On 'The Repression of Inventions'


The next act of 'repression' also concerns an invention in the energy field and this time I shall point my finger at the U.S. Patent Office. The subject is 'cold fusion'. Some of you will recall that in 1989 two professors, Martin Fleischmann of Southampton University and Stanley Pons of the University of Utah, hit the news headlines by declaring that they had found that an electrolytic cell filled with heavy water had shown some spurious effects by generating heat apparently from nowhere, unless perhaps, that heat came from a nuclear fusion reaction.

Scientists have been trying for close on 50 years to build an operable nuclear fusion reactor that runs on the hydrogen isotope found in heavy water. They have not succeeded by their method of producing very high temperatures to trigger the reaction and yet here was a test-tube experiment that was said to deliver that success by operating at room temperature.

It needs little imagination to guess the feelings of those who were spending vast sums of government money on trying to produce controlled nuclear fusion in the laboratory when they heard that two professors of electrochemistry had found that heat, seemingly coming from a fusion reaction, can be generated at water temperatures using simple chemical apparatus.

The object is to generate heat which we can turn into electricity, but those nuclear scientists expect a nuclear reaction to produce vast quantities of radiation in the form of neutrons or gamma radiation. On that reasoning, Professors Fleischmann and Pons should have killed themselves or at least signed their own eventual death warrants by doing the experiment. Yet they found very little evidence, indeed negligible evidence, of such radiation products in their tests on the heavy water cells.

Now, instead of waiting to see the new technology develop in the hands of these electrochemists and the sponsors who rushed in to assist, the scientific community, particularly those who lived only in a world of theory, went on the rampage. It came to be described as 'The scientific fiasco of the century'.

In retrospect it seems that Fleischmann and Pons announced their discovery before they knew enough about the process to understand why it worked. There was more heat being generated than could be explained in chemical terms and this is why fusion came into the picture, but the process was elusive and could not, at the time, be replicated on demand, at least by the many who then tried their hand at building the Fleischmann and Pons cell. Now, my interest in all this arose because I had, for many years, been developing a theory which assured me that atomic nuclei of the hydrogen isotopes in heavy water do not contain neutrons. There being three isotopes of hydrogen in a 1, 2, 3 series, this meant that, assuming a fusion reaction where two heavy water (2+2) nuclei combine to form one heavier atomic nucleus (3) and one lighter atomic nucleus (1), there is no need for a neutron to be emitted.

To my way of thinking there was a way in which to improve the operation of the cell used by Fleischmann and Pons and within three weeks of their initial announcement back in 1989 I had filed a patent application on that 'invention' of mine at the British Patent Office. It was not something I had tested experimentally. It was simply a 'paper proposal' but I well knew the need to file a patent before one made a general disclosure of an invention and I wanted to set the scene for airing my views on the subject and draw attention to my earlier theoretical work. That British patent was eventually granted without any problem, but the corresponding United States patent application that I filed ran into an incredible barrage of 'repression' staged by the Patent Examiner.

My background in the patent profession, some 37 or so years on from that encounter with my German visitor, meant that I knew what was normal, abnormal and outright incredible when it came to dealings with a Patent Office. I had never, in my whole career encountered the latter situation until I filed that 'cold fusion' patent application in the U.S. Patent Office in the wake of Fleischmann and Pons.

I have heard that over 200 patent applications on the subject of cold fusion have been rejected by the U.S. Patent Office. Included in these is the original application by Fleischmann and Pons, even though their corresponding European patent application has been granted. At this time [APRIL, 1996] my own U.S. patent application is still in contention.

I have had no less than 14 patents cited against my application together with 37 articles from newspapers and scientific periodicals. Most of these are dated after my priority filing date but they have been cited to support the Examiner's case that there is no reputable evidence to show that excess energy can be generated in a device working at water temperatures.

