Back In The Days When Skywriting Was Patented

from the glad-those-days-are-gone dept

Eric Goldman alerts us to the news that, back in the day, skywriting was patented (see patent below) and that there were advertisements warning people not to infringe. This particular ad was published in 1924 in Aviation Magazine.
If you can't read the warning, it states:
Warning: The process of forming Morse or written signals in the air by means of smoke or other visible trails emitted from an aircraft and the apparatus used in connection therewith are covered by Patents issued and pending in America and abroad. Vigorous action will be taken against infringers.
It seems some things just never change.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Richard (profile), Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 6:43am

    Native Americans

    They used smoke signals didn't they?

    Wouldn't that have counted as prior art?

     

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  2.  
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    Rabbit80, Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 6:44am

    Re: Native Americans

    Dammit - you beat me to it :(

     

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  3.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 6:45am

    Re: Re: Native Americans

    Patents are all smoke an mirrors anyway ...

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 6:45am

    Was innovatin hurt here?

    What are you complaining about Mike? How exactly did a skywriting patent hurt innovation?

     

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  5.  
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    Michial, Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 6:47am

    Native Americans

    Nope Smoke Signals don't count as prior art, they were not emitted from an Aircraft.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 6:47am

    Was innovatin hurt here?

    What are you complaining about Mike? How exactly did a skywriting patent hurt innovation?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 6:47am

    Was innovatin hurt here?

    What are you complaining about Mike? How exactly did a skywriting patent hurt innovation?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 6:53am

    Today's jets emit a trail caused by the cooling. They would be infringing by spelling a long i. Or a double lowercase l

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 7:03am

    Re: Native Americans

    Exactly. All this post proves is that what is obvious today wasn't obvious at some point in the past.

    It's a good patent, and in it's day was innovative and unique.

     

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  10.  
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    Richard (profile), Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 7:03am

    Re: Native Americans

    But if a group of Native Americans had patented smoke signals in (say) 1921 they could have used it to block the Skywriting Corporation - creating a patent thicket.

    Also I think that the amoke signal prior art would still have invalidated the rider about morse code etc - since that doesn't require the aircraft to manouevre in order to create the message - the aircraft is therefore irrelevant in that case.

     

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  11.  
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    Sean T Henry (profile), Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 7:08am

    Re: Native Americans

    It said that "written signals in the air by means of smoke or other visible trails emitted from an aircraft" then just do not have it come from the aircraft but a tow behind smoke machine. :)

     

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  12.  
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    Richard (profile), Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 7:09am

    Re: Re: Native Americans

    No - it was an obvious patent even then.

    I think the idea that "it was not obvious then - even if it is obvious now" is incorrect. The point is that these things are obvious to anyone who has the right background knowledge (and remember the patent test requires the idea to be non-obvious even to someone "skilled in the art" - not just to Joe public).

    This patent is far too broad. A sensible application of the patent process would be to some of the details (eg the method of finding the correct height to do the skywriting - which must have required some thought and effort at the time.

     

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  13.  
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    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 7:23am

    I wonder if these guys sued the Wicked Witch of the West. She violated their patent when she sky wrote her threat to Dorothy.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032138/

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 7:24am

    Re: Re: Re: Native Americans

    So what you are saying is that they should have applied for multiple patents, to create a patent thicket?

    Right.

     

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  15.  
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    CommonSense (profile), Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 7:29am

    Re: Re: Native Americans

    In it's day, it was innovative and unique.

    It is still not a good patent.

     

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  16.  
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    The eejit (profile), Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 7:30am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Native Americans

    You must be bored today. Here, hace a nice cup of chai, to soother your mind and increase your brainpower.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 7:54am

    Re: Re: Native Americans

    The "aircraft" was their version of "on the Internet".

     

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  18.  
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    Richard (profile), Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 8:00am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Native Americans

    So what you are saying is that they should have applied for multiple patents, to create a patent thicket?
    No - I'm saying that if they could have encapsulated their method for finding the right altitude into a device - then they could have patented the device - it would have been easy to work around - so no thicket.

     

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  19.  
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    Pixelation, Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 8:18am

    What if they wrote it in C++?

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 8:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Native Americans

    It was obvious to Joe public even then. It's only non-obvious before the technology that makes it possible existed. Once airplanes with smoke trails exist, it's obvious. No R&D costs required to think up the idea.

    Aren't patents supposed to be on specific designs, not general ideas? I can sit around and come up with ideas all day long, why should someone a patent on every idea that anyone can possibly come up with? Ridiculous.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 8:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Native Americans

    Why should someone get a patent on ... *

     

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  22.  
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    Greg G (profile), Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 8:30am

    Re:

    The Wicked Witch didn't use an aircraft. She flew on a broom. I think even a moron in a hurry would recognize the difference.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 8:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Native Americans

    Here is a website that explains it a little better

    http://ideas.4brad.com/archives/000061.html

    The problem is that the ability to create smoke trails was a new problem that arises with the advent of Airplanes. New solutions to new problems make for bad patents. A better patent would be if someone found a new solution to an old problem after many years were given to solve that problem. The question that should be asked is, how long has something been a problem and how long have people been looking for a solution. Smoke trails is a relatively new problem because the technology that enables them is new. Now, having a patent on an airplane maybe a different issue, but the airplane example itself is another example of how patents are harmful to innovation (ie: the wright brothers delaying advancement resulting in other countries advancing before us until the government decided to step in and prevent patents from delaying advancement).

    Overall, though, I tend to be mostly against patents, I think they're just another abuse that only hinder innovation and invention and serve to create more income inequality and lost jobs.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 8:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Native Americans

    I think the question that should be asked here is, would contrail signals likely have been invented if it weren't for patents? I think the answer is yes, so a patent shouldn't have been granted on it. If patents are to exist they should only be on things that wouldn't otherwise exist.

     

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  25.  
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    Skyhawker, Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 9:18am

    Backwards message?

    Lucky strike anyone...?

     

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  26.  
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    Michael, Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 9:58am

    Accidental infringement

    So you the engine of the airplane billowing out smoke as it fails constitute a patent violation?

    I mean, smoke pouring from your airplane engine is clearly saying "Help", "I'm crashing", or "Oops! Forgot the oil again.", so it is sending a message via smoke from an aircraft.

     

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  27.  
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    Billy Wenge-Murphy, Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 11:28am

    Re: Native Americans

    Just another thing the white man took from them

    Too bad they had no concept of (intellectual) property

     

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  28.  
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    Billy Wenge-Murphy, Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 11:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Native Americans

    Innovative in the sense of "hey look at that isn't that neat" (unpatentable) not in the sense of "solves a legitimate technical problem that would have been unlikely to get a solution if we didn't have a system that grants temporary monopolies on such solutions"

     

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  29.  
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    Billy Wenge-Murphy, Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 11:36am

    Re: Re:

    A broom is just an aircraft powered by magic and children's dreams

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
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    6 (profile), Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 3:02pm

    Re: Re: Native Americans

    "creating a patent thicket."

    Somebody in this thread doesn't know what a patent thicket is.

     

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  31.  
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    6 (profile), Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 3:04pm

    "So you the engine of the airplane billowing out smoke as it fails constitute a patent violation?"

    Did anyone here tell you that it would be? Did you read the claims of the patents mentioned?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    abc gum, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 6:14am

    It's a good thing that The Skywriting Corporation of America was issued that patent because it initiated an avalanche of innovation in the field of skywriting from which we have all benefited immensely. I don't know where we would be today if it weren't for this patent.

     

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  33.  
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    staff, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 8:49am

    on notice

    It puts infringers on notice which is required. Please leave these matters to those who understand it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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