From trademarks to patents, it is quite extraordinary the things that my clients reveal.

I am, of course, only privileged to know what is in my clients’ storage boxes at Admiral Document Storage when they choose to engage me in conversation, and so it wasn’t until recently that I realised that I was housing a collection of documents relating to patents.

Now, of course, patent documentation is housed in the Patents Office in London, but there is never any harm in having copies of such documents safely stored close at hand.

Not realising what I was storing was but the first of my misapprehensions, for I also thought that patents were rather dull and boring documents full of technical details about gears and springs and electronics. Some of them are pure flights of fancy.

And that led on to my third misapprehension, because it seems that there is a lively market existing in the buying and selling of patents. And herein came my final surprise. Some people collect really odd, old, and palpably useless patents.

For example, I was shown by a client a patent that he had bought a few years ago for a radio newspaper. A rather large instrument with a number of horns of the type that were depicted on the old HMV logo was shown in the illustration. The patent described this as the International Wireless Home News Service. Wireless indeed!

Another patent was actually for something that was made – the Electrophone. The Electrophone service existed in London from around 1895 and was in essence a recorded telephone service which brought readings of the day’s news from the papers, with occasional rounds of music from early gramophone records. The service died when the BBC came along.

Returning to the fanciful, I also had revealed to me a Telephonoscope which seems to be akin to a baby watching service, allowing the parents to sit downstairs while keeping an eye on the children upstairs. Quite how the machine worked before the invention of television, let alone before the video camera, was not however revealed.

Which just goes to show how dull life has become since the Patents Office started to insist upon the requirement that working models should accompany all designs.

Anyway, all this talk of patents sent me searching for early references to those aspects of digital technology we now take for granted, and it was thus that I found a mention of the videophone in a magazine called Soviet Literature, of which we also house a complete set on behalf of the same customer. The reference to the videophone claims to come from a volume of that journal published in 1870.

Now I am not a great history buff, and, although I do know that the term Soviet came about long before the 1917 revolution in Russia, I don’t think it was that early. The first workers’ soviet was in 1905, at least according to my history teacher at school.

So it seems I have also discovered a patent for a time machine!

Reluctantly moving away from the dubious world of patents I asked my client what else he had that could arouse my interest, and he rapidly engaged my attention with the issue of trademarks.

Now trademarks, of course, can just be names or graphics, and so I tend not to get anything much relating to trademarks at the Admiral storage facility. But, this being mid-afternoon when business is a little less than brisk, I had time to sit and talk on the topic, and it turns out that the trademark name “sweet tango” (as in the apple of that variety) is owned by the University of Minnesota.

Now my response to this was and still is “why?” but answer came there none. But it might be more than a coincidence that the following week my local grocer offered me sweet tango apples on special order with the news that “their molecules are twice the size of other apples”.

I pondered the possibility of a molecule the size of an apple. Just as I am no historian I am no biologist but I really don’t think you can get molecules that big.

But it seems trademarks are big news. As with the word Twitter which, of course, has been a trademark for some time. Fair enough, the Twitter Corporation or whoever they are, thought it up.

However, it seems that they have now trademarked the word Tweet in all sorts of uses ranging from escort agencies to cremation services. Apparently if you want to use the word Tweet in relation to a service or product you are more than welcome to do so upon payment of 350 euros. I wonder if the bird population of my garden knows about this.

There is also, New Scientist magazine tells me, a trademark for a Comfort Inverter. It is, it seems, an air conditioning unit. Which is logical if one sees it as a machine that controls (or perhaps inverts) electric current to bring more comfort to your living or working space.

Amazing what one can learn when running a document storage facility like Admiral.

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How to enter your dreams, how to store your dreams, how to preserve your dreams

I mentioned in a previous note that touch typing isn’t taught much in our schools, despite the fact that many of the major employers in our country make it clear that they only employ touch typists. They aren’t looking for GCSE biology or A level religious studies; they want touch typing.

And that got me thinking of what else is incredibly important in our society, and which is likewise ignored by schools.

It seemed to me, after a moment’s thought, that creativity was one of the big missing points. In fact, now I come to think of it, the biggest of all the missing points.

Creativity is after all at the heart of our society, and very much at the heart of what we store at Admiral Document Storage.

By this I don’t mean to say that we store very many early computing machines or works of visual art, but rather that most of the written documents and photographs that we store are themselves creative works.

Indeed, even the court case documents that we hold are often highly creative. For, from what I am told, some of the arguments put forward in divorce cases involve some of the most extraordinary flights of fancy and ventures into the world of fiction that can ever have been imagined.

So there are good reasons to teach creativity, and I’m not sure why we don’t teach it. But I have an idea. I think it is something to do with fear.

We are all afraid of creative people – both at work and in our everyday life. For example, we tend not to invite creative people to dinner parties as we are worried that they might strangle the cat and molest the pudding.

So we retain the view that creative people are odd. Take poets, for example (and we do have some interesting original copies of poems in the store). Poets are not people who write poetry. Well, not really. They are people who wear floppy hats, go to strange places and write stuff in notebooks while looking out of railway carriage windows.

Just like composers. Mostly deaf with bushy eyebrows and a pencil held between the teeth as far as I can see.

Of course, teachers reject the notion that they are afraid of creativity, explaining their reluctance to get involved in the Dark Art through the fact that creativity simply can’t be taught. You either have it or you don’t, they say.

But actually that’s not true, and I can say this for sure, because I have seen creativity teaching in practice, and it is a remarkable thing to behold.

Many years ago a friend of mine enrolled for an Open University course on the creative arts, and a significant part of the course involved getting people who would never think of themselves as creative artists (in any sense of the phrase) to get involved in creating artistic stuff.

A lot of different processes were involved in this but two stuck in my mind.

The first was simple. It involved saying to the students, “I want you to be very creative.” Telling people to be creative apparently is one of the major ways to make it happen.

The other was more complex but amazing in its outcome.

The students were instructed to place a pen and notepad on the bedside table and then, upon waking, to write down their dreams. Many objected that they never dreamed, but the lecturer was insistent on everyone having a go.

After a week, most were coming back with notes about their dreams. After two weeks they were waking in the middle of the night, writing down the dream, and falling asleep again. By the third week there were some in the class who said, “I woke up this morning and there were all these notes in my book about a story, and I have no recollection of waking up and writing it down.”

The dreams were, of course, all the things dreams are. Wild, whacky, frightening, funny, bizarre, weird – all the raw materials that creative people use, be they dancers, painters, poets, designers, authors… They all use stories which they express via their art – and the more surreal the starting point the better.

What I really wish is that one day, someone will bring into the archive a book of dreams – having preserved for those who follow on behind them the record of their dreams.

And that I think would be amazing. What, I wonder, did my grandfather dream about. I really wish I knew.

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