More on patents
There is another thread about the Light Farm that begun to digress as posts about patents were discussed. Here is some additional insight (again).
In a normal patent, let us say about t-grains, the patent discloses a method to make t-grains. It will work. But, this patent need not disclose the fact that a metal salt is added, such as Iridium, to improve reciprocity. It does not disclose the optimum gelatin, it does not disclose any keeping addenda, and it does not disclose the optimum sulfur + gold sensitization.
To get those items one must go to as many as 4 different patents, but since those patents do not need to talk about t-grains, the amounts used and methods of addition may be for cubes or octahetra or K-grains (klunkers). The method and amount of any of these might be vastly different for optimum performance on a t-grain. Those patents also work, and use the words "application to any emulsion type is possible by one skilled in the art". This means that if a new emulsion comes out someday, this method applies to it as well, we just don't have to reveal that information because we don't know yet ourselves. The method is so generic though that a good photographic engineer can eventually figure it out.
In addition, there are trade secrets applied during manufacturing that may completely alter the action of a given emulsion. This might include the fact that only one surfactant or hardener is good with this t-grain, and all others are not good.
So, the fundamental patent on making 1 micron, graded iodide t-grains with a given aspect ratio works, but is impossible to interpret unless you are: "one skilled in the art". Even reading the other related patents does not give a complete picture due to the fact that trade secrets need not be patented. In fact, once used in a product, trade secrets cannot be patented as that is considered to be 'disclosure' of the invention.
I would also add that cited patents do not tell the whole story. They lead one back on a trail of related t-grain patents (if any) but not to addenda or finishing even if those patents exist. Now, to date, I see few patents on emulsion finishing and this is a critical step. In fact, it is one of the most critical and most secret at Kodak.
I worked with the originator of Kodak's highest speed emulsion during scaling from R&D to production. I would assume it to be on the order of 1600 speed, but I know nothing about the finish, as it was done after my work with the emulsion was done. It was even done by another department.
I hope this extends your understanding of the fact that patents can end up being nearly useless.
If my understanding is correct, a patent is not a full set of instructions on how to build or create something, it is just a document to show that you own an idea.
It only needs enough general detail to show that the idea was yours in case of any infringement in the future.
Some patents I have seen are far too specific and have allowed people to get round them by using the same process but in a slightly different application.
"People who say things won't work are a dime a dozen. People who figure out how to make things work are worth a fortune" - Dave Rat.
If there is a t-grain patent, it must be specific enough so that anyone using the method of the patent and make a t-grain, but it does not need to show the optimum method such as speed of mixing, position of the inlets, baffles, mixer type and a whole host of things that make an emulsion better than average. It only shows how to work.
Nicola Tesla is reported to have built a machine that caused his lab building to collapse by "gravity waves". Now, all I can say is that history records the collapse, and the patent exists, but no one has been able to duplicate his work. Was it truth or a lie? Who knows?
As for patents being specific, yes, some are and these are generally bad patents from my POV.
Originally Posted by Photo Engineer
Against my better judgment, you are forcing me to issue a "Cranky Alert".
We all know by now that reading patents is fraught with pitfalls. But, it appears to me that the worst that can happen is that we may not be able to clone a particular product - on our first try - with ingredients bought at Rite Aid Drugstore - with one hand tied behind our back.
I'm the last one to claim that some products won't be a challenge. Where's the fun if we could buy these things off the shelf? Hey, wait, we still can, by and large. Some of us enjoy the challenge and are quite confident that we will succeed in our goals. At the very least, we will know we tried. We may even discover something brand new and better along the way. Art and science are like that.
So, Please! stop pointing out all the challenges. At least, try to refrain from making it sound like they are insurmountable. Many people have pointed out that emulsion maker or even analog photographer newbies visiting this site for the first time could get downright discouraged and run screaming back to their DSLR's and inkjet paper.
I'm not advocating pollyanna sunshine propaganda. I would like to see a little more optimism about the future of a field that means heart and soul to some of us.
I agree with you about making emulsions. I'm making a statement about patents, not about emulsion making per se. This goes to the Tesla example as well or thousands of others in electronics and other complex technologies. If it were insurmoutable, I would have given up and never bothered to join APUG nor would I be doing emulsion work.
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Originally Posted by dwross
On ballance, I think PE makes a valuable point.
Newbies need to be aware of the difficulties that await them.
One of PEs students recently told me that he simply does not have the time to spend mixing up chemicals... In fact didn't many pros have others do their processing and printing work so they could spend more time shooting? From personal experience, I can tell you, it is quite easy to cease being a photographer and become an instant nobody... not a photographer, not an engineer and not making any money!
Newbies do need to be aware.
That said, I am not looking back. For me the future is Golden!
Entrance to the Magic Theater is not for everybody.
For madmen only.
Thats why I need an apprentice, not that I can pay him.
I am interested in what you think about patent length.
I enjoy reading patents that are only a few pages long,
but smiles can get turned upside down reading those that approach 100 pages!
I hate long patents too. We were encouraged to be consise at Kodak and to describe our invention as tersely as possible. I guess those with 100 page patents didn't listen.
Well, Ron and Ray, I think this is the point we amicably agree to disagree. Is there any way you can think that newbies aren't aware of the difficulties of analog? It is easy for those of us who started in photography when Ansel Adams still walked the Earth to think that digital is the new kid on the block and most photographers still understand the vocabulary and ballet of film. Probably no longer true. If someone whose experience with photography has been exclusively digital comes here, they immediately see threads on the life threatening hazards of darkroom chemicals, the lists of products going down (why even bother with x, y, or z process?), the growing expense, the potential criminality of setting up a tripod in a public place, and...I'm sure there are more.
Yes, I'm guessing a newbie is 'aware' of the difficulties of analog.
As for the time photographers have to be photographers? It is easy to fall into the hubris that 'I'm too great and important an artist to get my hands wet. The genius is being able to point and click, right? Let minions do the rest.' This attitude feeds the digital monster. (disclaimer: I love my new Pentax K10). So, you fill card after card with image files, run them through some or another magic program and output to an inkjet printer. Doesn't get much more time efficient than that. The product can be beautiful and perfect, and little by little we're being sold on the idea that virtual perfection is the gold standard of photography.
I think we need a brand new paradigm for photography. Something akin to the Slow Food movement. Do you produce just one stunning photograph a month? Fantastic. You made it yourself. There will be no other prints exactly like it seen again. It challenges our ideas of efficiency and success, but I think it's an idea whose time has come (again).