Opening reception to be held at 5pm on May 1st. All are welcomed.

Patent Republic:
Materialities of Intellectual Property in 19th-Century America

This exhibit retraces more than 50 years of patent-model making in the
United States, presenting common inventions such as washing machines,
carpet sweepers, and ice skates as well as Thomas Edisons carbonizer — a
crucial piece of apparatus for the production of filaments in
electric light bulbs. The exhibit highlights more than the material
ingenuity of a nation. It provides clues to the epistemic nature of models
and their role in both technological innovation and the history of
intellectual property law.

>From its foundation in 1790 to the early 1870s, the U.S. Patent Office
required models (in addition to drawings and textual descriptions) to
guarantee the understanding and replicability of inventions.  The Patent
Act of 1836 emphasized that: “Before any inventor shall receive a patent

[s/he shall] furnish a model of his invention, in all cases which admit of
a representation by model, of a convenient size to exhibit advantageously
its several parts.” Models played a crucial role in the courtroom too.  In
patent infringement cases, judges and jury sometimes struggled to
understand the workings of the invention and the claims of the patent by
looking at the specifications  alone. In those settings, models provided
key “reality effects.”

Beginning in the 1870s, however, models ceased to be required for patent
applications.  Their disappearance from patent law was quickly followed by
their physical disappearance when a large fire at the Patent Office
destroyed most of them in 1877.  By the end of the 19th century, the
materialities of inventions came to be limited to printed matter only:
highly codified black-and-white drawings and textual descriptions.

May 1 to December 11, 2009. 9am to 5pm (weekdays only)

The exhibit has been curated by Jean-Francois Gauvin.  It was researched
and designed by the students in Prof. Mario Biagioli’s course
“Intellectual Property in Science”: Kristina Bergquist, Jeffrey Clinton
Holder, Pierce Tria, William Ball, Wintha Kelati, Jasmine Rencher, Diana
MacLean, Michael Wolfe, David Haber, Kiran Reddy Pendri, Jeffrey James
Blair, Colin Flood, and Danielle Charlap.