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Lesson #30 Can Someone Else on the Planet Think of The Same Idea As You?

rogerbrown's Avatargold

Okay, I know everyone likes to think they are the only people on the planet thinking about their million dollar idea, but that is not true. In fact there could be hundreds of people thinking along the same lines as you are right now. Look at how many times you have walked in a store or watched TV and seen an idea you had months or years ago now on the market. Did that person, that you have never met, creep into your house while you were asleep and using alien technology pull it from your mind? No, they had the same idea you did, took the idea and did something with it to get it to market.
I have had numerous Inventors contact me saying this company stole their idea and want to know what they can do about it. When I talk with them further I find out the product is from France, Germany, Japan or a company in the US several states away from where they live. You talk to them asking how do they assume that company got ahold of their idea, did they send it to them or a sister company? They tell me they have never shown it to anyone, it is not even on paper, it is still in their head or they have it in a journal they wrote and just haven’t gotten around to moving forward with it. But, they are certain they stole it from them.
Inventors need to realize if you have an idea it is almost a certainy that someone else has had or is having that same idea. The question is which one of you is going to do something with it?
I am workiing on several variations of squirt guns right now that I believe are very marketable. The company I targeted is very strict about reviewing submissions and it is by invitation only. Obviously they work on their own line of products internally. The chances of them having conceived of one or more of same ideas I plan on sending them is possible. So, if I send them four concepts and they say we are already working on a similar squirt gun as one of my submissions do I scream “You Blankety Blank you stole my idea!!!! I’ll sue you and all your relatives ever born!”
I have been inventing and contacting companies for several years and occasionally I will find a company that I have sent a submission that will have something similar in production and about to release it. In those instances the company has sent me a sample of the product, a CAD drawing, a listing to the patent that was filed several months before I contacted them. They have done this not because they were legally required to. They did it because I understand that this can happen and they treated me in the same professional manner I treated them. I did not scream and threaten them with a lawsuit. Most of those companies also put me on their prefered listing so I get wish lists and other coorespondence from them so I know what they are looking for, so I can focus my submissions to them more accurately.

I do a lot of research up front on the companies I approach so that I have a good feeling about who I am dealing with and their ethics in dealing with Inventors. I use the information I gather to make the best informed decision I can and understand that I am not the only Inventor on the planet.

Michelle Sartori
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rontmcc's Avatar

Roger: You are so right. I have experinced this many times. The first thing I do when I think I have that million dollar idea is search for it on the internet and that includes the patent office. My kneejerk reaction to all of my ideas is with all of the brilliant people in the world I can’t be the first.

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cbrown's Avatar

Roger, You hit the nail on the head AGAIN.I just submitted a rush idea to an LPS last week with very little research done on my part and found the exat idea last night. I could have saved myself twenty bucks..ROOKIE MISTAKE, I knew better and did it anyway. This was a crash and burn only I could have prevented and I failed to do so. The research on the front end is the most important part of the process.

Patric J
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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Chris be glad you only lost $20. Most Inventors don’t find out what you did until after they are a couple of thousand dollars in debt to an invention submission company. Research upfront is key to success.

Patric J
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rogerbrown's Avatargold

When searching for their new product idea I am really confused why most Inventors do not seem to do this very well. They will send me a product idea they call lets say " extendable garden clippers". they will swear there is nothing out there like this. they have searched everywhere and can’t find a thing.
So, my first thing is to go to Google and put in every variation I can think of that name that might bring up something. Such as:

telescoping, expandable, extendable, adjustable, pruning shears, garden clippers, hedge clippers.

Then the Inventor is surprised I not only found a number of similar devices but how quickly I found them when they did a thorough search. I had a person send me a telescoping walking cane idea. He said there is nothing like this available. I put telescoping walk cane in Google and what do I get http://www.google.com/#hl=en&xhr=t&q=te... Found it in lass than a minute. He had already contacted a invention submission company and paid the initial $695 for them to do an evaluation. That was a hard lesson. Think how many entries to a EN search he could do with that money.
Inventors need to be more informed and proactive to find what is out there before throwing money away. If you just want to throw money away please send it to the Roger Brown early retirement fund. : )

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Had an Inventor contact me yesterday wanting to know what they could do about a company that stole their idea. I asked if they had sent the company any info on their product they said No. They said they had the idea three years ago, had done nothing with it, but when they went into Wal-Mart that afternoon there it was, their idea from three years ago, on the shelf. The company making it is from Canada and they live in Georgia. He has been no further North then North Carolina and has not shown or told his idea to anyone. But he is sure they stole it and wanted me to recommend a good lawyer he could use.
I want to know, where is the Satellite orbiting the Earth that companies are using to suck ideas out of our heads, so they can steal them from us and not have to pay us?

Patric J
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corsaire's Avatar

Here’s a link for that poor inventor:

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cowboy-joe's Avatar

prior art is a huge worry, my invention has been filed 2006
after the first 4 years you begin to relax a bit.
I wish it was just a $20 bet
at least that’s one advantage of sitting on a patent so long, “real” prior art scares become unlikely.

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thundr55's Avatar

I think many inventors don’t do thorough research because they don’t want to come to the sad realization that their idea (which could’ve been a great one) has already been discovered, patented and flopped.

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cowboy-joe's Avatar

My opinion is, learn to search like the professional searchers, then search like an amateur, then like a bloodhound then, search search. That’s got to be the priority of anyone thinking of patenting I think
afterwards if you stumble on a old cardboard box on the pavement look in it, search search search

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Tim, I agree with you. No one wants to know they got beat to the punch, but you would think they would want to know so they could stop wasting their time and money.

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bobk's Avatar

(Not sure if this has been covered before) – I recently came across another method for checking if something already exists. Go to www.quirky.com and do a search for terms related to your invention. You may find people have submitted ideas like it. That in itself is not a show-stopper. However, often in the comments people will post a link to existing products that “already do that.”

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let-them-fly's Avatar

I think I’m going to bump this thread back to the top, as there are currently those who
are concerned their idea somehow found it’s way to market after using Edison Nation.

Also included is the recent informative Blog post Is-It-Possible-Someone-Else-Has-The-Same-Idea

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davidpope2002's Avatargold

Frank, this thread reminds me of a quote I wrote in the Inspirational quotes thread…

" I know my idea is just as good as the next man idea it’s just a matter of letting the world see mine, First"!

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randomhandyman's Avatargold

This — like many of the other lessons — is a good thread. Not sure I’ve yet seen the following angle covered though: As it relates to an Edison Nation Licensed Product Search: What happens if two inventors separately and independently submit an innovation that is substantially similar to the same search?

Assuming it’s a “winner” idea:

  • Does EN run with the first one submitted?
  • Does EN run with the slightly better of the two, regardless of timing?
  • Does EN integrate the best aspects of both ideas and credit both inventors?

If it’s likely to happen between Georgia and Canada as Roger highlights below, it’s also likely to happen in EN’s highly concentrated pool of hundreds or thousands of motivated inventors! : )

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magurn's Avataren_staff_badge

Hi Jeffrey,

This question is actually addressed in our Help area – here is the response:

Sometimes, if there is a large consumer pain point, we will see a trend of similar submissions within a search to solve that problem.

In instances where we have two or more similar submissions that are finalists within a search, there are numerous factors as to why we chose to present one idea over the other. Some of these factors are: whether or not the idea has existing intellectual property and the extent of that intellectual property, quality of the submission and date the idea was submitted.

The review team takes all available information into consideration when making these decisions.

Best practice? Log in to EN often to get the latest on new searches. Keep your idea confidential and submit to us early through our secure submission system. As always, Edison Nation’s top priority is to protect the intellectual property of our community and ideas are never shared publicly.

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randomhandyman's Avatargold

Thanks for helping me find the answer Michelle!

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Been getting some emails from frustrated Inventors saying that it seems every idea they come up with is already out there. With the internet, instantaneous communication and the ability to search the globe in seconds it will get harder to find things that are not similar in nature. But looking for that unique twist or ways to make it more user friendly, cheaper, appealing to a wider consumer base will help you to stand out. Look at the cell phone. It is great product. The fastest way to get involved in this market is not to invent a new cell phone but to come up with Apps, accessories and other uses for the cell phone. Look at other markets you can add to what is already there and that will broaden your base. 

