May 01, 2014

A Patent History of Filmmaking

Gene Quinn

©2014. Published in Landslide, Vol. 6, No. 5, May/June 2014, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.

The history of film is a long one that, by some accounts, extends as far back as the early 1700s to the discovery by German physicist Johann Heinrich Schulze that silver salts react to light exposure by becoming darker in color.1 By the late 1800s, celluloid film had appeared, and the ability to record motion pictures through a camera had become a reality. In 1889, George Eastman perfected the first commercial transparent roll film, one year after beginning to use the name “Kodak” to market his cameras.2 Eastman’s flexible film advancement made it possible for Thomas Edison to develop his motion picture camera in 1891. Edison called his first generation picture camera a “Kinetoscope,” after the Greek words kineto, which means “movement,” and scopos, which means “to watch.”3 Edison filed a patent application on the Kinetoscope on August 24, 1891, and the patent ultimately issued on August 31, 1897.4

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