Now, in this talk, I cannot go into the details of all this. I just want to make the point that I have known for a very long time that the scientific community can be very repressive in resisting those who intrude into their fields of specialty. Scientific papers are sent off for the peer review of experts in the relevant field. These are those with the most to lose if what is on offer is new and runs counter to their own beliefs. If the papers support the 'party line' and particularly the prior work of the referee, then they are accepted. Otherwise they are rejected, because no one wants to rock the boat by showing that there is dissent that can raise doubts amongst those on committees who have charge of research funding. I have, however, never before seen a situation where the 'party line' of a group of scientists could penetrate the ranks of an examining patent office. It is legitimate for patent examiners to argue that something is not new or may be obvious and so unpatentable. It is legitimate for patent examiners in U.S. practice to invite evidence and testimony as to operability of an invention. It is legitimate also to contend that what is claimed is 'perpetual motion', which is said to be contrary to natural law (meaning the established laws of physics), but the rejection of which I am speaking is not put in such simple terms. Rather than declaring, as by some kind of administrative edict, that what can be classed as a 'cold fusion' application should be deemed unpatentable, as being akin to claims for perpetual motion, it is as if the U.S. Patent Office, or their examiners as their agents, decided to grind the applicant down. I was first asked to decide which aspect of my application was to be selected for examination, the implication being that there were numerous different inventions involved. Yet in the U.K. the British examiner saw the same patent specification as relating to one single invention. When I made my selection, then came the 51 items of cited art, whereas 6 would have been a reasonable number of cited documents.

It may interest you if I refer to just one item. After the cold fusion announcement, Harwell scientists mounted a crash programme to verify what was claimed by Fleischmann and Pons. A U.S. Government representative from Oak Ridge National Laboratory named J.F. Cooke visited Harwell to check their progress. His report was cited by the examiner including a verbatim quotation from it. The report made a point of saying that Prime Minister Thatcher had telephoned Harwell to see how things were progressing. Some 13 lines of Examiner remarks later in that report one reads the words: "Calorimetric cells, which took into account and eliminated temperature gradient problems, were also used."

Now my patent application involves injecting power into the cell which would actually inject heat into the cathode and one of my arguments is that, to get the action started that might cause excess heat to be generated, it requires some such influence in the metal electrode to set up electric fields which can stimulate the onset of the activity. I know that the combination of a temperature gradient in an electrode and the passage of electric current can work together to produce electric fields even inside a metal conductor. Such fields can involve residual charge which neutralizes the repulsive action between two hydrogen nuclei and may allow them to come together close enough to trigger fusion. So I see the need to make special provision for that activity as by introducing heat into the electrode in the cell to set up the needed temperature gradient. Now when Harwell set out to verify or discredit the cold fusion claim they decided that, to measure any heat generated, their apparatus should be put in a cocoon so as to keep it at a uniform temperature and so ease the task of measuring any change of that temperature. Measuring increase of heat generated depends upon accurate measurement of temperature change. That is fairly obvious, but what is equally obvious to me, though not to the U.S. Patent Examiner, is that, if a temperature differential within the hydrated metal is the essential 'cold fusion' trigger, so the Harwell experiment killed the goose before it could lay the golden egg!

However, in killing the goose they gave basis for a U.S. Government report which the U.S. Patent Examiner relies upon as a citation against my invention to prove, in effect, that the goose that had been killed had never existed!

What is so outrageous is that none of this was prior art concerning the scope of the invention that I was claiming in my U.S. patent application. It concerned the Fleischmann and Pons process, which had become prior art which could be cited in its own right had my patent claims not distinguished my invention from what they had disclosed.

On this whole subject we shall have to wait and see how the dust finally settles on this question of cold fusion, but certainly, if it is found that we can eventually generate electric power from the excess heat of a cold fusion reactor, then history will show that here was a technology, the many inventions on which were subjected to deliberate repression by the U.S. Patent Office. What I do find hard to understand is the reason behind that repression, because I have always seen Patent Offices as referees functioning as passive filters which allow patents to be granted solely on their merits in the fair contest between what is old and what is new and better technology for the world at large.