Frank White
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wilson_ks's Avatar

Here is an interesting story on this topic:

During late 2000, through January 2001, I conceived and prototyped an invention to use a blockchain to establish cryptographic-strength proof for both (1) a "no later than" date of existence and (2) no alterations since that date, for documents - such as legal documents (contracts, wills), engineering design documents (inventor's drawings and notebook PDFs) that are held in tight secrecy (so no neutral third party can vouch for their authenticity), and even website pages that could be easily altered by hackers.  I call my invention PEDDaL - public electronic document dating list.

However, I could not afford to hire a patent attorney to patent the invention.  As some of you may be aware, I had been ripped off previously for about $13,000 with a scheme that, today, would result in the patent attorney losing their PTO registration.  (At the time, there was a loophole in the PTO's ethical rules, but it has since been fixed.)  So, combining my motivation to be able to help other inventors avoid being ripped off, with my desire to get a patent on my invention, I hatched this plan:  Become a patent attorney, learn to write patent applications at law firms while getting paid to do so, treat all inventors the way I wish I would have been treated (no ripping anyone off), and when I was ready, file a patent application on my "baby".

In February of 2001, I applied to law school and then started studying for the PTO agent exam.  I started law school in August 2001, took the PTO exam in October 2001, and finished law school in December 2004.  In January 2005, after completing my Air Force Reserve 2-week tour, I began working at a law firm in Dallas and studied for the Texas bar exam, which I took in February 2005.  It was not easy learning Texas-specific state law in a matter of just a couple of weeks, while working full time in a new job - after having gone to law school in Ohio.  But I passed my first try, fortunately, and was officially a patent attorney in early 2005.

Then, I concentrated on learning as much about patents as I possibly could.  I asked every senior attorney who would, to tell me as many war stories as they had time for, and actively sought to work on projects in as many different aspects of patent practice as I could find.  I specifically tried to work with the senior attorneys whom I perceived to be the pickiest perfectionists.  And when one criticized my work, I respectfully and politely asked them to fully explain their thoughts on why their way was better.

Still, though, it took more than a year before I believed I was ready to start writing my own applications.  And even then, I wrote 8 other applications on my lesser inventions over the next 2 years, before writing the applications for my two best inventions: PEDDaL and a related one that can leverage PEDDaL.

I filed my PEDDaL patent application on April 25, 2008.  I did not immediately request early publication for that patent application.  I now REALLY wish that I had.  I did request early publication in January 2009, so it was published in April 2009.  Had I filed the request for early publication along with the initial filing, my application would have published in August of 2008.

Why is this important?

Well, on October 31, 2008 - more than 6 months after I filed my patent application for PEDDaL, but before my application published - there was a very important academic paper published to an email mailing list by Satoshi Nakamoto (an alias).

It was Bitcoin.

Bitcoin uses a blockchain to validate financial ledgers to ensure that no one tries to double spend a bitcoin.  That way, if someone buys something from you with a bitcoin, or you spend actual dollars to purchase a bitcoin, you can be certain that you obtained the bitcoin from the legitimate owner.

Well, even though Bitcoin uses the blockchain for financial ledgers, and I use it for documents and other digital files (JPGs, PDFs, DOCs, MP3s, MPGs, ...) the blockchain in Bitcoin is the same as the blockchain in PEDDaL.

Whoever it is that is using the alias Satoshi Nakamoto, they came up with my exact same blockchain implementation.  We even use similar terminology.  The term "blockchain" does not appear in either my PEDDaL patent application or the Satoshi Nakamoto paper.  That term was created later as a shorthand for Satoshi Nakamoto's use of the phrase "blocks are chained".  My PEDDaL application uses the phrase "edition chain".  PEDDaL's "editions" are functionally equivalent to Bitcoin's "blocks".

So now, I can say that I invented blockchaining before Bitcoin, but unfortunately, I cannot say that I published blockchaining before Bitcoin.

Anyway, you can see  a more detailed write-up of the comparison between PEDDaL and Bitcoin at PEDDaL.com.  Look in the left column for a link titled "Comparing PEDDaL with Bitcoin".   If you want, look for US patents 8,135,714 and 8,694,473.  Those are both continuation patents, so look for the earliest priority dates under the heading "Related U.S. Application Data".

And in case you are wondering, I am not intending to sue any Bitcoin operator.  However, I have seen speculation on the internet about companies starting something up as a service to law firms that uses a blockchain to validate contracts, in case one party tries altering their copy and asserting that their altered copy is the correct one.  (This happened to Mark Zuckerberg, when someone falsely claimed ownership of Facebook)  Such a service could be very close to PEDDaL, and possibly within my patent coverage.  But I will not say anything more on that aspect of my invention.  So please no comments or questions on any anticipated enforcement of legal rights.  Please don't make me regret sharing what many people might find to be an interesting story, with valuable lessons. 

Patric J
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gizmo's Avatar

Thanks for sharing youre story Kelce.

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williamj's Avatargold

Thanks Kelce

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

That was quite a journey you took Kelce. Thanks for sharing it.

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sprinklerbuddy's Avatar

I've had at least a dozen people tell me they invented "Sprinkler Buddy"
years ago but never acted on it. I thank them for not acting on it!!!

Then I usually see that light bulb go off in their head when they realize how my invention really works. Sometimes the simple things are more complex than they first appear.

My patent attorney missed it as well as the USPTO examiners the first few go rounds. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to get others to see the true light on something so simple.

Make sure those that look at what you have really know what you have before discarding your idea! I always had them explain it to me, then I told them what they had gotten wrong. Ahh the light bulb went off again.  Sometimes it got rather frustrating when they refused to understand!  Many will get it in their head "I know syndrome" when they actually don't know!

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williamj's Avatargold

It's amazing how few people fully understand how complex simple can really be.

Patric J
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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Leo, that is why I have repeatedly told Inventors don't take for granted everyone understands your idea. If you can't explain it in 30 seconds or less the chances are people will not GET it. Or there is so much information they miss what you are trying to say. And then you have those that think you are stupid if you don't see their vision for the product.

Patric J
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sprinklerbuddy's Avatar

Been there Roger! lol

I've had some get fighting mad!  I tell them your right and slowly walk away.

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Yeah, Leo it is amazing how people react to being told their baby is ugly when all you are trying to do is give your opinion and hopefully help them see what they are overlooking. Having realistic expectations is not something everyone can achieve. I have had some get so mad they stalked me for years on the internet. Had one send me a Google earth pic of my house saying " I know where you live."  And then Inventors wonder why someone is reluctant to help them.

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Talked with an Inventor over the weekend that said he is just going to quit inventing. I asked ..why? He said he was tired of seeing everything he comes up with already on the market. As we talked further it was apparent to me that he was maybe approaching it in a manner that worked against him.

First I told him he should take it as a good sign  that what he is coming up with is already on the market since it is showing he is thinking in the right direction, just others are beating him to market. 

The second was that he was not really looking at what was already on the market before coming up with his ideas. So I took him with me to a couple of stores in the market he is targeting and we looked at all the things that are out there and what issues he saw they were solving. It also showed him that some ideas he had in the back of his mind were already being addressed. But it also showed him areas he feels can still be worth targeting.

In my opinion I feel it is in the Inventor's best interest to visit stores or online that carry similar items so you can know what you are competing against and focus on the areas you see that are not being addressed.

Frank White
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williamj's Avatargold

It occurs to me that, in reading your post, there are probably several different reasons to invent and several different types of inventors to go along with those several different reasons.

First, as indicated by your post (I believe), this inventor was strictly ‘market’ orientated. His sole reason to invent was for market success, a valid reason to be sure.

Secondly, would come the ‘invent for solving a problem”. It’s immaterial whether or not the inventor goes looking for a problem to solve or just solves problems that cause him/her difficulties.

And the third inventor would be those who (like me) basically have ideas just “pop” into their heads and then think,” yeah… that’ll work!”

