Polaroid Corporation records, series II: legal and patent records
Conditions Governing Access
127.25 linear feet (306 boxes)
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 1920-1995. This material pertains to the creative process behind Polaroid inventions and the legal steps the company took to patent inventions and products. Also included in this series is research conducted by Polaroid patent attorneys to protect the company from patent infringement.
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 five subseries with each of the first four subseries representing a single legal trial and the last 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.
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.
By: Benjamin Johnson
- Polaroid Corporation. Polaroid Corporation Records, Series II: Legal and Patent Records, circa 1905-1995 (inclusive): A Finding Aid
- Baker Library
- EAD ID
Part of the Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University Repository
Baker Library Special Collections 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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