Monday, September 28, 2009

Patenting the matchbook

On Sept. 27, 2009, CBS Sunday Morning presented "The first matchbook patent " as its Almanac feature. Showing a copy of the patent, CBS mentioned the name of the "inventor" Joshua Pusey but omitted discussion of the rest of the story, which unfolded in the 1890's. Pusey was a attorney and shortly after Pusey's patent there was another patent, by one Charles Bowman. There was a patent fight, and Pusey later sold his patent rights (for $4000) to the Diamond Match Trust, and became an attorney for them. Bowman's company flopped. describes the story in the following way: Joshua Pusey invented the matchbook, he called his matchbook matches "Flexibles". Pusey's patent was unsuccessfully challenged by the Diamond Match Company who had invented a similar matchbook (their striker was on the outside, Pusey's was on the inside). His patent was later purchased by the Diamond Match Company in 1896 for $4,000 and a job offer.

Part of Pusey's story sounds quite familiar: [Pusey] tried to interest people in his invention, but for eight years, no one seemed to care. Then in 1897, Pusey got his break. The Mendelsohn Opera Company wanted a special way to advertise their New York opening. They used books of paper matches with their name printed on them.

Another part of the story (concerning a different patent) is ALSO familiar (as to, for example, AIDS drugs): United States President William H. Taft publicly asked Diamond Match to release their patent for the good of mankind. They did on January 28, 1911

The Sept. 27 CBS show also had a story on the "right of publicity" of dead people, which does not seem to show up on their website. Yes, they had a clip of Celine Dion with Elvis. Yes, Graceland was mentioned (as the #2 historic residence visited per year) although it was described as modest compared to present day standards for entertainer residences. More interesting, and of relevance to the Princeton area, the story emphasized the high economic value of rights in "Albert Einstein," which are controlled by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. IPBiz has covered some of the recent spats over the use of the Einstein name. The greater Princeton area has signs pushing "Einstein's Alley."

The Sept. 27 began with the cover story Ford — A Better Idea?, which mentioned that Ford had mortgaged "the blue oval" (presumably meaning its loans were secured via trademark rights). Although one might have thought this was an upbeat story, Ford came off merely as "the least bad of the worst" of the Big Three.


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