It’s like how we learn. There are three basic ways to learn; there are visual learners, auditory learners and tactile learners. The first learns best by “seeing” things, the second learns best by “hearing” things and the third learns best by “doing” things.

Not that those learners are one hundred percent one way or the other; it’s more of a balance of all three with one being more dominant than the others.

Just as in inventing, we do not always invent for a specific reason but one way always gets the ‘juices’ flowing better than the other ways.

I feel that the better we understand ourselves as inventors the better we all can invent.

Patric J
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rogerbrown's Avatargold

William, great post. I would add that all three versions you mentioned have a common thread. They all need to not just know themselves but know the target they are going after. Because no matter how much you know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses you still need to know your competition and what has come before you.

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Got an email recently from an Inventor depressed that the last five ideas they had are already on the market. Told them not to be depressed. That just means you are thinking in  the right area. Unfortunately someone else beat you to it. 

You just need to keep moving forward until you find that idea that is unique, marketable and will stand out in the crowd.

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Had an Inventor contact me about their frustration with a company they have been contacting and sending product ideas. Their frustration was that they had sent 3 separate ideas to this company and were shot down each time with the company sending them a link saying this product already exists. They wanted to know what they are doing wrong and how they can get the company to accept one of their ideas.

I thought this was a good example that needs to be shared with other Inventors.

First they should be happy the company took the time to send them a link to a similar product and letting them know why they are saying No and what is already out there. Most companies would just send you a form letter saying not interested.

Second, it shows the Inventor is not doing very much, if any, research on their idea and letting the company tell what is out there. At some point the company will tell the Inventor to stop sending them ideas because they are wasting their time and resources. This same situation is why companies stop being open to outside ideas.

Before you approach EN or any company with a product idea do your due diligence to make sure as best you can that the idea is unique and marketable. Otherwise expect a RED X or a no from the company.

Thom C
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countofmontecristo's Avatargold

Some very good information in this thread, esp Kelce and Rodger. Thanks for sharing- not everyone likes to talk about their ships that sank or craft that crashed and burned.  As long as you LEARN from that experience, then it was not a total loss.

The very fact the other people can and will eventually think of the 'same thing' that you did is another example of *why* strong patents are powerful things.  Even if you don't have the time, money or resources to get your great idea in the market at least you can take the first step to protect it.  When that other party comes along (and they will) they find out that YOU have already 'been there, done that'.  

3 possible outcomes from that scenario are:

1. The other party throws up their hands, walks away and mumbles to themselves for awhile. 

2. They study your patent (if published/granted) and see how they can get around it.

3. They see your product is not on the market and maybe contact you wondering why?

Timing IS everything, and just because an idea is not 100% marketable right now, does not mean it will never be.  It really can be all about the timing. (Just ask Kelce)

 By getting your patents in order first you are looking at a long term ROI, not just a make-a-buck-quick deal. 

Patric J
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rogerbrown's Avatargold

I found an article on the same topic as this thread that I thought others would find interesting. The title is "Are Inventions Inevitable? A Note on Social Evolution" https://archive.org/stream/jstor-2142320/2142320_d...

The premise is can more than one person have the same idea especially when the other is not aware of the other working on the same idea? 



IT is an interesting phenomenon that many inventions have  been made two or more times by different inventors,each working without knowledge of the other's research. There are a number of cases of such duplicate inventions or

discoveries that are of common knowledge. It is well known,for instance, that both Newton and Leibnitz invented calculus. The theory of natural selection was developed practically identically by Wallace and by Darwin. It is claimed that both Langley and Wright invented the airplane. And we all know that the telephone was invented by Gray and by Bell. A good many such cases of duplication in discovery are part of the stock of knowledge of the general reader.

There are, however, a large number of very important instances that are not so well known. For example, the invention of decimal fractions is credited to Rudolph, Stevinus and Burgi. Oxygen was discovered by Scheele and by Priestley in 1 774. The molecular theory is due to Avagadro in 1 8 1 1 and to Ampere in 1814. Both Cros and du Hauron invented color photography in 1869. The trolley car resulted from the work of Van Doeple and also Sprague, and the essential elements were devised independently by Siemens and Daft.

We think of Napier and Briggs as the inventors of logarithms,but it is not generally known that Burgi also invented them three years previously. We associate the origin of photography with Daguerre but it was also independently invented by Talbot. Boyle's Law is known in French textbooks as Marriotte's Law. The existence of Neptune was discovered independently by Adams and Leverrier, before the planet was actually observed, the work of these two mathematical astronomers leading to its observation by others. Gauss is frequently recognized as responsible for the principle of least squares. Legendre published his account of the principle three years before Gauss did, although Gauss had used the principle still earlier.


There were four independent discoveries of sunspots, all in 1611, namely, by Galileo in Italy, Scheiner in Germany, Fabricius in Holland and Harriott in England. The law of the conservation of energy, so significant in science and philosophy, was formulated four times independently in 1847, by Joule, Thomson, Colding and Helmholz. They had been anticipated by Robert Mayer in 1842. There seem to have been at least six different inventors of the thermometer and no less than nine claimants of the invention of the telescope. Typewriting machines were invented simultaneously in England and in America by several individuals in these countries. The steamboat is claimed as the " exclusive " discovery of Fulton, Jouffroy, Rumsey, Stevens and Symmington.

That so many inventions and discoveries were made by two or more persons is not generally known. Researches into the histories of science and of inventions reveal a surprisingly large number of instances of multiple but independent origins of inventions. The appendix to this article contains a list of 148 such cases chosen from the fields of mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, physics, medicine, biology, psychology and practical mechanics. The list could be extended considerably by further research, particularly into the fields of lesser inventions. The best source for such data is the history of science within the past hundred years. The origin of the vast number of minor inventions in the practical arts is not recorded except within recent years in the files of the patent offices.

Knowledge of the origins of inventions in early times is lost. Records are largely dependent on writing, and it is only in recent years that we have written information about inventors. Among the peoples without writing there were probably many independent inventions of the same tool. But definite proof is difficult to obtain because it is not easy to tell whether the possession of the same tool by two different primitive groups is due to diffusion or to independent origin. In some cases the probability of independent origin is very great, as in the case of bronze-making in Peru and in the Old World, or the blowgun in America and in Borneo, or the pyramids in Central America and in Egypt. A fairly long list of such instances might be cited. But a statistical compilation of probable instances of multiple origins of inventions among primitive peoples would give little evidence of the relative frequency of inventions made independently, because of the vast number of cases about which we are ignorant.

But, if we leave these cases out of consideration and confine our evidence merely to the historical period, it is surprising that we can find SO many cases where two or more inventors independently made the same invention, for the development of contacts has made the spread of knowledge increasingly rapid. For instance, if the knowledge of the invention of wireless telegraphy is spread quickly over all the industrialized areas, this fact in itself would cut short the researches of other inventors along similar lines. Furthermore, many inventions and discoveries are now patented, so that the invention of the same object by others either is prevented, or, if not prevented, is known. The records of the United States Patent Office show that about twice as many patents are applied for as are granted. Many of these applications are no doubt denied because the invention is already patented. This is further evidence that many inventions are made independently by more than one person.

For all these reasons a list of recurring independent inventions assumes a greater importance than would be apparent otherwise, and a list of inventions made only once would not only be of little significance but would not imply that, without the patent laws and rapid dissemination of knowledge, they would necessarily have been invented only once. In trying to form some estimate, therefore, of the frequency of inventions occurring independently more than once, one should remember these limitations on the interpretation of the data.

Bearing in mind all these considerations, the list given in the appendix to this article is very impressive. What does it mean? Several questions are raised. Are inventions inevitable? If the various inventors had died in infancy, would not the inventions have been made and would not cultural progress have gone on without much delay? Are inventions independent of mental ability? Is not the determinism in inventions a matter of cultural preparation ? Is not social evolution inherent in the nature of culture?

