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.

Filed Under: ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Back In The Days When Skywriting Was Patented”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Richard (profile) says:

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.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Native Americans

Here is a website that explains it a little better

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 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.

Richard (profile) says:

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.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...