The third form of repression is one which affects numerous inventors and, short of changing the whole philosophy of the patent system internationally, I cannot see any remedy. The problem is a fact of life. Imagine you are employed in a technical capacity by a high-tech multinational company. You have contracted that your inventions belong to your employer. You make an invention that your employer does not want to develop. What do you do? Contractually it belongs to your employer. Now I can assure you that, if you press to get possession of the rights so that you can offer them to other companies, then you will have an interesting experience. Your request will be rebuffed if the invention is in your employer's technical field. One reason is that there may be cross license arrangements with those other companies and, should you offer your invention to those other companies, they may wonder why they should pay you money to use the invention when they should have free use had it been patented by your employer. Also, your employer would be concerned to find you sniping at his competitors in an uncontrolled way, especially as the accepted playing field for competition is in the customer market place and there is nothing to stop you from trying to enforce your patent against customer and competitor alike. So, if the invention lies within your employer's technical field, then, in trying to promote your invention independently, you run risks with your career that you would rather avoid. On the other hand, if your invention lies outside your employer's field, then there are also similar risks. Why should an employer be enamored by you if you use your creative technical faculties for private purposes when that skill should be concentrated on the employer's technology and for your employer's benefit?

So, without there being any repressive act, as such, the system operates in silence with the same result. If you have a research mind and half of your ideas have application outside your employer's field of activity then half of your inventive power is suppressed. It is an inevitable fact of life, so long as the patent system remains as it is now.

What you can expect, therefore, is that the real break-through on the new energy front is more likely to come from someone well qualified technically but not tied to a corporation or an institutional body.

The Fleischmann and Pons cold fusion work was initiated at their own expense and not as a formally funded project. I can also say that there was a time in my career with IBM when I decided, at my own expense, to file a patent application on an invention that I felt simply had to go on public record. I took that initiative and then told IBM it was theirs if they wanted it, but otherwise I would abandon the rights upon publication, which is what happened. IBM did not repress that invention. I was senior enough in IBM's patent organization to act responsibly and not let that invention cause any problem, but I made sure that it was not 'repressed' by having been thought of but not documented on public record owing to inaction stemming from the employee-inventor syndrome. I sought, as back-up, to get a scientific paper published on the invention, but knew that the 'peer review' system involved in that could have its own kind of 'repression', which is why I made sure of publication by applying for the patent. Unlike the situation in U.S.A. application for a patent in U.K. offers initial publication before grant, which means that it is scrutinized for its form and for search purposes but does not have to overcome the main Examiner hurdles before being published.

Now, what was my invention? It was nothing less than a proposed method of extracting energy from the aether, as revolutionary an idea as one can possibly conceive - energy from a medium which most physicists say does not exist, but which I say is everywhere in and around us. You may think that I had lost my mental faculties or that I had, like the German U-boat engineer mentioned earlier, gone adrift in my scientific reasoning, but I can assure you that I was ready to defend my case.

That was in 1977. My invention required the use of an electrical discharge in a rarified gas, what is known as a cold-cathode discharge, but involved a technique which had the object of gaining power over and above the electrical input. The patent specification was published in 1978 and assigned the number GB 2,002,953. My technical paper on the subject, overcame referee scrutiny and was published in 1977 in the IEEE Proceedings on Plasma Science, PS-2, pp. 159-163 under the title 'Electrodynamic Anomalies in Arc Discharge Phenomena'. Both were duly ignored by the scientific community. That is as you might expect, but I had satisfied my desire to put my contribution on record.

