By on August 20, 2015

 

A Brooks Stevens concept.

A Brooks Stevens concept.

Aaron Cole’s post about automotive patent art gladdened my heart. Years ago, I decided to check out some of Les Paul and Leo Fender’s original patents on their electric guitars and I discovered the artistry of patent drawings. These days the United States Patent and Trademark Office, as well as patent offices around the world, accept digitally produced artwork. However, before the digital age, an inventor had to hire someone skilled at technical drawing to produce the various exploded and see-through sketches needed to describe the “preferred embodiment” of a process patent.

Of course the “inventor” of a design patent — a slightly different form of intellectual property that protects the design and look of a product — is more often than not, the actual designer.

Following up on Aaron’s post, I decided to put the names of some notable automotive designers into a patent search engine to see what I could find. My hypothesis was that in the case of a design patent, particularly for a car, the artwork for the patent application was likely to have been drawn by the designer. A patent is a big deal to any engineer or designer and he’d likely want to be the one responsible for representing his own idea best.

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Clare MacKichan’s Chevy Nomad

Yes, sometimes the boss takes credit for subordinates’ work. Harley Earl, General Motors’ first head of styling, was known not to draw very well. Designers and clay modelers working for him, though, said he had a masterful way of waving his hands that communicated well to the designers the vision he had in his mind’s eye. Car design is a collaborative process, involving people you work with and work for. Guys like Earl, his successor Bill Mitchell, or carrozzeria boss Nuccio Bertone had some justification in putting their names on patents, even if they only had supervisory roles.

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Car body designed by Harley Earl in 1921 when he was still working for his father’s custom body shop in Los Angeles, before he was hired by Alfred Sloan to start GM’s styling department in 1927.

Next to lead designer Hank Haga’s name, the Chevrolet Aerovette patent carries Mitchell’s name along with that of senior designer Chuck Jordan (who succeeded Mitchell as head of GM Design) as well as GM designer Jerry Palmer. A similar situation exists with the current Mustang convertible, whose patent bears Ford design chief J Mays’ name along with those of designers Moray S. Callum, Joel Piaskowski, Darrell Behmer, and Kemal Curic.

A Ray Dietrich design.

A Ray Dietrich design.

I’m willing to guess that even if Earl, Mitchell or Mays didn’t render the patent drawings themselves, they assigned a senior designer with the task of their posterity, not some intern. Regardless of who did the actual drawings, they were very well executed.

Enjoy:

Eugene "Bob" Gregorie was Ford's first head of styling.

Eugene “Bob” Gregorie was Ford’s first head of styling.

One of Virgil Exner Sr's Chrysler-Ghia show cars.

One of Virgil Exner Sr’s Chrysler-Ghia show cars.

Harley Earl's name is on this Cadillac design from the early 1950s.

Harley Earl’s name is on this Cadillac design from the early 1950s.

This Motorama concept, called L'Universelle, was a front wheel drive passenger van designed by Chuck Jordan.

This Motorama concept, called L’Universelle, was a front wheel drive passenger van designed by Chuck Jordan.

One of Ian Callum's Jaguars

One of Ian Callum’s Jaguars

A more recent, digitally rendered Jaguar

A more recent, digitally rendered Jaguar

Marcello Gandini's Lamborghini Diablo

Marcello Gandini’s Lamborghini Diablo

Giorgietto Giugiaro's DeLorean DMC12, an update of an earlier design of his.

Giorgetto Giugiaro’s DeLorean DMC12, an update of an earlier design of his.

JB's editors at R&T might think that Paul Bracq designed the BMW M1, but it's Giugiaro's name on the design patent. Bracq did the BMW Turbo, on which the M1 was based.

JB’s editors at R&T might think that Paul Bracq designed the BMW M1, but it’s Giugiaro’s name on the design patent. Bracq did the BMW Turbo, on which the M1 was based.

Aerovette.

Aerovette.

Art Ross' Golden Cutlass Motorama car

Art Ross, who headed Cadillac and Oldsmobile’s studios, rendered the Golden Rocket Motorama car

Raymond Loewy coupe concept from the early 1960s.

Raymond Loewy coupe concept from the early 1960s.

One of Virgil Exner Sr's last cars for Chrysler.

One of Virgil Exner Sr’s last cars for Chrysler.

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A Corvair concept by Larry Shinoda.

One of Bill Mitchell's Corvette concepts, perhaps the Mako Shark.

One of Bill Mitchell’s Corvette concepts, perhaps the Mako Shark.

Camilo Pardo's Ford GT

Camilo Pardo’s Ford GT

The current Ford Mustang

The current Ford Mustang

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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27 Comments on “Designers and Their Cars – Automotive Patent Art Revisited...”


  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Eeee! Starliner Coupe! And its spiritual successor, Chevy Nomad!

    Thanks, Ronnie!

