Professor Kelly Connects Engineering, Art, Patent Law

February 5, 2014

Professor Dennis Kelly to detail beauty and history of patent models

photo of exhibit title wall The Curious World of Patent Models. Photo by Jenna Rabelphoto by Jenna Rabel

In an effort to bridge the gap between the worlds of engineering and art, the MSC Stark Galleries will bring H. Dennis Kelly, Texas A&M School of Law professor, to speak on the patent exhibit on display in the MSC.

The “Fun with Patent Law: Inventions in 3-D” presentation complements the patent exhibit in Stark Galleries, which is part of a traveling collection of more than 50 patent models from the Rothschild Patent Museum in New York. Prior to 1880, patents submitted to the U.S. Patent Office had to include a small model of the invention. However, due to storage constraints and a couple of fires, Congress removed this requirement and sold the remaining models at auction.

Dennis KellyKelly said the model collection interests him as a former patent attorney, but the beauty and ingenuity of the historical items holds just as much significance.

“But these models are interesting for other reasons,” Kelly said. “It’s the history of the patent system, inventions that people got patented prior to 1880. That’s pretty fascinating. It is also appropriate that it’s presented in an art gallery because these models are a really good example of art. They’re American ingenuity. They’re made out of wood mostly, with a little metal. There’s a miniature of a bridge and a paper cutting machine, a motor and all kinds of stuff. They’re beautiful.”

Kelly, Class of 1973, played in the Aggie Band while earning his civil engineering degree. After serving four years active duty in the Army, he went to law school at Texas Tech. Kelly then moved to Fort Worth, where he began to practice law as a patent attorney. He got his start in academia as an adjunct professor and switched to full time shortly after.

Greg Phillipy, education curator at Stark Galleries, said he is excited for Kelly’s presentation, both for its content and for the collaborative precedent it is setting.

“This is a new collaboration with the TAMU School of Law,” Phillipy said. “This is one of the first exchanges we’ve had the opportunity to have and we’re thrilled to have Kelly come down and talk about patent law and patent models as well as some of the funny, interesting stories surrounding them.”

Kelly said he hopes those in attendance will come to appreciate the beauty of both the patent models and the history behind them.

“I hope that they enjoy learning about these inventions and learning about these models,” Kelly said. “They are precious to us both in an historical manner and an artistic one. They’re important to us as part of our technical history. They were inventions, things that were new and useful. They were advances in technology. I’m glad that people preserved them for us.”

Hyunjin Lee, sophomore biochemistry major, said she is interested in the presentation because patents have a real-world impact on many professions today.

“In the future, if I came up with an invention, I would have to patent it,” Lee said. “Patents serve as a way of claiming an idea. The models show the ideas inventors in the past have had and preserve that history.”

Along with the exhibit, the Stark Galleries are promoting “Fuzzy Logic,” a competition that challenges student teams to build the most elaborate Rube Goldberg Machine to pop a balloon. Phillipy said the exhibit, the competition and Kelly’s presentation all share the same goal of bridging the gap between the engineering and art.

“Texas A&M University has a strong engineering program,” Phillipy said. “We’re trying to create the link between engineering and art. We want to highlight the ingenuity and the creativity behind engineering. We really want students and faculty from the engineering department to become engaged in that historical thought process while looking at historical models.”

Article source: The Battalion Online