Above: Lincoln’s Inn as seen from Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London.
Up for today is my Harvard Business School (“the charm school on the Charles”) case study about the industry my Dad created — international patent renewals!
As the 1960s progressed, Dad’s new business quickly subsumed his “normal” patent practice. He did keep working for some select inventors who intrigued him but spent most of his time promoting his new renewal business as a modern, computerized clerical operation.
Corporate patent owners were delighted and sought him out. On the other hand, foreign patent law firms worldwide were scandalized! The renewal work for them was heretofore easy money; it was a simple annual reminder operation that brought in huge fees for little work. They accused Dad of skimming the cream off their businesses. Many fought back, in some cases by petitioning their local patent offices NOT to accept such payment schedules sent in from foreign offices in New York. However, some savvy patent law offices quietly became clients, preferring to take advantage of the lower fees and passing them along to their clients to curry favor.
Read More “THE NEW BUSINESS OF PATENT ANNUITIES”
This week, another repeat. This is the second most popular post on my site (after “WHAT’S IN A BORDER“) and I have to say it’s really gratifying.
Because this one is all about my Dad in his prime, at the top of his game. When he could do no wrong. It’s me in kvell-mode. Well, all right, three failed marriages by this time already. Nobody’s perfect, even critics.
But in a certain sense, he was really only married once.
I’ll have a new, fresh story from this time period shortly. And I’ll be back to those wretched investments in the mid-1990s before too long.
This week we go into why my Dad is famous, at least in the patent profession. The next three posts are about his greatest number one hit in the charts. And it’s big!
As you know by now, dear reader, Dad was married five times to five different women. But in a certain way, Dad was really only married once. It was not to a lady wearing a dress and lipstick (though there were more than a few of those around) but to a business soon to be called “Olcott International & Co.” It was his life, and his masterpiece, just as the Mona Lisa was to Leonardo da Vinci. (He greatly admired Leonardo and thought of himself easily as da Vinci’s equal). He could share this one true wife with no one and he guarded her with a jealous Latin-blooded fury. (As I and others would haplessly come to learn.)
Read More “DAD’S REAL WIFE”
As technology rolled into the mid-1990s, the price of IBM-compatible machines dropped precipitously at just about the same time that big boxes graced with cow motifs began to litter the floors of Olcott International.
It was the advent of Gateway Computers!
While Yoshi still felt he could build ‘em cheaper from scratch, there was no arguing that buying from vendors like Gateway saved both time and money. In the end, Yoshi didn’t complain about giving up one of his many jobs; he had enough to do in terms of managing the patent payment system and troubleshooting hardware from whatever vendor.
Soon after I returned to Olcott International in June 1992, my work PC was updated from DOS to Windows 3.1. In my recent post “ASSEMBLY, PART 2,” I marveled at Yoshi’s ability to build clones from scratch and soon thereafter sought the secret knowledge so I could do it myself too.
We had a lot of computers lying around in the “Computer Department.” In addition to my new Widows 3.1 machine, Steve, Peggy, Bob, and of course Yoshi had their own PCs, running both DOS and Windows. I needed both Operating Systems (“OS”) as I was creating data and testing our two Patent Management Systems (“PMS”) resident in both environments.
However, there was one more desktop machine in the “Computer Department.” A shiny box with a glittering and different OS. One that made ethereal sounds when booting up with a picture of a smiling face. In fact, it was no clone at all; it was made by the same company that jealously guarded its fancy-schmancy operating system and had popularized the use of a mouse in a point-and-click type of interface.
The Apple Macintosh computer. I mentioned this cult-in-a-box in my post “CUTTING EDGE AND TOTALLY COOL.”
Read More “PAIR OF DEUCES, PART 1”
By 1994, I was not only loading patent data into 3 different Patent Management Systems (“PMS”) – one for DOS, a second for Windows, and a third for Mac – and going on the road to demo them, I was also seeking ways to leverage business trends of the day to the marketing advantage of Olcott International.
However, as my readers well know, I operated under some daunting limitations – I knew that if I went out on a limb in terms of my non-existent authority, I could be subjected to painful rebukes in front of the employees. My last name offered me no protection from the boss; it merely singled me out for extra abuse. After all, the family name didn’t save anybody from getting trolled in Jamaica (Queens, not the West Indies) in the 1920s, 1930s, or afterwards. Not by a long shot.
Getting poorly paid to do little in your job is akin to a short-term stay in a shabby motel room on the outskirts of Hell. You don’t know when or to where they will move you, but you’re sure to like it less.
Read More “JOB WELL DONE. NOW STOP!”
