Anticipate This!™ | Patent and Trademark Law Blog

A Statue for Toulmin.

Posted in General Commentary by Jake Ward on October 11, 2006


In the small city of Springfield, Ohio, now stands an 8-foot statue dedicated to the Wright Brother’s patent attorney, Harry Toulmin.  Mr. Toulmin was the patent lawyer who prepared and prosecuted the patent for Wilbur and Orville Wright’s flying machine . . . yes, the original airplane.

According to this article at, Toulmin helped the Wright brothers apply for five patents, including the 1906 flying machine’s patent (U.S. Pat. No. 821,393 or the ‘393 patent).  Other Wright patents also include U.S. Pat. Nos. 908,929987,662, 1,075,533, 1,122,348, 1.504,663, and 1,523,989,

The above article fails to mention, however, that the brothers only turned to Toulmin after the original application they had drafted themselves was rejected by the USPTO.  The ‘393 patent drafted by Toulmin had broad claims covering methods of controlling a flying machine, regardless of whetherthe machine was powered.  In particular, the patent described a system that allowed the aircraft to be controlled in flight, and specifically a feature like ailerons allowing lateral control. 

Toulmin also played a key role in the more than 20 years of fierce legal battles over the Brother’s patents.    In particular, in 1908 the Wright’s had warned Glenn Curtiss, who had built a large manufacturing center for aircraft, not to fly or sell aircraft that used ailerons. Curtiss refused to pay license fees to the Wrights and sold a plane to the Aeronautic Society of New York in 1909. The Wrights then filed a lawsuit, beginning a years-long legal conflict that ended in January 1914  when a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the verdict in favor of the Wrights.  See this Wikipedia article for more information.

The Toulmin sculpture is stationed across the street from an office building Toulmin occupied after moving his patent law practice from Washington in 1886.  Apparently, Springfield officials also plan to erect statues of Orville and Wilbur Wright.  I think the homage paid to Toulmin here is fitting, as the collaboration between an inventor and a patent attorney can often, and particularly in this instance, result in a patent of broader value than even the inventor may have realized.

One Response

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  1. Jake Ward said, on October 10, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Reblogged this on Anticipate This!™ | Patent and Trademark Law Blog and commented:

    A top post at the AT! Blog recently – and one of my favorites over the past several years. Enjoy!

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