| May/June 1988

Quite often we are asked about U.S. patents in regard to old engines, tractors, and other equipment. During the past twenty years we have made some important discoveries from these volumes. We have also discovered that a great many erroneous ideas exist concerning patents and trademarks.

Perhaps the most notable instance of an erroneous idea is the liberal use of the 1905 patent date cast into the fuel pump handle on IHC Famous Vertical engines. Not infrequently, this date is used in regard to the Famous, sometimes even as a means of dating the age of the engine!

The patent date in itself is a poor indicator of age compared to some other criteria. Far more reliable is the date the patent application was filed. One example is the Gade engine patent, No. 760,333 of May 17,1904. A study of the patent reveals that it was filed in 1902-two years earlier. Once the patent was filed, the engine might have been built with 'Patent Applied For' or 'Patent Pending' on the nameplate. In other words, it would be unlikely for any engines to have been built with the features of this patent any time prior to the 1902 filing date. However, a great many could have been built between that time and the two year span before the Patent Office issued the patent in question. Thus, it is the filing date which is far more significant than the date the patent was granted, at least insofar as determining the probable earliest date that an item was built.

Patents oftentimes reveal some interesting facts that do not at all gibe with legend. For instance, the story has been told of how Carl Gade developed the famous Gade engine (see American Gas Engines, page 194 ff). Infact, this patent was issued to Rice and Hardenbrook, two gentlemen at Jasper, Missouri, and not to Gade at all. Another example is the fuel vaporizer of the R&.V horizontal engines. The patent which they cite on their nameplate, No.758,902 of May 24, 1904 was actually issued to a Frank Dickinson of Springport, Michigan, and was probably assigned to the R &. V people sometime afterward.

One valuable research tool is the Trademark Register, which like the Patent Office Gazette is issued weekly. Particularly in regard to early engine and tractor builders, the trademark application becomes very valuable, since it includes a statement from the applicant as to when the trademark was first used. For example, the trademark of Hares Motors Inc. of New York City (ibid, page 219) was issued in 1921 with the company noting that this mark had been in use on gasoline motors since March 19, 1920. Thus, the earliest use of a trade name can be established.

Some large public libraries, historical societies, and university libraries maintain files of the Patent Office Gazette. If you plan to do any research at these facilities, be sure to have the patent numbers on hand, since this is the only feasible method of searching out the information. Having a name only, such as Deere & Company, would be an almost impossible task, since dozens of patents are issued to this firm each year.