Minox Patents

Minox is the world’s most famous subminiature camera, which was invented by Walter Zapp and originally manufactured by Valsts elektrotechniskā fabrika (VEF) in Riga, Latvia. It was a genuine masterpiece of engineering and a work of art. Through the years, the Riga-made Minox reached almost a cult status and is a valuable collector’s item nowadays.

Introduction

Walter Zapp was a Riga-born Baltic German. In 1936, while living in Tallinn, Estonia, he created the first functioning prototype of his subminiature camera. In the same year he signed a contract with Latvian state-owned VEF to move the prototype into production. VEF developed Zapp’s camera from the prototype stage to the final product in a very short time period. The first cameras, named Minox, were produced in 1937. The series production was started in 1938 and continued even during the periods of Soviet and German occupation up to 1942. During the German occupation, the VEF’s manufacturing facilities were looted and the equipment carried off to Germany, and the production of Minox in Riga was consequently never resumed. However, after World War II, a new company was founded in Germany, with participation of Walter Zapp. Although this company was neither affiliated nor endorsed by VEF, it was named as Minox GmbH. In 1948, this company started to produce a new Minox camera, which was based on the design of the original Riga-made Minox. This company still exists, however, it had stopped the production of non-digital subminiature cameras in 2012.

Patents

The innovative design and technical solutions of the original Minox camera were patented around the world. The first four patent applications were filed in Finland in 1936, followed by two applications in Sweden in 1938. Claiming the priority on these applications, further patent applications were subsequently filed in at least 18 other countries [1]. These patent applications covered different aspects of the camera: film feeding mechanism, camera body, roll film cartridge, lens mechanism, and view-finder. In the same time, VEF filed also trademark applications in several countries for the name “Minox“.

The first patents were granted in 1938. However, the last patent was granted in Finland in 1944 when VEF’s Minox manufacturing facilities did not existed anymore. It is known that VEF held 4 temporary protection certificates and 69 patents, in 18 countries. The lists below show all these patent documents grouped into invention-specific families.

Film feeding mechanism

Country Publication number Kind Publication date Filing date Priority Downloada External Links
Australia AU 106884 B 23.03.1939 13.09.1938
Austria AT 155506 B 10.02.1939 01.12.1937 21.12.1936 FI
Canada CA 379939 A 07.03.1939 08.12.1937 Official Gazette
Czechoslovakia CS 67496 A 10.05.1940 02.12.1937 21.12.1936 FI
Denmark DK 56361 C 12.06.1939 15.12.1937 21.12.1936 FI
Estonia ? B? ? ? 21.12.1936 FI Archive Record
Finland FI 19142 A 14.08.1942 21.12.1936 -
France FR 830509 A 02.08.1938 07.12.1937 21.12.1936 FI
Germany DE 701587 C 20.01.1941 02.12.1937 21.12.1936 FI
Hungary HU 120373 A 01.04.1939 02.12.1937 21.12.1936 FI
Latvia LV 38/262b A0c 20.05.1938 ? ? Official Gazette
Latvia LV 2740 B0 06.07.1940 ? ? Official Gazette
Poland PL 28833 B1 16.04.1941 01.12.1937 21.12.1936 FI Official Gazette
South Africa ZA 1137 A 03.03.1939 31.08.1938
Sweden SE 92523 C 08.06.1938 11.01.1937 21.12.1936 FI
Switzerland CH 199802 A 16.11.1938 07.12.1937 21.12.1936 FI
United Kingdom GB 494544 A 27.10.1938 02.12.1937 21.12.1936 FI
United States US 2161941 A 13.06.1939 06.12.1937 21.12.1936 FI Official Gazette
Camera body
1/32/33/3

Country Publication number Kind Publication date Filing date Priority Downloada External Links
Australia AU 106885 B 23.03.1939 13.09.1938
Austria AT 156018 B 25.04.1939 01.12.1937 22.12.1936 FI
Canada CA 379803 A 28.02.1939 08.12.1937 Official Gazette
Czechoslovakia CS 67695 A 10.05.1940 03.12.1937 22.12.1936 FI
Denmark DK 56524 C 07.08.1939 15.12.1937 22.12.1936 FI
Estonia EE 2628 B? 12.08.1938 17.12.1937 22.12.1936 FI Archive Record
Finland FI 20056 A 11.04.1944 22.12.1936 -
France FR 830556 A 03.08.1938 08.12.1937 22.12.1936 FI
Germany DE 698952 C 20.10.1940 02.12.1937 22.12.1936 FI
Hungary HU 120864 A 15.06.1939 02.12.1937 22.12.1936 FI
India IN 25685 A 15.09.1938 15.09.1938 02.12.1937 GBd
Latvia LV 38/264b A0c 20.05.1938 ? ? Official Gazette
Latvia LV 2741 B0 06.07.1940 ? ? Official Gazette
Poland PL 28735 B1 15.03.1941 01.12.1937 22.12.1936 FI Official Gazette
South Africa ZA 1138 A 03.03.1939 31.08.1938
Sweden SE 92524 C 08.06.1938 12.01.1937 22.12.1936 FI
Switzerland CH 199803 A 16.11.1938 07.12.1937 22.12.1936 FI
United Kingdom GB 495149 A 08.11.1938 02.12.1937 22.12.1936 FI
United States US 2169548 A 15.08.1939 06.12.1937 22.12.1936 FI Official Gazette
Roll film cartridge
FI18319A_Page_9

