We are happy to announce that the call to our final workshop is open!

“Patent Futures: A History,” is the fourth and final workshop of the ERC-funded project “Patents as Scientific Information, 1895-2020,” ( in collaboration with The International Society for the History and Theory of Intellectual Property (ISHTIP

Dates: April 26-28, 2023.
Venue: Mundaneum, Mons, Belgium.
Call closes: November 15, 2022.
Proposal format: 500 Word proposal/200 Word bio.
Submit to:

Full call for papers in pdf: Call Mundaneum workshop

PASSIM will cover the travel and accommodation cost of the selected participants. Come and meet the entire PASSIM team and our special invitees: David Pretel, Assistant Professor of History and Economic Institutions, Autonomous University of Madrid; Katarina Nordqvist, Associate Professor and Head of Section, Swedish Ministry of Education and Research. Follow us on twitter @passimproject as we announce more invited commentators!

Any questions can be directed to the organizers of the workshop:
Jesper Alkarp
Isabelle Strömstedt
Johan Larson Lindal


Tema Q and PASSIM Seminar featuring Kathy Bowrey: “David Unaipon as inventor: Decolonising stories of innovation and patent.”

We are delighted to have Kathy Bowrey visit Tema Q as a special guest on behalf of PASSIM. Dr Kathy Bowrey is a Professor in the Faculty of Law, UNSW, Sydney. She is a legal historian and socio-legal researcher whose research explores laws and practices that inform knowledge creation and the production, distribution and reception of technology and culture. Her primary expertise relates to intellectual property, information technology regulation, regulatory theory, media practice, business history, feminist scholarship and a concern for Indigenous rights.

June 16, 13:15-15:30 Tema Q and PASSIM Seminar featuring Kathy Bowrey: “David Unaipon as inventor: Decolonising stories of innovation and patent.” (Tvärsnittet and Zoom)

About the seminar: David Unaipon descendant Kym Kropinyeri lived with his uncle David Unaipon, an Aboriginal man described as the Australian Leonardo De Vinci and featured on the $50 note. Mr Kropinyeri approached Professor Bowrey with doubts and questions about standard accounts of the inventor’s life and in particular, about his much celebrated 1909 shearing patent. Why did Unaipon fail to benefit from this patent or indeed from any of his other numerous inventions? The family understood that the shearing invention was taken by Cooper Engineering/Sunbeam without recompense. This research was based upon a Research Fellowship at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Australia and as a Visiting Scholar at the State Library of New South Wales. It draws upon archival material about mechanical sheep-shearing, Cooper Engineering and patent office files, moving from a conventional account of technological innovation that link the story of stand-alone objects to exceptional individuals, to better connect Unaipon’s invention to Aboriginal accounts of survival and opportunity.



Kathy Bowrey website:
PASSIM website: 
Twitter: @PASSIMproject
Questions and registry:

Christoph Rodrigo de la Torre Presentation: Patenting Atomic Vision [video]

”At exactly what point does a drawing turn into a patent drawing?” This was one of the challenging questions posed by Christoph Rodrigo de la Torre as he presented his paper on the early visual recapitulation of nuclear bomb explosions. These explosions were long believed to resist capture, but they eventually were through a device called the stroboscope, patented in the 1930s. Christoph’s talk also brought to the fore the patent drawing, having emerged as a standard way of visualizing inventions in patent applications after patent models had been abandoned.

The stroboscope was designed to capture microseconds of nuclear explosions, serving as both a documentation of nuclear technology and a form of detachment from the actual destruction resulting from that technology. Christoph conveyed how patents were and still are not only scientific documents but also a literary and visual genre with a certain level of materiality. At the same time, patent drawings such as the stroboscope adhered to a specific logic and a reductionist aesthetic standard. Christoph illustrated how patent drawings had become a profession by, at least, the 1940s, with its own instruction books. At the same time, the legal framework surrounding the use of patent drawings suggests an interesting legislative relationship between word and image that requires further study in the future.

Investigating the stroboscope’s history further ties into more general insights from the history of photographic technology, such as the early impulse of this medium to reduce visual ‘noise’, to slow down events, and to detach objects from their context, stripping them of excessive detail and rendering them entities of singular interest. As a further demonstration on how this patented-visualised technique actually worked, fascinating and ominous at the same time, Christoph showed a few short video sequences of nuclear explosions created with the aid of the stroboscope.

