The Never-Ending Patents

Last week I looked at the patents for the Breidfjord and Robert Larsen’s trawls and realised that patents – and the people who made them – were going to be crucial in establishing a timeline for mid-water trawling. This, however, meant that I am now faced with a even larger pile of reading than anticipated…

A worldwide patent search brought up 60-odd entries for “otter” boards alone – with the search only extending as far as 1960. Judging by the patents so far – which I am now creating a database for – patents for trawl and trawling technology started around the 1890’s. What’s interesting is that search terms like “pelagic”, “aimed” or “mid-water” trawl(ing) throw up hits from the 1950’s onwards – but “surface” fishing/trawling has hits from 1895  onwards, especially the intriguingly named Gustav Larsen of Norway, who took out a British patent for his ‘Improved Fishing Tackle or Apparatus for Net-fishing’. This initially looks like another demersal trawl, until you get to the description: ‘A fishing tackle designed to operate at the surface or at any suitable depth of the water when towed by a ship…’. This, combined with Skrmetti’s ‘floating trawl’, patented in the USA in 1924 (Skrmetti states his nationality as Austrian on the patent form) suggests that the the idea does begin a good half-century before Robert Larsen picked up the idea and patented it himself – he didn’t file his trawl patent until 1949.

The downside of all this information is that not all of it is relevant, but in order to find that out I have to read it… Not to mention that the only way to effectively store and assess this information is to input everything into a spreadsheet to keep track of it all. And I’ve not searched for keywords like “surface”, “fishing tackle” or “trawl door”. So the next two weeks are going to be busy with searching, downloading and inputting patent information.

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