After Hari Puttar, it’s the turn of another movie to take the movie-IP spotlight. However, this time the movie is based around a patent. "Flash of Genius", starring Greg Kinnear, Lauren Graham, Dermot Mulroney and Alan Alda, is the true (and possibly dramatized – I haven’t seen it yet) story about an inventor Robert Kearns, and his battle with the Big 3 of the Auto Industry in America – Ford, Chrysler and GM. The movie opened out earlier this month, and,as opposed to the reception of Taarzan: The Wonder Car - the last movie I can recollect which involved patents, this seems to be collecting more or less favourable reviews. The story is based on the college professor cum inventor's long struggle against the U.S. automobile industry. As it turns out, he would dedicate nearly the rest of his life towards fighting to receive recognition for his invention.
Back in 1967 Robert Kearns' invention, the intermittent windshield wipers, which go on till present day to become part of every car, is an invention that fills an area which researchers had been working on for years. Though engineers at Ford had come up with several similar designs, each one succumbed to some kind of flaw. What Robert Kearns came out with was a system that used an electrical current to flow and fill a capacitor. When the charge reached a certain voltage, it discharged and the wipers wiped. This idea suddenly struck him as he was straining to drive through a drizzle one day and evidently hence the title - it was a 'flash of genius'. This system, though simplistic sounding, worked better than any of the other designs that had been thought of till then. Bouyed by his success, he approached Ford in order to license out his design to them. . What happens at this point is the crux of the issue. Having applied for about his first patent (he would go on to file for about 30 patents) for his wipers which paused for intervals set by the driver between wipes, making them especially useful in light rains or mist, Robert Kearns is sure that his invention will be received well by the automotive industry. However, after showing some initial interest in the invention, Ford tells Kearns that they are already working on a similar invention, nonetheless, subject to some conditions would like to take a look at it. Unknown to Kearns at that time, he was on the verge of the next breakthrough in automotive technology - moving from electricity into electronics.
After a series of demonstrations, Ford finally accepts Kearns into their wiper development team. They also stated that the law required the disclosure of all the engineering of safety items, including wipers and so he was required to show them the working of his intermittent windshield wipers. A little way down the line however he was told he was no longer required.
Come 1969, Ford releases a new 'first' in the industry - an intermittent windshield wiper based on the same configuration of a transistor, a resistor and a capacitor as Kearns'.