The following discussion emphasized, among other themes, the inventor as not only creator of devices, but as an artistic agent as well, challenging a binary opposition between copyright and patents. Another topic was the emergence of a visual language in patents as a system for representing the functional and invisible. Another relevant medium closely connected to the stroboscope was of course early film and its (mass) production of objects of desire.



Christoph Rodrigo de la Torre is a PhD candidate in Art History, Theory and Criticism at University of California, San Diego.

Video by LiU communications officer Per Wistbo Nibell. Text by Johan Larson Lindal who also chaired the event.

Jocelyn Bosse Presentation: Keep it Secret, Keep it Safe: On the Development of Secret Patents [video]

In her talk, Jocelyn Bosse discussed the apparent paradox of secret patents. The very existence of secret patents would seem to contradict the so-called patent bargain of a temporary monopoly in exchange for disclosure. The patent bargain is frequently used as a justification of the patent system, and a secret patent would then be something of a contradiction in terms. However, the use of secrecy orders, in the name of national interest, can impose secrecy on a patent at any point, even after it has been granted. However, the secrecy is not total, but the patents continue to circulate in some contexts. One way to approach this problem is to view secret patents as exceptions, but Jocelyn’s talk showed that secrecy orders are a quite permanent feature of the patent regime.

Secret patents in three countries were discussed: UK, US and the Soviet Union. In all these countries, invention secrecy regimes aroused in the mid-twentieth century. The Soviet Union was the first jurisdiction to establish a permanent mechanism for patent secrecy (which also included the inventor’s certificate, sometimes presented as a socialist alternative to patents). In all countries, measures to impose secrecy were shaped by the allegiances and hostilities of the time, including espionage affairs.

Jocelyn’s conclusion was that it is unhelpful to view secret patens as an oxymoron, but that secret patents rather should be viewed in light of the general role of patents in controlling the circulation of scientific and technical information.

The discussion to a large extent focused on the patent bargain and to what extent it is a good point of departure to understand secret patents, and if it indeed is useful for understanding the patent system. It also concerned how secrecy orders work in practice, what happens for instance with technologies that have both military and civilian use, and how are secret patents handled in international cooperation. The importance of secrecy as a signal was also discussed.

Jocelyn Bosse is a PhD student at University of Queensland Law School, she lectures at Kings College, London,

Video by LiU communications officer Per Wistbo Nibell. Text by Johanna Dahlin who also chaired the event.


Andrew Ventimiglia Presentation: Figures of Mind: Spiritual Innovation and Military Influence in the Patenting of Neurofeedback Devices [video]

What is the utility of patented neurofeedback devices? What is the connection between these inventions and consumer and marketing technologies? How did some patent applications connect measurement devices to telepathic communication and psychological therapy?  

Andrew Ventimiglia’s talk discusses a book project that traces a genealogy of the promises and the imagination underpinning these devices to military and spiritual/experimental technologies in the post-war era. By focusing on patent applications, Ventimiglia explores the significance and the controversies of these devices, focusing on Puharich v. Brenner, 415 F.2d 979 (D.C. Cir. 1969), a case regarding a device that claimed to expand extra sensory perception and to assist in the study of the so-called extra sensory phenomenon.  

The talk also referred to other patented devices such as e-meters, a particular detector used by Scientology trainers to examine mental states and to identify non-conscious traumas (U.S. Patent 3,290,589). What was remarkable about these devices in the context of their official (patent) examination is how they elicited a tension surrounding discourses between science and deception, and between official discourse and conspiracy theories. Moreover, these inventive devices not only raised issues of validation, but also opened up questions about individual agency in a modern mass-mediated society.  

In making the brain visible as writing, the controversies generated by these devices and the patents that were taken out allow us, according to Ventimiglia, to connect a history of patents to a contested terrain whereby ever-lasting concerns such as scientific legitimacy, truth, manipulation, and fraud were at stake.

Dr. Andrew Ventimiglia is an Assistant Professor of Mass Media with a specialization in media law and ethics in the School of Communication at Illinois State University.  

Video by LiU communications officer Per Wistbo Nibell. Text by Jose Bellido who also chaired the event.