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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