TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: AT&T Licensed the Transistor For Free

Re: AT&T Licensed the Transistor For Free

Wed, 18 May 2005 19:49:06 -0700

In article <>,
Tony P. <> wrote:

>> I presume other Bell Labs patents were also available free; indeed, I
>> never knew of AT&T making money from licensing its many inventions.
>> It appears patents were more for freedom of use than profit. IBM
>> adopted a similar policy in the 1950s. Both did so from anti-trust
>> settlements.

> Hmmm ... among other things they pretty much gave away:


> Fiber Optics

Just for the historical record (no patent rants, not in this msg anyway):

* Ammonia maser -- absolute first ever "maser/laser" type device, but
pretty much of zero practical use -- was invented and operated by
Townes at Columbia around 1951-1954. Patent may have been assigned to
Bell Labs, don't recall, but its licensing value would have been
minimal at best.

* Microwave solid-state maser -- the first maser device which really
had some practical uses, and which also stimulated much subsequent
laser development -- was invented by Bloembergen at Harvard in 1956.
He also got a really good patent on it, which very likely could have
been read, justifiably, to cover many later laser devices; but neither
Bloembergen nor Harvard were in the patent exploitation business in
those early days.

* Patent battle between BTL/Townes and Gould over the laser I've
referred to in another post -- and of course _the_ first (ruby) laser
(which really broke open the whole field) actually came from Maiman at
Hughes, and had very little connection with anything that had happened
or was happening at Bell.

* The really crucial breakthrough in fiber optics, for telecomm apps
anyway, was the development of the methods for fabricating truly
low-loss fibers that are still used today, and that was at Corning,
not Bell, around 1972. Also, diode lasers, the other crucial
component, came almost simultaneously from Lincoln Labs, GE Research
Labs, and IBM Res Labs in 1962.

(Not to say that BTL didn't eventually do an immense amount of
research and make many contributions in both lasers and fiber optic

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