Friday, December 26, 2014

Patently Devious

One of the newest titles in the Goodson Law Library is Invented by Law: Alexander Graham Bell and the Patent That Changed America (KF3116 .B43 2015), by Brooklyn Law School professor Christopher Beauchamp. This engaging, accessible work details the legal battles surrounding the invention of the telephone, giving a fascinating history of American patent law in the process.

On March 7, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell's patent for Improvement of Telegraphy (No. 174,465) was approved by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (PTO). It was an unusually fast approval process, with three applications hand-delivered by Bell's lawyer on February 14, mere hours before a competing application was submitted by engineer Elisha Gray. Bell's legal maneuvering strongly suggested that an unknown informant within the PTO was assisting efforts to beat Gray to the telephone patent. Subsequent litigation reached the U.S. Supreme Court twice in 1888, first with The Telephone Cases (126 U.S. 1),  and then with United States v. American Bell Telephone Corp. (128 U.S. 315). Beauchamp untangles these lawsuits and analyzes their aftermath in a way that should appeal to even intellectual property novices.

For further reading on the history of patent law, search the Duke Libraries Catalog with a subject keyword search for patent laws and legislation and history. To learn more about modern patent law, consult the Goodson Law Library's research guide to Intellectual Property Law or Ask a Librarian.