The Patents of Nikola Tesla - Toward the Definite Catalog
Although Tesla's life and work were the subject of many comprehensive researches, only a small number of them covered his patents. Several books on the subject published abroad have covered primarily Tesla's patents in the U.S., and some of them published the complete patent documentation for all of Tesla's 112 U.S. patents. However, they contain practically no information about Tesla's patents in other countries, outside the U.S.
Published at the end of the 1980s, The Catalogue of Tesla's Patents (“Katalog Teslinih patenata”, publication of the Nikola Tesla Museum, the Federal Patent Institute and “Pronalazastvo”, Belgrade, and “Centar za radničko stvaralaštvo” (“Center far Workers' Creativity”), Rijeka, 1987), in addition to the list of Tesla's 112 U.S. patents, which somewhat differs from the ones published abroad, also contains a list of 109 patents he obtained in countries other than the U.S. However, already at the time of its publishing, there were some indications that this number is not definite. For that reason, at the beginning of the 1990s,the Nikola Tesla Museum entered into cooperation with the Federal Patent Institute (today the Institute for Intellectual Property), in order to, through them, obtain copies of all patent documentation at the disposal of the European Patent Institute. However, the processing of this material largely required the participation of patent engineers, which the Museum did not have at its disposal. Therefore, the cooperation of the Museum and the Federal Patent Institute continued, with the goal of establishing the exact number of Tesla's registered patents, both in the U.S. and in other countries.
During 1992 and 1993, a group of patent engineers visited the Nikola Tesla Museum to study and analyze the archive materials kept at the Museum in the effort to complete a list of all of Tesla's patents, establish whether there were any submitted patent applications for which patents were not granted, and, finally, whether there were any prepared patent applications that were never submitted by Tesla.
This comparative analysis of patent documentation from the European Patent Institute and the archives of the Museum yielded an extremely large volume of material, which was never systematized or published. Still, it was a foundation for the report that this group submitted to the Director of the Federal Patent Institute. This Report was the first document to point out the fact that Tesla sought patent protection for some of his inventions in countries outside the U.S. without obtaining the corresponding U.S. patents.
This Report also served as a foundation for the selection of Tesla's patents published in the edition The Selected Works of Nikola Tesla (lzabrana dela Nikole Tesle), released on the occasion of the 140th anniversary of Tesla's birth, in the volumes four to seven, named Patents I, Patents II, Patents III, and Patents IV (“Patenti I”, “Patenti II”, “Patenti III” and “Patenti IV”, published by the Institute for Textbooks and Teaching Aids (Zavod za udžbenike i nastavna sredstva), Belgrade, 1996). This edition, published in both Serbian and English, contains 112 of Tesla's U.S. patents, but also the 6 recently discovered British patents. This was a significant step forward compared to previous publications dedicated to Nikola Tesla's patents.
After the celebration of this anniversary in 1996, all institutional activities concerning the research of Tesla's patents ceased. The working material from the Nikola Tesla Museum remained at the Federal Patent Institute, but was not studied any further — until 1999, when Snežana Šarboh, M.Sc., continued the research on her own accord. Being aware of the importance of the performed research, since it was the first time that Nikola Tesla's legacy was analyzed by industrial property experts, and the need to establish a complete and accurate list of the patents of Nikola Tesla, and being one of the direct participants in this research at the Nikola Tesla Museum, she took upon herself the task to process the collected material and make the obtained results available to experts, as well the general public.
Based on the analysis and processing of the obtained material, Snežana Šarboh wrote several papers covering the patents of Nikola Tesla, which were published successively from 1999 in the Intellectual Property Gazette (“Glasnik intelektualne svojine”) of the Intellectual Property Institute, Belgrade. In the article “The Patents of Nikola Tesla Registered in Countries Outside the U.S.” (“Patenti Nikole Tesle registrovani u drugim zemljama osim SAD”), published in August 2003, she presented a list of Nikola Tesla's patents containing 141 patents from 26 different countries. Although this list, compared to the already mentioned ones, presented the information about 32 additional, previously unknown Tesla's patents, already at the time of its publishing there were indications that even that list is not final. The further work on the list resulted in complete bibliographic information about patent documentation for additional 25 Tesla's patents, with the exception of bibliographic information about the German patents No. 47012 and No. 47885, for which the source was the book The Works of Nikola Tesla, by Slavko Bokšan.