In April 1992, I had one foot in two worlds.
One foot was planted in the familiar lush flagship Polo Ralph Lauren store on Madison Avenue, a marvel of seductive, dazzling, stylish, and pricey eye-candy. The other was a run-down office precariously hugging a cliff on the anus-side¹ of the Lincoln Tunnel, overlooking the double helix resounding with the roar of vehicular traffic. I dubbed that sound in my post “THE NIGHT IS DARK AND FULL OF TERRORS,” as the ‘soul grinder.’
The first was glamorous, but offered me little future career growth. The second was pretty much its antithesis on both counts (except, sometimes, for the travel).
To aspire to my greatest future potential, I had to risk the crushing of my essence.
Read More “GREEN EGGS AND HAM”
Sometime in late 1984, I drove out with my Dad to Newark Airport in his clunky 10 year old Mercedes Benz, the engine duly defanged so as to economize on the high cost of gas. Dad wasn’t a great driver. Driving with him was like taking a safari through cannibal-infested badlands. His signature move was to pull out into highway traffic much too slowly to the taste of neighboring motorists, due either to the underpowered engine or his “hell-can-care” attitude — pick one. Invariably, this would provoke generous amounts of honking and obscene gestures. Massive flocks of New Jersey state birds (“boids”) arose quickly all around us, “wings” fluttering, taking flight quickly into the air.
In other words, New Jersey drivers set their alarms to 3AM so they can wake up and hate that kind of driving. Across the river in New York, you would likely hear howls of “yer driving be stank, yo!”
Dad loved gratuitous comments about his driving. NOT. He certainly wasn’t shy about responding in turn. Loudly. Often at those moments, I wished I could disappear. Or get beamed up.
But this trip to James Riddle Hoffa Memorial Airfield (a/k/a Newark Airport) was not a run-of-the-mill journey. We were on our way to meet and pick up one Robert B. Gerhardt, a founding father of Master Data Center (“MDC”)¹, a leading competitor to Olcott International. Bob was a veritable Giant in the Patent Annuity business space. He was flying in from Detroit to discuss joining up with us. A strategic spear to be thrust deep into the sides of our competitors, not just MDC, but also CPA and CPI.
Read More “HIS NAME WAS BOB GERHARDT”
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.
Read More “TWO RABBITS, ONE DEAD”
Before I cover the apparently sudden demise of my father’s mother Patricia in Queens, NY, on August 22, 1943, let me backtrack a bit and take a look at her origins. At least the little that is known. So I go in search of… my paternal grandparents!
For that, my story today starts off on one beautiful bright Saturday morning in May 1985. I was in a rental car rolling through verdant countryside. The birds were chirping, the sun was streaming, and my Al Green cassette tape was cranking through the sound system; Al crooning “Love and Happiness.” It was a happenin’ morning!
Yet this was not your normal stretch of New Jersey Turnpike, say between Elizabeth and Rahway. Nor was I in a 1984 Buick LeSabre. This road trip was distinctive for many reasons!
Well for one thing, the player’s fast forward was broken so when I got to the end of the last song on side 1, I had to eject the tape, stick my finger into one sprocket, and twirl the tape around my finger until I got to the end of side 1 (which was the beginning of side 2).
But that was just a nit. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was rockin’ a recent vintage Volga sedan like the one pictured below.
Switch out I-95, and sub-in the fact that I was rolling southbound on the A4, a rural two lane highway in Soviet occupied Lithuania.
Read More “IN SEARCH OF… MY FATHER’S MOTHER!”
The scenes featuring Gloria in “The Lost Weekend” are said to be shot in PJ Clarke’s bar, still at the corner of Third and 55th, but no longer under the shadow of the El.
It was not “New York’s New Yorkiest” joint, however, as declared by Walter Winchell, the leading radio personality of the 1940s and 1950s. That honor fell squarely on The Stork Club.
Unlike PJ Clarke’s unfortunately, nothing is left today of The Stork. Owner Sherman Billingsley was arguably one of New York’s greatest celebrities from the 1940s and 1950s. Where he once fought union pickets and sabotage, while throwing customers out (who dared to patronize the rival Harwyn club), a peaceful pocket park marks the former location of the famous glitzy eatery and bar.
There aren’t that many relics of old New York left. Probably one of the best “New Yorkiest” venues still in existence is the storied Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. It’s a puzzling institution in that many New Yorkers don’t seem to know about it. When I asked my Dad where he went to college, he told me proudly “Cooper Union” and when he noticed my quizzical look, proceeded to tell me about it.
Read More “THE PROVENANCE OF DILIGENCE”