Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/390

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

The patent-office will accept further fees; will make an examination for novelty, which is good, as far as it goes, and in some measure a protection against launching an unprofitable venture; and will grant a patent. A lawyer will readily spend a few hundred dollars in organizing a company, and will execute his task skillfully: he has no responsibility for the mercantile value of the project. Two or three thousand dollars more are easily expended in facilities for manufacture, in starting a sales-room, and in advertising. And yet, after all this expenditure, involving also the inventor's time, the moment the patent is contested by an infringer, the courts may pronounce it void for want of novelty. Notice recent examples. The "Perfection Window-Cleaner" was in substance a rubber mounted on a long handle convenient for reaching up to clean lofty windows and the like; the peculiarity of the device consisting in the way in which a cushion for rubbing was adjusted so that it could be pressed against the surface to be cleaned. The Court said that there was nothing new in this; the implement was only a mop or scrubbing-brush made of India-rubber. "Improved Kindling-Wood" was patented, consisting of wood tied in small bundles, each containing a lump of combustible matter which would take fire from a common match. The Court said that there was no more invention in this than there would be in selling a sherry-cobbler glass with a straw in it, or a can of food with a fork. As at first devised, the "Fare-Box" used in city omnibuses and street-cars was inefficient for want of an opportunity to the driver to see whether the proper fare had been put in. Some one obtained a patent for the improvements of fitting a second window, and a reflector, in such manner that the driver might, either by day or night, see the coin which had been deposited. With these changes the fare-box became a success. But the Court said that there was no invention in inserting an additional window, or in putting a reflector near a lamp. To relieve drivers from the necessity of buying a new whip because the tip-end had become frayed or broken while the stock remained good, an inventor contrived "Whip-Tips" with sockets, so that a worn one might be unscrewed and a new one screwed on in its place. The Court said that he might sustain an exclusive right to his screw, but that the important feature of the device—making independent tips to be substituted for worn ones—was not new; this is the principle upon which fishing-rods in sections have been made for many years. The "Rubber-tip Pencil" has had an extensive sale; but, when the patent for it was contested, the Court said that there was no invention; the device was nothing but "a piece of rubber with a hole in it." Not many years ago a patent was questioned for an article called "Comminuted Glue." The device consisted in breaking glue into small particles, of uniform size, to facilitate dissolving it for use. The Court said that nothing was here involved other than grinding glue fine, and grinding can not be called a new invention. A score of such decisions might