  • avatar
    Syke

    I noticed quite a disparity between the dates of the filing (approval?) and the model of cars being shown. The ’55 Chevy immediately comes to mind, as the date on the sheets is well into the ’56 model year, even by the standards of the time.

    Reasons?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Styling is often locked in long before the production line cranks up.

      Here’s a good example:
      http://autosofinterest.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/1986-Ford-Taurus-1982-07-01-Mercury-Sable-wagon1.jpg

      That’s a prototype for the ’86 Sable. Notice the date (7/1/82).

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        Dear Thornmark;

        Note that 7/1/82 is about ten months after they saw the Ford Probe III and Audi 100/5000 along with other designs at the 1981 Frankfurt show; proving once again that the Taurus/Sable design was mostly locked in before they saw the Audi. As the book states, the Frankfurt show proved they were on the right track compared to what other designers were doing; they did not then go home and copy what everyone else was doing.

        Because it was clean sheet effort that included building a whole new plant in Atlanta, it took longer to bring the Taurus/Sable to market.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        They should have offered those wheels with the Sable. Between the light bar and the wheels and Renault Twingo door handles, it would have looked thoroughly space-shippy.

        • 0 avatar
          jhefner

          I think to many in Ford as well as the outside, it already looked too space-shippy without them. This was a hard change to swallow compared to the LTD it replaced; which is why they hung on to the LTD in case the Taurus crashed and burned.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Oh that’s a good point. I forget how long ago this actually was, and how things looked in 1982.

            Like a current Ford offering at the time. *barf*

            http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Ford_Thunderbird/1982_Ford_Thunderbird/1982_Thunderbird_Brochure/1982%20Ford%20Thunderbird-03.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            jhefner

            Yeah, and that was the downsized one with the creases trimmed off and other conccessions to aerodynamics.

            I have seen illustrations of both this generation Thunderbird as well as the Chrysler K-Cars where their respective builders proudly pointed out all the tiny detail changes they made to make them more slippery, like flatter hubcaps, fairing in the bumpers, better fitted windshield and side glass and taking the edge creases off. All of this was instantly obsolete when the jelly bean cars came out.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You know, I often think about the “eras” of cars (not incl. SUV/truck). And I think the pre-aero era was one of the longest. If you think about it, cars looked relatively the same for a LONG time before the change. And since then there have been more frequent changes.

            1960 – 1985 pre-aero square and chunky, long
            1985 – 2002 smooth lines, long and wide
            2003 – 2010 flame surfacing, shorter, taller
            2011 – today flame surfacing, taller, longer, grille explosion

          • 0 avatar
            jhefner

            I went through same mental exercise while I was building my Ford display in 1/64 scale. The eras I came up with at least from a Ford viewpoint were:

            1903-1908 Brass era

            1908-1927 Vintage era

            1927-1941 Pre-World War II era (body/fender/running boards blended together, early aero)

            1941-1950 Post War (pontoon styling) era

            1950-1960 1950s (pontoon styling gives way to wrap around windshields, tail fins, lots of chrome; cars grow lower and longer with the space age)

            1960-1973 1960s (cars become more square, and fuselage styling (square styling with creased edges) becomes popular, smaller cars are introduced)

            1973-1982 Malaise era (the Arab oil embargo and the new 5 MPH bumper laws causes major changes to styling while cars in general suffer from EPA mandated equipment and poor quality)

            1982-1996 Early Aero era

            1996-2008 New Edge era (while the Early Aero era cars were still basically square when viewed from above, cars in this era became more rounded, and cab forward styling was also introduced. Headlights when from square to teardrop shaped, and the grill returned)

            2008-today Kenetic Design era (when flame surfacing, angular tail lights, and many other of today’s styling features were introduced)

            My display is split up into three matts; and an unexpected outcome is that the middle matt includes from 1950-1981, when Ford dropped the Ford oval on its cars, and replaced it with the crest instead. Both of the other matts are when Ford had its oval on all of their cars; the oval being re-introduced in 1982 as part of its “quality is job 1” campaign along with the new line of jellybean cars.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You have thought about this more than I! We talked about the Ford crest here before, and I think I discovered it did persist on the Crown Vic model only until 1992.

          • 0 avatar
            jhefner

            It was both easy and the natural thing to do as I was looking at all these cars arranged by year and type in front of me. Of course the borders between eras were blurred as for example each new jellybean design was introduced by Ford, starting with the Sierra and Fox body Mustang in 1982, the Thunderbird in 1983, Tempo in 1984, and Taurus/Aerostar in 1986.

