Background - Elisha Gray 1835-1901Elisha Gray was a Quaker from rural Ohio who grew up on a farm. He studied electricity at Oberlin College. In 1867, Gray received his first patent for an improved telegraph relay. During his lifetime, Elisha Gray was granted over seventy patents for his inventions, including many important innovations in electricity. In 1872, Gray founded the Western Electric Manufacturing Company, the great-grandparent of todays Lucent Technologies.
Patent Wars - Elisha Gray Vs Alexander Graham BellOn February 14, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell's telephone patent application entitled "Improvement in Telegraphy" was filed at the USPTO by Bell's attorney Marcellus Bailey; Elisha Gray's attorney filed a caveat for a telephone just a few hours later entitled "Transmitting Vocal Sounds Telegraphically".
Alexander Graham Bell was the fifth entry of that day, while Elisha Gray was 39th. Therefore, the U.S. Patent Office awarded Bell with the first patent for a telephone, US Patent 174,465 rather than honor Gray's caveat. On September 12, 1878, lengthy patent litigation involving the Bell Telephone Company against Western Union Telegraph Company and Elisha Gray began.
What is a Patent Caveat?A patent caveat was a type of preliminary application for a patent that gave an inventor an additional ninety days grace to file a regular patent application. The caveat would prevent anyone else that filed an application on the same or similar invention from having their application processed for ninety days, while the caveat holder was given an opportunity to file a full patent application first. Caveats are no longer issued.
Extract from Elisha Gray's Patent Caveat Filed on February 14, 1876To all whom it may concern: Be it known that I, Elisha Gray, of Chicago, in the County of Cook, and State of Illinois, have invented a new art of transmitting vocal sounds telegraphically, of which the following is a specification: It is the object of my invention to transmit the tones of the human voice through a telegraphic circuit, and reproduce them at the receiving end of the line, so that actual conversations can be carried on by persons at long distances apart.
See - Elisha Gray - Patents