December 27, 2007

As noted by a recent Associated Press article via Yahoo! News (link below), a new book appears to provide “definitive evidence” that Alexander Graham Bell, the man recognized as being the inventor of the telephone, actually obtained his ideas from a rival inventor, Elisha Gray. In Seth Shulman’s book, entitled “The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Graham Bell's Secret”, information pertaining to several “aggressive lawyers” and a “corrupt patent examiner” surrounds Bell’s own laboratory notebook and the “discovery” of a specific type of voice transmitter referenced therein over a twelve-day period when Bell traveled to Washington, DC, to answer patent-related questions. According to the brief description of the book from amazon.com (link below), “Bell furtively—and illegally—copied part of Elisha Gray's invention in the race to secure what would become the most valuable U.S. patent ever issued. And afterward, as Bell's device led to the world's largest monopoly, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, he hid his invention's illicit beginnings.” Regardless of your position on who did indeed invent the telephone, this book looks to be quite an interesting read. Bell’s patent (U.S. Patent No. 174,465, entitled “Improvement in Telegraphy”), issued on March 7, 1876, includes a system claim (“A system of telegraphy in which the receiver is set in vibration by the employment of undulatory currents of electricity, substantially as set forth”), a combination claim (“The combination, substantially as set forth, of a permanent magnet or other body capable of inductive action, with a closed circuit, so that the vibration of the one shall occasion electrical undulations in the other, or in itself, and this I claim, whether the permanent magnet beset in vibration in the neighborhood of the conducting-wire forming the circuit, or whether the conducting-wire be set in vibration in the neighborhood of the permanent magnet, or whether the conducting - wire and the permanent magnet both simultaneously be set in vibration in each other's neighborhood”), and three method claims. The text of this patent, including images of the figures, is available at the mindfully.org link below. “The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Graham Bell's Secret” will be released on January 8, 2008.

Yahoo! News Article: LINK
Amazon.com Book Entry: LINK
U.S. Patent No. 174,465: LINK

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Mark Reichel
Reichel IP LLC

I am a patent attorney with Reichel IP LLC, where I concentrate my practice on patent drafting and prosecution, trademarks, and general intellectual property matters. I currently focus on the preparation and prosecution of medical device and other life sciences patent applications, and being actively involved in a number of local not-for-profit organizations.

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