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What do a drive in movie theater and Intellectual Property have in common?

10 Jun

 

Remember the days of drive in movies—those were some great memories! And so is the story of how the drive in movie idea began.

The first version of a drive in movie was started by Richard Hollingshead Jr. opened on a 10 acre backyard in Camden, New Jersey.  Richard was a sales manager in his father’s auto parts company and, as the story goes, had a mother that weighed 431 pounds and could not comfortably go to the movie theatres of the time.  Her son set up a make shift movie theatre by, using his car; a 1928 Kodak movie projector; and two sheets nailed between two trees for a screen

English: Carthage, MO Route 66 Drive-In Movie ...

. The idea caught on and became a popular way to enjoy a movie.

Eventually, he came up with a ramp in each parking space, so that patrons could elevate the front of their cars to see the screen without being blocked by other vehicles. Richard formed a company named Park It Theaters and charged 25 cents per person and 25 cents per automobile for a maximum of $1.00 per entry.

On August 6, 1932 the company applied for a patent on the idea and was granted a patent on May 16, 1933, patent #1,909,537. Hollingshead sold the theatre in 1935 and opened another one. Hollingshead licensed the “drive in movie” concept to Loews Drive-in Theatres, Inc. but from the beginning had trouble collecting the royalty payments from Lowes back in 1937.  Hollingshead sued Loews theatre for failure to pay royalties and patent infringement. After many years, actually in 1950, the patent was ruled invalid as it was alleged that Culver City, California theatre was really the first drive in theatre. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Hollingshead )

Putting this article into perspective, as relates to Intellectual Property, most people relate Intellectual Property to high-tech companies like Microsoft or drug companies like Johnson and Johnson.  We would not think that the “idea” of starting a drive in theater would be something that could be patented; or that liquid paper was patented; or the distinctive color of a Tiffany’s box is patented.  Intellectual Property goes further than just patents; it also covers copyrights; trademarks; trade dress; trade secrets and so much more. It is an exposure that many business customers have but is rarely identified and insured correctly.
In years gone by we looked to the CGL for some coverage on limited categories of IP but as the forms have changed the coverages have become more and more limited to the point that the coverage is close to non-existent.  As insurance professionals our job is to identify exposure and determine appropriate solutions.  There are a limited number of companies that have a real understanding of Intellectual Property and insurance policies with broad-based responses.  An important company to consider is IPISC who will be presenting the Insurance Community/University CE class this week.  For more information, the University will have an archived version of the class and a new checklist on IP will be loaded in the University this month.  You can also reach IPISC on their website at: www.patentinsurance.com.

 

Written By:
Laurie Infantino AFIS, CISC, CIC, CRIS, ACSR, CISR
President, Insurance Community Center, Insight Insurance Consulting

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