Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Oh, patents! Alonzo T. Cross fountain pens, stylographs and mechanical pencils

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

In 2016, and since 1971, the Cross Company [ATX], specializing in fine instruments of writing, is a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ  stock exchange.

150 years ago, circa the 1880s, Alonzo T. Cross, son of the founder of the Cross Company, incorporated in Providence, Rhode Island in 1846, applied for a series of US Letters Patent. The Letters patent were awarded for the invention of fountain pens, also called stylographic pens, mechanical pencils or crayon holders using endless screws, and the enameling or “japanning” of hollow articles such as pencil or crayon holder tubes. Two fountain pen patents were also filed and granted in Canada. The Canadian patents are handwritten documents with annotated drawings.

The French titles given to the Canadian Cross patents are respectively: Perfectionnements aux plumes-fontaines for Improvements on fountain pens (1879 CA10682) and Plume-fontaine for Fountain or reservoir pen (1883 CA17448), thereby adding yet another quilled French term for “fountain pen” and the English variation “reservoir pen”.

The term “japan” for “enamel” and corresponding verb form “japanning” in US303817 is also noteworthy!  The patent disclosed improvements to the art of enameling small hollow surfaces such as crayon or pencil tubes.

The following is a list of the Alonzo T. Cross fountain pen, mechanical pencil and japanning patents, awarded in the US and Canada:

1873 US140477 Pencil cases
1877 US189304 Fountain pen
1878 US199621 Fountain pen
1878 US209959 Fountain pen
1879 CA10682  Inprovements on fountain pens / Perfectionnements aux plumes-fontaines [Handwritten document]
1880 US225691 Stylographic fountain pen
1880 US227416 Stylographic fountain pen
1880 US229305 Fountain pen 
1880 US232804 Stylographic Pen
1881 US244194A Stylographic pen
1882 US263392 Lead and crayon holder
1883 CA17448 - Fountain or reservoir pen / Plume-fontaine [Handwritten document]
1894 US29653Crayon holder
1884 US296539 Crayon holder
1884 US303624 Stylographic fountain Pen
1884 US303817 Method of enameling or Japanning hollow articles
1897 US595373 Fountain Pen
1900 US657483 Fountain pen
1901 US714283 Fountain pen
1908 US900833 Fountain Pen

Click on the hyperlinked patent numbers to see the ornate and beautiful technical drawings of the Cross™ fountain pens, mechanical pencils and crayon holders! 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Oh, patents! Valory’s fountain pen (2)

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

The second 19th century fountain pen patent on record at l’INPI’s 19th century database of patents, awarded to Victor Adolphe Valory, is FR9497, titled Plumes capsulaires pour écrire et dessiner. This patent was filed on Feb. 8, 1850 and granted on April 27, 1850 for 15 years. The leaflet contains 5 pages. No drawings were included. [Below the upper portion of the title page.)

FR9497 - top portion of the title page
The term plumes capsulaires appends to the list of quills (plumes): plume à reservoir, stylo-plume, plume sans fin, plume perpétuelle, plume éternelle or plume auto-alimentée used in French as quilled terms for “fountain pen”.

Otherwise, browsing through the leaflet, it is quite extraordinary to see that the form for disclosing an invention in 1850 appears substantially resonant with the one that exists to date. Indeed, FR9497 includes the following familiar sections: objet, motifs, principes and description for organizing disclosure of the invention.  And such sections in 2016, in the USA, are each outlined in the provisions of the Code of Federal Regulations Title 37 and in the Federal Code Title 35, and in Europe in the provisions of  the EPC (European Patent Convention).  [Below extracts from pages 2 and 4 of the leaflet showing the headers used for organizing disclosure of the invention, in 1850 France)
FR9497 - Page 2 - Section headers Objet Motifs, Principes
FR9497 - Page 4 - Section header - Description
Thus, what is so striking is that the regulated manner of disclosing an invention, stating the purpose of the invention, the problematic situation in which it arises, and proceeding with succinct, then detailed, description of the embodiment(s) of the invention, echoes through the centuries.

Otherwise, deciphering and transcribing the details of this invention, as disclosed in FR9497, a handwritten 19th century patent, remain too labor intensive for the present purposes. What is certain, however is that, in 1850, the quill (plume) was undergoing revolutionary changes in Europe and the US, as it became more practical and portable, containing its own ink, and more long lasting as it was made of metal, rather than of different bird feathers, depending on the writing, or drawing tasks. 

However, even if transformation and industrialization of the quill, from bird feather, to ink-containing instrument of writing are now complete, the term "quill" (plume) endures in French... in reference  to fountain pens, which are mostly still called "stylo-plume" in 2016.

