The storied history of Olcott International has been covered in detail over the last year and a half.
As you may recall from my post “THE END OF AN ERA,” the company had its origins when the proposed merger between the British patent leader Marks & Clerk and Bernard Olcott & Associates fell apart in 1969. The partners of the former founded Computer Patent Annuities in St. Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands. My Dad founded Olcott International in Weehawken, New Jersey. So it was henceforth a battle of the Jerseys. Think Bayonne versus Bermuda. (Rodney Dangerfield once boasted of his summer house in the former).
Remember how I wrote that it was Dad’s idea that their proposed joint venture be based in the Channel Islands (to avoid Inland Revenue’s excessive tax rates in the late 1960s)? The aforementioned partners of Marks & Clerk relocated to picturesque St. Helier setting up shop there (to reduce their tax bite). One of the partners, Ray Chinnery, has a son my age, Martin who informed me that, thanks to my Father, he grew up in Jersey, not his native Birmingham (England, not Alabama). Rock fever notwithstanding, Martin still lives and works there!
The events in my last post, “TWO RABBITS, ONE DEAD,” recount the events of one bleak day in January 1995.
Everyone is entitled to a bad day once in a while. If those events of 21 years ago had represented just one isolated blip in the story of a triumphal family saga, it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal.
Sadly, it wasn’t just a one-off but was part of a frequently distressing pattern.
It didn’t start off that way, of course, when I began my career at Olcott International a different January a dozen years before that, in 1983.
As I have written in various posts like “SOMETHING ABOUT DAD, PARTS 1 AND 2” and “HEARTBREAKER,” Dad wanted me to join the family business even though various warning signs made me ambivalent toward the idea. After all, you should always know who your business partners are. If they’re your parents, you don’t need to do a background check to find out.
As an example, I can perform due diligence in my case by asking a few questions:
So after glory on trips away, say in London as described last week in my post “ODD THINGS ABOUT TRIPS,” what was life like back in the office in Weehawken?
The following story sums it up.
One day in January¹ 1995, my Dad and Olcott International CEO Bernard Olcott came down to the second floor, where I was working at the time and insisted to Steve², the lead computer programmer that a granted European Patent be placed in a list (actually, a test database) of payable items as an “EPO item.” Now, please bear with me on the details that follow; they are important.
The problem was, once a European patent is granted and “goes national,” it is no longer payable as an “EPO item” – it becomes payable at each national patent office, like UK, France, or Germany as a British, French, German item or patent. Only as a pending application in the European Patent Office is it payable as an “EPO item.”
Just the kind of distinction Dad loved to make. He prided himself immensely on his profound, perhaps photographic, recall of such details for patent renewals among countries. After all, he wrote the book on patent renewals!
In this case, though, he was oddly off. It was unusual, bordering on the weird.
All pictures of holes in hand, Bobby drove us back to Kansas City International Airport for our flight back to Newark. I remember looking out the window on our descent, seeing only white. Suddenly, below me, the New Jersey Turnpike appeared in patches out of the murk, looking cloudy, grayish, and flakey. It was snowing, and it looked like it had been at it for a while. We were so low over the white roadway, I thought we were going to land on it.
From brown Kansas to white New Jersey. To be sure it had been a kind of odd-ball trip. Going to Kansas to take pictures of holes. More typically, my business trips back then took me to London, which was a very different kind of experience. For one thing, England (the tourist web site has a page for “things to do on a rainy day.”) is a very “wet” country, and I developed a liking for pints hand drawn from the draught. No need to buy a membership – everyone was a member!
This post is about England.