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31/8/1897: Edison Declares War

Thomas Edison

Back in 1891, when Thomas Edison filed for a patent for his Kinetoscope, he could have little known the significance the granting of it would play in the burgeoning movie industry six years later.   The patent was finally issued on the 31st August 1897 due to delays because of appeals made by Edison regarding the denial of several previous patent applications.   Following the explosion of competition in the business since 1895, obtaining the patent had taken on crucial importance in Edisonís mind, for he saw it as the instrument by which he could put his rivals out of business and thus monopolise the film industry.

In December 1897, Edisonís lawyers, Dyer & Dyer, informed Charles Webster and Edmund Kuhn of their clientís intention to sue them for infringement of his patent.   Webster was a former employee of the Vitascope Co. whose projectors were manufactured and sold by Edison, and it was while he was in their employ that he met Kuhn whose wife hand-coloured Edison films at the West Orange studio.   Webster was sent to London by Vitascope on 22nd April 1896 to test the European market, which he did with only moderate success.   While there, however, Webster was impressed by the superior quality of the European competition and, in October 1896, he left Vitascope to form the Cinographoscope Company.   At the same time, he formed the International Film Company with Kuhn.   At first they made dupes of Edisonís films, but it wasnít long before they were producing 35mm films of their own and selling them to independent exhibitors.

However, the awarding of the Kinetoscope patent had, in Edisonís eyes at least, made him the sole inventor of animated projections, and gave him the right to bring proceedings against his rivals, their selling agents and any independent exhibitors who showed his rivals films, for infringement of that patent.   The International Film Company, and Maguire and Baucus, distributors of International and Lumiere films who were the second company to feel Edisonís wrath, were comparatively small organisations and, faced with the weight of Edisonís empire, were left with no option but to cease trading in the case of International, or to trade under licence to Edison.   The following year, however, when Edison turned his attention to the American Mutoscope & Biograph Co. it was to be a different storyÖ[ADD]

Further Reading:





USA: 1896-1900



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