Monday, November 9, 2020

Putting Pen to Paper with Patent Innovation

When you think about images of the first writing instruments, you envision charcoal, paint brushes and quill pens. The image of Shakespeare dipping a quill pen into an ink well come to mind. The ink smeared, it blotched and it took time to dry. You know the sign of a writer by the ink all over their hands (and their poverty, of course). The poverty part is still true, about the starving writer, right?

There are many key inventions related to the pen, but none so significant as the ball-point pen. The most significant developments involving the ballpoint pen can be traced to Hungarian inventor László Jozsef Bíró. Stephen Brackman provides a great history of ball-point invention and the patent history at IPWatchdog.

The reason that anyone and everyone ended up with dozens of pens is because of 
 Bic. Marcel Bich (company name was shortened to Bic) was the key player in this mass production product bringing the pen down to $1 or so per pen from hundreds of dollars per pen (converted to current price equivalents). Bic licensed the patent technology from Bíró, and also had a couple design patents.

A great article about the evolution of the ball-point pen is presented in BBC by Stephen Dowling (Oct 29, 2020). As you read through, read through this exceptional history, think about the monks copying books by hand, and how far and how fast we have moved forward with the printing press, the pen, the mail.  All still in use today. (Well, not the original printing presses...)

Another fun article is about other patents in the ink printing space. Here are 5 Fascinating Pen Patents at the Fun Facts section of Jet Pens. You want to read and look at the pix!:-) Here are the 5 patents:

  • Pilot Frixion Erasable Gel Ink Pen. That’s right, you write in this special ink and the eraser erases it. (Kinda, thermal makes the ink invisible.)
  • Fisher Space Pen. The pen that has pressurization, so it works up-side-down and in space.
  • Lamy Dialog 3 Fountain Pen. This fountain pen retracts and then a solid ball covers the nib so it doesn’t dry or leak.
  • Field Notes Color Cover Memo Book, Expedition Edition. This specialized book has Yupo synthetic paper that is waterproof, tear-proof and 100% recyclable. So this is not really a pen, but for a pen to work, you do need paper. You will want to take this book and your space pen on your Himalayan adventure.
  • Sakura Gelly Roll Gel Ink Pens. The ink in these pens has metallic and glitter. Since the ball-point pen works on the idea of a very smooth, even flow of ink, this is an interesting technology to achieve. 

Even with the invent of the computer, there are times when you want to, or need to, write. Studies show that you retain information better when you right them down, even if you don't revisit the notes. You retain better with handwritten notes than typed notes. 

What do you think are other great pen, or writing related, inventions?
What do you think is the next great, or not so great, invention related to the mighty pen?