INPI 19th century database

Sunday, June 26, 2016

UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

June 26 is the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. It commemorates the day that the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, became effective, on June 26, 1987.

FYI, per the provisions of Article 1 of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the term “torture” is defined as follows:

“…any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.” 
And the provisions of Article 2 of this Convention further prohibit torture, specifying explicitly those special circumstances such as “state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency” [Art. 2(2)] or “An order from a superior officer or a public authority [Art. 2(3)] which cannot be invoked to justify torture.

Thus, International Law seeks to prohibit torture under any circumstances at any time,  while further specifying (per the provisions of Article 14) that redress must be provided for all victims.

Despite all of these provisions of international law prohibiting and sanctioning torture, the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture will channel, in 2016, “a total net of US$ 7.1 million to 178 projects providing victim-centered services to more than 47,000 victims, both adults and children, in over 81 countries” [UN Fund]. And the theme for the 2016 UN International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture emphasizes the real possibilities of transitioning from “From Horror to Healing”….

UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
UN International Day in Support of Victims of Horror
UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Oh, patents! Valory's fountain pen (1)

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

The website of France’s patent office l’INPI (Institut National de la Propriété Intellectuelle) includes a searchable 19th century patent database. The documents contained within it are scans of the original handwritten documents.

A search for 19th century French fountain pen patents (called variously plume à reservoir, stylo-plume, stylographe, plume sans fin, plume perpétuelle, plume éternelle or plume auto-alimentée) returned two patents granted to the same inventor: Victor Adolphe Valory.  

Monsieur Valory was a jewelry maker residing in Caen, and then in Paris, France.

The first patent, FR7007, titled Genre de plume dite Stylographe, was filed January 3, 1848, and granted for 15 years on March 13, 1848 by the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce. The handwritten leaflet contains 8 pages. 

Below, a copy of the top of the first page, and the figure drawing of the mid 19th century, metal-nibbed  fountain pen, termed "Genre de Plume dite Stylographe" included in landscape format as page 7 of the leaflet.

Some (possible) very labor-intensive deciphering and transcription of the handwritten patent document is required to understand the details of the disclosure of this invention, whose record can be treasured, and perused, almost 200 years later. Take a peek at FR7007, here!

INPI - 19th century database
INPI - FR 7007

Friday, June 24, 2016

Oh, letters patent! Klein & Wynne fountain pen

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Early patents (in 15th century Europe) were called Letters Patent, which means “Open Letter” (from the Latin term “patens”, a form of the verb “patere”, meaning “to uncover, expose or open”), in contrast to sealed letters). Thus, in general, Letters Patent were akin to Decrees, officially signed by the highest authorities and addressed to “whom it may concern”.

Early US patents were also called Letters Patent, and US 68445 titled Fountain pen, and granted on Sept. 3, 1867 to M. Klein and H.W. Wynne, is no exception. Addressed “To all whom it may concern”, in Decree style "Be it known that...", these Letters Patent disclose a “new and useful improvement to fountain pens”.

The invention improvement consisted in a small air opening (C) at the top of the ink reservoir (A), with a valve (B) and a spring (D), connected to a rod (E) enclosed within the body of the holder, the bent tip of which was designed to be actuated by the writer to release a flow of ink through a tiny hole L, above the nib (K). Thus, opening the valve (B), using the rod tip (F), to let some air into the ink reservoir caused the ink to flow to the nib, whereas closing the valve, actuating the rod tip anew,  prevented air from entering for the purposes of releasing ink to the nib.

The original drawing, included as part of the US 68445 Letters Patent, appears here to the right.

Relying on the principles of atmospheric pressure, this invention disclosed a way to improve ink flow to the nib, thus presumably facilitating the physical process of writing.
Considering the next 150 years of patenting activing in the domain of fountain pen leak-prevention, one might legitimately wonder whether the Klein & Wynne fountain pen leaked

However, this matter is unspecified  and  un-addressed in the US 68445 Letters Patent, where the point was simply to get the ink to flow. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Oh, patents! Vuitton fountain pen

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

The metal nib dip pen became connected to an ink reservoir circa 1867. This transformed nib dip pens into fountain pens, as the connection to an ink reservoir provided ink flow to the nib, in such a way that writers no longer had to dip into ink with their nibbed pens.

Louis Vuitton’s US patent application US2015298487, titled Fountain pen, was filed on Oct. 22 2015!  That's150 years later! What more could possibly be patented in regards fountain pens?

It turns out that fountain pens tend to leak either under conditions of increased air-pressure during travel in a plane or under conditions of increased heat when a pen is used and the user transfers body heat to the pen. So, the issue of leaking fountain pens remains unresolved, despite several ingenious solutions of the prior art.  

