Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fox Typewriter Co. V. Corona Typewriter Co.

Who or What killed the Fox Typewriter Company?

Was it Colonel Mustard, in the study, with the candlestick?
Was it an evil and diabolical plan by typewriter-anarchists, bent on overthrowing the typing world one factory at a time?
Or was it simply a lack of positive marginal return on produced machines alongside the heavy burden of a legal dispute with another company?

Its the third option.

But! Who won the lawsuit? Well, many might say, obviously Corona. After all, Corona stayed around and Fox vanished into the oblivion of bankruptcy.

But the truth is not quite so easily explained. I present, Evidence No. l

Now, without proper knowledge of who was actually suing who over what, it's a bit hard to determine truly who won each separate stand. But, in following general rules in dealing with lawsuits, we can suppose to some degree of accuracy who instigated the thing overall:
The Fox Typewriter Co.
In lawsuits, it is usually the standard to have the Plaintiff stated as Vs the Defendant, rather than Defendant Vs. Plaintiff. Thus, as we find, the lawsuit was considered as the Fox Typewriter Co. V. Corona Typewriter Co.
BUT. BUT! I SAY, as it turns out this is not the case. I would direct your attention here to evidence No. 2:

If the evidence presented is true, then Corona did indeed instigate the lawsuit and brought forth 8 patents which it believed Fox infringed. 6 of those 8 were considered as validly held by Corona, and 5 of those 6 were considered infringed by Fox. All in all, the case took from June/July of 1919 to August 27th of 1920.

Of note, however, is that the apparent ruling in 1920 may have not been the end of it all. The date, if you'll look closely, on the gazette of the patent office is 1922. Fox was still in business by 1922 if sources are to be believed, and at that time just having started its production of the Model 3 portable known as the Sterling. Thus, unless the gazette was reporting on the decision rendered in 1920, then the lawsuit continued past the point of the intial verdict perhaps due to a counter-suit, or perhaps Corona decided it could bring a competitor to its knees once and for all, and keep its large market share, by throwing more and more allegations at Fox.

For a market share comparison between Fox and Corona, Corona produced roughly 480,000 machines between 1917 and 1923. Fox was able to almost match that with around 13,000. In other words, Fox produced about 2.7% the amount of machines Corona did.
(Corona production numbers from Typewriter Database)

The point of all this? The battle between Fox and Corona was a very uneven fight, but Corona started it and Corona finished it. The poor light running Fox never stood a chance.

Side note: At one point, Underwood sued Fox over patent infringement. Either Fox was a little less creative in its designs than one would have hoped, or the big bad companies were out to squash the little guys.

Gazette link:



  1. Good finds on these legal events.

    It has always interested me that the most important patents on the Fox portable seem to remain in force; they're available at the USPTO even now. Were it true that Corona had entirely won, all of the patents for the Fox would have been removed (of course, Corona would have said that they should never have been granted in the first place.)

    Foolishly, I've always thought, Corona forced the hands of other makers on the issue and they had to produce non folding machines which might then just as well be heavier and more substantial and sold along those lines, properly marketed; the result was that Corona found itself pretty quickly playing catch-up to the point that it was bought by L. C. Smith in '26 instead of lording over more lawsuits. I do not think the Corona Four is a good match for the competitors' four bank portables of the day.

    1. That's a very interesting point which I had never considered, that the ramifications of over-zealously defending patents indirectly led to the improvement of competitors machines at a pace exceeding Corona's. I've yet to truly use a Corona 4, though I've heard many people dislike how it was built and the overly complex nature of its mechanics compared to the Corona 3.
      Now that I've begun to delve deeper into the specific patents Corona claimed infringed, there seem to be some very bold attempts at enforcing patents. For example the Rose re-issue patent, claim 28, specifies; "In a visible typewriting machine having a universal or standard keyboard the combination of key operated levers and type operated by said levers a carriage and a platen mounted in the carriage and normally in the path of said type and foldable with the carriage out of its normal position away from the type and Into compact relation to another part of the typewriter to occupy less space than when In use." To me, that is far too vague to be defendable as a patent and so did the judge in the later 1922 ruling. Otherwise, a typewriter which swung its carriage 90 degrees out, and then lowered down to the side of the machine would be infringing such a claim, which is utterly insane.