Patents

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
patents, skywriting



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.

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  • icon
    Richard (profile), 23 Mar 2011 @ 6:43am

    Native Americans

    They used smoke signals didn't they?

    Wouldn't that have counted as prior art?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2011 @ 6:45am

    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 chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michial, 23 Mar 2011 @ 6:47am

    Native Americans

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

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 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.

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

      • icon
        Richard (profile), 23 Mar 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.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 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.

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

          • icon
            The eejit (profile), 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

          • icon
            Richard (profile), 23 Mar 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.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 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.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2011 @ 8:28am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Native Americans

            Why should someone get a patent on ... *

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 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.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 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.

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

      • icon
        CommonSense (profile), 23 Mar 2011 @ 7:29am

        Re: Re: Native Americans

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

        It is still not a good patent.

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

        • identicon
          Billy Wenge-Murphy, 23 Mar 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"

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

    • icon
      Richard (profile), 23 Mar 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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 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

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

  • icon
    E. Zachary Knight (profile), 23 Mar 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/

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 23 Mar 2011 @ 8:18am

    What if they wrote it in C++?

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

  • identicon
    Skyhawker, 23 Mar 2011 @ 9:18am

    Backwards message?

    Lucky strike anyone...?

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

  • identicon
    Michael, 23 Mar 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.

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

  • icon
    6 (profile), 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

  • identicon
    abc gum, 24 Mar 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.

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

  • identicon
    staff, 24 Mar 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 chronology ]


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