Not surprisingly, however, at least to me some nine years later in 1986, a British scientist named Geoffrey Spence, acting also on his own behalf, succeeded in demonstrating a somewhat similar plasma discharge device operating and delivering kilowatt output power substantially in excess of input power. Indeed, his invention would, in my opinion, have infringed claim 4 of my patent had I pressed onward to the grant stage and kept it alive. However, the academic world, being what it is, though partially successful in replicating the Spence device, lacked that something needed to take the project forward. Spence had his problems because the device suffered from electrode failure because too much heat was eroding the electrode where the energy was collected. The Spence invention, surprisingly, was duly patented in the U.S.A. Unlike the fiasco over cold fusion, the United States Patent Office allowed a patent on something that, on the face of it, did cover the electrical equivalent of perpetual motion. It was U.S. Patent No. 4,772,816.

Now, has the Spence invention been 'repressed'? Well, has it or hasn't it? You tell me! The scenario is that Spence built something that worked. It delivered excess power, but the durability of the device posed problems. Its operation did attract sponsors. When I heard about it I was told that a university project had verified operability, but that the device failed after 14 hours or so owing to electrode erosion. Spence lived as a recluse but he had set up a trust to cope with the potential exploitation of his invention rights. This was a glimpse of a new technology that could deliver power in breach of the laws of physics. It had the necessary patent cover, but to get it to work commercially it needed development of the kind available to major corporations in the electronics industry. Has the invention been 'repressed' or simply neglected because the wisdom of the technology world rules that such inventions are impossible? Was this another version of something similar to the Hans Coler saga, where the invention most assuredly did work to deliver excess power, but the wise men in authority who had not seen it working felt they knew better and diverted their attentions elsewhere?


The description of the Spence invention sits there on record in Patent Offices and anyone can buy a copy of the patent specification, but we are not enjoying that bonanza that can come from the generation of electrical power from the bountiful aether. You see, if the scientific community believe something is not possible, they do not try to make it happen. On the contrary, they go out of their way to make sure that no one in their own ranks strays by beginning to think that the 'impossible' has become the 'possible'.

If you believe in God then you can say that God can achieve the impossible. Otherwise how could the forms of energy we see around us have been created, given that everything is in decline as energy is dissipated as heat.

If you do not believe in God or can accept that God, like us, is governed by the laws of physics, then the creation of matter from a lesser form of energy has to be scientific possibility.

I could not indulge in such reasoning when my work required me to evaluate inventions. Though there is repression by scientists and technologists in their cursory evaluation of those dubious inventions, it was part of my duty in a corporate patent department to be attentive to the 'crackpot' ideas of inventors, just in case one comes along which wins the 'jackpot'. Sadly, institutional research funding is no gambling game. There is no jackpot to be won, because funded research has to stay on secure territory and aim at modest objectives which succeed only by building very slowly on well established foundations, even though those foundations are unable to support the fabric of the new energy world.

So much for the invention of Geoffrey Spence, but that is not all. Moving on another three years to 1989, there was a press release issued by the Novosti Press Agency telling us about an energy breakthrough in Moscow. Energy was being tapped from the vacuum using a plasma discharge! This was the work of a team led by Professor Chernetskii. You may have heard mention of this briefly during a recent T.V. programme in the EQUINOX series. [U.K. television]. That particular programme was named 'IT RUNS ON WATER' and its documentary background was mainly of U.S. origin. The Chernetskii invention was mentioned because it gave back-up to the developing scene where U.S. inventors are claiming to have discovered various ways of getting energy apparently from nowhere, and in the process are attracting scorn and derision from those who believe that just cannot be.

So, why have the Russians not swept the field with that new technology? Can it be that they have so much oil that they see no need to invest in plasma generators? I have no answer to offer. It is just one of those facts that we, or rather they, live with. There is a kind of mental inertia that builds up in experts to the point where they cannot change their ways, whereas those who have not acquired much inertia lack the driving force to break through those barriers that one encounters in this field of new energy.