The significance of the phenomenon of parallel occurrences of the same inventions has been ably discussed by Dr. A. L. Kroeber 1 and the answers to such questions as the foregoing have been considered by him. In general, the theory turns on two points; that is, there are two factors in the making of inventions, namely, mental ability and the existing status of culture. Mental ability, it is thought, is related to invention in somewhat the following manner. There is little doubt that inventors are men of considerable mental ability, except, perhaps, in instances where the accidental element is large. The measurement of the mental ability of the individuals in any large sample of the general population shows a distribution resembling the familiar normal probability curve. For any particular mental trait there are only a few with large measurements and only a few with small measurements and a great many individuals in between. The distribution of mental traits is similar, for example, to the distribution of statures, in which there are few who are tall and few who are short and many with medium stature, the distribution being continuous. Inventors no doubt come from the upper portion of such a frequency distribution of ability.

Of course, we do not know just how high up in the scale of ability the inventor is found. But in a large sample the normal probability curve is such that, in the upper half of the scale of ability, will be found half the number of cases. The distribution above the upper third of the scale will usually include about one-quarter of the cases. That is to say, out of iooo individuals about 225 on the average won't be. found above the upper third of the scale; and about 10 will be found above the upper tenth of the scale. Thus, even granting that the mental ability of the inventor is great, the probabilities are that out of a large sample there are many chances of finding more than 'A. L. Kroeber: "The Superorganic ", American Anthropologist, New Series, one person with a high degree of native ability. So that, if an inventor had died as an infant, there are chances that there are others with just as high native inventive ability. But ability may vary over a period of time as well as in a cross-section of time. Thus, a random sample of 1000 individuals taken 500 years ago may have measured in inherited mental traits higher or lower in the scale than 1000 individuals chosen today. The average may be greater or less. We are here considering native or inherited ability, not the ability that results from training. Any high-school boy today knows more mathematics than did Aristotle, but his native ability in mathematics is probably much less. The way this native ability will vary over time will be by mutations or by selection. Mutations are very infrequent and the process of selection is also slow ; so that reckoning four generations to the century and considering the fact that a biological change or mutation must spread to a large number of individuals, there cannot be very much variation by groups in inherited mental ability over a few centuries. Therefore over the few centuries of the historical period, or at least over the period for which we can get data on the origin of inventions, the variation in native ability according to time may in all probability be neglected. There is of course — to repeat — variation within a definite sample, but the nature of the distribution of native ability is such that there is considerable probability of finding more than one individual with the particular native inventive ability. In fact such native ability may be quite plentiful.

On the other hand, the second factor in invention, the status of culture, is obviously highly variable over time, particularly in the last few centuries. The material culture three hundred years ago was very different from what it is now. It has changed rapidly. And the elements of the material culture at any one time have a good deal to do with determining the nature of the particular inventions that are made. For instance, 1 This statement is a conclusion based upon a study of the rate of evolution and the frequency of mutations. The researches are quite extensive and the limits of this paper do not permit a development of the point.

A few discoveries regarding electricity made possible a great many inventions in which these fundamental discoveries were used or applied. The many electrical appliances could not have been invented in, let us say, the fifteenth century, because the fundamental discoveries regarding electricity had not been made. A certain cultural preparation was quite necessary for the invention of the telegraph. The fact that so many electrical inventions followed so quickly after certain researches in electricity had been made, suggests the inevitability of these inventions. And also the fact that most of the major electrical inventions were made by two or more inventors leads one to think that electrical development was more dependent on cultural preparation than on genius. Benjamin says in the introduction to his Age of Electricity: "It is a singular fact that probably not an electrical invention of major importance has ever been made but that the honor of its origin has been claimed by more than one person." I In 1745, Dean von Kleist found that by inserting an electrified wire into a phial containing spirits of wine, he could store electricity. The same experiment was made the following year by Cuneus of Leyden, and thus we have the fundamental principle of the Leyden jar.

The French claim that DAlibard was the first to discover the identity of lightning and electricity. He performed in May, 1752, the same experiment that Benjamin Franklin performed in June of the same year. The electrical effects of dissimilar metals had been noted by Sulzer in 1768 and Cotuguo in 1786, but the effective discovery was not made until 1791 when Galvani independently discovered these same results and evolved the principle of the voltaic or galvanic cell, first constructed by Volta. The successful invention of the telegraph was the culmination of many abortive attempts to transmit electricity. The first record of any practical form of electric telegraph is described in The Scots Magazine in 1783 in an article supposedly written by Charles Marshal. In 1787, Lomond proposed a similar but more practical plan. The invention of the galvano1 Park Benjamin : The Age of Electricity, p. iii. meter by Ampere and the electro-magnet by Arago then gave a tremendous impetus and in 183 1 a young American professor, Joseph Henry, constructed the first electro-magnetic telegraph.

Henry did not patent his idea or make it public, and important as the invention was, it remained hidden until Morse performed his experiments in 1837 an d finally put his telegraph in operation in 1844. It may be questioned whether Morse is entitled to the credit for the invention, since he neither first devised the mechanism nor originated the alphabet. There were two other inventors. Cook and Wheatstone obtained a patent in England in 1837, as a result of their joint experiments in constructing a telegraph ; and just a month afterward, as a result of independent investigations, Steinheil successfully constructed a telegraph in Munich. Thus the evolution of electrical science was in the direction of the telegraph, and the invention was not dependent upon any one inventor.

Electric motors appeared simultaneously in England, France,Germany, Italy and the United States ; and dal Negro, Joseph Henry, Bourbonze, McGawley and Davenport all laid claim to the invention. Given the railroad and electric motors, is not the electric railroad inevitable? At least six different men, Davidson, Jacobi, Lilly, Davenport, Page and Hall, claim to have made independently the application of electricity to the railroad. Similar inquiries show that the development of science was leading up to the following inventions, each one of which was invented by several different inventors : the induction coil, the secondary battery, the electrolysis of water, the electro-deposition of metals, the ring armature, the microphone, the self-exciting dynamo, the incandescent light and the telephone. Such a record of electrical inventions, while not negativing the factor of mental ability, certainly shows quite impressively the importance of the cultural factors.

We realize, of course, that the invention of the steamboat was dependent upon the invention of the boat and the invention of the steam engine. The dependence of an invention upon its constituent elements is a fact. The constituent elements are each in turn dependent on their constituent elements, and so on back to the ice ages and to resources of nature. But does the existence of all the constituent elements of an invention make that invention inevitable? Given the boat and the steam engine, is not the steamboat inevitable ?

This tendency toward the inevitability of an invention, once given the constituent parts, and the dependence of the invention on these parts, may be seen in the history of the steam engine. One sees in the interesting development of the steam engine that this invention was not dependent upon any one man and the history indicates that no one man could be expected to invent the various constituent parts as preliminary steps to making the culminating invention. Omitting from consideration the earlier origins of the steam engine, we may start with Rivault, who proved in 1605 by experiment that water confined in a bomb-shell and heated would explode the shell. Porta had previously described an apparatus by which the pressure of steam could be made to raise a column of water. In 161 5 de Caus constructed a machine similar to the one described by Porta. In 1630 Ramseye patented a " steam machine." 

This period was devoted largely to speculations as to the possibilities of steam and no further practical application was attempted until 1663, when Worcester constructed a machine similar to those of Porta and of de Caus, and used it to elevate water at Vauxhall. Hautefeuille in 1678 proposed the use of a piston in the steam engine and Huygens first applied this principle. Engines which were a decided improvement on Worcester's were now built. Great interest was aroused in their possibilities, and many minds set to work to solve the " problem of the steam engine ". An important advance was made by Thomas Savery, who in 1698 patented a design for the first engine used in pumping water from mines.

Improvements on Savery's engine were made by Desaguliers in 1 718, by Blakely and Ridgeley in 1756, and also by Papin about this time. Thurston remarks that " at the beginning of the eighteenth century, every element of the modern steam engine had been separately invented and practically applied ".  R. H. Thurston: History of the Growth of the Steam Engine.

