IVER JOHNSON v COLUMBIA PATENTS
Patent litigation between the major American cycle manufacturers took almost as much of their time and effort as building bicycles.
In America, the original patent term under the 1790 Patent Act was decided individually for each patent, but ‘not exceeding fourteen years.’ The 1836 Patent Act (5 Stat. 117, 119, 5) provided (in addition to the fourteen-year term) an extension ‘for the term of seven years from and after the expiration of the first term’ in certain circumstances. In 1861 the seven-year extension was eliminated and the term changed to seventeen years (12 Stat. 246, 249, 16) from the initial grant date.
Iver Johnson’s truss bridge frame was introduced around the turn of the century. If the 17 year patent term was applicable, then the introduction of the truss bridge frame by Columbia in 1917 may have related to the expiry of Iver Johnson’s patent.
Is it a coincidence that Iver Johnson changed their truss bridge frame design slightly at this time – the fitment between the truss and top bar was elongated – but the 1917 Columbia Archbar has the older style fitment? Perhaps the patent lapsed on the original Iver Johnson design, and that’s why Columbia was able to introduce the model at this time?
The Archbar model was obviously important to Columbia as it was heavily promoted after WW1. As you can see in the 1919 catalogue cover photo below, a Columbia Archbar was even put into a wartime setting to help its postwar sales …even though it was not made as a military model.
1920s Columbia Archbar
This Columbia Archbar is a lightweight path racer. The frame is solid and has been repainted, though there are a few scratches on it here and there and the chrome on the handlebars and stem is tarnished. It’s not a show winner, but a good looking 90-year-old bike to use as a daily rider. It’s fitted with a retro coaster-brake metal wheel set and, when it’s not posing on the rocks at Sunset, is ideal for zipping along the coastal path from Rottingdean to Brighton.
1927 COLUMBIA CATALOGUE