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The end of a long patent fight.

The end of a long patent fight

Except in occasional footnotes, the name Gordon Gould doesn't figure prominently in the history of the development of lasers. Nevertheless, the final resolution of a lengthy battle over a laser patent may force a rewriting of some of this early history. Earlier this month, Gould finally received a patent for inventing the gas-discharge laser. He had originally applied for the patent in 1959. The patent, which runs until 2004, allows Gould to collect royalties on all helium-neon and carbon dioxide lasers now manufactured, a market worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually (SN: 2/22/86, p.123).

Gould says he first wrote down his ideas for the laser during "two days of thinking' when he was a graduate student at Columbia University in 1957. However, Gould's delay in applying for a patent allowed physicist Charles Townes, also at Columbia, to file a patent application for the "optical maser,' Townes's term for the laser. Townes had invented the maser (short for microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) several years earlier. Townes came to be regarded as "the father of the laser' and in 1964 won a Nobel Prize for fundamental theoretical work that made the laser possible. Gould's work, in fact, built on Townes's research. The long-unresolved question was how novel Gould's own ideas were.

Gould, retired and living in Kinsale, Va., also recently won a 10-year court battle to uphold his patent for an optically pumped laser amplifier (SN: 3/20/82, p.199). He now holds two key patents that cover as many as 80 percent of all lasers manufactured in the United States.
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Title Annotation:Gordon Gould receives patent for gas-discharge laser
Author:McLaughlin, John J.
Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 28, 1987
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