Snežana Šarboh's prolonged research contributed to the endeavor towards a definite catalog a list of 116 original patents, out of which 109 are from the US and 7 are British, and which Tesla used to protect 125 of his inventions. In addition, it established that Tesla had 164 analogues of these patents, which means that he received a total of 280 patents in 26 countries around the world.
Perhaps the results of this research will be a disappointment for some who believed the long-standing claims about the existence of between 700 and 800 of Tesla's patents. Regardless of the exact number, the essence of Tesla's discoveries, inventions, and patents has never been their quantity, but his ingenious solutions, their universal application, and the numerous scientific and technological breakthroughs they have set in motion throughout the world.
The possibility of discovering some currently unknown patents of Nikola Tesla in countries outside the U.S. certainly still exists. However, their number is in all likelihood proportionally small, and it can be assumed with great certainty that these patents cover only the already known inventions of Nikola Tesla. However, it is still worth the effort to find these patents and join them with the ones that are known, in order to obtain a definite catalog of all of Tesla's patents. This important research paper, published for the first time by the Nikola Tesla Museum in the year of the 150th anniversary of Tesla's birth, is definitely an excellent foundation for any further research.
Director of the Nikola Tesla Museum
Although more than sixty years have passed since Nikola Tesla's death in New York City on January 7th, 1943, his life and work are still drawing considerable attention, and are the subject of a variety of academic and professional research, which are yielding a large volume of reference material. Despite this attention to the inventor and scientist, very few of these works have dealt with patent protection of his inventions and his activities in the field of industrial property.
From the books published on the territory of former Yugoslavia, the book “Delo Nikole Tesle” (The Works of Nikola Tesla), by Slavko Boksan, published by the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences in Belgrade in 1950, should be highlighted. The first part of this book contains the translations of 35 of Tesla's U.S. patents covering polyphase systems, while the second part of the book details the lawsuit and court decision related to the annulment of two of Teslas patents in Germany.
Another significant book that deals with Tesla's patents is “Nikola Tesla - Lectures, Patents, Articles,” which consists of the material that was edited and prepared for publication by Vojin Popović, Radoslav Horvat and Nikola Nikolić (first published by Nolit, 1956). In addition to other archive materials, it contains 99 of Tesla's U.S. patents.
Another important paper covering Tesla's activities related to the protection of his inventions is “Katalog Teslinih patenata” (The Catalogue of Tesla's Patents, published by the Nikola Tesla Museum, the Federal Patent Office, and “Pronalazaštvo”, Belgrade, and “Centar za radničko stvaralaštvo” (“Center for Workers' Creativity”), Rijeka, 1987). The book presents the list of 112 Tesla's U.S. patents, as well as a list of 109 patents that he obtained in other countries. Radmila Dugić and Branimir Jovanović compiled these lists, which contain a total of 221 patents. In the introduction, titled ‘Patenti Nikole Tesle’ (Nikola Tesla's Patents), Aleksandar Marinčić, PhD claims that, according to the records of the Nikola Tesla Museum, the total number of patents Nikola Tesla obtained in the U.S. is 112. However, it is also noted that the list mentioned above contains the patent No. 613,819, which was granted for the invention named “Filings Tube”, despite the fact that there was no reliable information that it was granted to Nikola Tesla.
Several books focusing on the Tesla's U.S. patents have been published in other countries, and some of them contained the complete patent documentation for his patents. Dr. Nikola Tesla Complete Patents (published by the Tesla Book Company, Millbrae, USA, 1983, edited by John T. Ratzlaff), presents a list of 112 patents. A similar list was also published in the book The Complete Patents of Nikola Tesla by Jim Glenn (Barnes & Noble Books, New York, USA, 1994).