    • 0 avatar
      ChiefPontiaxe

      There is always delay from filing to approval, which could last anywhere from 1-8 years (but design patents take less time than utility patents). In the case of the Nomad, the filing date was 12/30/1954 and the issue/grant date was 12/20/1955. Today, due to statutory bars domestically and overseas, patent applications are almost ALWAYS filed before the invention is made available to the public.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    That was definitely the Mako Shark II concept…though there were several iterations, including some with side-pipe treatments. Brilliant design either way, though…good enough to be produced for almost 20 years after the first concept came out.

    http://auto.samondeo.com/images1/chevrolet-mako-shark-ii-3.jpg
    http://assets.blog.hemmings.com/wp-content/uploads//2014/03/Mako-Shark-II-Static.jpg

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    You didn’t talk about the Bugatti coupe!

    • 0 avatar

      That was a proposal by Giugiaro.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Thanks. It’s very – Chrysler-ish. Not sure I care for it. A little plebeian looking for such an elite marque.

        The man has still got it though, look at this thing. The very definition of where our future cars are headed, the AWD-AWC all wheel drive all weather coupe. I’ve been saying this for a while and in 10 years I shall be vindicated.

        http://www.italdesign.it/en/projects/parcour-roadstar-eng/

  • avatar
    Undefinition

    Forgive my ignorance. Were these concept sketches drawn before the model was built and/or made of clay, or are these finalized drawings, based on physical cars/models?

    • 0 avatar

      Probably all of the above. Some were never built. Others were modeled in clay. Still others were production cars. I’m guessing that since the purpose of a design patent is to protect the design from being copied, the drawings of the production cars were probably based on the actual cars.

  • avatar

    that first sketch looks very Studebaker to me.

    Love the Art Ross Golden MOtorama. That also looks a bit Studebaker from the front.

    Virgil Exner’s last is one of my all-time favorites, one of the most art deco cars there is. (I haven’t seen one on the street in a number of years.)

    Is Clare Mackichan a woman? That would be very interesting for that era.

    I love Larry Shinoda’s Corvair concept.

    • 0 avatar

      MacKichen was a man, known as “Mac”. He worked under both Earl and Mitchell. It was Mitchell who said that as long as he was at GM, no woman would be in charge of the exterior design of a car – though he did hire female designers and promoted Sue Vanderbilt to be GM’s first female senior designer (she did interiors).

      It’s interesting that even to this day, with many women designers and engineers working in the industry, they still tend to focus on interiors. I can only think of a couple of recent cars whose exterior design teams were headed by a woman. I doubt it’s a remnant of Mitchell era sexism – not in 2015. It’s more likely to reflect personal choices and interests.

  • avatar
    ChiefPontiaxe

    Very interesting article. What you should know is that it is highly unlikely that any of the aforementioned auto designers actually penned these patent drawings. Note that the US Patent and Trademark Office has very stringent requirements regarding drawings ( https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/37/1.84 ), and that it’s likely that the designer couldn’t be bothered to familiarize himself with such requirements and prepare a set of PTO-compliant drawings, in addition to the drawings required by his boss(es).

    Peace Out,

    ChiefPontiaxe, registered patent attorney.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s possible that they used staff technical artists, but remember that car designers don’t just sketch a car. In the pre-digital era, their drawings had to be precise enough to pull blueprints from them for manufacturing.

      Nowadays, I’m sure that the design software can easily export renderings to the USPTO’s standards.

      In any case, I’ve sent an email to Art Ross’ son, asking if he knows if his dad did the drawings on his own patents or not.

      • 0 avatar
        ChiefPontiaxe

        Thanks and please keep us posted. Also, AFAIK, no such software exists that can export CAD or other renderings to PTO-compliant standards. The illustrators we use find it easier to start from scratch.

        • 0 avatar

          So you’re saying that those digital renderings of the Mustang and Jaguar were done from scratch, not the CAD data?

          BTW, if you don’t mind being a resource for things IP, please drop me an email: [email protected]

          • 0 avatar
            ChiefPontiaxe

            Note that the Patent & Trademark Office has loosened the requirements when it comes to design patent drawings – even photos are now acceptable. However, it likely not advisable to submit rendered CAD (or other photo-like) drawings, for reasons noted in my below comment. Namely, when an element is shown in hatched/phantom lines, it means that that element does not form part of the invention, which is why most auto design patents show the wheels in hatched/phantom lines. Otherwise, the patentee would be limited to the vehicle/wheel combination shown in the design patent, and making it easier for an accused infringer to avoid infringement by changing the wheels of the accused vehicle. Thus there is often the need to submit specially-prepared design patent drawings which show ONLY the elements which the applicant claims as the invention.

            I would be most pleased to help you regarding IP matters, and will email you offline.

  • avatar
    ChiefPontiaxe

    Note that when an element is shown in hatched/phantom lines, it means that that element does not form part of the invention, which is why most auto design patents show the wheels in hatched/phantom lines. Otherwise, the patentee would be limited to the vehicle/wheel combination shown in the design patent, and making it easier for an accused infringer to avoid infringement by changing the wheels of the accused vehicle.

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