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An interesting bit of history January 5, 2012

Posted by Brian Schar in USPTO.

US Pat. No. 2297256 is an interesting historical tidbit.  The inventor, one Winfried Schumann, was a German national who filed a patent application in the USPTO in 1939, based on a German application filed in 1938.  The patent wasn’t issued until 1942.  Of course, in the interim Germany and the US went to war.  That didn’t stop the patent from issuing.  The interesting part is the first text page that sets out inventorship and ownership: “Winfried Otto Schumann, Munich, Germany, vested in the Alien Property Custodian.”  I had no idea there had been such a thing as the Alien Property Custodian, but I suppose it makes sense that the USPTO wouldn’t grant patent rights to a citizen of a country against which the USPTO declared war, and that the APC would take control of that patent.  In my ample spare time I may attempt to find out more about the Alien Property Custodian, and whether the APC relinquished title to the inventor after the conclusion of hostilities.


1. SAMinAMS - January 19, 2012

This reminded me of the aspirin patent by Bayer:

Beginning in 1915, Bayer set up a number of shell corporations and subsidiaries in the United States, to hedge against the possibility of losing control of its American assets if the U.S. should enter the war and to allow Bayer to enter other markets (e.g., army uniforms). After the U.S. declared war on Germany in April 1917, alien property custodian A. Mitchell Palmer began investigating German-owned businesses, and soon turned his attention to Bayer. To avoid having to surrender all profits and assets to the government, Bayer’s management shifted the stock to a new company, nominally owned by Americans but controlled by the German-American Bayer leaders. Palmer, however, soon uncovered this scheme and seized all of Bayer’s American holdings. After the Trading with the Enemy Act was amended to allow sale of these holdings, the government auctioned off the Rensselaer plant and all Bayer’s American patents and trademarks, including even the Bayer brand name and the Bayer cross logo. It was bought by a patent medicine company, Sterling Products, Inc. The rights to Bayer Aspirin and the U.S. rights to the Bayer name and trademarks, were sold back to Bayer AG in 1994 for US$1 billion.

2. SAMinAMS - January 19, 2012

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