The nature of the vacuum and the method of obtaining it were known. Steam boilers capable of sustaining any desired pressure had been made. The piston had been utilized and the safety valve invented. Thomas Newcomen constructed a new type of engine combining these elements instead of attempting an improvement on Savery's. His invention was " the engine of Huygens with its cylinder and piston as improved by Papin, still further improved by Newcomen and Calley by the addition of the method of condensation used in the Savery engine ".' From Newcomen to Watt there were improvements in proportions and alterations of details. Watt experimented with the Newcomen engine, discovered sources of loss of heat, and set about to eliminate this waste. The Watt engine was given its distinctive form by 1785, and since that time the growth of the steam engine has not been great, the changes being in the nature of minor improvements. Contrary to popular impression, Watt, great man though he was, does not seem to have been indispensable to the perfection of the steam engine. It would be an absurdity to conclude that, even if he had died in infancy, the Industrial Revolution would not have occurred.

Our analysis and the list of multiple inventions indicates the great importance of the status of culture as a factor in the origin of inventions. While it is true that inventions are in large part culturally determined, this fact does not mean that we can at the present stage of our information predict a particular time. In some cases the probability of predicting an invention is strong as, for instance, in the case of the steamboat, which was invented by Fulton eighteen years after the perfection of the steam engine in 1 785. But in most cases we do not know fully enough the cultural situation determining the invention. To say that culture is a determining factor in inventions does not tell us what are the particular cultural elements and conditions. We do not always know beforehand what the necessary constituent cultural elements are that go into the making of an invention.

But even if these elements are in existence and if there is also the necessary native ability, the mental ability and the constituent cultural elements must be brought together. Inherent ability may exist but it must receive the necessary cultural training and it must be applied. The problem has to be seen,. its solution socially desired and the ability must be trained and stimulated to attack the problem. This is where the idea of necessity, so commonly associated with the conception of inventiveness, comes in. Necessity will not produce an invention without the existence of the essential elements. For example, there was most urgent necessity among our forefathers not many generations ago to cure illness and prevent death. They tried magic and the use of herbs ; but the science of medicine had not been developed ; the cultural preparation did not exist. The need of an invention has a great deal to do with bringing ability and the cultural elements together, and is an important factor in the process, but there must exist the cultural preparation.

In conclusion, it is thought that the evidence presented of independent duplicate origins of inventions brings out forcibly the importance of the cultural factor in the production of inventions. Such data challenge us to analyze the relation of mental ability and cultural preparation as factors in the origin of inventions. To say that one of these factors is more important than the other is to condense the conclusion to unwarranted brevity. It is more satisfactory to summarize briefly the way these two factors are related. Mental ability is a factor, since no inventions could be made without it. And the mental ability of inventors is above the average. But the distribution of inherent mental ability at any one time is such that there is great probability of considerable frequency of exceptional native ability. The manifest ability necessary to produce inventions may be rare because the native ability has not been trained or applied to the problems of inventions. On the other hand, a specific invention depends upon a certain cultural preparation, and could not be made without the existence of the constituent cultural elements that make the invention.

However, if the necessary constituent elements exist, the invention may occur if there is a cultural need for it, for at any one time the distribution of inherent mental ability is such that in a large sample there are many cases of exceptional native mental ability. Witness the frequency of multiple independent inventions. Furthermore, the variation in a result, e. g., in inventions, depends on the variation of the factors. The factor of culture, since the historical period, varies rapidly within very short periods of time. The constituent elements of culture at any one time are different from what they were a few years previously. No such variation is conceivable in inherent mental ability over so short a time. In fact, it is exceedingly probable that over a few centuries there is no appreciable variation in the average or the distribution of inherited mental ability. The evidence and analysis show the tremendous importance of the cultural factor for inventions. Since the existing status of culture is so important a determinant of a succeeding culture, since culture is so highly variable, since inherited mental ability is so stable, we must conclude that the processes of cultural evolution are to be explained in cultural and social terms, that is, in terms of sociology and not in terms of biology and psychology.

William F. Ogburn and Dorothy Thomas.

Columbia University.

A List of Some Inventions and Discoveries Made Independently by Two or More Persons l

I. Solution of the problem of three bodies. By Clairaut (1747), Euler (1747) and

D'Alembert (1747).

1 The accompanying list of duplicate independent inventions is collected from his-

tories of astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, physics, electricity, physiology, biology,

psychology and practical mechanical inventions. The data are thus from the period

of written records, indeed the last few centuries, and largely from histories of science.

The various inventions and discoveries vary greatly in their importance. The list

could be extended by further research.

There are disputes concerning many of the origins in the instances listed. Disputes

frequently concern priority, a matter with which the accompanying discussion is not

concerned. Where a date is doubtful a question-mark has been placed after it.

Occasionally we have not been able to get the date. The most serious difficulty in

making the list is the fact that the contribution of one person is in some cases more

complete than that of another. For instance, Laplace's account of the nebular hypo-

thesis is in more scientific detail than Kant's. Similarly, Halley's r61e may not have

been as important as Newton's in formulating the law of inverse squares. It is some-

times doubtful just where to draw the lines defining a new contribution. Our guides

have been the histories of science, and where there are differences in the historical

accounts we have followed the general practice. 

a. Theory of the figure of the earth. By Huygens (1690) and Newton (1680?).

3. Variability of satellites. By Bradley (1752) and Wargentin (1746).

4. Motion of light within the earth's orbit. By Delambre (1821?) and Bradley


5. Theory of planetary perturbations. By Lagrange (1808) and Laplace (1808).

6. Discovery of the planet Neptune. By Adams (1845) an d Leverrier (1845).

7. Discovery of sun spots. By Galileo (1611), Fabricius (1611), Scheiner (1611)

and Harriott (16:1).

8. Law of inverse squares. By Newton (1666) and Halley (1684).

9. Nebular hypothesis. By Laplace (1796) and Kant (1755).

10. Effect of tidal friction on motion of the earth. By Ferrel (1853) and Delaunay


11. Correlation between variations of sun spots and disturbances on the earth. By

Sabine (1852), Wolfe (1852) and Gauthier (1852).

12. Method of getting spectrum at edge of sun's disc. By Jannsen (1868) and

Lockyer (1868).

13. Discovery of the inner ring of Saturn. By Bond (1850) and Dawes (1850).

14. First measurement of the parallax of a star. By Bessell (1838), Struve (1838}

and Henderson (1838).

15. The effect of gravitation on movements of the ocean. By Lenz (i845?)'and

Carpenter (1865).

16. Certain motions of the moon. By Clairaut (1752), Euler (1752) and D'Alem-

bert (1752).


17. Decimal fractions. By Stevinus (1585), Bttrgi (1592), Beyer? (1603) and

Rttdolff ? (1530).

18. Introduction of decimal point. By Bttrgi (1592), Pitiscus (1608-12), Kepler

(1616) and Napier (1616-17).

19. The equation of the cycloid. By Torricelli (1644) and Roberval (1640).

20. Logarithms. By Bttrgi (1620) and Napier- Briggs (1614).

21. The tangent of the cycloid. By Viviani (1660?), Descartes ( 1 660?) and Fermat


22. Calculus. By Newton (1671) and Leibnitz (1676).

23. The rectification of the semi-cubical parabola. By Van Heuraet (1659), Neil

(1657) and Fermat (1657-9).

ence in the contributions of Cesalpino (1571) and Harvey (1776). Although our rule

has been to exclude such cases of doubt, in some instances where they have been in-

cluded we have placed a question mark next to the name. In several cases the in-

dependence of the research of one claimant has been questioned by another claimant

or by his followers. In many cases the verdict on the controversy seems to be that

each of the inventors justly deserves the distinction. Such is the case with the New-

ton-Leibnitz controversy over calculus, and the Torricelli- Roberval controversy on the

cycloid. In the case of the microscope, telescope, thermometer, steamboat, electric

railways and others, claims are still matters of dispute. In a few cases we have in-

dicated this fact by the words "claimed by" following the subject of the discovery

or invention. Most of the cases of widely different dates have special explanations

as in the case of Mendel, and numerous cases where the first inventor does not pub-

lish his theory until others have come to some conclusions, e. g., there is indisputable

evidence that Young discovered the principle of interference thirteen years before

Fresnel, yet neglected to publish it. It has also been difficult to abbreviate the de-

scription of the discovery into a short title suitable for a list.