Some fountain pens, for example, are manufactured with a cap that cooperates with the ink-flow valve, so that when the cap covers the nib, it effectively closes off the flow of ink to the nib. 

However, this solution does not resolve the issue of leaking ink when the cap is not covering the pen.  Otherwise, the  leak-proof cap mechanism tends to be obstructive to the flow of ink. So, there is a definite issue that still needs to be addressed.

Extracted from US2015298487
The Louis Vuitton patent application, US2015298487, titled Fountain pen addresses these specific leak prevention issues of the prior art, specifically offering a patented solution that will work regardless of pressure and heat conditions, with the cap on or off, and that additionally does not obstruct the flow of ink. The patented solution consists of a striker (un percuteur in French).

The striker, located at the junction between ink-flow valve and  inner reservoir of ink, functions to further regulate the flow of ink to the nib and to prevent leaking.  It comprises a stepped tubular tongue with a diameter that is smaller than the ink cartridge. 

The  striker cooperating with the ink-cartridge thus operates independently from the pen cap cooperating with the ink valve, and consequently affords extra leak protection,

Below the abstract for US2015298487titled Fountain pen. Above, the patent figure drawing of the fountain pen and below a patent figure drawing of the striker
Extracted from US2015298487
A fountain pen comprising: an elongate hollow body defining an inner chamber designed to receive an ink container; a nib disposed at a first end of the hollow body; and a connection part connecting the inner chamber to the nib and defining an ink flow passage extending along a longitudinal axis, the connection part comprising a valve opening and closing the ink flow passage, designed to selectively open and close the ink flow passage. The connection part comprises a striker interposed between the valve and the inner chamber and designed to engage with the ink container and allow a flow of ink between the ink reservoir and the nib.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Oh, patents (and trademarks) - Louis Vuitton

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Louis Vuitton malle-armoire
Luxury! Oooh la la!

Louis Vuitton filed his famous “LV“ trademark on March 16 1885, and his first patent FR163513 for a travel trunk on May 15 1885, that is, 131 years ago! [INPI - Trésors]

Since then, the famous luggage maker  (and his sons)-- Louis Vuitton Malletier et Fils -- have filed more than 200 hundred patents at L’INPI, France’s national patent office, expanding the company's product line,  both  horizontally and vertically. 

With his first patent, Louis Vuitton seized the day, inventing a light-weight trunk designed for travel at a time when trunks were designed out of wood,  like heavyweight treasure chests.

Scroll forward and FR457297, titled - Malle–Armoire (closet-trunk), granted on July 9, 1913, comes a little later as luggage designed to keep clothes wrinkle-free and of easy access to users during travel. 

The French patent FR457297 recites the design of a frame for hanging clothes lodged within a trunk, which pivots out of the trunk, for easy access to the clothes. Specification of the hardware includes means of attaching and rotating the frame, means of hanging the clothes and of securing them inside the trunk when it is closed, and tipped back to a horizontal position. 

The patent Figure No. 3  of this vintage gem in included 
below.  And, an image of the Louis Vuitton malle-armoire (closet-trunk) is included above, the variations of which, relative to the specifications of FR457297, might still fall within the scope of the possible embodiments of the invention or improvements thereof. 

Figure 3 - FR457297

INPI - Institut National de la Propriété Intellectuelle
INPI – Trésors

Friday, June 10, 2016

EPO Inventor Awards - The 2016 Trophy

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

The winners of a European Inventor Award each receive a trophy designed as a sail by Miriam Irle, a German industrial designer. The European Inventor Award sail trophy was thus selected to symbolize the winds of change and the spirit of innovation. And each year, as part of the spirit of discovery, the sail trophy is cast in a different material, or crafted with a different process, that is locally significant, in the particular country hosting the awards ceremony.

Since the 2016 European Inventors Awards were hosted in Lisbon Portugal on June 9, 2016, Miriam Irle chose this year to craft the European Inventor award trophy out of Portuguese azulejo ceramic tile. 

Portuguese azulejo tiles historically adorn walls, ceilings, and floors, still bearing witness, telling stories, artistically drawn and baked into the ceramic, while also performing an ancient air-conditioning function. 

The local Portuguese azulejo artist, Catia Sofia Melo, who was commissioned to produce and paint the 2016 ceramic tile sail, created six different designs, one for each of the five award categories, and the popular award.

Below a video about the 2016 European Inventor award trophy and it’s fabrication.

