I retired in April 2013 after 25 years as a librarian at the British Library specialising in inventions. This included running numerous workshops; writing books on inventions and a work blog; carrying out searches for clients; and one-to-one meetings with inventors. [more]


7 November 2016

A 1913 court case for a patent

I came across an interesting British court case concerning a patent the other day in the newspapers.

The Western Times of the 21 November 1913 reported on a case in the Tiverton County Court, Devon. Mr Elliott of St Michael's Place, Brighton, was charged with not paying for patent window cleaners which had been manufactured for him. £7 6s 4d was claimed. Elliott was a retired Ceylon Civil Service man who had been living in Tiverton.

He called his invention "The Suffragette" and claimed in a circular that it would "put woman on a par with man", as women would not have to lean dangerously far out of windows. Many more details were given.

The court ruled for the plaintiff -- Elliott had to pay up.

The patent is clearly Edward Elliott's GB1908/12568, where he is described as (retired Civilian), of 1, Blundell's Crescent, Tiverton. Only the newspaper gives us the clue that he was from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). A drawing of the device is given below.

It is unusual to be able to prove that an inventor "worked" an invention. Anyone interested in any such evidence for Britain needs to work from newspapers for evidence in any technical field, rather than working from known inventors or s specific field, which rarely pays off. For the USA, the presence of assignees who took over part or all of a patent is often a very useful clue that the other person is both financing and, probably, assisting with getting the invention marketed.

What else of Mr Elliott ? The 1911 census gives, at 2 St Michael's Place, Brighton, gives us the family. He was a "retired Ceylon civilian", 71, married 41 years to Mary Emily. Both they and their daughter had been born at Colombo. As ever, a (quick, in this case) look at a genealogical source gives us some useful information.

Did he make money from this invention ? In this case, who knows.