24. Deduction of the theorem on the hexagon. By Pascal (1639), MacLaurin (1719-

20) and Bessel (1820).

25. The principle of least squares. By Gauss (1809) and Legendre (1806).

26. The geometric law of duality. By Foncelet (1838) and Gergone (1838).

27. The beginnings of synthetic projective geometry. By Chasles (1830) and Steiner


28. Geometry with an axiom contradictory to Euclid's parallel axiom. By Lobat-

chevsky (1836-40?), Boylais (1826-33) an d Gauss? (1829).

29. Lobatchevsky's doctrine of the parallel angle. By Lobatchevsky ( 1840) and

Saccheri (1733).

30. Method of algebraic elimination by use of determinants and by dialitic method.

By Hesse (1842) and Sylvester (1840).

31. A treatment of vectors without the use of coordinate systems. By Hamilton

(1843), Grassman (1843) «°d others (1843).

32. Principle of uniform convergence. By Stokes (1847-8) and Seidel (1847-8).

33. Logarithmic criteria for convergence of series. By Abel, De Morgan, Bertrand,

Raabe, Dubamel, Bonnet, Paucker (all between 1832-51).

34. Radix method of making logarithms. By Briggs (1624), Flower (1771), At-

wood (1786), Leonelli (1802) and Manning (1806).

35. Circular slide rule. By Delamain (1630) and Ougbtred (1632).

36. Method of indivisibles. By Roberval (1640?) and Cavalieri (1635).

37. Researches on elliptic functions. By Abel (1826-29), Jacob! (1829) and Leg-

endre (181 1-28).

38. The double theta functions. By Gopel (1847) and Rosenhain (1847).

39. The law of quadratic reciprocity. By Gauss (1788-96), Euler (1737) and Leg-

endre (1830).

40. The application of the potential function to mathematical theory of electricity

and magnetism. By Green (1828), Thomson (1846), Chasles, Sturm and


41. Dirichlet's principle in the theory of potentials. By Dirichlet (1848?) and

Thomson (1848).

42. Contraction hypothesis. By H. A. Lorentz (1895) * nd Fitzgerald (1895).

43. Mathematical calculation of the size of molecules. By Loschmidt and Thompson.,


44. Structure theory. By Butlerow (1888), Kekule ( 1888) and Couper (1888).

45. Law of gases. By Boyle (1662) and Marriotte (1676).

46. Discovery of oxygen. By Scheele (1774) and Priestley (1774).

47. Liquification of oxygen. By Cailletet (1877) and Pictet (1877).

48. Method of liquefying guies. By Cailletet, Pictet, Wroblowski and Olzewski

(all between 1877-1884).

49. Estimation of proportion of oxygen in atmosphere. By Scheele (1778) and

Cavendish (1781).

50. Beginnings of modern organic chemistry. By Boerhave (1732) and Hales


51. Isolation of nitrogen. By Rutherford (1772) and Scheele (1773).

52. That water is produced by combustion of hydrogen. By Lavoisier-Laplace

(1783) and Cavendish (1784).

53. Law of chemical proportions. By Proust (1801-9) and Richter (?).


54. The periodic law: First arrangement of atoms in ascending series. By De Chan-

courtois (1864), Newlands (1864) and Lothar Meyer (1864). Law of

periodicity. By Lothar Meyer (1869) and Mendeleeff (1869).

55. Hypothesis as to arrangement of atoms in space. By Van 't Hoff (1874) and

Le Bel (1874).

56. Molecular theory. By Ampere (1814) and Avagadro (1811).

57. Hydrogen acid theory. By Davy and Du Long.

58. Doctrine of chemical equivalents. By Wenzel (1777) and Richter (1792).

59. Discovery of element of phosphorus. By Brand (1669), Kunckel (1678) and

Boyle (1680).

60. Discovery of boron. By Davy (1808-9) a °d Gay-Lussac (1808).

61. Discovery of ceria. By Hisinger (1803), Berzelius (1803-4) and Klaproth


62. Process for reduction of aluminum. By Hall (1886), Heroult (1887) and

Cowles (1885).

63. Law of mass action of chemical forces. By Jellet (1873), Guldberg-Waage

(1867), Van't Hoff (1877) and others.

64. Comparison of refractivity of equimolecular quantities by multiple function. By

L. V. Lorenz (1880) and H. A. Lorentz (1880).


65. Resistance of vacuum. By Torricelli-Pascal (1643-6) and von Guericke (1657).

66. Air gun. By Boyle-Hooke (prior to 1659) and von Guericke ( 1650).

6j. Telescope. Claimed by Lippershey (1608), Delia Porta (1558), Digges (1571).

Johannides, Metius (1608), Drebbel, Fontana, Jansen (1608) and Galileo


458. Microscope. Claimed by Johannides, Drebbel and Galileo (1610?).

69. Acromatic lens. By Hall (1729) and Dolland (1758).

70. Principle of interference. By Young (1802) and Fresnel (1815).

71. Spectrum analysis. By Draper (i860), Angstrom (1854), Kirchoff-Bunsen

(1859), Miller (1843) and Stokes (1849)

72. Photography. By Daguerre-Niepe (1839; and Talbot (1839).

73. Color photography. By Cros (1869) and Du Hauron (1869).

74. Discovery of overtones in strings. By Nobb-Pigott (1677) and Sauveur


75. Thermometer. Claimed by Galileo (1592-7?), Drebbel? (1608), Sanctorious

(1612), Paul(i6i7), Fludd(i6i7), Van Guericke, Porta(i6o6), De Caus


76. Pendulum clock. Claimed by Bilrgi (1575), Galileo (1582) and Huygens


77. Discovery of latent heat. By Black (1762), De Luc and Wilke.

78. Ice calorimeter. By Lavoisier, Laplace (1780) and Black-Wilke.

79. Law of expansion of gases. By Charles (1783) and Gay-Lussac (1802).

80. Continuity of gaseous and liquid states of matter. By Ramsay (1880) and Jamin


■81. Kinetic theory of gases. By Clausius (1850) and Rankine (1850).

82. Law of conservation of energy By Mayer (1843), Joule (1847), Helmholz

(1847), Colding (1847) and Thomson (1847).

83. Mechanical equivalent of heat. By Mayer (1842), Camot (1830), Seguin (1839)

and Joule (1840).


84. Principle of dissipation of energy. By Carnot? (1824), Clausius (1850) and

Thomson (1852).

85. Law of impact, earlier conclusions. By Galileo (1638) and Marci (1639).

86. Laws of mutual impact of bodies. ByHuygens (1669), Wallis (1668) and

Wren (1668).

87. Apparent concentration of cold by concave mirror. By Porta (1780-91?) and

Pictet (1780-91?).

88. Circumstances by which effect of weight is determined. By Leonardo and


89. Parallelogram of forces. By Newton (1687) and Varignon (1725?).

90. Principle of hydrostatics. By Archimedes and Stevinus (1608).

91. Pneumatic lever. By Hamilton (1835) and Barker (1832).

  • 92. Osmotic pressure methods. By Van't Hoff (1886) and Guldberg (1870).
  • 93. Law of inertia. By Galileo, Huygens and Newton (1687).

    94. Machinery for verifying the law of falling bodies. By Laborde, Lippich and

    von Babo.

    95. Center of oscillation. By Bernouilli (1712) and Taylor (1715).


  • 96. Leyden jar. By von Kleist (1745) and Cuneus (1746).
  • 97. Discovery of animal electricity. By Sultzer (1768), Cotuguo (1786) und Gal-

    vani (1791).

    98. Telegraph. By Henry (1831), Morse (1837), Cooke-Wheatstone (1837) and

    Steinheil (1837).

    99. Electric motors. Claimed by Dal Negro (1830), Henry (1831), Bourbonze

    and McGawley (1835).

    *oo. Electric railroad. Claimed by Davidson, Jacobi, Lilly-Colton (1847), Daven-

    port (1835), Page (1850) and Hall (1850-1).

