Saturday, September 25, 2010

Florey family and PATENTS :ducks and water

In the reverential biographies of  Howard Florey ( he has never had a critical biography - I hope to inspire one of them though), he is always played as the anti-patent guy on penicillin.

By contrast, Ernst Chain is always played as the greedy pro-patent guy.

Well, he is Jewish after all - he would be the greedy  money-grubbing one, won't he ?

Edward Abraham, who was there at the time, says that both were pro-patent to a degree - seeking Oxford University to control it ,(as the University of Toronto did insulin).

I agree.

The assumption was made that because Chain's father was in some sort of chemistry business in Germany Chain the PhD chemist would know all about the importance of patents.

(But we don't actually know if his father was involved in patents.)

But Florey ,the MD, would not anything about patents - against MD ethics in the UK at the time. Etc.

Bull dung !

Florey-the-son had wanted to be a chemist and was only nominally a MD in reality anyway.

His father had made his fortune by being the first into a new cutting edge technology, the first into high tech chemistry and trade marks, and by being the first in his state to obtain exclusive geographic rights to new processes.

Joseph Florey even tried to obtain at least one patent himself - for improvements in pneumatic tyres - applied for in Western Australia on May 16 1996, according to the local daily paper.

Leather making technology hadn't changed in around 10,000 years - so when it did, many in the industry refused to take the first leap.

Beyond how technically challenging the new ways of tanning leather were, was the fact that they were not public domain and free, as the tannin way of leather-making had been for centuries.

Florey took both risks and fell into a hot area of patents and licenses and paying high fees - or ignoring patents and fees and focussing on trade marks instead.

His many ads never claimed he had a patent for his chromella leather or even a patent license with a registered number - merely that he was the exclusive South Australia agent for it and held control of it as a trademark.

I haven't been able to find the original owner of chromella leather, but I believe very much they existed.

Here is why:

Florey's very first time he is mentioned in any newspaper seems to have been the month (October 1894) - even the day - he got that exclusive agency for chromella and he took out ads proclaiming that fact.

The word chromella almost never left the Australian papers, in some form or other, until well after his death.

His wealth seemed to have started around 1894 as well.

Having that chromella agency really seemed to have mattered.

But Joseph Florey having interests in tyres and patents of his own was news to me.

Patent talk would have been mother's milk to his son, Howard.

And I think we all owe Chain a heartfelt apology....

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