Saturday, May 2, 2015

Iced Tea & Patent Reality Checks

A Little Patent Fakery - Patent Tribute Art?
Iced tea season begins in earnest  at Way Better Patents.  We look forward to many cold and frosty beverages in our favorite improvised entertainment device, the Mason Jar.

The iconic Mason Jar was designed by John L. Mason from New York.  The patent wasn't for the jar it was for the easy on/easy off screw top lid (which many of us have been cursing since 1858.)

According to the website Glass Bottle Marks, "John Landis Mason was awarded Patent #22186, issued on November 30, 1858 by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (actually the patent was termed an “Improvement in screw-neck bottles”),  for his invention concerning the process of creating a threaded screw-type closure on bottles and jars."   You can see images of the real jar here.

So we went on the hunt for the patent images and came across this.  It was a beautiful but very curious drawing.  It looked a bit too mid-century modern for us, mid 20th Century.  Could Mr. Mason have submitted such a complex drawing for a jar with a screw top. Hmmmmmmmm.

Patent Intrigue...

After looking at the image complete with the fold marks in light of the drawing style and the very detailed screw top we suspected a little patents as graphic design rather than real patent design.  The curved lettering on the "jars" in the image are inconsistent with glass making technology of the day.

Here is the image of Mr. Mason's 1858 patent from the USPTO website:

A little more normal drawing for the timeframe.

The wonders of cut and paste and Photoshop or the graphic design package of your choice you were used to edit the original patent document, use and rearrange the handwritten material  on the page to wrap around some tasteful but chronologically inaccurate new images of the iconic jar.

The other interesting tell is that the US Patent and Trademark Office awarded Mr. Mason a utility patent for the screw top lid (he was a tin worker) not a design.

Then there is the Ball logo.

West Saint Paul Antiques reports that, "Shortly after their move to Muncie and new plant startup in 1888, Ball was making Mason's Patent Nov. 30th 1858 jars, many from acquired moulds. …About 1892 and probably even earlier, Ball began adding their name to some of the 1858 type jars, some on front and others on the back in all block letters. …About 1895, Ball began using machines (these jars have smooth lips) and began to phase out the old blowing methods. This transition took several years. The machine made jars exhibited a new script style which was never seen on any of their handmade jars."

Ball did not start making jars with script style lettering until 1895.

You can see the history of Ball logos here.

And then there's the matter of the jars being square?  Not in 1858.

The other interesting aspects of the drawing - the fold marks, what looks like text bleeding through the back of the page are also some nice touches.

So what we have here is the work of a graphic artist not the actual patent document for Mr. Mason's invention.  And maybe a little trademark infringement as well.

Original Patent Document?  Nope.

Here is the brief text of Mr. Mason's original 1858 patent:

Text of the original patent granted to John L. Mason