    101. Induction coil. By Page and Ruhmkorff.

    102. Secondary battery. By Ritter and Plante (1859).

    103. Electrolysis of water. By Nicholson -Carlisle (1800) and Ritter.

    104. Method of converting lines engraved on copper into relief. By Jacobi (1839),

    Spencer (1839) and Jordan (1839).

    105. Ring armature. By Pacinotti (1864) and Gramme (i860).

    ,106. Microphone. Hughes (1878), Edison (1877-8), Berliner (1877) ">d Blake?


    107. The phonograph. By Edison (1877), Scott? and Cros (1877).

    108. Self-exciting dynamo. Claimed by Hjorth (1866-7), Varley (1866-7), Sie-

    mens (1866-7), Wheatstone (1866-7), Ladd (1866) and Wilde (1863-7).

    109. Incandescent electric light. Claimed by Starr (1846) and Jobard de Clangey


    110. Telephone. By Bell (1876) and Gray (1876).

    111. Arrest of electro-magnetic waves. By Branley (189C-1), Lodge (1893) and

    Hughes (1880).

  • 112. Electro-magnetic clocks. By Wheatstone (1845) and Bain (1845).
  • 113. Printing telegraphs. By Wheatstone (1843) and Bain (1845).


    114. Theory of the infection of micro-organisms. By Fracastoro (1546) and



    115. Discovery of the thoracic duct. By Rudbeck (1651), Jolyff and Bertolinus


    116. That the skull is made of modified vertebrae. By Goethe (1790) and Oken


    117. Nature of the cataract. By Brisseau (1706) and Maitre-Jan (1707).

    118. Operation for cure of aneurisms. By Hunter (1775) and Anil (1772).

    119. Digestion as a chemical rather than a mechanical process. By Spallanzani and


    120. Function of the pancreas. By Purkinje (1836) and Pappenheim (1836).

    121. Solution of the problem of respiration. By Priestley (1777), Scheele (1777),

    Lavoisier (1777), Spallanzani (1777) and Davy (1777).

    122. Form of the liver cells. By Purkinje (1838), Heule (1838) and Dutrochet


    123. Relation of micro-organisms to fermentation and putrefaction. By Latour

    (1837) and Schwann (1837).

    124. Pepsin as the active principle of gastric juice. By Latour (1835) and Schwann


    125. Prevention of putrefaction of wounds by keeping germs from surface of wound.

    By Lister (1867) and Guerin (1871).

    126. Cellular basis of both animal and vegetable tissue. Claimed by Schwann

    (1839), Henle (1839?), Turpin (1839?), Dumortier (1839?), Purkinjfr

    (1839?), Muller (1839?) and Valentin (1839).

    127. Invention of the laryngoscope. By Babington (1829), Liston (1737) and

    Garcia ( 1855).

    128. Sulphuric ether as an anaesthetic By Long (1842), Robinson (1846), Lis-

    ton (1846), Morton (1846) and Jackson (1846).

    129. That all appendages of a plant are modified leaves. By Goethe (1790) and

    Wolfe (1767).

    130. Theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics. By E. Darwin (1794) and

    Lamarck (1801).

    131. Theory of natural selection and variation. By C. Darwin (1858) and Wallace


    132. Laws of heredity. By Mendel (1865), De Vries (1900), Correns (1900) and

    Tscherrnarck (1900).

    133. Theory of mutations. By Korschinsky (1899) and De Vries (1900).

    134. Theory of the emotions. By James (1884) and Lange (1887).

    135. Theory of color. By Young (1801) and Helmholz.

    136. Sewing machine. By Thimmonier (1830), Howe (1846) and Hunt (1840).

    137. Balloon. By Montgolfier (1783), Rittenhouse-Hopkins (1783).

    138. Flying machine. Claimed by Wright (1895-1901), Langley (1893-7) and


    139. Reapers. By Hussey (1833) and McCormick (1834).

    140. Doubly-flanged rail. By Stephens and Vignolet.

    141. Steam boat. Claimed by Fulton (1807), Jouffroy, Rumsey, Stevens and Sym-

    mington (1802).

    142. Printing. By Gutenberg (1443) and Coster (1420-23).

    143. Cylinder printing press. By Koenig-Bensley (1812-13; and Napier (1830).

    144. Typewriter. Claimed by Beach (1847-56), Sholes? (1872) and Wheatstone


    145. Trolley car. By Van Doeple (1884-5), Sprague (1888), Siemens (1881) and

    Daft (1883).

    146. Stereoscope. By Wheatstone (1839) and Elliott (1840J.

    147. Centrifugal pumps. By Appold (1850), Gwynne (1850) and Bessemer (1850).

    148. Use of gasoline engines in automobiles. By Otto (1876), Daimler (1885) and

    Belden (1879?). 

    Sarah Mann
    posted    Report this post
    crystaldiane's Avatargold

    Great thread!   While testing my 'first generation' product (I sold early samples) I was delighted that people said "Hey you actually MADE MY Invention" - this came from one of my customers - I thought Whew, Maybe I am on the right path at LAST.  

    Patric J
    Sarah Mann
    posted    Report this post
    tesladog's Avatargold

    "I want to know, where is the Satellite orbiting the Earth that companies are using to suck ideas out of our heads, so they can steal them from us and not have to pay us?"

    -Roger Brown

    Roger, that's why I invented the Tinfoil Hat ;)

    Kim L
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    countofmontecristo's Avatargold

    "I want to know, where is the Satellite orbiting the Earth that companies are using to suck ideas out of our heads, so they can steal them from us and not have to pay us?"

    It's not a satellite, but a search engine or engines as the case is now.

    Well known fact that Google, Bing, and scores of other engines collect and analyze the search terms people use on a day to day basis.  You are giving your ideas right to them.

    Ask any former Google employee about the search ticker that is located in many offices. They get to look and sometimes laugh at the very words that interest people.

    For those who disagree look at my first patent...it was all about the data behind the scenes, not the convenience the front end provided to the end user.  ideas=patterns=data=money.  Pretty straight forward.

    Sarah Mann
    Patric J
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    rogerbrown's Avatargold

    I'm not worried,  knowing your search term still doesn't give them your iidea.The ones you have to worry about more are the ones you have doing your designs, prototypes, filing your PPAs, patents,etc. Those people know exactly what your idea is.

    Patric J
    posted    Report this post
    crystaldiane's Avatargold

    Oh my....shades of the thought police...no seriously...i thought this might be the case. I do think buying urls is the same risk..type and buy dont type and revisit...or am i paranoid

    posted    Report this post
    jdowney9000's Avatar

    jgttt...the satellite is located in Earths orbit...

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    rogerbrown's Avatargold

    Urls can mean so many things nowadays I don't see where they are as much a  threat of being stolen unless you are someone famous. Plenty of people buy names of athletes they see doing well in college in hopes they get a big professional deal and their name is worth something. I do see if you search a name and don't buy it I sometimes get ads based on that name. I also get plenty of spam around the names I do own and wanting me to register them with company X before it expires.

    I think you have a higher chance of someone coming up with your same idea then your URL. I have seen two Inventors in one Inventor group come up with basically the same idea. Each was inspired by a local story that ran in their paper and came up with the same solution. Their approach was different, but the end result was the same. They decided to join forces and work on the project together.

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    ring-go's Avatargold

    "They tell me they have never shown it to anyone, it is not even on paper, it is still in their head or they have it in a journal they wrote and just haven’t gotten around to moving forward with it. But, they are certain they stole it from them."

    This in my opinion is an unlikely scenario and hardly worthy of the possibilities. If we are to talk about the likelihood of coinciding concept origins, then I feel this is a poor example.  

    Ideas are stolen everyday and I would not recommend that anyone just settle for assumptions of the likelihood either way. Always feel free to investigate the facts.   

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    rogerbrown's Avatargold

    Michael, you would be surprised how many Inventors swear their ideas were stolen in a wide variety of less than plausable methods. Do I believe some Inventors have had their ideas stolen, yes. Do I think it is as many as some Inventors claim, no. But I can see where it is hard to prove and disprove on both sides of the fence.