Country Publication number Kind Publication date Filing date Priority Downloada External Links
Australia AU 107055 B 20.04.1939 13.09.1938
Austria AT 155507 B 10.02.1939 02.12.1937 23.12.1936 FI
Canada CA 384038 A 12.09.1939 08.12.1937 Official Gazette
Czechoslovakia CS 67614 A 25.05.1940 03.12.1937 23.12.1936 FI
Denmark DK 55800 C 06.02.1939 15.12.1937 23.12.1936 FI
Estonia ? B? ? ? 23.12.1936 FI Archive Record
Finland FI 18319 A 22.12.1938 23.12.1936 -
France FR 830593 A 03.08.1938 09.12.1937 23.12.1936 FI
Germany DE 685825 C 27.12.1939 02.12.1937 23.12.1936 FI
Hungary HU 120374 A 01.04.1939 02.12.1937 23.12.1936 FI
Latvia LV 38/275b A0c 20.05.1938 ? ? Official Gazette
Latvia LV 2751 B0 16.09.1940 ? ? Official Gazette
Poland PL 28644 B1 26.02.1941 01.12.1937 23.12.1936 FI Official Gazette
South Africa ZA 1139 A 03.03.1939 31.08.1938
Sweden SE 92526 C 08.06.1938 13.01.1937 23.12.1936 FI
Switzerland CH 199806 A 16.11.1938 07.12.1937 23.12.1936 FI
United Kingdom GB 497815 A 29.12.1938 02.12.1937 23.12.1936 FI
United States US 2218966 A 22.10.1940 06.12.1937 23.12.1936 FI Official Gazette
Lens mechanism
CH199804A_Page_3

Country Publication number Kind Publication date Filing date Priority Downloada External Links
Australia AU 106748 B 09.03.1939 13.09.1938
Austria AT 155508 B 10.02.1939 02.12.1937 24.12.1936 FI
Estonia ? B? ? ? 24.12.1936 FI Archive Record
Finland FI 18690 A 04.11.1940 24.12.1936 - Espacenet
France FR 830650 A 04.08.1938 10.12.1937 24.12.1936 FI
Latvia LV 38/263b A0c 20.05.1938 ? ? Official Gazette
Latvia LV 2742 B0 06.07.1940 ? ? Official Gazette
Sweden SE 92525 C 08.06.1938 14.01.1937 24.12.1936 FI
Switzerland CH 199804 A 16.11.1938 07.12.1937 24.12.1936 FI
United Kingdom GB 506749 A 02.06.1939 02.12.1937 24.12.1936 FI
United States US 2147567 A 14.02.1939 06.12.1937 24.12.1936 FI Official Gazette
View-finder
SE104030.C_Page_3SE98341.C_Page_4SE104030.C_Page_4
Country Publication number Kind Publication date Filing date Priority Downloada External Links
France FR 848209 A 25.10.1939 30.12.1938 10.01.1938 SE
23.12.1938 SE
Germany DE 705158 C 21.04.1941 13.08.1938 10.01.1938 SE
Germany DE 706251 C 22.05.1941 08.01.1939 23.12.1938 SE
Sweden SE 98341 C 12.03.1942 10.01.1938 -
Sweden SE 104030 C 17.03.1942 23.12.1938 -
United Kingdom GB 521679 A 28.05.1940 05.01.1939 10.01.1938 SE
23.12.1938 SE
United States US 2278505 A 07.04.1942 09.01.1939 10.01.1938 SE Official Gazette

Notes

b This kind of documents was numbered by the year and started at document No. 1 at the start of each year. The number here represents the year of issue and the document number For example, No. 38/262 means document No. 262 of the year 1938.
c Temporary Protection Certificate (Aizsardzības appliecība)
d Reciprocity date

References

[1] [doi] E. Hendre, “Fifty years of the sub-miniature ‘Minox’,” History of photography, vol. 13, iss. 1, pp. 9-17, 1989.
[Bibtex]
@article{Hendre1989,
author = {Hendre, Enn},
doi = {10.1080/03087298.1989.10442163},
issn = {0308-7298},
journal = {History of Photography},
keywords = {Minox,Walter Zapp},
mendeley-tags = {Minox,Walter Zapp},
month = jan,
number = {1},
pages = {9--17},
title = {{Fifty years of the sub-miniature ‘Minox’}},
url = {http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03087298.1989.10442163},
volume = {13},
year = {1989}
}

Written by Pēteris Skorovs on 06.01.2014. Last updated on 17.08.2014.

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