PAIR OF DEUCES, PART 4

Nine months after the botched installations at Mark Chapman’s Trade Mark Office and Molecules R Us, Inc., it was a chilly late February morning in 1995. I was sitting at my desk on the second floor back at the Weehawken office. During this period, I was responsible for marketing with no, as in zero, authority to actually get much done.

Suddenly, I had developed a new-found interest in curing our software defects large and small.

Behind me, Steve was tapping away on his keyboard, probably writing code for the Olcott Intellectual Property Management Software (“OIPMS”). Peggy was around the corner, attending to some marketing follow-up. Yoshi was downstairs in the Computer Center, which was a large room featuring several PCs, a mini-computer, various computer parts like mother boards, dead mice, shells, and, bizarrely, in one corner, a portion of Palisades’ basalt protruding through the cement slab floor.

With no warning, Dad rolled into the room and announced, loudly, “Steven!” This was his way of saying that he wanted to meet and review OIMPS. Occasionally, this included major design changes. Which presented, at times, some very tough engineering challenges.

These review sessions were typically dreadful and sorry affairs. Frequently, they started by Dad walking in and offering “on-the-spot guidance” only to end by shouting insults to the computer department staff for errors mostly (but not always) provoked by him.

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IN DEMAND, AND THEN NOT, PART 2

Off the north shore of Nassau, capital city of the island nation of the Bahamas, sits an island formerly known as Hog Island. Up until 1959, it was a private estate belonging to a Swedish entrepreneur named Axel Wenner-Gren.

Wennergren

Axel.  By http://www.ericssonhistory.com/templates/Ericsson/Article.aspx?id=2068&ArticleID=1336&CatID=366&epslanguage=SV, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4105629Axel’s may not be a recognizable name today, but in his time, he was one of the world’s wealthiest men. Born into humble means in 1881, he was one of six children, of which three had died in childhood. After spinning his wheels as a salesman of agricultural machinery in fin de siecle Germany, he wandered past a storefront in Vienna in 1908 to marvel at a new device called a “vacuum cleaner.”

The sucking machine obviously intrigued him.  Clearly, in this case, he was thinking “outside of the box,” especially when you consider that his past business experiences was in the spice trade or the aforementioned farm equipment. When his attempts to become a distributor were rebuffed, somehow he managed to purchase a 20% stake in the company. A few years later, he made his coup when he persuaded Electrolux to buy the underlying patent in return for shares of the Swedish company’s stock.

That was the winning ticket!

ONE KEEPS THE BOOKS, ANOTHER WRITES THE CHECKS

Hopefully, neither one grabs the cash and runs!

This story is a continuation of THE TROUBLE WITH CHERRY.

Mike dropped the forged checks back into a folder.  “We’ll confront Cherry later this morning,” he said to me softly, so no else could hear. “I’ll come get you.”

Shocked to learn of this episode of check forgery, I walked slowly back to my desk and tried to lose myself in the work of international renewals. As I wrote in my last story, I wasn’t sure why this discovery affected me so much. But it had. I could barely think of anything else. I pushed my papers around mindlessly and listlessly. Maybe I got off an order of renewals to Brazil or France when Mike popped his head downstairs, looked at me, and motioned with his head that it was showtime.

On the second floor, I joined Mike and my Dad. On the way over to Cherry’s office, Dad tapped Bob Gerhardt to join us. Seemed to me that Bob had been tipped off as well as to what was about to go down.

CRASHES NEXT TO ROOM 31

Today, on tap for you is a repeat, my number one post from last year.  Please do continue to look under those motel mattresses, if you are a road warrior.

Crashes were not always relegated to software programs. Sometimes I experienced other kinds.  And they often happened close to the office.  Or next to scary places nearby.

In late spring 1994, Dad and I made a marketing call to a potential client without Bob. It was a major telecom company based in northern New Jersey, about an hour’s drive from Weehawken. The prospect was already running one of our competitor’s patent management systems, and wasn’t looking for a change. Rather, this was going to be a straight-up discussion about annuity payment services, right down Dad’s alley.

After some preparation, we plunked down inside my Dad’s lobotomized Mercedes Benz and traced our way to the company via the Garden State’s ribbon of expressways as guided by a crusty folded highway map.  As mentioned in my post “HIS NAME WAS BOB GERHARDT,” Dad had a method of increasing gasoline efficiency in automobile engines. It involved disabling multiple cylinders within the engine based on the simple premise that each cylinder is a source of fuel consumption and combustion. If you can shut them off, you will consume less fuel.

What could be simpler?

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

Around 5 PM on an early summer’s day in the mid-1960s, Dad finished up his workday in his small suite in the Pan Am Building, towering above 42nd Street in mid-town Manhattan.  I stared at him. It was the end of the day, and Lenny, Dad’s Pall Mall chain-smoking secretary, was long out the door.

I was hungry and ready for my supper. But, typically, Dad had just one more thing to do before Miller time (for him, not me). It was always a letter that had to be mailed, a thick fat one. Stuffed full of papers, the envelope sat on Lenny’s desk, already addressed to a foreign patent office. The zip code was an indecipherable jumble of numbers and letters. Festooned with large denomination stamps, the likes of which I had never seen before, this package of computer print-outs and a foreign currency bank draft was destined for the post office. And then some foreign patent office out in the big, wide world beyond!

THE BIGGER IDEA (AND ME AS WINGBOY)

Everyone has a shining moment. My Dad’s bears repeating. He really slayed it!

So Dad got the idea for a fantastic business related to patent filings and infringements, kind of an amalgam between legal and IT but not a legal practice, strictly speaking. As I am able to remember it, he had become friendly with Ed Greer, who was head patent counsel for the Union Carbide Corporation. Union Carbide was one of the biggest chemical corporations of the day and was headquartered in their own magnificent skyscraper two blocks up Park Avenue from the Pan Am Building.

It was a probably a simple matter for Dad to put it together that large corporate patent owners could benefit from some form of computer calendaring.
Keep in mind that a large company like Union Carbide owned a large portfolio of patents. They would initially file patent applications in the home country, USA for Union Carbide. And as they were a large multinational corporation selling their wares everywhere, once the patent applications were accepted here at home, they would then engage in an international filing program elsewhere, typically the largest 15 countries in Western Europe and then Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and maybe Brazil and South Africa to boot.

HOW TO EXPLAIN THAT YOUR PARENT IS STRANGE

In a midtown Manhattan lawyer’s office in early 1995, I found myself sitting opposite from one of New York City’s sharpest legal minds. I had called Kord Lagemann a week or two earlier and asked for an appointment.  I had some important questions for him.  He had represented my Dad in his legal action (arbitration, actually) against Herby Wellington, the churning stock broker from “Slaminger” brokerage.  Kord had won a million dollar settlement in Dad’s favor, proving that he not only talked the talk but walked the walk.

Kord studied me intently as he lit his pipe. Although dressed professionally, he looked like he had stepped off a ferry at the Aker brygge ferry terminal in central Oslo.  Opening the meeting, I thanked him for his efforts on behalf of my Dad and the family.  After a serene pause, Kord responded that Slaminger’s actions and those of its broker had been clearly abusive and excessive.  He had been happy to help.

Pressing on, I explained to him the reason for my visit. My Dad had recently received a “present” consisting of a brand new red BMW from Herby. And, as a result, Dad had now reopened a stockbroking account with the aforementioned broker, the one that Kord had successfully sued.  Kord showed no reaction as he puffed on his pipe and listened to my concerns attentively.

“You’re right,” he told me, “There is reason for concern.” But there was nothing he or I could do.  Meeting over.  I was stunned.