View Full Version : industrial parallels / patent limitations overlooked?

05-22-2007, 01:49 PM
Hello all,

There are ways of making emulsions used in other non-photographic industries that bear very close resemblance in their manufacture to the emulsions we talk about here. If an emulsion can be defined as being somewhere between a solution and a fine suspension, what else fits the bill? Pharmaceuticals? Paint, maybe? Polishes?

Could some of the more important physical fabrication processes that are 'obscured' in photo emulsion patents be easily discovered by looking at patents in other non-photo related industries?

Further, what if we are putting too much stock in certain photo patents without having first hand knowledge to fill in the blanks? Then, for all practical intents and purposes, you would be wasting your time unless you knew what they didn't put in the patent to begin with.

To put it another way; who would you rather trust with a delicate heart operation? Someone who just read about it, and says "yeah, I've done it", but can't prove it, or someone who had been doing the operation for 30 years?

How many 30 year professionals do we have in the audience? Show of hands, please?

Bob M.

05-22-2007, 01:52 PM
I don't understand your point; are you arguing that, if we don't have the experience then we shouldn't attempt to gain it?

Sounds like a fine plan for extinction, if that is what you meant! ;)

05-22-2007, 02:17 PM

You may be overlooking what I consider to be an important distinction. Are we talking about building a factory or are we talking about handcrafting emulsion?

As informative and entertaining as it is to learn about the history of Kodak or the minutiae of physical chemistry, at some point those details - if undifferentiated from the more intimate craft - may actually be a hinderance to the goal of artists making their own, customized printing paper.

If it is your hope to build a factory, may the gods be with you. If you want the be a photographer in control of your art from start to finish, I would encourage you to start making emulsions. The learning is in the doing.

Highest regards and best wishes.

Photo Engineer
05-22-2007, 02:38 PM
I agree with Denise. You can learn it as a craft and she has done this superbly and with her own finesse if I may call it that. She has done some very original work and created works of art.

OTOH, there is truth in what you say Bob from the stand point of trying to learn emulsion making from patents. It is very very difficult and can be very misleading.

So, from my perspective either POV has great merit. It depends on what you are doing. But Denise has demonstrated her 'prowess' if you will. Others talk of reading patents but have nothing to show for it. Again, what is important?

I have read thousands of books and written hundreds of reports, but I have never written a book. Does the reading and writing reports make me an author? I think not. But, if I write the emulsion book, and sell even 1 copy then I am an author. QED.

Denise is a photographer and an emulsion maker by that same reasoning, and a darn fine one at that! OTOH, there are those that are not anything until the "D" can go in the "QE".

For those who know no Latin QED is roughly and literally "Therefore is it demonstrated".


05-22-2007, 03:15 PM

PE is right. You have contributed some wonderful work, and it encourages me greatly to do my own. I am referring to handcrafting paper, not building a factory. If we can make our own materials we will never be without. I agree, in some cases the small details can be a hindrance if they divert resources and efforts. At some point, a person just has to stop discussing and start making emulsions and see for themselves.


Not at all. Precisely the opposite, in fact.

My point is that there are some people who frequent these forums, who say they know exactly what a patent is describing, and know exactly how to implement it, but have NEVER done the work to begin with. The only way to gain the knowledge of, and clearly understand what was deliberately left out of a particular patent, is to do the work. If we trust sources that refuse to backup their claims, then they are, by default, guaranteeing our extinction, because we will be trusting information that is very likely wrong, and / or has been proven wrong in the past. I can't make a good emulsion with bad information.

By the way, there appears to be misinformation occasionally posted on these forums that has to be constantly countered and corrected by those who do have the knowledge and experience and can back it up. Maybe there are others out there that would rather the rest of us not know how to make good paper emulsions, or learn to make our own film.


Bob M.

05-22-2007, 06:14 PM
Well, you are obviously not talking about me. I'd love to learn but I know just enought to be dangerous...

05-22-2007, 06:31 PM

I'm right with you. I have a very long way to go with emulsion making, and if we get the right information and technique and a lot of practice, we'll all get there together.

Bob M.

Photo Engineer
05-22-2007, 06:58 PM
Using patents to learn about emulsion making is like trying to figure out who won a fight by looking at participants muddled footprints in mud or snow. They are only evidence that something took place at a given spot.

I have said before that patents are filled with the words "this can be done by one skilled in the art". Patents are vitally important and are very useful for all parties concerned, but only after being taught how to read them and by being skilled in the art.

And so, coming back to the mud puddle, a skilled tracker could figure out how many were involved and could probably figure out how to follow the tracks of the person who won. The tracker would be skilled in the arcane art of tracking.

A patent is like a trail of breadcrumbs that lead one backwards through the entire art and also like a puzzle leading one to all of the pieces. A single patent though is missing all of its parts.

When you try to make an emulsion with missing parts, as Bob suggests, it can get expensive fast. Even knowing what I am doing, I have had some spectacular failures just due to faulty memory. And, some of the stuff I'm doing was never patented so it is even more difficult.


05-22-2007, 07:23 PM
I'm not sure if PE will agree with me here or not but...

I've logged many hours with IP and patent attorneys (thankfully, those hours are behind me) and when queried about their profession they have told me that the "art" of patent application-drafting involves trying to create the broadest possible scope for the patent while trying to ensure the patent can be defended in whatever jurisdiction it is drafted within - as well as ensuring that the content does not allow for "reverse-engineering" of the applications for which the patent was designed in domains where the patent cannot be enforced.

A tall order indeed.

The upshot of this is that you will rarely be able to apply the technology in a modern patent awarded in a developed nation to the pursuit of a specific application without a great deal of experience in the technical domain(s) concerned in the patent's content.

In other words, don't expect to find hard-and-fast proprietary developer formulas in them.;)

Photo Engineer
05-22-2007, 07:32 PM
Or emulsion formulas.

I agree completely. I see absolutely nothing to disagree about.

I just feel that one skilled in the art can follow the citations and end up with a pretty clear picture. But it is a winding path.


05-23-2007, 02:10 PM
You know, I just can't resist a challenge.

Bob M.