Lights, Camera, Action! Movie Patents Past & Present
Before Tinseltown, there was Thomas Edison. Regarded today as one of the greatest inventors of all time, Edison was an innovator in all industries, acquiring over 1,000 patents for his creations, though, most people know him as the inventor of the lightbulb. Fewer people know that Edison was also involved in the early film industry and is responsible for creating one of the earliest versions of a movie camera, called a Kinetograph. As revolutionary as it was, the Kinetograph was just the beginning. Inspired by Edison’s development of a motion picture camera, Louis and August Lumiere of France created a joint movie camera and projector, which they named the Cinematographe, a unique device that allowed them to screen motion pictures for a large audience. Similarly, Brothers Grey and Otway Latham, along with their father, Woodville, are attributed with creating the first projector for American audiences in 1895, called the Panopticon. Most of these patents, and several others, were later swept up by the Motion Picture Patents Company in 1908. This trust (aka the Edison Trust) was made up of 10 of the top film companies at the time and monopolized the film industry until it was dissolved by the court less than a decade later. During its reign, the Motion Picture Patents Company secured the rights to almost all of the early major film patents. It is also said to have been responsible for the birth of the Hollywood film industry.
As Hollywood started to take off, companies like Paramount, Warner Brothers and MGM rose to the top and, with the introduction of the “talkies” in the late 1920s, were producing roughly 500 new films each year. Technicolor was also establishing itself as a staple in the movie industry, with films like the Wizard of Oz (released in 1939) and has managed to stay relevant today, with more than 40,000 patents in its intellectual property portfolio. Now, Universal Studios, Columbia Pictures and 20th Century Fox have joined Paramount, Warner Brothers and MGM as some of the top film companies of our time.
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