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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:658 1905-2005 P762 II

Polaroid Corporation records, series II: legal and patent records


This series of the Polaroid Corporation records contains the Polaroid legal and patent records. Included in this series are patent application files, legal office administrative files, patents, material gathered for legal trials, and records relating to the landmark patent infringement lawsuit, Polaroid vs. Kodak.


  • Creation: 1905-2007


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored onsite. Please contact for more information.


242 linear feet (484 boxes)

The Polaroid Corporation legal and patent records contain a large amount of information related to the evolution of the company and the products that the company invented and marketed. This group of material is a part of the larger Polaroid Corporation collection and is arranged in five series: Series IIA. Patent department administrative records, Series IIB. Donald L. Brown papers, Series IIC. Stanley H. Mervis administrative files, Series IID. Polaroid Corporation legal files, and Series IIE. Polaroid Corporation vs. Eastman Kodak Company. The collection was arranged this way in order to keep material relating to specific parts of the legal and patent departments together. Personal and administrative files for long time patent attorneys Donald L. Brown and Stanley H. Mervis were kept in their original order.

Series IIA contains the Polaroid patent department administrative records which include bound patent volumes, administrative office and subject files, office research files, and invention files and patent applications circa 1920-2007. This material pertains to the creative process behind Polaroid inventions and the legal steps the company took to patent inventions and products. Included in this series is research conducted by Polaroid patent attorneys to protect the company from patent infringement. Records related to the Patent Museum are located here and augment the memos, drawings, and correspondence related to Polaroid inventions.

Series IIB and IIC contain the papers of Donald L. Brown and the administrative records of Stanley H. Mervis. Both of these men were long time patent attorneys for the Polaroid Corporation. Donald L. Brown's papers include personal material and subject files and administrative files relating to his work at Polaroid. Material pertaining to Stanley H. Mervis includes information gathered for the Polaroid patent lawsuits.

Series IID contains Polaroid Corporation legal files. This series has been broken into six subseries with five subseries representing a single legal trial and one containing miscellaneous legal trials and legal records. The arrangement of this series was predicated by the volume of material associated with each legal trial represented. The bulk of subseries E contains one or two folders of material for each legal case or legal record and therefore did not warrant a separate subseries and description.

Series IIE contains the landmark patent infringement lawsuit Polaroid vs. Kodak. The material in this series includes the liability issue, not the issue of compensation for damages. Material in this series includes trial transcripts, depositions, discovery and trial preparation, administrative material, publicity and marketing files, and information relating to Polaroid's venture into the identification badge system market.

Historical Note:

The Polaroid Corporation was an iconic, 20th century company whose pioneering achievements in optics and engineering continue to have technological, social and artistic significance. The beginnings of the Polaroid Corporation can be traced to Edwin H. Land’s breakthrough research on polarizers. After a leave of absence from Harvard College in 1926 to study the development of a synthetic light-polarizing material, Land returned to Harvard in 1929 and continued his research in the Harvard Physics Department. There he met physics instructor George W. Wheelwright III, who provided Land with a laboratory to conduct his research. In 1932, Land presented a paper on his synthetic polarizing materials and Wheelwright convinced him to leave college before graduating to start a company together. Land-Wheelwright Laboratories was formed in 1933 and Land received his first of many patents for “Polarizing Refracting Bodies.”

Over the next several years Land and Wheelwright set up operations to manufacture an inexpensive plastic sheet polarizer. At the end of 1935, the first advertisement of the material appeared in a scientific journal, followed by a public announcement in New York. Demand for the product grew quickly and in 1937, Land-Wheelwright Laboratories was reincorporated as the Polaroid Corporation. Wheelwright left the company in the early 1940s, but stayed on as a member of the Board of Directors until 1948.

Following the outbreak of World War II, the company’s activities were largely directed to invention, development and manufacture of war products, materials and devices. Research projects were conducted under direct contracts with Navy Bureaus, the Office of Scientific Research and Development, and other agencies of the government. During this time, the number of employees increased from 200 to a wartime peak of 1,250. After the war ended, Polaroid was faced with a reconversion task of considerable magnitude which brought new organizational and technical skills gained from its wartime experience. In addition to Polaroid Day Glasses and Polarscreen Camera filters, uses for Polaroid polarized materials included glare-free lamps and airplane windows. Strong sales enabled the company to fund further research and development in other areas including 3-D motion picture film, vectographs, and the subsequent breakthrough with instant photography in 1947.

Land’s landmark introduction of the concept of instant photography at a meeting of the Optical Society of America in New York City instantly changed photography and the company itself. In 1948, the Polaroid Land Camera, Model 95, and Land film, Type 40 was introduced to the public and through orchestrated marketing was a sellout. Edwin Land remained dedicated to creating a transformative photographic process and over the next three decades Polaroid developed dozens of new cameras, films, and products. Major innovations from the 1950s to the 1970s included the Polaroid Transparency System (1957), ID-2 Identification System (1966), the SX-70 (1972), and the Polavision Land System (1978).

During this time Land also approached the welfare of his employees in deeply humanistic ways, creating a culture of innovation and exploration within Polaroid that spurred research and innovation. He tapped into the talented pool of researchers at Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Smith College, and routinely employed women in top-level research positions, an unusual practice at the time. After Land left the company in 1982, Polaroid continued to develop new products for various markets. In 2001, Polaroid filed for bankruptcy protection and the brand name continues to be used to license and market various electronics.

Physical Location



Gift of Polaroid Corporation, 2006

Related Materials

The Polaroid Corporation Records are comprised of the company’s original corporate archives, donated to Harvard Business School in 2006. The collection is arranged into different series based on format or function. In addition to the Polaroid Corporation records, series II: legal and patent records, the following series are open for research: Polaroid Corporation records, series I: administrative records, circa 1930-2005, Polaroid Corporation records, series III: research and development records, 1905-2000 (inclusive), 1930-1985 (bulk), and Polaroid Corporation records related to Edwin H. Land, series V, 1927-1995. Researchers should note that there is considerable overlap in the subject matter contained in the various series, and are advised to search across all of the series finding aids for specific subjects or records.

Processing Information

Processed: June 2012

By: Benjamin Johnson

Due to the large physical size of the Polaroid Corporation records, similar records that are related as a result of being created, received, or used in the same activity have been grouped into series and an individual finding aid created for each. Each series has been assigned a roman numeral which is found in the series title and precedes all container identifiers. The order of the series does not reflect the original arrangement of the entire collection. Researchers should take care to note the full item number when requesting or citing Polaroid Corporation collection materials.



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Repository Details

Part of the Baker Library Special Collections and Archives, Harvard Business School Repository

Baker Library Special Collections and Archives holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.

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