European Inventor Award 2016 : The Trophy
Herrmann, F. (Feb. 22, 2015) Tonight the OSCARS! In June the EPO Inventor Awards!
Miriam Irle

Thursday, June 9, 2016

2016 EPO Awards - The winners!

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

In Lisbon, Portugal, on June 9, 2016, this day, the EPO announced the winners of the European inventor awards in all five categories plus the popular award.  Three finalists were competing in each of the five competition categories and all the finalists were eligible for the popular prize.  

The list of winners is the following:
  • Lifetime Achievement category: Anton van Zanten (Dutch/German) Electronic stability control for cars
  • Non-European Patent Organization Country category: Robert Langer (USA) for targeted anticancer drugs
  • Popular award: Dr. Helen Lee (England/France) for point-of-care diagnostics in the real world.
NB: The winning inventions not only satisfied the criteria of patentability, but also those of an EPO award. Indeed the European Inventor awards further celebrate the significant social and economic impact of the imventions.  
Congratulations to everyone! 👠

2016 European Patent Inventor Award winners

Monday, June 6, 2016

Exhibit - @ The Musée des Confluences

 Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

For anyone wondering about the newly inaugurated Musée des Confluences in Lyon (France), you will find below a small video of the museum coming alive with an architectural sketch.

The Musée des Confluences opened on Dec. 20, 2014. It is  a science and anthropology museum including Earth Sciences, Life Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Technology collections. The museum was built by the Austrian cooperative architectural firm Coop Himmelb(l)au on the tip of a peninsula (the Lyon historical Presqu'île), at the confluence of the rivers Saône and Rhône. 

If the Musée des Confluences looks a bit like a spaceship with some unusual curves, it is because it was built in a deconstructivist architectural tradition that also includes such other great architects as for example Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind and Zaha Hadid. 👠

Coop Himmelb(l)au
Coop Himmelb(l)au - Musée des Confluences Sketch (Youtube)

Musée des Confluences
Musée des Conflunces - L'architecture
Musée des Confluence - Le projet
Musée des Confluences - Les collections
A history of architecture - Deconstructivism
Oh, patents! Gehry architectural technologies

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Exhibit - The history of shoes!

Copyright  Françoise Herrmann

... and not necessarily the most comfortable ones... 

@ The Musée des Confluences, in Lyon France, from June 7, 2016 to April 30, 2017.

The exhibit is titled À vos pieds and it covers the history of shoes across all continents from the 16th century to the 21st! There will be about 100 pairs of shoes exhibited. 

Lotus foot © Kristeva 
The exhibit poster (left) highlights the Lotus shoe, the purported delicacy of which masks the darkest history of shoes and fetishism for women. 

The drawing to the right shows the deformity of the Lotus "foot", resulting from the excruciating, and now outlawed, practice of binding the feet of little girls to prevent them from ever reaching their adult size. In turn, this deformity also prevented the women from walking -- on their feet.
Musée des Confluences
Musée des confluences - À vos pieds!
Les chaussures se racontent à travers l'histoire au Musée des Confluences à Lyon. 
Herrmann, F. (2015) Patented torture - Lotus shoes
Kristeva, J. (1974) About Chinese women Translated from French by Anita Barrows. New York, NY: Urizen books

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Oh, patents ! Espadrilles

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Summer is around the corner! And for many people there are no summers without espadrilles -- quintessential summer shoes, made of canvass with esparto rope soles, originating in the Basque Country, on the border of France and Spain, and more particularly the Soule region and its capital city of Mauléon (on the French side).

References to espadrilles (espadrenya in Catalan, espargatas or esparteña in Spanish) date as far back as the 13th century for the shoes worn by the Spanish King’s soldiers! Paintings of the 18th century depict people wearing espadrilles. To date on August 15th, each year the city of Mauléon celebrates la Fête de l’espadrille [Espadrille Day].

Originally, sewn and crafted by hand, wholesale manufacture and production of the espadrille began in the 19th century organized by the Beguerie Family Establishment. In the 20th century, industrial manufacture ushered in machine-made espadrilles.

The French patent FR703651 titled Espadrille was granted to Louis Beguerie, founder of the Etablissement Louis Beguerie on May 4, 1931. The patent recites a new manufacturing process for the espadrilles, whereby the upper is no longer sewn onto the sole, but rather glued. The patent also specifies an inner sole, itself glued onto the parts of the upper tucked in and glued on the inside of the outer sole. The patented espadrilles seek to resolve the problem of stitching which is purported to wear out before the canvass or the outer soles of the espadrilles.

Below, the figure drawing from FR703651 titled Espadrille. The heel portion of the figure drawing shows how the inner sole is glued onto the inside of the outer sole, with the upper sandwiched in between. An image of a marketed espadrille is also included --back with stitching...