Yet the seeds of a new energy technology are there waiting to be nurtured, but it seems the energy scientists would rather try to harness the hot fusion power of the hydrogen atom bomb or go off into space to try to tap into the electron power of the ionosphere. I mention that because the news we heard about six weeks ago, on 26th February [1996], was that a satellite costing hundreds of millions of dollars had been lost because of an unexpected electrical discharge which fused the tether connecting the satellite to the Columbia space shuttle.

Now, what have I been talking about in referring to my 1977 invention, the 1986 invention of Geoffrey Spence and the 1989 news about the Chernetskii invention is the enormous excess power delivery to a cold-cathode subjected to a plasma discharge in an evacuated tube containing gas at very low pressure. That experiment in space did not use a discharge tube. It had a 12.8 mile cable sweeping through the Earth's magnetic field to set up a voltage of several kilovolts between the satellite and the space shuttle. This was intended to deliver electrons to the shuttle which were then to be fired back into space to close the circuit loop. Here we have a situation where the 'discharge' is through a plasma out in space rather than inside an evacuated tube in the laboratory. The secret of those three plasma inventions is that the action which brings in the energy bonanza is not carried by the electrons, but rather by the positive ions, the protons that sit with the electrons if the plasma involves hydrogen. Those protons pick up energy mysteriously at a rate that is several thousand times greater than they should according to accepted theory!

So what happened to that space experiment? The space shuttle itself was the cathode and the satellite was the anode in the discharge and the inevitable energy bonanza converged onto the cathode, not carried by the electrons coming down through that cable, but rather carried by positive ions moving in through the space plasma to join up with those electrons at the cathode, namely at the point of connection with Columbia. The seven-man crew were indeed lucky to survive such a close encounter with a release of excess energy from the aether. Once the connection had fused, the cable with its satellite took that power source away. It was lost.

Now you may think that I am merely speculating imaginatively in rambling on like this, and I cannot deny that is partly true, because I am human and this talk of 'free energy' inspires one to dream. Someone like myself has to think about these matters, given that those paid to do that thinking have to stay in line with what has become orthodox (non-imaginative) opinion.

I will therefore now end by telling you that three U.S. patents have issued recently and they read like university doctorate theses in showing, by data referenced to numerous experiments, that plasma discharge devices can generate electrical power many times greater than is supplied as input power. They were granted to Canadian inventors, a man and wife team also acting on their own private funding. Dr. Paulo Correa and his wife Alexandra drew this research to my attention, which is why I know about it first-hand. Indeed, I find that my earlier writings in this field are referenced in those patents. It seems that Dr. Correa has conquered the problem of electrode over-heating and, after long duration running of the many devices he has built using different electrode configurations, shapes and materials, his development is now at the point where predictably 40 megawatt-hours of energy can be delivered from something of light weight construction that one can hold in one hand. Imagine holding something that can deliver 2 kilowatts of electrical power output and keep going for 20,000 hours. Then ask yourself when we can expect to see electrical vehicles on our roads using somewhat larger versions of those tubes.

So here is the invention that must not be repressed and that is why I have accepted this invitation to speak to you here about 'repressed inventions'. It was not to tell a sorry tale and bring bad news from the past, but rather to inspire you with hope, the kind of hope which I now see as good news for the world's energy future.

Next week at this time I plan to be in Denver, Colorado, attending the Third International Symposium on New Energy, where Dr. Paulo Correa will disclose details of the invention I have just mentioned. An invention by Win Lambertson will also be discussed, which could prove to be the solid-state equivalent of the plasma discharge device. We may well now be facing a future that repeats in the power generating industry what we have seen in the electronic communication industry.

Finally, I say that if there are forces of repression where inventions are concerned then those forces now have plenty of work to keep them fully employed!

The above is the full text of the notes I used as preparation and for reference in delivering my talk to the very large audience that attended my session at the Fortean meeting in London on Saturday 20th April, 1996. I now invite you to read my onward 'Discussion' of these matters, by pressing the following link button:

Keynote: Discussion