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Grant Romer, on:
photography patents

Grant Romer Q: The history of photography was really the history of patents?

Many people think the history of photography is the history of invention. But the history of the photography much more significantly is the history of patenting inventions, controlling certain ideas, certain principles, certain techniques, certain devices of photography, and keeping other people from commercially exploiting your ideas. The history of the Kodak company still to this day is very much about litigations in relationship to certain concepts and ideas.

Q: Just give me some examples in his early firm of the importance of these patents for George Eastman.

Well, the very beginning of photography, experiments that Daguerre and Niepce start, is about the idea of commercially controlling the idea and invention of photography. And when the announcement was made in 1839, there were immediate attempts made to patent and to control and commercially exploit all of the concepts, all of the techniques of photography. So that by the time Eastman begins his experiments 30-40 years later, there has already been a tremendous history of the patenting and exploiting of ideas in photography that he has before him. And he understands the importance of that, that you could very easily lose your idea and not profit by it, if you didn't take the proper steps to protect it-- buying of licenses to practice certain ideas. The technology was constantly progressing, so that you had faster and faster exposures, or the potential of color photography that was in the mind of people, that if somebody came up with that invention, oh, that was the key to riches and fortune. This was part of photography for the photographers of the period. And when Eastman entered that fraternity, he entered that arena, and really had a clear vision from the very beginning how central that was to his interest, I think. It wasn't in making pictures; it was in making money from making pictures.

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