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Wiping with Patents Two: Mary Anderson (to Robert Kearns) to Tesla

by: Dan Spaeth, Senior Managing Partner, IP Advisory

In between Mary Anderson’s first wiper patent in 1903 and the recent Tesla patent application for an electromagnetic wiper system (that I wrote about here), there is the fascinating story of Robert Kearns and the Intermittent Windshield Wiper. Kearn’s story and invention was chronicled in a must read 1993 New Yorker article and the 2008 film by the same name “Flash of Genius.” His first patent was filed in 1964.


To quote the New Yorker:
“Kearns’ intermittent wiper was an elegant piece of engineering. It had four parts, and only one of them moved. It was a leap forward, beyond electricity and into electronics. Though Kearns did not realize it, he was on the threshold of the next revolution in automotive technology.”

Against long odds, Kearns often acting as his own attorney, ultimately prevailed and won millions of dollars in judgements against Ford, Chrysler and others.

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