You are currently viewing The Patent (Summer 2022 Mini Experience Part 4/4)

The Patent (Summer 2022 Mini Experience Part 4/4)

This is Part 4 of the Summer 2022 Mini-Experience. You can find Part 1 (The Change) here, Part 2 (The Inventor) here, and Part 3 (The Theft) here.

In Part 3, you learned that Mälzel shamelessly exploited a mistake made by Winkel. He added a little something to Winkel’s invention and thus created a new product, which he patented. Mälzel is still famous for this product today.

As a reminder, Winkel’s invention was a pendulum weighted on both sides of the pivot. All Mälzel did was to add a scale to the pendulum. On this scale, musical tempos could be read. Mälzel called his product the metronome – you’re familiar with that, aren’t you 😉.

Metronom Illustration

He immediately had his “invention” protected, so that Winkel was excluded from the commercial exploitation of the product from the beginning.

The metronome was an instant hit. Mälzel had thousands of them manufactured in his own factory in Paris and sold them as far away as America. Beethoven and other musical luminaries published articles praising Mälzel’s metronome.

In old scores, the tempo markings are sometimes abbreviated “MM” – “Mälzel’s Metronome”!

In 1820, Winkel took legal action against Mälzel for intellectual property theft. Winkel even won. The legal situation is therefore clear today: The inventor of the metronome was Winkel, not Mälzel.

Posterity did not and does not care. Mälzel alone profited from the metronome’s prestige, distribution and economic success.

This was the four-part Summer Mini-Experience 2022. Four classical music/opera mini-experiences are published each year. If you would like to be notified when the next Mini-Experience is released, please subscribe to my newsletter by entering your email address in the box below and then clicking the blue button:

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