Extract from paper delivered at ICCA meeting August 2009
Why is it that no corkscrew patent exists before 1795?
Certainly, the double folding corkscrew with pipe tamper ends, the folding bow, the steel picnic corkscrew, and the various mechanical corkscrews which all predate the Soho corkscrew, would all have benefited from patent protection.
Many of these would have been sold as part of a gentleman’s travelling case, which would have contained all the necessities of daily life, razors, toiletries and so forth, or they would have been attached to steel chatelaines, and so not sold on their own.
Firstly, the patent process was prohibitively expensive, and once the patent had been sealed, fighting cases of infringement would have been then and remains, even to this day, an even more costly affair. For this reason, manufacturers would sometimes stamp the word “patent” on their product even though they had no authority to do it, and take a
chance that their competitors would not realise their fraud.
Secondly, it was also unavoidably complex, and at the time there were no patent agents available to navigate a simple course through the layers of bureaucracy generated by the various organisations, such as the Master in Chancery, the Secretary of State and the Office of the Lord of the Privy Seal.
Thirdly, the necessity of recouping the increased outgoing would require the end product to be more expensive than its competitors, unless it was going to be produced in sufficient quantities, to make the unit cost increase negligible. Considerations of size of market, distribution to other centres of demand, possibilities of exportation all have to
Fourthly, the Patent Office was in London and would have required frequent journeys to complete the patent process.