On the other hand, Tesla's patents that were registered in countries other than the U.S. have not attracted that much attention, and therefore the data in existence is incomplete, inaccurate and unreliable. Even today, the official web site of the Nikola Tesla Museum, www.tesla-museum.org, only states that Nikola Tesla had several hundred patents in many countries around the world. On the Internet it can also be found that Tesla had more than 700 patents (from the web page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Tesla_patents), which stands in serious disproportion to the figure of Tesla's 221 patents, specified in the ‘Katalog Teslinih patenata’ (The Catalogue of Teslas Patents), although there were indications already at the time of its publishing that the contained list is not complete.
For that reason, at the beginning of the 1990s, Aleksandar Marinčić, PhD, the Director of the Nikola Tesla Museum, contacted the Federal Patent Office (today the Intellectual Property Office) in Belgrade, and receivedcopies of all documentation related to the patents of Nikola Tesla in possession of the European Patent Office(EPO). However, this material had to be processed by specific experts — patent engineers — who were not availableto the Nikola Tesla Museum, and therefore the cooperation between the museum and the Federal Patent Officecontinued. As agreed, in order to determine the exact number of Tesla's patents registered in the U.S., as wellas in other countries, a team of experts was visiting the Nikola Tesla Museum in 1992 and 1993. Their goalwas to study and analyze the archive materials kept there, and, based on that, to compile a list of all of Tesla'spatents, as well as to determine whether Tesla had submitted any patent applications for which the patentshave not been granted, and to check whether Tesla had prepared any patent applications for submission, butnever did submit them. Members of that team included Ivan Župunski, PhD, Snežana Šarboh, M.Sc., BogdanTodorov, M.Sc., Ljiljana Kovačević, Jovan Perić and Slobodan Stojković, who spent more than six months atthe Nikola Tesla Museum. In addition, the Federal Patent Office requested from the European Patent Office(EPO) the copies of all of Tesla's patents that were available to them, and EPO obliged. The received patentdocumentation was analyzed in parallel to the archive materials at the Museum, resulting in an exceptionallylarge volume of working material. However, due to the circumstances, this material was neither systematizednor published, except for one report prepared and submitted by the expert team to the director of the FederalPatent Office. The importance of this report is that it confirms, for the first time, the existence of specific Tesla'spatents in other countries, protecting Tesla's inventions for which he had no corresponding U.S. patents. Inparticular, this concerns 6 of Tesla's patents from Great Britain, belonging specifically to the latest period of Tesla's work.
The report mentioned above served as a basis for a selection of Tesla's patents published in the edition“Izabrana dela Nikole Tesle” (“The Selected Works of Nikola Tesla”), volumes four to seven, titled “Patenti I” (“Patents I”), “Patenti II” (“Patents II”), “Patenti III” (“Patents III”), “Patenti IV” (“Patents IV”) (published by Zavod za udžbenike i nastavna sredstvathe (Institute for Textbooks and Teaching Aids), Belgrade, 1996). These four books contained 112 of Tesla's U.S. patents, as well as the 6 patents from Great Britain, in both Serbian and English, which was a significant step forward compared to earlier works covering Tesla's patents.
Bearing in mind the importance of the performed research, because it was the first time that Tesla's legacy was analyzed by industrial property experts, and the need to establish a complete and accurate list of the patents of Nikola Tesla, and being that I was one of the direct participants of this research, I took upon myself the challenge to process the collected material and make the obtained results available to experts as well the general public. The processing and study of this material brought about a number of papers about Nikola Tesla's patents that were published successively, starting from 1999, in the ‘Glasnik intelektualne svojine’ (the Intellectual Property Gazette). The joining of these papers, together with the presentation of the new results that have been obtained in the meantime, resulted in the paper that will be presented in the following section.
Since the author is a patent engineer, the introduction contains a brief description of the basic concepts of patent law, to facilitate proper comprehension of the presented material.