    One of the ones that comes up with Inventors is for example lets say you sent your idea to Tupperware and they passed on it and 6 months later you see your idea on the market being made and sold by Rubbermaid. Would you claim that Tupperware stole your idea and sold it to Rubbermaid? Why would Tupperware do that?

    I had an Inventor swear I stole their idea basing their accusation on the fact that they had sent me an email a year earlier (we never talked on the phone)  where they asked me a couple of questions about submitting an idea to a specific company. They never told me their idea, they just asked questions about how to present their idea to company X. I answered their questions and never heard anything back from them until they accused me of steaing their idea. They said that company X had passed on their idea saying they were already working on something similar. So based on that they were claiming I told the company about their product since I had inside contacts within the company and went around him to get it there first.

    When I sent him his original emails and my responses I  asked him to show me where he made any mention of his idea, he could not show me where it was disclosed to me. And I mentioned that if they company patented the idea and I was the one that licensed it to them I would be listed on the patent as the Inventor which would not be hard to find. He later apologized saying he was just mad the idea he thought was going to make him rich was on the market and he took it out on me.

    I agree with you, Inventors should always investigate the facts if they feel a company has done them wrong. Most companies will want to make sure things are correct. They don't want the bad publicity. Because it doesn't take much for things to spread on the internet, good or bad. I have had my share of internet stalkers that tried to ruin my reputation for years, posting all sorts of trash on the internet, but it did not work. Some of them are still members here. 

    Inventors need to learn to keep good records of what and to whom they send things and make sure you have done your research to try and lessen your chances of coming up with something already on the market.

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    ring-go's Avatargold

    I agree that some ideas are stolen and some are not, but again you have used another rare scenario in which the inventor never shared his idea and then accused  you.

     I think to keep the topic relevant with  the majority of inventors on this site, most any situation would involve greater possibilities.

     I'm sure that most of us have more realistic situations that would leave us wondering. My point is to not be so quick  to disregard all the possibilities, based on stories of extreme paranoia. 

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    rogerbrown's Avatargold

    Michael, I used those scenarios for a couple of reasons. One, to illustrate how extreme some Inventors can be and the second illustration with Tupperware and Rubbermaid happens more than you think. Some Inventors think if they show it to company A and company G comes out with it som how the two companies are in bed with each other and doing a shell game to screw the Inventor. Then the Inventor goes on RipOff Report and other sites saying company A is a thief. Which goes back to why some companies are cautious to deal with outside ideas from Inventors. And why companies like EN are needed as a buffer between the company and the Inventor.

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    ring-go's Avatargold

    Well Roger, I don't know if the extremes are any more common than those with legitimate concerns and as far as it happening more than I think...? I don't know about that because I think a lot! lol! But as far as it relates to those here on the forums, I challenge those who have accused a company of stealing an idea from them that they have never shown? To share with us... I will wait with anticipation...  

    I wouldn't guess that company A would necessarily be in bed with any other "letter", but it's a big alphabet with all of their varied employees...so I would bet that it can happen more than we may think. 

    Let me give you one of my real world examples that happened to me and let me know what you think? 

    I had designed a formula and written children stories using this formula to create over half a million stories to be formatted on playing cards. This was about 25 years ago and it wasn't easy to source a company to print actual playing cards. But I did and it was with a company in Texas. The lady who owned the company had worked for Mattel as a corporate executive and had been with them for about 20 years before deciding to start her own company manufacturing poker chips and (as I found out later) jobbing out the playing cards to another company in Texas.

    The name of my cards were Story Maker and she loved them. She offered to show them to Mattel and thought that we might be able to work something out with them.

    I asked her to wait until I had Trademarked the name and had establish the first printing. She reluctantly agreed and we went forward with my design layout and a few short runs. Things were taking a long time to turn around on my orders and later I was to find out that she was not paying the printer when I was paying her. A little over a year later I received my first order of my market ready Story Maker cards and was eagerly mapping out my first stores. It was the holidays and I was hoping to make good on the peak sale season.

    It was during that month that my little girl was watching a Christmas special and yelled out to me saying "daddy look!" she had a big smile on her face as she watched the commercial of Mattel's latest and greatest "Story Maker" game. It was an electronic version of my concept.

    At the very beginning of my Story Maker endeavor my attorney had informed me that I needed to establish interstate commerce before I could file a Trademark. When I called him to find out if they had filed and when, he explained to me that there is also a "intent to use" Trademark that they had filed...about 6 months after I had started my dealings with my Texas contact. 

    What do you think Roger? I was never able to confront her on this because she passed away that Winter. But I suspect the obvious and this is not an isolated case by any means. 

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    rogerbrown's Avatargold

    Interesting story. I would have contacted Mattel and followed up with the to see if your contact had indeed worked with them on a better version of your idea. I would assume she had others in her company you could have contacted for further information.  If she did do that Mattel could have been completely innocent of any knowledge of your involvement in the project. What did you do with your game? Did you have any type of protection filed, any copyright?

    You mention doing runs and having your first order. Seems like that should have been your proof of it being your idea to go to Mattel. And you should have had emails and other paperwork to prove you were working with her and her offer to go to Mattel. Plus your attorney should have been able to write a cease and desist letter to Mattel to get their attention.

    Why did you let it drop?

    posted    Report this post
    ring-go's Avatargold

    Hey Roger, thanks for asking. First of all, theirs was not a better version to say the least. It was a "See and Say" sentence maker at best. After looking into the history of the company including many and varied stories of their less than stellar record of past events, I decided to side step them...I changed the name to Story Cards and yes, it is copyrighted, I moved forward with many local stores and eventually a distributor which took my Story Cards nation wide. I enjoyed 15 years of sales while Mattel's version was about an 18 month blitz. 

    The real story here has nothing to do with crying wolf, whether there is a wolf or not, the bottom line is your still just crying. You and I can never fight companies in these matters.

    Yes, you can say you were ripped off and maybe it was just a coincidence and maybe it was an injustice after all. My advice is if you are to succeed, you must do so by choosing who you do business with in the future. You see, most companies are short sighted...fiscal if you will...and we will leave them behind when moving forward. They know not what they are missing in those moments of our epiphanies..!      

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    rogerbrown's Avatargold

    You had a journey with a lot of twists and turns but you chose your own path to follow and found success. Nothing wrong with that.

    For myself if I felt I had a better than product I would have approached Mattel since I would have nothing to lose.

    Either way you have had a experience few have walked. Is there anything you would have done different knowing what you know now?

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    ring-go's Avatargold

    Not sure that I would've or could've done much different other than maybe updated them with new artwork and a bar code. My day job kind of got in the way and that wasn't a bad thing.

    My research into Mattel lead me to believe that it would never have amounted into anything good. Over the years I passed over Mattel when I looked to do business and that is my real point. If you don't believe that plagiarism is alive and well, then you may fall prey to working with the same company/problem over and over.

    I work with E.N. because I trust them, but that doesn't mean that they can't unwittingly become company A. With approximately 60 presentations of my own concepts with a guestimation of say 5 sponsor employees at each, you could say that my ideas have been shown in great detail to around 300 people. And that doesn't include all the exposure outside of the formal presentations. 

    I will always work with E.N. because for the most part I don't think their end of the boat has holes in it. But I am critical of some of the companies they work with and when I see what looks to me like more than a coincidence, I simply use that interpretation to steer clear of that company in the future.

    So yes, more than one person can have the same idea, but good common sense should not be left at the door.     

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    rogerbrown's Avatargold

    I use the Trust but verify method myself. I have been fortunate to work with companies that once they felt comfortable with you they will share more internal details of the company, what they are looking for and where to focus your creativity. 

    It has been an interesting journey seeing the public side of some companies versus the reality side. There are many companies that publicly say they will not look at anything from outside the company, but will in fact seek out certain Inventors to submit items to them for review. 

    Inventors don't realize how much they help justify the stereotype of the crazy Inventor by some of their actions. Many Inventors think they actions only affect themselves and don't realize it can affect all of us.

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