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The rise of the patent department: a case study of Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company

Nishimura, Shigehiro (2012) The rise of the patent department: a case study of Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company. Economic history working papers (168/12). London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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The patent department of Westinghouse Electric Company was organised in 1888. When George Westinghouse invented and industrialized air brakes he applied for patents in his own name. Those patents were administered mainly by patent attorneys in Pittsburgh. After the formation of the Electric Company, in 1886, organisation of patent management progressed. For a while, the patents invented by engineers were assigned to George Westinghouse personally; however, almost all of the electrical patents were assigned to the company in 1888. Thus, the idea of corporate intellectual property was adopted. At the same time the patent department was formed in Pittsburgh. It was directed by Charles A. Terry, a patent attorney, who began administering patent applications internally. The internalisation of patent management was necessitated by the increase in the number of engineers and in their output. To support patent administration it was desirable for the company to conduct patent work by using in-house patent attorneys rather than external law firms. However, external attorneys continued to play decisive roles in acquisition, licensing and enforcement. On the other hand, the corporate intellectual property system within the Electric Company was somewhat limited by the paternalistic management style of George Westinghouse. Whereas the patent department was established in 1888, there was not a definite rule covering employee inventions until around 1910.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2012 The Author
Divisions: Economic History
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
JEL classification: N - Economic History > N4 - Government, War, Law, and Regulation > N47 - Africa; Oceania
N - Economic History > N7 - Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, Technology, and Other Services > N77 - Africa; Oceania
Date Deposited: 04 Sep 2012 11:51
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 11:57

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