11 F.3d 1036, 1041 (Fed. Cir. 1993)).

The issue is further discussed in the September 2004 issue of Intellectual Property Today-->


Blogger Blankout said...

Thanks for your patience and time , please ignore all those errors and twisted language performance. Here are points still confused me . First , still the question that can a patent which still involved in trial or inference, like Edison’s 223,898 in 1885, be used in a claimed infringement case, like the Edison company did in 1885?
Second, as you posted that Edison did not mentioned Bamboo in the specification of the 223,898 and he succeed in using the bamboo 6 months later after the granted patent , then the high resistant carbon filament stated in the specification is not Bamboo , then what did he carbonized exactly in the 223,898 patent . IF , he actually mean “ bamboo “ in the specification of 223,898, can the patent be granted without disclosure of the key information since without which the claimed improvements can not be tested by officers of the Patent office. besides, how long can the very bulb lasts since the 1200 hrs was achieved months later . Additionally, if the 223,898 has nothing to do with Bamboo, why did not he patent the improved carbonized-bamboo filament lamp ? (of course if he did mean bamboo in 223,898 then this is not a problem)
Third: how can Edison first failed in the Sawyer & Man inference in 1883 and win in 1889 since all the facts remain the same , the 1889 judge must know why Edison failed in 1883 . then , are those lose and win only a matter of different interpretation ?
i do not really care the invention fact , i just want to know how the "fact " in law was built up
thanks for your help!

12:04 AM  

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