US Patent No. 821,393 was granted to the pioneering brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright, 110 years ago; and disappeared after being loaned to the Smithsonian Museum by the US National Archives in 1980.  Now, all these years later, it has been rediscovered in a limestone cave in Kansas.

Original Patent Paperwork

The paperwork shows that the Wright brothers were canny as well as inventive: the patent application was filed nine months before their ‘flying machine’ had even been successfully airborne. The brothers would have been aware that they were not the only people close to making a flight, and wanted to ensure that their invention was properly and legally protected.  That first flight, when it came in December 1903, lasted just 12 seconds and covered 37 metres.

Patent not Missed for 20 Years

It wasn’t until 2000 that the National Archives realised the patent document was missing.  In fact, it was one of a number of documents that could not be found, including photographs from the moon landings, letters from Abraham Lincoln and Eli Whitney’s patent for cotton gin.

The cave where the Wright brothers’ patent was found is actually a storage cave for the National Archives, where large numbers of documents are kept because there is no room for them in the main Archives building.  It appears that the loss of the patent was a simple case of mis-filing.

Patent Advice from SH&P

For advice on your historical patent portfolio, or to discuss acquiring protection for a brand new invention, the patent attorneys at Stevens Hewlett & Perkins can help.  We work with individual inventors, small businesses, multi-national companies and research organisations to ensure that their discoveries and advances are properly protected in the UK and overseas.

Our advice is always commercially-driven, so that we are working together with you to help you achieve your goals – whatever they may be.  Your first meeting with us is completely free of charge, so we can answer your questions without you incurring any costs.

To find out more, why not book an appointment today?